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Steam Cleaning A Wood Floor: A Recipe For Disaster.

It seems like the older I get, the harder it is for me to take some questions seriously. With the countless ways of delivering information, it doesn’t get any easier. So, when someone asked me if I would recommend steam cleaning a wood floor, I had no idea they were serious. The idea of steam cleaning a wood floor was right up there with taking a bath with your electric radio perched on the side of the tub. Then I watched an infomercial for a steam cleaner and nearly fell out of my chair. Now I knew why the caller was serious.

There are three items/conditions that can cause serious damage to wood floors – sunlight, heat and moisture. So, out of the three, steam cleaning has two of the three ingredients. In some houses with a lot of southern exposure and a lot of glass, you will get three out of three.

Heat and moisture will cause wood and the finish to expand, swell, and move. The expansion is caused by the excessive heat and the wood taking on too much moisture. This is not a good thing for wood flooring at all and often changes the color of the wood. The movement can also accelerate the deterioration of a finish and cause it to break away from the wood. For engineered floors, you may also damage some mastic used in manufacturing veneers and laminates. There are too many ways for moisture to damage an old floor via scratches, worn paths, gouges, expansion joints and so on. For many, by the time you realize that things are not going well, you have some serious issues with your wood floors and you are easily in over your head.

If you watch the videos demonstrating steam cleaning a wood floor, invariably they are working on a floor that looks brand new and the dirt and grime is literally manufactured. This hardly passes the “real world” test where you and I live.   

So, to answer the question, I would say that steam cleaning a wood floor has too many variables that could backfire and create more problems. I’ve never met a single contractor who’s recommended this. There are plenty of good, solid cleaning options out there that don’t pose nearly the threat as this high-risk procedure. Find them and use them instead.

Michael Purser | © Rosebud Co. 2016

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