Hardwood and moisture don’t mix: it’s a maxim so old that it’s set in stone! It’s basically part of Hammurabi’s code, so what is the deal with these hardwood steam cleaners that we’re seeing in the consumer market. The team at Floor Coverings International Katy investigates.
Hardwood vs. Water
Hardwood is a porous material that naturally absorbs water from its environment. Standing water, damp mopping, and humidity can cause hardwood to swell, warp, and even mold to varying degrees as the material soaks up any available moisture like a sponge.
To prevent water damage, hardwood floors are always finished with a sealant, but even with this protection in place, water can still creep into your floors through the smalls cracks where your planks meet, and over time, in spots where the sealant has degraded.
For this reason, hardwood should never be cleaned using anything more than the slightest bit of water.
What is Steam Cleaning?
Steam cleaning is a process where hot water vapor is directed toward a surface, serving to cleanse and disinfect the area.
Steam Cleaning for Hardwood: The Claim
These companies who are selling steam cleaners specifically designed for hardwood flooring are fully aware that hardwood and water don’t get along. Their claim is that the hot water vapor from their cleaners will not seep into any flooring at all, because their devices have built-in systems to wipe up excessive moisture as you go.
Steam Cleaning for Hardwood: The Reality
In reality, the concept of a steam cleaner that is safe for hardwood only works if your floors are 100% sealed. In any other scenario, the wiping up as you go system will not work. This is because the steam will get into the cracks in your floors and stay there. But aren’t all hardwood floors sealed?
Well, not exactly. All hardwood is sealed to prevent water damage, but the seal is much weaker where the floorboards meet, and these cracks are the perfect spot for vapor to enter your floors and do their damage.
Worse still, if your floors are old and have not been resealed recently, your hardwood’s seal has surely been compromised in some areas, and applying hot steam will be a huge risk.
If You Still Want to Steam Clean
- Make sure that your floors have some degree of site-finishing, where the surface of the floor has been continuously sealed after installation tocover all the cracks between your floorboards. The sealant between wood planks actually breaks down fairly quickly as floorboards shift subtly under pressure and with temperature fluctuations, but it’s better than nothing.
- Test your hardwood’s water-resistance by sprinkling a tiny amount of water on your floor in several different spots. If the water beads up, your seal is intact. If the water seeps in or spreads out, your seal is compromised and you should not apply steam.
- Read your warranty! Most flooring warranties specify certain activities that will void your warranty if there is evidence of the act. Steam cleaning is sometimes included in this list.
Your Local Flooring Experts
At Floor Coverings International Katy we appreciate your trust in letting us assist you with your flooring needs and we pride ourselves in bringing the highest quality flooring products to homes in Katy, Cinco Ranch, The Energy Corridor, and Richmond with our mobile showroom. Book your complimentary design appointment today.