Many homeowners will not use steam cleaners on floors made of laminated boards, but the units are marketed as being suitable for the job.
Which is the right advice to follow? Is steam cleaning safe for laminate floors, or must you resort to other means?
This would be good to know, as this method offers a natural way of handling the dust and stains that build up on many floors. It does not involve the use of toxic chemicals, either.
We talk about whether steam cleaning is good or not for laminates, even as we explain how it can be done.
Among the big selling points of laminates is that their surfaces replicate real hardwoods.
Their boards have water-resistant surfaces, but also feature inner cores formed with higher-density fiberboard. This construction can handle the occasional spill, but too much dampness will cause long-term interior damage. Affected laminates will eventually loosen or deform after repeated exposure.
This problem is worst with steam that is sprayed at high pressures by carpet steam cleaners; the hot vapors force their way past the ridges and between laminate layers. Water-soaked interior cores will often lead to surface fading and discoloration. Affected boards will eventually start curling at their edges or even break apart.
Steam mopping is the safer steam option. The tinier amounts of leftover moisture produced by this method will not damage laminates as quickly or heavily as the large streams of water and steam produced by wet mopping and general steam cleaning.
A good everyday alternative is a dry microfiber mop, which readily lifts junk and polishes planks while requiring hardly any water. This technique is safe and effective for frequent cleaning, with the occasional steaming to help with dirtier floors.
Types of Steam Cleaners
There are real differences in application among steam cleaners and steam mops.
General steam cleaners
These models were originally meant for use on carpets. They are designed to spray steam on floors directly while sucking up the loosened dirt and grime, which is further agitated by spinning brushes. These aggressive actions can introduce excessive, damaging moisture into laminated materials, though.
It is easy to overlook the effects of repeated sessions of general steam cleaning. You will not notice the tiny amounts of damage that accumulate beneath the surface every time much steam is directly applied. The overall risk is simply not worth the initial ease.
These specialized units have plastic heads tipped with microfiber or cloth pads. Vapor is generated then steamed to the flooring via the fabric, using a control button on the handle. Any dust and grime is lifted by the hot and moistened pad.
Only tiny amounts of water are deposited on the boards and these are readily absorbed by the fabric, leaving all surfaces to dry in a few minutes. Since the fabric evenly applies vapor and heat, things will be fine so long as moisture does not readily penetrate past the seams and if no condensation forms.
See our full review of the Light 'n' Easy steam mop, which is one of the best selling steam mops on Amazon.com
What about floating laminate boards? Even though this type uses no adhesives that can be affected by general steam cleaning, damage can still result. Moistening and heating effects can warp boards and distort their edges, to the point of impeding the locking functions of affected floorboards. Less aggressive steam mopping makes more sense here in the long run.
Using a Steam Mop
Always be mindful about the amounts of hot vapor that you are streaming onto the boards. Too much moisture might seep past their edges, causing the laminated surfaces to loosen. The boards may start curling and cracking if this happens, eventually losing their wooden looks.
- Select the lowest setting before triggering the steam flow, then sweep the mop’s head along the floor in even strokes along the length of each and every board
- Make sure that you do not hold the steaming nozzle for too long over any particular area or joint.
- Inspect the microfiber pad every few minutes and replace it when required, depending on how much dirt you are dealing with.
It would be smart to have one or more pads at hand, so that you can finish the job without having to stop and wash pads between uses.
Although the majority of steam mops are relatively safe for use on laminates, you might want to test things first on a small and inconspicuous area. The method is great for quick cleaning around the house, especially on properly-sealed floors.
That said, a dry microfiber mop is safe and usually effective for everyday cleaning, so you should be using one most often around the home. We recommend a steam mop only when you feel it's necessary and will largely depend on the amount of traffic your home receives.
No matter which techniques you use, always respond quickly to any spill. By wiping or sponging away liquids before they seep into the boards, you should be able to maintain their wood-like luster for years to come.