Here’s Why You Need to Stop Steam Mopping Floors

Updated: Jan. 19, 2023

Turns out, using steam mops on some floors can do more harm than good. Here's why you should avoid steam mopping certain flooring types.

Mop j.chizhe/Shutterstock

Opting for the cleaning power of steam rather than harsh chemicals on your floor seems like an environmentally friendly choice. But, using steam mops on some floors can do more harm than good. So how do you decide where to use a steam mop and where to avoid it?

Here’s the low-down on whether or not to use a steam mop for cleaning floors.

Why Use the Power of Steam?

Used correctly, steam cleaning is a natural and effective way to remove stubborn dirt and stains. Once the water reaches 175 degrees F, it will sanitize surfaces effectively. Many home cleaners reach up to 245 degrees F.

There are other advantages to using the power of steam for cleaning, too. For example, steam cleaning your oven avoids exposure to potentially hazardous chemicals found in some oven cleaning products. Steam cleaning your grill gates also cuts down on the need for elbow grease.┬áBut when it comes to your floors, a steam mop isn’t always the best choice.

Which Flooring Is Safe for Steam-cleaning?

Steam mops work by producing steam under pressure and ‘forcing’ it into cracks and crevices that might get missed with other cleaning methods. Flooring that has gaps or cracks (however small) is vulnerable to damage, and materials like vinyl might warp with the heat.

So, steam mops should only be used on flooring that has no such gaps and isn’t likely to warp in high temperatures. Steam cleaning works great on ceramic tile floors

Which Flooring Could Be Damaged by Steam-cleaning?

Some manufacturers claim that sealed floors won’t be damaged by using a steam mop if it’s used at low or medium pressure. But, most experts don’t recommend steam mops for wooden or laminate flooring, or for surfaces with potential gaps such as vinyl tiles or vinyl planking. A hardwood floor may have small cracks that are invisible to the naked eye. Forcing steam into gaps and cracks can cause irreparable damage such as swelling, warping, delamination, and joint-line separation. In many cases, you’ll void your warranty if you steam-clean a wooden floor or vinyl tiles.

Learn how to clean vinyl floors the right way.

Using steam or other liquid cleaning methods can also cause a build-up of mold and mildew, perhaps leading to a musty smell as well as damage. Even engineered wood floors can be affected by using a steam mop.

How Should I Care For My Floors?

The National Wood Flooring Association recommends you mop up spills from your floor immediately to avoid damage and potential accidents. Wooden floors can be vacuumed regularly or cleaned with a barely damp mop, giving it a good clean with proprietary wood floor cleaner once a month. After five years, you may need to re-coat your floor with another layer of your original finish to keep it pristine.

Next, learn the proper steps for how to clean laminate floors.