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With the recently popular steam mop becoming a common cleaning tool in many houses, it is interesting to see how many things we can clean with it. Tile and linoleum flooring are the easiest, carpeting is a little more difficult with but it can be done, and non-porous surfaces like shower doors or patio furniture are a breeze. But can you steam mop laminate floors?
In general, the answer is no, you should not steam mop laminate.
There are some minor exceptions to the rule, but to understand why, it is a good idea to understand what laminate is, how it is made, and why you should not steam mop it.
What is Laminate?
Laminate, specifically laminate flooring as we are discussing in this article, is a type of manufactured flooring. The laminate boards, or tiles, are installed by simply clicking them together instead of gluing them to the floor and each other. This ease of installation is one of the reasons why laminate floors have become very popular in recent years.
The boards themselves are made of a layered, or laminated, construction of different materials. The better quality laminate boards start with a protective coat on the top, a graphic layer that usually mimics the grain you see in hardwood flooring, a fiberboard core, another stabilizing layer, and a moisture-proof material on the bottom.
Why You Shouldn’t Steam Mop Laminate
Both the material used in laminate and also the manufacturing process themselves are sensitive to moisture and heat, the two things that make up steam. Laminate flooring manufacturers already realize this, and many place warnings in their instruction manuals that using a steam mop on the flooring will void your warranty.
What Moisture Does to Laminate Flooring
Because the layers are made of different materials, and the seams in between boards are not waterproof, liquid seeping into laminate boards can cause the layers to separate from each other. This process is called delamination.
The number one sign that your floors are delaminating is the presence of raised, warped, or bubbling edges of the laminate boards along their seams.
Moisture stuck between boards and/or layers in the laminate can also cause mold or rotting, creating a horrible smell, and breaking down your flooring quickly.
How Heat Affects Laminate Flooring
- Heat can break down the adhesives that keep laminate layers together.
- Heat can cause thin man made materials to warp as it causes them to shrink or expand (depending on the material).
- Heat can also help break down the top protective layer of laminate, creating weak spots that will leave the next layers open to both damage from normal foot traffic, as well as general moisture.
Laminate Flooring You Can Steam Mop
There aren’t very many variants of laminate flooring that you can use a steam mop on, but they do exist. The main points to look for in the flooring descriptions are a) are they waterproof or water-resistant, b) does the warranty allow the use of steam to clean the planks, and c) are you planning on replacing the flooring any time soon?
In all cases, just to be safe, be sure to dry the floor completely after using any liquid based cleaner.
Is Your Laminate Flooring Water Resistant?
The easiest way to tell if your laminate floor is water-resistant is if the packaging, user manual, or installer state that they are water resistant. In many cases, when laminate is specifically stated as being water-resistant, it can hold up to a lot more than regular laminate flooring can. This is especially important when installing plastic laminate flooring, which has a very high moisture tolerance.
Any time claims of 72-hour water resistance pop up, a steam mop at its lowest heat setting is unlikely to cause damage to laminate flooring.
Planning to Replace Your Laminate
Much of the damage that can occur from steam mopping laminate comes from regular use, not just touching the planks one time with hot heat and steam. If you already have a plan in place to replace the existing laminate, steam mopping can be a time saver for you. Standard cleaning and disinfecting methods can take a large chunk of time out of your day, but using a steam mop is quick and easy.
The most common problem that occurs when you steam mop laminate is how the heat breaks down the protective top layer. This does not occur over all at once, but over multiple steam mop applications.
Some short-term problems that could conceivably pop up are warping and delamination. Even though you are planning on replacing the laminate floor, this type of damage looks horrible and can pop up in small situations, like grabbing on to your socks or stockings as you walk over the floor.
In general, it is not recommended to steam mop laminate, whether it is flooring or any other type of pressed composite that you might find in construction. Heat and moisture are the biggest weaknesses of laminate, and introducing those directly can ruin both the aesthetics and longevity of your flooring.