If you have or are considering getting a hardwood floor, proper cleaning and maintenance is probably on your mind.
After all, one of the cool things about hardwood is how good it looks and feels!
Cleaning hardwood floors is different from cleaning other types of floors because wood responds differently to cleaning agents and equipment compared to stone , concrete, carpeting or synthetic materials like vinyl.
If you look around the internet or ask people, you’ll probably find opposing viewpoints on whether it’s a good idea to steam clean hardwood floors, or not. As with most things, it’s a good idea to learn some of the facts first before you go out and buy yourself a brand new hardwood floor steam cleaner.
Cleaning Hardwood Flooring
Hardwood flooring consists of several panels of wood. The wood is usually treated and coated with some type of chemical finish (wax, polyurethane or polyacrylic) to make it hard and water-resistant. The wood panels are placed together and the joints are sealed to make the floor complete. The surface is polished to fill in any gaps and to make it look its best.
Understanding hardwood a bit better first
Use of vinegar, ammonia or abrasive cleaners can strip the polish or wood coating. Wood sprays used for furniture can leave a slippery or waxy residue on the flooring. This will remove dust, stains and especially dirt particles, which can scratch the floor over time. Using microfiber material to clean will help attract more dust and reach into floor pores as well. Acidic or alkaline cleaning products should be avoided.
Water-based polishes are preferred, because they will not leave residues or strip the surface of your floor. Overall, water-based cleaning is therefore considered the safest for hardwood floors. Of course, this is for dirt and stains that cannot be removed by dry wiping. Remember that the simplest way to keep your floor clean is to prevent dust and dirt, and to clean any dust or dirt by wiping with a dry cloth promptly after a spill happens.
Does water/steam and wood go together?
As you probably know, steam cleaners clean by making steam (by boiling water in a heater compartment), and releasing it onto the dirty surface. The steam loosens the dirt, which is then cleaned either by a mop surface or vacuum suction, depending on the type.
The thing to remember is that excessive exposure to water, steam (and therefore heat) may cause hardwood floors to warp, crack or splinter over time. Steam is also very light and thin compared to water and can penetrate thin gaps in between wood panels or within the wood surface itself.
Another important consideration should be whether steam cleaning is covered under your floor manufacturer’s warranty. If it voids the warranty, you should clearly avoid either the steam cleaning or the manufacturer!
Types of steam cleaners suitable for hardwood
These types of cleaners come in several varieties. Based on the requirements for hardwood, the following 2 types will work the best:
- Dry’ steam cleaners: These produce low amounts of steam at high temperatures (above 250 degrees Fahrenheit) and keep surfaces as dry as possible. After all, steam is not water and should not be left behind if it is hot enough.
- Steam cleaner with a vacuum option: These are more advanced machines, and should work well for hardwood, because the vacuum suction will help to get rid of any excess moisture lingering around.
A note about ‘faux’ hardwood
You may hear this term when people talk about vinyl. Vinyl is synthetic, kind of like plastic. It can be used for flooring and can be made to look exactly like hardwood! This type of ‘hardwood’ flooring is water-proof and can be easily cleaned with steam cleaners without worrying about any damage.
To summarize, here are the pros and cons of buying a steam cleaner for your hardwood.
- Does not use chemicals which can cause damage.
- Results in effective cleaning.
- Is lightweight, convenient and affordable.
- Need to be informed about flooring warranty and compatible cleaners.
- Only ‘dry’ steam cleaners or those with vacuum suction are safe enough to use.
- Wood and panel need to be sealed to prevent any moisture seepage into flooring.