Steam Cleaning Laminate and Hardwood Floors

Wednesday February 18, 2009
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You have seen the infomercials and possibly read product labels that say "safe for cleaning laminate or wood flooring, but I can assure you that steam cleaning wood or laminate flooring is a recipe for disaster.

Steam cleaning is not recommended by most laminate manufacturersMost hardwood and laminate flooring manufacturers warn against moisture and their products. In addition, damage caused by excessive moisture is rarely ever covered in a warranty. This being said, I wonder why these steam cleaning advertisements continue to show that it is fine and even recommended to steam clean a laminate or wood floor.

I write this article today because we have been bombarded by hundreds of flooring consumers over the last couple of months with questions and concerns regarding steam cleaning their laminate or wood flooring. For some, their floors were already damaged beyond repair from the steam cleaners while others decided not to use or purchase the steam cleaner without consulting with us first. We heard two things from our customers; "I'm so glad I asked about steaming my floor before using this" or "I wish I had asked you before I went ahead and ruined my flooring."

Laminate flooring in a dining areaLaminate flooring is very susceptible to moisture, especially heat and moisture known as humidity. Normally the higher the quality of laminate, the more moisture resistant, but never moisture proof. The majority of laminate flooring is made with a fiber core that expands when it comes in contact with moisture. I equate laminate to cardboard only for demonstrating my point and I am not comparing laminate to cardboard in any way. Have you ever seen cardboard get wet and then dry out? What happens? Although the moisture is gone, the cardboard never goes back to its original shape. Laminate acts much in the same way in high humidity and excessive moisture conditions. Once the laminate starts to alter shape, it usually ridges at the seams where the laminate locks together and will rarely return to its original shape. Just like cardboard there is nothing that can be done at this point and we are often telling laminate flooring consumers that their only option is replacement.

Your hardwood floors are a major investment and you want to keep them looking their best. For hardwood floor owners, the dilemma on whether to use a steam cleaner is not as clear cut as laminate flooring. Depending on the type of hardwood species (Oak versus Brazilian Cherry, Maple versus Teak), humidity from a steam cleaner can have very different effects. We have seen some hardwood floors that have been steam cleaned and look great afterwards, while other floors were damaged beyond simple repair. With so many good hardwood floor cleaning kits available today, it is never necessary to steam clean a hardwood floor, so why take the chance? We have seen the great damage to hardwood floors from steam cleaners happen in drier climates such as the mountains and desert regions. This is because the hardwood has stabilized in the home at a very low humidity level. Introducing steam (hot moisture) to the floor makes the wood flooring expand beyond its normal movement range. This can cause the floor to cup, buckle, and in extreme cases damage walls from expanding too much. Wood is a natural product and does absorb moisture. For more on this, read our section on acclimating wood flooring.

Hardwood flooring is more likely to take the abuse of steam cleaning better than laminate flooring in the short term. After repeated use and the constant introduction of humidity to the floor, hardwood floors will begin to show signs of damage. So, although the damage might not be immediate, always use caution and check with your local flooring professionals on the best products to maintain your floors. If you have any questions feel free to contact us at info@findanyfloor.com or use our Live Chat feature located at the top of every page on our website to talk to a flooring pro today. If you haven't already, there are great hardwood and laminate floor cleaning videos at FloorTube.com.

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Comments (34)

Talkback – Leave a commentThere are 34 comments

Superior Cleaning Contractors
Some people feel confused about the cleaning of laminate floors, but I think steam cleaner is the best alternate to clean them.a href="http://hyperclean.com.au/"http://hyperclean.com.au//a
January 15 2014
Steam or a href="http://www.steamhygene.com.au" rel="dofollow"Pressure Cleaning/a hardwood floors is a BAD idea :)
April 30 2013
I have also had some bad experiences steam cleaning hardwood floors, i personally would advise against it
April 30 2013
I don't think Rugman.com has any shag rugs, they only deal with handmade original rugs.
April 24 2013
Hardwood flooring in sydney
wood flooring play an important role in the world.Wood flooring makes your house beautiful and attractive.It is a unique idea to design your house according to your desires.
April 18 2013
bamboo flooring
Can a hanns steamer be used on bamboo flooring
April 11 2013
Timber Flooring Sydney
According to my knowledge and experience a href="www.timberlandflooring.com.au/" Bamboo flooring /a is the best option, instead of laminate and wood flooring. Bamboo flooring has feature of renwablity . This is more important way to make your home more attractive and beautiful. www.timberlandflooring.com.au/
April 6 2013
Laminate flooring is best choice, but my favorite is a href="www.timberlandflooring.com.au/" Timber Flooring /a and I would like to go for it when I make my home. a href="www.timberlandflooring.com.au/" Timber Flooring /a
March 30 2013
This is a smart blog. I mean it. You have so much knowledge about this issue, and so much passion. You also know how to make people rally behind it, obviously from the responses. Nice site and the article are posting are very nice. Hi, good luck man and thanks for sharing this post with us. a href="http://www.accommodationathotels.com"hotel accommodation/a , a href="http://www.planning4travel.com"travelling tips/a , a href="http://www.hiking2backpacking.com"backpacking/a
January 16 2013
Can you use a steamer on resiliant flooring? It is wood like stile and I'm afraid humidity might damage it. How do yo clean the without water or any other substance because everything might get trough...not just steam. Thank you! Best regards, Cristina
April 22 2012
Horrible Idea!
To make the argument that a steam mop is safe because it hasn't hurt your floors is like saying smoking is safe since you have gotten cancer yet. You cannot force water vapor into the seams of hardwood or laminate time after time without issues. I've seen it take years, but I've also seen it happen on the first use! If it were a good idea, why haven't any of the manufactures started selling their own steam mops? Because its a horrible idea!!!!
March 21 2012
I steam my cherry hardwood floors every week and love it. After I steam, my floors look fantastic. I am going to call my flooring store to see if this will harm them but I have to say, I will be sad if I have to give up steaming. My floors always look like new when I use it.
March 12 2012
Ok I was stupid and used a steam cleaner on my laminated floor. At this point Im not concerned that I ruined it completly but the shine is gone.............of course Im not ever going to use it again but is there something I can do to get the shine back?
January 2 2012
It's called manufactured hardwood, not laminate!
This article speaks of laminate like its compatible to hardwood. Let's get this correct, Laminate is NOT wood of any sort. What they are referring to in this article as laminate is actually manufactured hardwood, or engineered hardwood. These wood slabs have a mixture of compressed wood and solid hardwood. When these get wet, the wood looks as though it has desinegrated, much like cardboard. Manufactured/engineered hardwood is very sensitive to temperature changes, especially humidity because of the way the wood is designed. Laminate, on the other hand is a hard plastic-like wood-looking flooring. Laminate is NOT real wood and does not have the issues of real wood. I would say that lamite is to wood as Lenolium is to tile. It's just not the same thing. If you ate going to write an article about how to care for wood floors, you should have the correct wording of products or you're going to confuse people.
December 2 2011
Bissel Steam Mop Damage
My floors have been damaged by the bissel steam mop which I purchased at Sears. I am very irritated. The mop says that it is find on hardwood floors. This is not true. Initially, it was great. My floors were cleaner than ever. The damage started to show up after about ten times. The knots in the wood have become darker. The grain of the wood has also become darker. In addition, the finish of the floor has a streaky appearance and the floor has warped. I strongly suggest avoiding these steam mops for your hardwood floor. If you do want to use one (which I suggest against), then move the mop very quickly over the floor, use it very rarely (like once or twice a year) and do not pull the trigger when the mop is on the floor. Frankly, I re-iterate that it is a bad idea. It will wreck your floor.
November 20 2011
I have laminate flooring , I researched to see if it was safe or not. After thinking about it , I will not use any machines on it , I'll clean it the old fashion way . Clean it by hand ...elbow grease. :)
November 6 2011
best hardwood cleaning system
best hardwood cleaning system is BONA Hardwood cleaner and mop - its a system of spray on mop with detachable washable pads and they have cleaner for both hardwood and tiles - available at most Lowes stores and not expensive - excellent product. BONA also has a site. We have real hardwood all over the house & have used it for years - great for kitchen tiles too.
July 12 2011
We recently got laminate floors, husband said no steam cleaner and told me to see what his mom uses to clean theirs. A steam cleaner. Very glad I checked this before using my steam cleaner on them. I'll just use it on other things and not the floor. We use a cloth mop and a solution of 1 part white vinegar to 3 parts water. Works great and vinegar is awesome, it deters ants in the home, dries without smell and is much safer around small kids than any chemical product or bleach.
May 27 2011
I just used my new steam and sweep mop from bissell and noticed when I was done that the gloss was stripped off. Are my floors ruined? I can't believe I spent the money and they so highly recommended their product.
March 17 2011
Recommendation
I work for an online cleaning company and our best seller is the Haan Steam Floor Mop. We get great reviews from our customers on the performance and usability of this steam mop. I would also personally recommend the Oreck SteamIt...this steamer is long lasting and gets the job done easily! Hope this helps!: ) DiscountCleaningProducts.com
January 5 2011
Recommendation
I work for an online cleaning company and our best seller is the Haan Steam Floor Mop. We get great reviews from our customers on the performance and usability of this steam mop. I would also personally recommend the Oreck SteamIt...this steamer is long lasting and gets the job done easily! Hope this helps!: )
January 5 2011
Hi, Really glad I read your site. Our house is mainly hardwood and a steamer looked like it would make cleaning easier but I did wonder if it might damage it.....sorry about the negative experiences of others but thank you for sharing. Guess I'm stuck with a damp mop.
October 29 2010
Laminate flooring
Found this web site just in time. Was going to buy a ateamer but have decided that would be a horrible mistake! Thanks. Can you put a paste wax on laminate flooring?
August 13 2010
In my previous house, I used Swiffer Wetjet on the hardwood floor in my foyer. After doing so for a while, I noticed that the floor had become very dull. It took several damp mopings with plain water to get the floor back to what it was. Do not use Swiffer Wetjet on wood of laminate wood floors.
June 20 2010
THANK YOU for your comments. I too was thinking of steaming our Shaws laminate wood floors. After much more research I discovered simply using vinegar and water. You use & 188; cup of vinegar and put it into an empty spray bottle and then fill the rest of the bottle up with tap water. Spray the floor a section at a time and then wipe it up with a mop or rag.I use microfiber It does not leave streaking and you won't be saturating your floor with water. Good Luck !
March 12 2010
WHAT ABOUT VINYL TILE CARE?
Can the new steam mops be used on vinyl tile? I'm thinking that since it is put down with a "glue" that if any moisture gets under one it would mean trouble also.
December 14 2009
Hello, I've had my bleached oak (natural wood) floor in the kitchen and family room for over 20 years. About 5 years ago, I noticed that it was losing the shine and started using Bona Chem cleaner and Polish. It now has a build up that looks dirty and I would like to know how to remove the old wax to once again show off the beautiful floor.
August 26 2009
Thank you so much for your advice. I purchased a steam cleaner as seen on TV but checked your site before using it.I sent it back and my new laminate floors were saved thanks to you.
August 10 2009
Follow Manufacturer's Recommendations
After reading the article and comments afterwards I believe that in order to best preserve the integrity of your floor and for the sake of the warranty it is vital to follow and use the Manufacturer's recommendations when it comes to using the proper cleaner and or methods used. Many hardwood floors are ruined due to simple mistakes or misguided information and in some cases the damage can be irreversible or may require a complete sand & finish to correct the problem. Hardwood floors are an investment so protect that investment by simply following the advice of the manufacturer. At the time of purchase request a copy of the manufacturer's warranty and maintenance guidelines and if in doubt consult with a flooring professional before buying a product seen on television.
July 30 2009
varnish laminate
I've just brought a new house with laminate in the porch. Is it possible to varnish the laminate to keep it strong, especially from water
May 29 2009
Orange glo disaster!
I used a lot of orange glo and mop and glo on my floors, and I thought my floors were totally ruined after I saw that waxy film on them.
May 9 2009
Laminate Floor Care
The Zep cleaner huh? That sounds interesting. Im glad to see that you can find it at Home Depot- makes life more convenient! I had a friend who steam cleaned her laminate floor and she was upset. Laminate floor care can be tricky because it isnt like any other floor. My friend had SHAW laminate in her house and after she ruined her floor she decided to give them a call and see what she did wrong. The customer service people suggest a vinegar and water mixture to clean the floors. I used it when I'm cleaning my laminate flooring and its works great. no streaking, good shine. Ill try out the Zep cleaner from Home Depot too. Thanks for the advice.
April 14 2009
Cleaning Laminate
The easiest way to clean laminate is with glass cleaner with ammonia. The glass cleaner that does the best job without the streaking is Zep found at Home Depot. The best mop is a "German" Mop made from an old towel with a hole in the middle dropped over a mop or broom handle. The Zep cleaner leaves nothing behind when you are finished unlike soaps. Give it a try. I love it.
April 12 2009
DO NOT STEAM CLEAN HARDWOOD!!!! Just don't!
I have hardwood floors and I was one of those people who steam cleaned my hardwood floor one day. I was sick of its dull look and decided it needed to be cleaned. Boy was I wrong. Do not steam clean your laminate floors people. Read article above. I was searching on how many people do the same thing I did and its amazing the misconception hardwood and laminate floors have about their cleaning techniques. Do your floor homework because doing anything as stupid as I did. Just some advice!!! :)
April 8 2009
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