With the explosion of advertisements for Steam Mops on TV, many people ask, “Is this safe for use on my new floor?” Steam is great for both cleaning and sanitizing when used in the appropriate place. However, using steam mops on flooring products can cause irreparable damage.
Flashback to junior high: steam is formed when water is heated above 212°. When water boils, steam is formed. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize the same thing which makes steam such a “good cleaner” also causes it to be unsuitable for many types of finished flooring. Most flooring manufacturers recommend the surface not be exposed to temperatures above 85° to 95° (well below the temperature of steam).
Most wood manufacturers will tell you that wood and water just do not mix. Water-based cleaning products are generally not recommended on wood flooring. Continued use of steam mops is likely to cause seams between the boards to swell. Additionally, heat and pressure can force steam (water) deep into the wood surface resulting in abnormal expansion, resulting in cracks.
Flooring products, such as Vinyl Tile and Vinyl Plank, are not designed to withstand the high temperatures which are required to change water into steam. Steam can be forced through the seams causing water build up under the floor resulting in tile/plank edges curling up. Even Sheet Vinyl can be susceptible to the focused heat generated by steam mops resulting in the adhesive beneath breaking loose causing bubbles in the sheet vinyl floor.
Laminate & Ceramic Flooring
While laminate floors are normally resistant to moderate temperatures, the pressure of a steam mop can force steam (hot water) into the joints between the planks causing moisture build up, resulting in the seams swelling in small areas or even across the entire floor.
While most ceramic tile is not affected by the heat or water, the same cannot be said about the grout between the tiles. Today’s grouts contain polymers to make them more crack and stain resistant. These can be affected by repeated exposure to both the high pressure and high temperatures, causing surface pitting and eventually cracking in the grout. Additionally, repeated use can cause grouts to lose their original color and look mottled.
Customers with cleaning services may not even realize their new flooring is gradually being damaged. Many assume that the professional cleaners they hire are experts. Therefore, they rarely watch them clean the floor. Worst of all, in many situations the damage is gradual and takes several weeks or months. By the time it is evident to the consumer, the damage is already done and irreversible, leaving the cost of repair with the consumer.
When you think about it, using steam to clean is like boiling a pot of water on the stove and pouring it on the floor surface to clean with. Most of us realize this is not a great idea. However, with all the TV ads for Steam Mops saying “it can be used on any kind of floor” and “it cleans and sanitizes your floor”, many people think since they show it on TV “it must be OK – right?” Wrong.
The best course of action is to use a quality name brand floor cleaner designed for the flooring type you have. Remember, with cleaners, stronger is not always better. Be sure to read and to follow the directions on the bottle and use the applicator recommended for the type cleaner being used.