BY JOHN KOLBASKA, OWNER
We’ve all seen commercials portraying steam mops as though they’re perfect for hardwood floors. Interestingly enough, you can find contradictory information from your flooring or finish’s warranty, the internet, and unfortunately via trial and error. It’s hard to know who to believe in this debate with so many different sources having such a wide range of opinions. The general consensus from the flooring installer and refinishers point of view is NEVER to use a steam mop on your hardwood. Allow me to explain why.
Most steam mops work by heating water in a reservoir to boiling point and releasing the steam produced through jets into a microfiber mop head that collects dirt. This is supposed to allow you to clean and sanitize your floor without the use of cleaning solutions. The problem here isn’t the cleaning, it’s the sanitizing. Steam temperature must be at least 160 degrees in order to kill bacteria and viruses. While the boiling point of water is 212 degrees, the temperature of the steam in most consumer grade steam mops is well below 160 by the time it leaves the heating element and reaches the mop head. Your goal of sanitizing your floors is usually not being met and you are damaging them in your attempts.
A good steam mop may not leave behind puddles of water, but it generates more than enough to damage your hardwood. Most floors today are installed with prefinished planks. These boards, even when properly installed, have tiny gaps between them. The gaps may allow water to reach the sides of the boards where the tongue and grooves are located. This part of the plank is not sealed and finished. Moisture in these areas causes your flooring to swell which results in warping, splitting, crowning, cupping, and other physical changes in the material. Once the material starts to change shape and size it affects the finish, and all of the boards around it. This can also happen with site finished floors. Over time, the natural swell and shrink of the wood affords moisture the same openings of opportunity.
If the moisture can get between the planks it can also get under them, compromising the integrity of the subfloor beneath it. Your subfloor is the most important aspect of your flooring’s structural stability. It is the surface in which your hardwood floor was affixed to. If the subfloor were to endure water damage causing it to rot or warp, it can cause buckling, unevenness, squeaky boards, and a world of other problems. Mold developing in the underlayment is also a common problem caused by excessive moisture finding its way below the flooring.
All of the problems that can potentially be caused by a steam mop are fixable. Sub floors can be re-built or repaired. Warped boards can be torn out and replaced with similar material. The surface can be sanded, stained, refinished, and left looking brand new. These problems can also be avoided entirely by choosing an alternative means of cleaning. I suggest using products that are specially formulated for hard wood floors, as their manufacturers have taken into account the specific needs of hardwood flooring and the various finishes used on them. Avoid using vinegar as it is acidic in nature and will eat away at any type of finish on your floor. Above all, NEVER USE A STEAM MOP ON YOUR WOOD FLOORS. For more valuable information about hardwood floor maintenance and installation please give us a call today (347) 815-4151
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