Steam cleaners and hardwood a myth????

needsometips08September 19, 2011

I just visited relatives out of state who had the nicest hickory hardwood floors (tongue and groove) I've ever seen. I asked how she cleans them and she said she has only ever used the Shark steam cleaner on them and showed me. The wet residue left over evaporated within a second - by the time I'd knelt down to touch it, it was 100% dry. I thought, "wow, my Bona method stays wet MUCH longer." I use the Bona spray bottle, 2 to 4 squirts to cover a 4 foot section, and on my hands and knees wipe it down and move on. I ask people not to step on it till dry, usually in about a minute.

Considering her floor is GORGEOUS and the Shark steam cleaner hasn't done any damage at all, and she has been cleaning it this way for 2 years, and it gets 1/10th of the liquid on it that I do using Bona, please explain the harm in using steam cleaners?

I simply don't understand. Yes, I get water and wood don't mix, but Bona is 100% liquid so how is it less damaging?

If steam cleaning is so damaging, why does my relative's floor look so fabulous?

Also, we have standing bits of water on the floor daily. Not large amounts - a 1/2 cup or so and I wipe it up as soon as I see it, but again, if the miniscule bits of water from the steam cleaner will ruin it, why does 1/2 cup of water not ruin it? One time, our kids accidently left a sopping wet towel overnight on the hardwood floor and it did buckle about 2 boards and within 8 months it was back to flat again even.

I hear what everyone is saying about water and wood not mixing, it's just not been my experience at all. Please, please help me understand because I really want to get the Shark and just put the Bona directly into it.

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I was wondering the same thing. I used Bona for the first time and was surprised at how long it took to dry even though I only used a couple of squirts in each section. And it seemed sticky, too, until it dried which was much longer than one minute. But I don't understand why would you want to put Bona into the Shark. The point of steam is that no chemicals are needed; also, you don't know how the Bona product would react with heat. Maybe I'm not following, but I hope someone will respond to your initial question.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 5:24PM
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I am assuming there must be some ingredient that is GOOD for the wood in Bona but could be wrong.

One gets the impression that water is the great evil for wood, but Bona is the best option on the market. Really, how are they any different? They are both liquid. So it must be the ingredients, right?

But steam cleaners are so easy to use compared to what I have to do now. I spot clean for 2 months or so, but we have so much daily activity in our house (we are grand central station for the neighborhood) that it ends up needing a good, thorough cleaning. And that involves being on my hands and knees and a good hour of scrubbing. It's so labor intensive that I put on work-out clothes and am dripping in sweat afterward and plan to shower after it's done.

And I don't see any other good methods - mops soak the floor and don't even pick up the dirt or clean the spots.

So if I can combine the easiest, most thorough method (steam cleaner) with something that's touted as safe and good (Bona) and avoids the big evil (water) - that seems like a win/win.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 7:17PM
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A good steam cleaner that gets hot enough -- and I don't think Shark is one of them -- is sufficient to clean and sanitize. A cleaning product isn't needed. But that doesn't answer your original question. Maybe someone else will chime in.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 7:39PM
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I think that if you move fast you will not cause damage. BUT I couldn't write that out on my product if I were "Shark Steam" company. Therefore go ahead and run your own experiments.

Are you in a dry climate? Does relative humidity vary by season? Etc.

For sure if you leave it running a long time on a floor you shall cause the wood to absorb moisture more than otherwise. Some people will do this and not care a whit. Some people will do this ALL the time, feeling they don't care a whit, and then get upset when they find out the floor has deteriorated to a great extent, far more than they might consider to be "right'.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 9:10PM
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I have seen no harm from them. The admonition about water is that you do not use too much or leave it heavy on the floor, all things in moderation.
Over use of machines like the "Shark" especially on rotary veneered products can lead to finish discoloration , rough surface texture and even flaking of the finish. Just use it sensibly, wiping up any excess water not collected with a soft towel.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 11:08PM
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My wife used to clean our oak wood floors with one of those steam moppers and all the varnish has come off. They were just redone when we bought (not sure which poly they used), so only lasted 2-3 years with the steam mopper. Now I have to refinsish the floors :( I am doing pure tongue oil this time.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2011 at 1:46PM
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I don't think it's so much the amount of water alone but more of the heat & water together. Heat (extremely hot if it's steam) expands the wood & the water is being put into the expanded wood so over time it would probably ruin the floors.
I want a steam mop so bad too but since my floors are brand spanking new I'll stick to my bona for the time being.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2011 at 6:02AM
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Finish lift and checking splits in veneered products.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 10:09AM
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"One gets the impression that water is the great evil for wood,..."

Wood absorbs and release water vapor ALL the time.


It never stops with ANY practical finish.

As the moisture content of the wood varies its size and shape varies.

This puts a real premium on finishes used on wood.

Make the finish to brittle and it will quickly flake off as the wood moves and thet finish cannot stretch and flex.

Make it to soft and it will fail to protect the wood and collect dirt.

You can see how much movement occurs in a wood strip floor by how the gaps between adjacent strips open and close throughout the year as the overall humidity varies.

A 3 inch strip might move 1/16 of an inch.
And the finish must move the same amount.

On a floor with an intact finish cleaning with a damp mop and then quickly drying is not likely7 to have a very large effect.

On a floor with a less than perfect finish more moisture is going to be introduced to the wood and absorbed.

As the water vapor then moves back out of the wood it can result in even more finish damage.

The manufacturers are all scarred to death of saying any water is acceptable for cleaning a hardwood floor.

Someone will saturate the floor using a garden hose, then barely mop. The water will sit for hours. When the floor warps and the finish lifts they will try to make a damage claim.

"You said I could use water."

Common sense is gone.

A quick damp (not wet) mopping is unlikely to hurt much, even if most of the finish is worn away.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 12:22PM
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I just saw a glowing recommendation on the cleaning forum for a Haan steam mop so I came here to find out if I could use it for my new oak floors.

I'm wondering if it's not so much the water as the heat that's the problem? Because, according to reviews, it dries nearly instantly. But it makes sense that the super hot steam would soften (and possibly ruin) the finish.

I don't like using chemicals to clean so I'd love it if I could use steam. And not have to scrub floors on my hands and knees like an eighteenth century washer woman. :(

Here is a link that might be useful: Haan steam mop

    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 1:21PM
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"And not have to scrub floors on my hands and knees like an eighteenth century washer woman."

So mop it with a barely damp mop to remove surface dirt.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2011 at 2:07PM
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If you do decide to get a steamer, you can NOT put the Bona solution into it, you'll ruin the steamer. Water only.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2011 at 12:03AM
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I used a steam mop (Shark)twice on my polyeurothened hardwood floors and the steam has taken the shine out of the floor- I am now looking into what I have to do to get the shine back on it.


    Bookmark   December 23, 2011 at 4:01PM
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"I am now looking into what I have to do to get the shine back on it. "

Screen the floor and apply another coat of poly.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2011 at 4:53PM
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If your floors had wax on them that would explain the result you got. Just re wax the floor. If "Orange Glow" or "Bona Polish" were used previous to steam cleaning the same issue may be the result. An ammonia and water solution ~50/50 will get that off the floor. Do a small area scrubbing gently not letting the mix flood the floor. Then wipe off quickly and rinse with a good floor cleaner IE Woodwise, Bona, Bruce, Liquid Pledge, or any other genital wood floor cleaner. DO NOT use any product that mentions renewing the luster but only that cleans!

    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 1:15PM
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