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Maintaining the beauty and longevity of hardwood floors is the goal of every homeowner who has them. When it comes to cleaning, many wonder whether steam cleaning is a safe option for hardwood flooring. By looking at the different approaches and considering specific circumstances, we can determine when it is acceptable to use steam cleaning and when caution should be exercised. No matter the promised result, no cleaning method is worth jeopardizing the integrity of a hardwood floor installation

Understanding the Nature of Hardwood Floors

Before delving into the topic, it is important to understand the nature of hardwood floors. Hardwood is a natural material that expands and contracts with changes in temperature and humidity. Excessive moisture can damage the wood, leading to warping, swelling, or cupping. Therefore, the question of steam cleaning hardwood floors becomes more nuanced when you consider the characteristics of hardwood. 

We would not recommend that our clients try using steam cleaners on hardwood flooring because the risk vs. reward is too little. Still, we understand that some homeowners will be tempted to try it, so here are some tips on using steam to clean your hardwood floors while minimizing the inherent risks. 

Can You Steam Clean Hardwood Floors? – The Techniques and Circumstances

  • Avoid Traditional Steam Cleaners: Traditional steam cleaners emit high-pressure steam and excessive moisture; this is not recommended for hardwood floors. The high heat and moisture can penetrate the wood, causing damage to the finish, wood fibers, and even the subfloor.


  • Modified Steam Cleaning Methods: Some steam cleaners offer modified settings specifically designed for hardwood floors. These cleaners emit lower levels of steam and allow for better control over moisture. However, caution should still be exercised, and the manufacturer’s recommendations should be followed.


  • Spot Cleaning with Caution: Spot cleaning using steam cleaners on hardwood floors may be acceptable for addressing specific stains or spills. It is important to use the lowest possible steam setting and ensure that the steam does not come into prolonged contact with the floor. After spot cleaning, thoroughly dry the area to prevent moisture from seeping into the wood.


  • Sealed and Finished Hardwood Floors: If your hardwood floor has a durable protective finish, steam cleaning may be less likely to cause immediate damage. However, it is still important to exercise caution, use low steam settings, and avoid excessive moisture exposure.


  • Unsealed or Untreated Hardwood Floors: Unsealed or untreated hardwood floors, such as those with a natural oil or wax finish, are more susceptible to moisture damage. Steam cleaning is not appropriate at all for these types of hardwood floors, as the moisture can seep into the wood and lead to swelling, warping, or discoloration.


Alternative Cleaning Methods – No Steam Needed

To maintain hardwood floors without the risk of steam damage, alternative cleaning methods are available, and this is where we say to put forth your best efforts:


  • Regular Sweeping or Vacuuming: Regularly sweep or vacuum your hardwood floors to remove dirt, dust, and debris. Use a soft-bristle broom or a vacuum cleaner with a hardwood floor attachment to avoid scratching the surface.


  • Light Mopping: A lightly dampened mop or microfiber cloth is an effective method for cleaning hardwood floors. Use a mild cleaning solution recommended by the flooring manufacturer or a specially formulated hardwood floor cleaner. Avoid excessive water and ensure thorough drying after mopping. We recommend Bona hardwood cleaning products, as their solutions are effective but do not contain harsh chemicals. 

Overall, it’s best to stay away from steam; the integrity of the wood must not be compromised if you’d like your hardwood flooring to last decades. Hardwood floor refinishing treatment may be needed, and no amount of steam will bring your hardwood floors back to their original glory. 

To learn more about hardwood flooring installation, please contact us