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Can You Use a Steam Cleaner On Oak Floors?

A steam cleaner mop cleanig a hardwood oak floor.

Many people are hesitant to use a steam cleaner on their oak floors, fearing the heat will damage the wood, and rightfully so. When used correctly, a steam cleaner can be an effective way to clean many things.

Steam cleaners can penetrate deeply, removing dirt and grime that standard cleaning methods can’t reach. The steam’s heat can help kill bacteria and other unwanted particles. However, penetrating water into wood can cause irreversible damage to your flooring


Close up photo of a damage oak wood floor.

Oak flooring is a popular choice for many homeowners because of its durability and classic look. However, steam cleaning can easily damage oak flooring, which can cause the wood to warp and the finish to blister.

In addition, steam cleaning can also damage the sealant on oak flooring, making it more susceptible to water damage, so if you don’t see the damage after the first use of a steam cleaner on your oak flooring, it will be more vulnerable and more likely to experience damage the next time you clean it.  

As a result, it is crucial to take care when steam cleaning oak flooring or use a different cleaning method to avoid damaging the floors.

Related: Does Oak Flooring Scratch Easily?

Test It First

If you’re considering using a steam cleaner on your oak floors, you’ll want to test it first to be sure it won’t damage the flooring. One way to do this is to fill the steam cleaner with water, turn on the machine and let it run for a few minutes until the water has had a chance to heat up.

Then, carefully touch the steam nozzle to a small floor area. You’ll need to wait and watch the site for a few days to see if any damage results. If the oak appears to be discolored or warped, discontinue the machine’s use. Otherwise, you should be able to safely use the steam cleaner on your oak floors.

Better Ways to Clean Oak Flooring

A woman sweeping a dust in the hardwood oak floor.

Over time, dirt and grime can build up on the surface, making it difficult to remove with traditional cleaning methods. For this reason, it’s a good idea to clean floors regularly to avoid building up dirt that will require more intense cleaning methods. Luckily, there are a few safe and effective ways to clean oak flooring without damaging it.

One way is to use a mild detergent and warm water. To kill bacteria and remove grime, a simple vinegar and water solution can be safely used to clean any type of flooring. Another option is to use a dust mop or vacuum with a soft brush attachment to remove dirt and debris. 

Purchase a high-quality broom so you can regularly sweep your floor of dirt, dust, and other particles. Use a vacuum cleaner that doesn’t have a beater bar to get between the boards and other hard-to-reach areas. 

The best cleaning techniques will vary depending on the installation and finish of your hardwood floor. A terrycloth mop with a rotating head makes cleaning corners, under cabinets, and along baseboards easy and is always a safe bet for cleaning wood flooring. 

Find out what your flooring retailer recommends. Professional cleaning products can remove stains without dulling the finish of your wood flooring. Flooring manufacturers recommend their own specific products for routine maintenance, so check with your retailer for this information.

The hardwood flooring in your home is a big investment. Once damage occurs to hardwood flooring, especially water damage, it can be impossible to repair. If you must steam clean your oak flooring, consider hiring a professional cleaning company to do the work for you.

They will have the best tools as well as real-life experience to make sure you get the best cleaning without damaging your hardwood flooring.

Related: Can You Whitewash Oak Flooring?

Do and Don’ts When Cleaning Oak Flooring

A man carefully wiping his oak hardwood floor using a damp towel.

Here are some basic rules to follow when it comes to cleaning your oak flooring: 

  • Use cleaners that don’t leave a film or residue, like vinegar or plain water. 
  • Avoid using ammonia cleaners or oil soaps on wood flooring because they will dull the finish and make it difficult to recoat your finish later.
  • Never wax a wood floor with a urethane finish.
  • Use a professional hardwood floor cleaner on a cloth and rub the stained area lightly to remove scuffs.
  • Use a damp towel or sponge to clean any grimy spots.
  • Minimize water exposure. Avoid using excessive water to clean your floor because wood naturally expands when wet, so this will cause your flooring to splinter and warp.
  • Clean any spills immediately by soaking the liquid with a terry cloth. 

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