Cleaning hardwood floors can be challenging, and if you’re someone who likes to know that all the germs have been taken care of, you might be tempted to reach for your steam mop. Steam mops serve a lot of purposes and because they are a chemical-free way to clean, they have become very popular. They’re great for many kinds of floors – but what about hardwood?
Hardwood floors require a lot of special treatment and it is unfortunately very easy to damage them. Harsh cleaning chemicals, too much moisture, too much heat, and other treatments can cause warping and staining that may be permanent.
Can you use a steam mop on hardwood floors? You shouldn’t use a steam mop on a hardwood floor, because there is a high risk that the heat and moisture will warp the wood. They may leave deep stains that are hard or impossible to remove, and they could cause parts of the floor to rise and become rough. Even sealed wooden floors may be problematic with a steam mop.
Is a Steam Mop Safe on Hardwood Floors?
Do not use a steam mop on your hardwood floors, even if they are sealed. Many steam mops are marketed as being safe for hardwood, but there is a risk that they will do permanent damage because they apply both water and heat to the wood – neither of which is good.
Hardwood floors are very sensitive to having water spilled on them. Sealed hardwood floors are less sensitive, but both sealed and unsealed are at risk of being damaged by too much moisture.
Water can lighten them, interfere with the wax or sealant, and sometimes cause the grains within the wood to rise up and become rough. It may also result in the planks swelling and buckling in more extreme cases. Even a sealed floor may absorb some water if it sits on the surface for long enough, or if a lot of water is applied and the seal is wearing thin.
You should therefore avoid putting water on your hardwood floors whenever possible. Some people use a damp mop to clean the surface, but this is the extent to which you should add water. More than a mildly damp cloth is likely to cause marks and wear on the surface of the floor.
Secondly, the steam’s heat can be a problem. Being exposed to a sudden temperature spike may cause the wood to warp, potentially resulting in permanent damage. This won’t always occur, but it is a major risk of applying heat, and it should be avoided.
You should be aware that the damage done by both moisture and heat can be permanent. Sometimes, you will be able to sand and re-seal the floor to remove marks and mild distortion, but major warping will irreparably damage the floor. Your only option might be to remove it and lay a new floor, which is likely to be very expensive.
You should therefore not risk using a steam mop on hardwood floors, even if they have been sealed.
How Should You Clean Hardwood Floors?
The best way to clean a hardwood floor is to regularly sweep and vacuum it to remove dirt and debris. Use mats to trap dirt and prevent it from being transferred to the floor. Spot clean areas with a mildly damp cloth when necessary, and regularly re-wax unsealed floors to protect the wood.
You can mop a sealed hardwood floor, but you should use as little water as possible. Squeeze the mop out thoroughly before you mop the floor, and then use a soft towel to remove any standing water, rather than leaving it on the boards. Only mop the floor occasionally, as a way of removing surface dirt, rather than as part of your standard cleaning routine.
Don’t mop an unsealed hardwood floor. You should only use dry cleaning methods, such as sweeping or vacuuming, if you don’t want to mark the wood.
How Can You Disinfect Hardwood Floors?
Steam mops are popular because of their ability to kill germs, so what other options are there? If you have a sealed hardwood floor, you can use diluted vinegar to clean the surface of it. Vinegar is a good, natural disinfectant that will help to clean the floor without damaging it, provided you only use a small amount.
To do this, you should start by vacuuming or sweeping the floor to remove all dirt. Next, mix vinegar with water in your mop bucket, and use a cloth to dab a small amount on in an inconspicuous area. See if the floor is marked by it. If not, it should be okay to clean with.
Soak and thoroughly wring out the mop, and then use the mop to swab the floor.
Avoid going over the same spot again and again, as you will make it too wet. Instead, quickly mop the whole floor, rinsing and wringing the mop out regularly as you go. When you have finished, get a soft, clean towel and use it to dry any parts of the floor that look damp. If possible, open the windows to encourage the floor to dry quickly.
As long as you only add a small amount of water to the floor, this method should be fine, and it’s a great alternative to steam cleaning. Vinegar is a good disinfectant and the smell will not linger for long after you have finished mopping, as it evaporates quickly.
Note that you should never use undiluted vinegar on your floor, as it is acidic and may damage the wood. Use 1 cup of white vinegar to a gallon of water, and avoid more concentrated mixtures than this.
You should not use a steam mop on your hardwood floors. Both the water and the heat utilized by this tool will likely destroy the appearance of your hardwood floor, causing the grain to rise, ruining the color, and possibly resulting in the wood warping. Try to dry mop, sweep, or vacuum your floor instead, or use a slightly damp mop and some white vinegar.