March 27, 2023

Is Steam Cleaning Hardwood Floors OK?

Picture of steam cleaner over floor or carpet

Low maintenance is one notable feature of hardwood floors. Despite that, giving them routine and deep cleaning is essential to ensure their durability and longevity. Hardwood floors don’t need specialized cleaning materials and processes, unlike other flooring options available. Many homeowners clean their wooden floorboards with simple sweeping, dusting, and vacuuming, but more people are looking into steam cleaning to deal with the dust and grime between their hardwood floorings. Is steam cleaning okay when dealing with hardwood floor planks? This story will discuss that further.

Hardwood Floors and Steam Cleaning

Like any wood, hardwood planks are naturally absorbent materials. Due to this, any exposure to water or high levels of moisture can cause them to plump, warp, twist, or mold. Steam cleaning is a process that uses water heated into vapors to clean and disinfect hardwood floors. These vapors get into the cracks and crevices of your floorboards to kill germs and bacteria.

While steam cleaning provides homes with cleaner and more bacteria-free floors, using them on hardwood floorings can lead to unseen damage. Besides the water vapors that the planks absorb in the air, the moisture from the water that enters the cracks can destroy the side on top of the subfloor. Despite this probable damage, more people are turning to steam-cleaning processes to get healthier indoor air quality and cleaner floors inside their homes.

Steam Cleaners for Hardwood Floors

Nowadays, several companies are selling steam cleaning machines that are hardwood floor-safe. Most of these claims come from the equipment's new functions, which wipe away all excess moisture as you move them along the wooden floors. Instead of the hardwood planks absorbing the water from their wet surface, the machines leave the floor dry.

Despite the increasing number of hardwood steam cleaners in the market and claims on their effectiveness, many wood flooring associations aren’t on board with the idea. Most hardwood flooring organizations believe steam cleaning is inadequate for any hardwood flooring surface. In addition, no major hardwood providers recommend using them on their materials.

But if you plan on using a steam cleaner on your hardwood floors, ensure your floor seal is intact before using the machine on the hardwood planks. Homeowners can test the thickness and durability of their hardwood sealants by dripping a small amount of water onto their surfaces.

When the water immediately beads up, it means the seal is intact, and water can’t penetrate it. But if the water spreads and sinks into the floorboards, your sealant needs a recoat. Thicker and more durable sealed finishes are more resistant to steam damage.

But remember that the quality of wood sealants is different in every area of the floorboard. To check if steam cleaning applies to your hardwood flooring, you should test it in several locations.

Potential Problems When Using Steam Cleaners on Hardwood Floors

Many wood flooring associations, like the National Wood Floor Association (NWFA), are against using steam cleaners on hardwood flooring. Other organizations and wood experts agree because steam or excessive water exposure can damage wooden floorings. When steam cleaning, homeowners can run into problems with their hardwood floorboards. Here are some of them.

Wood Seams

While your hardwood floors have intact wood sealers on their surfaces to prevent moisture penetration, the seams in between the planks are vulnerable. Although the seams get sealed with the planks during the application, they can crack when the hardwood creaks, shifts, or contracts due to use or the weather.

When this happens, moisture can penetrate down and attack the flooring from below. All steam cleaners offer higher moisture levels even after cleaning, making it easier for the water to sink deep into the wood.

Steam Impact

Steam itself presents a one-of-a-kind problem with hardwood flooring. Water is a thicker substance, but the former is light and thin and can easily penetrate even the hairline fractures on your floorboards. Because of these qualities, the water vapor moves down to the side of hardwood planks or slips up from underneath.

Steam makes it easier for water to attack the floor from every vulnerable angle. When the vapor cools and condenses into liquid, what’s left can damage the wood fibers.

Steam Voids the Floor’s Warranty

When you steam clean your hardwood floors, it can void your flooring’s warranty from the manufacturer or the retailer. Many professional hardwood installation services outline how long the floors should last under normal circumstances. They also guarantee replacements when the material fails because of structural problems.

Hardwood flooring warranties also come with specific conditions about which acts can void their protection, like steam. Read your copy carefully before considering steam cleaners for your floor’s protection when things go wrong.

Steam Cleaning Wood Floors in Austin

While hardwood floors are low maintenance, durable, and long-lasting additions to any home, they’re not damage-proof. Unlike other flooring options, hardwood floorboards only need routine upkeep and scheduled deep cleaning services to stay in peak condition. Steam cleaning is one of the current rages in floor cleaning, but there’s still some doubt if they work for hardwood planks. Understanding how steam cleaners affect your wooden flooring is essential to its longevity, appearance, and value.

Contact Kelly Hardwood Floors today for more details!