How Steam Mops Damage Hardwood Floors

Heating up water reduces its viscosity making it more wet. Wetter water greatly improve its ability to clean without the use of additives like soap, pH or solvents. Steam is very useful when cleaning, but it can damage certain items such as hardwood floors.

Steam Damages Hardwood Floors

The word “steam” conjures up thoughts of cleanliness and purification. This word is highly advertised because it’s a bullseye for delivering on buyers’ expectations. Steam mopping hardwood floors just feels right. It delivers on what we want: easy, amusing, chemical-free cleaning. However, steam mopping hardwood floors causes irreversible damage that can thousands in repair costs.

There are mainly two reasons steam mopping hardwood floors is a bad idea. The first involves the integrity of the urethane finish. The second involves the actual structure of hardwood that never realizes it’s dead.

Hardwood Finish Damage

Most hardwood floors are finished with polyurethane, a waterproof finish that is very durable to everyday life. The urethane is either applied at the factory, prefinished, or in-home, after installation. The problem with steam mopping hardwood floors is that it heats up the urethane finish quicker than the hardwood it is attached to.

Raw hardwood and polyurethane finish are completely different structures. When heat is applied to both simultaneously, they will expand and contract at different rates. Under the heat of steam mopping, the polyurethane finish will move more rapidly than the larger hardwood. This can lead to urethane eventually breaking away from the hardwood.

Hardwood Finish Damage in a Recently Built Home

Recently, we found steam mop damage on a hardwood floor in a newer home. The customer told us she steam mops the hardwood as often as possible, and we could tell, unfortunately. The urethane finish first separated at the weakest point, the seams. We then noticed the urethane chipping away from the split seams exposing the hardwood beneath. This reduced our options on how effectively to clean the hardwoods

We offer light, standard and deep hardwood cleaning services, but our cleaning options were reduced because of the damaged finish. We opted for the light cleaning package as it reduces the use of water so the hardwood would not warp.

Hardwood Never Realizes it’s Dead

I was once very fortunate to run my fingers down the stone lines that ancient Egyptians quarried to build the pyramids. Thousands of years ago Egyptians would drill holes in a line similar to perforated paper. They would then place wooden dowels into each hole before filling them with water. Once filled, the hardwood dowels would soak up the water causing a hydraulic force great enough to crack the stone down the perforated line.

Hardwood contains straw-like tubes that carries water from the root system of a tree to the tips of each branch. These tubes continually work even if the tree is now your hardwood floor. The open seams we noticed on this customer’s floor could easily soak up the cleaner and rinse water and not only warp the hardwood, but possibly cause the finish to detach even more.

Steam mopping could allow hardwood floors to warp if used extensively on unprotected areas. It can also turn minor damages into larger problems. Small scratches in the finish could allow steam-water to slide beneath the finish causing them to grow larger.

Crawlspaces May Also Cause Hardwood Floor Damage

While on the subject of how hardwood floors absorb water, the rocky terrain of Middle Tennessee allows for few basements. Most homes are built over crawlspaces, and many contain open soil just feet away from your wooden floor joists, wood subfloor and finished hardwood floors.

To the trained eye it’s easy to see when someone does not have a vapor barrier in their crawlspace. This allows gallons of water to evaporate out of the open soil and into the thirsty hardwood above. If you’ve noticed that each plank of your hardwood floor appears to cup or peak, your crawlspace might have a moisture problem.

Sealing the soil under your home allows the floor boards to return to a flat, consistent surface. Installing a vapor barrier may also improve the indoor air quality of your home as it reduces unwanted humidity that could lead to mold or bacterial growth.


We hope this information has given you valuable insight into keeping your hardwood floors looking great. If you need Nashville hardwood floor cleaning services, call EverClean for a free in-home consultation or phone quote. You can reach us at 615-DRY-FAST (615-379-3278) or by dropping us a line below.

No Fields Found.