Steam Mops Damage Hardwoods

Steam mops can damage hardwood floors by breaking down the finish over time and allowing water to absorb into the thirsty hardwood floor beneath. Heating up water reduces its viscosity making it act more like a solvent. Wetter water greatly improves its cleanability without the use of additives like soap, pH or solvents. However, while steam cleans better than cooler water, it can damage certain items such as hardwood floors.

Steam Damages Hardwood Floors

hardwood floor cleaning in nashville tn

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 problem with steam cleaning hardwood floors is that it can damage the integrity of the finish. The second involves damaging the structure of hardwood as it absorbs excess water because wood never realizes it’s dead. More on this shortly.

Steam Damages Hardwood Finish

Most hardwood floors are finished with polyurethane, a waterproof finish that is very durable for 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 break down the finish over time while also separating it from the wood surface below.

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 can expand more rapidly than the hardwood below. This can lead to urethane eventually breaking away from the hardwood.

Wood Finish Damage in a New 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 hardwood cleaning package as it reduces the use of water to reduce further damage.

Hardwood Never Realizes it is 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 down into bedrock 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 powerful enough to crack the stone down the perforated line. These newly quarried blocks were then dressed with unbelievably flat, level surfaces to build the pyramids we know today.

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 bare wood we noticed on this customer’s floor could easily soak up the 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. It can also turn minor hardwood floor damages into larger problems. Small scratches in the finish could allow steam-water to slide beneath the finish causing the problem to grow larger.

Crawlspaces Can Also Damage Hardwood

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 a few feet below the 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 properly installed in their crawlspace. This can allow gallons of water to evaporate out of the open soil and into that thirsty hardwood above. If you’ve noticed that each plank of your hardwood floor cups at the seams, your crawlspace might have a moisture problem.

Sealing the soil under your home allows the wooden 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.

If you need Nashville hardwood floor cleaning services, call EverClean for a free in-home consultation or you may get a quote and schedule service above.

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