Can I Steam Clean Unfinished Hardwood Floors?

Written by marion sipe
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Steam cleaning mops provide a convenient way to steam rugs, tiles and grout in your home. Unfinished hardwood floors have no protection from surface moisture and applying steam to them can cause damage. While some companies recommend their products for use on sealed hardwood floors, they do not often recommend use on an unsealed or finished hardwood floor.

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Unsealed Floors

Even companies that recommend their steam product for use on hardwood floors will often advice against using it on an unsealed hardwood floor. Unsealed hardwood floors are those without a protective coating of varnish or polyurethane. Without that coating, which is usually oil, wax or a form of plastic (polyurethane), the wood absorbs liquids and other materials more readily. Unfinished floors have nothing to protect them from the moisture created by a steam mop or steam cleaner and once that moisture is absorbed it can cause floors to expand and deform.

Moisture

Moisture can remain on the floor surface after the steam cleaning and moisture that is left to sit can soak into even sealed floors. It's hard to be sure that every inch is sealed and that no one missed a spot or that the finish hasn't been worn away. Moisture left behind by a steam mop or cleaner will find those spots eventually. Wood also acclimatises to the area in which it is installed, and in a low humidity environment the sudden introduction of moisture can force the wood to move behind its normal range. This can quickly lead to buckling, deformation and moisture damage even if a floor is sealed.

Warranties

Many hardwood flooring companies offer a warranty, some of which can be quite long. However, these warranties can sometimes be voided depending on the methods you use to care for and maintain your floor. If you have a hardwood floor with a warranty that you wish to protect, it's best to follow the manufacturer's recommendations when it comes to cleaning. Deviating from those recommendations can void your warranty.

Wax and Finishes

Steam mops and cleaners can also wear away finishes on your flooring and once the finish is disturbed, the moisture can sink in and cause further damage. The more often you use the mop, the more finish it can strip away and while the damage may not be immediately evident, over time it will grow. Wax finishes also react to water, which can discolour them and turn them cloudy.

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