So you’ve got hardwood flooring and want to clean it without causing damage. But is a standard steam mop safe?
The short answer is no. You don’t want to oversaturate hardwood flooring with water, or else it can warp and shrink over time.
But there are mops that dry as they go. So let’s take a look at the best steam mop for hardwood floors.
We’ll look at how to use one safely, as well as when you should avoid using a steam mop and what other options you’ve got.
Our Top PicksThe HouseWire earns a commission through the following independently chosen links at no additional cost to you.
Can You Use a Steam Mop on Hardwood Floors?
No, it’s not ideal to use a steam mop on hardwood floors, even if they’re sealed.
You should keep hardwood floors dry to avoid damage, and steam mops add moisture to the floor. In fact, flooring manufacturers and various flooring associations all advise against steam mopping.
The change in temperature and excess water can cause warping, cracks, and cupping over time (1). It can also damage the finish and leave your floor looking dull.
But you can buy steam mops that dry as they go. And mop manufacturers say these products are safe for sealed floors.
But you should still approach them with extreme caution! The steam mop could leave water on the surface, and sealed floors can have cracks that allow water to seep in and cause damage.
If you really want to use a steam mop then check the guidance from the floor manufacturer. And test it in a small area first.
How To Choose The Best Steam Mop For Hardwood Floors
Let’s look at the main factors to consider before buying a steam mop.
Types of Steam Head
- Rectangular Shaped: These mop heads are often larger, which makes them ideal for quick cleaning. You can cover a large area in a short amount of time, but they’re not so good for getting into tight spaces.
- Triangular Shaped: These are smaller than the rectangular style mop head, so they’re better for corners and tricky spots. It’s easier to get around furniture, but it’s slower to cover big areas.
- Swivel Heads: This type of mop head doesn’t have a fixed position, so it has better maneuverability than other types. You can work around objects much more easily, but they are a bit harder to steer.
Some are as light as 5 pounds, whereas others weigh 15 pounds or more. If you need to take your steam mop up and down stairs, then a lighter one is easier to carry around.
Steam mops also shouldn’t sit still for long, so they don’t damage your floors. Because of this need for constant motion, a heavier model gets tiring and can feel heavy to push before long.
The cleaning pads attach to the bottom of the mop and there’s a huge variety available. Some are flimsy and disposable, whereas others are sturdier and last longer.
You should look at a soft mop pad for hardwood floors, rather than anything abrasive. It protects the surface of the floor and won’t cause any scratches or scuffs.
If the water is any cooler than this, it won’t kill germs. It also won’t steam as effectively, so it’s more likely to leave water and damage your floors.
For example, this iwoly M11 steam mop only goes up to 120F.
You should also check the time it takes to reach the desired temperature. Some are much quicker than others.
Some only take a few seconds to heat up, but others can take minutes. It’s best to find one that does it in a minute or less.
A large water tank is a good idea if you have lots of floors to mop. You can cover more ground without needing to stop and refill it all the time.
And seeing as you need to stop and wait for the steam mop to get back up to temperature each time you refill it, this could save you a lot of time.
But the bigger the water tank, the heavier the mop is. So it comes down to personal preference and what your needs are.
Corded or Cordless
If you want a corded version, then check the length of the cord. They’re generally around 15 to 30 feet in length on most steam mops.
The longer the power cord, the wider your cleaning radius. You won’t need to keep stopping to swap plug sockets, which makes for a smoother cleaning session.
If you go for a shorter power cord, you’ll have to stop and swap plugs more often. So it will take you longer.
Alternatively, you could opt for a cordless steam mop that uses batteries. The top steam mops have a battery life of 60 minutes or more.
It’s worth looking at how long it takes to charge up as well as the runtime. You may find the battery life isn’t long enough to do a whole home if you have lots of hardwood floors.
If this is the case, then it’s worth getting an extra battery to save you waiting around for it to charge. Or you could opt for a corded model instead.
Empty Reservoir Indicator. This is a light that flashes on to let you know when your water tank is getting empty.
- Steam Output: Some mops have adjustable steam output settings to change how much steam the mop generates. It’s a good feature for cleaning hardwood floors, as they’re easily damaged by water.
- Ease of use features: Things like pivoting mop heads, ergonomic handles, and different floor nozzles affect how comfortable your steam mop is to use. Look out for anything that makes your life easier!
- Accessories: Some mops will include accessories so you can use them for cleaning glass or furniture. So keep an eye out for things like handheld hoses, disposable pads, and extra tools.
The Best Steam Mops for Hardwood Floors of 2023
We’ve put hours of research into finding the best steam mops for hardwood floors. Real user reviews, expert info, and technical details are just some of the factors that have gone into making these decisions.
So let’s get into the list of the top hardwood floor-safe steam mops for 2023.
1. PurSteam Steam Mop Cleaner
It has three steam settings, so you can turn it down to the lowest steam output to protect your floors. There’s even a scrubber brush attachment that gets rid of stubborn stains without needing too much steam.
The reusable mop pads are gentle and won’t leave any scuffs seeing as they’re made from soft microfiber. Just throw them into the washing machine when you’re done.
There’s also no need for harsh chemicals that can damage your wood floors, as it runs on tap water. And the generous 340ml tank provides plenty of cleaning time with a quick 30 second heating time.
Best of all, it comes with loads of attachments to keep your whole home clean and fresh
- It’s great at steam cleaning grout
- You can also use it as a handheld steam cleaner for added versatility
- It covers ground quickly but is still small enough for tight spaces
- The velcro on the mop pad rubs on the floors so it falls off
|Tank Capacity||340ml / 11.5Oz|
2. Shark Steam Pocket Mop
It’s a pretty basic steam mop, but it’s still an effective hard floor cleaning system.
The large water tank holds nearly half a liter, so you won’t need to keep stopping to fill it up. But even when you do, it only takes 30 seconds to get up to temperature.
And best of all, the water dries almost immediately. So your floors aren’t left saturated, which reduces the risk of any damage.
The soft grip handle makes it feel more comfortable to use. You can easily clean all of your floors without any strain or sore hands.
When you’re finished, the quick-release power cord pops off. So it’s more streamlined to store away in the closet.
- It picks up more dirt than a traditional mop without needing to use chemicals
- The 18 foot cord is a good length to clean large areas in one go
- It uses double-sided mop pads, so you can flip them over and don’t need to wash them as often
- It’s hard to tell when the water tank is getting low, so you can run out of water
|Cord Length||18 ft|
3. BISSELL Powerfresh Steam Mop
With three steam settings to choose from, you can select the right one for the job. Turn it down for hardwood flooring, or up the power for tough stains on tile floors.
If that doesn’t budge it, the flip-down scrubber brush gets rid of any stuck-on stains. And the spring breeze fragrance discs leave your home smelling super fresh.
Seeing as stains happen everywhere, the long 23-foot power cord gives you the freedom to clean your whole home. And the low profile swivel head makes it easy to access tricky areas.
Finally, the removable water tank makes refilling a breeze. You can take it to the sink without any worries about spilling distilled water on your floors.
- It cleans well on a mix of floors, including ceramic tile, stone, and laminate floors
- The 23-foot power cord is long enough to cover big areas in one go
- It’s easy to assemble and comes with a reusable microfiber pad
- If you don’t leave it to get hot enough, it seems it can leave water spot marks
|Cord Length||23 foot|
4. LIGHT ‘N’ EASY Multi-Functional steam mop
Unlike some other steam mops, you can turn this into a handheld cleaner too. And it has accessories for degreasing the kitchen, as well as cleaning furniture and clothing.
The adjustable steam output makes it suitable for a range of tasks, including steaming delicate surfaces and hard floors.
The 212F hot steam not only gets rid of all kinds of germs and messes but also dries quicker. This is what you want in a steam mop to prevent residual moisture from sitting on the surface.
And when you lock the mop upright, it stops the continuous steam to protect your floors further. It’s a great choice if you want an easy way to keep your whole home clean and sanitized.
- The microfiber soft pad is gentle on wood floors, but still manages to get rid of any built-up residue
- It comes with extra steam mop features, so you can clean a range of surfaces
- The different steam settings are useful for mopping different floor types
- It only includes one cleaning pad, so you need to buy some more of the reusable mop pads
|Cord Length||20 foot|
5. O-Cedar Microfiber Steam Mop
Knocked over a vase in the bedroom? No problem, it’s lightweight enough to carry up and down stairs.
And it comes with a snap-on carpet glider, so you can use it for more than just hardwood or laminate floors. Simply attach the glider and use the steam to freshen up your carpets.
With the adjustable steam settings, you can change the output to suit whatever surface you’re cleaning. The absorbent microfiber cleaning pads dry your floors quickly, making it a safer choice for wood flooring.
And since it only takes 20 seconds to heat up, you can tackle spills and stains in a flash.
- You can cover more than one room at a time thanks to the long power cable
- You don’t need to apply a lot of pressure to the handle to get a thorough clean
- It’s self-standing, so you don’t need to lean it up against anything
- The heating coils can burn out, so keep on top of any maintenance
|Cord Length||19 foot|
Steam Mops for Hardwood Floors Comparison Chart
|Product||Power Source||Cord Length||Weight||Tank Capacity||Voltage|
|PurSteam Steam Mop Cleaner||Corded||N/A||2.2 pounds||340ml / 11.5Oz||100-120V|
|Shark Steam Pocket Mop||Corded||18 ft||4.87 pounds||450ml/15oz||110V|
|BISSELL Powerfresh Steam Mop||Corded||23 ft||6 pounds||450ml/15oz||120V|
|LIGHT 'N' EASY Multi-Functional steam mop||Corded||20 ft||6.3 pounds||330ml/11.5oz||110-120V|
|O-Cedar Microfiber Steam Mop||Corded||19 ft||5 pounds||400ml/13.5oz||120V|
Everything else you need to know before choosing the right steam mop for you.
How Do You Safely Use a Steam Mop on Hardwood Floors?
If you still want to try using a steam mop, then make sure your floors are sealed. If you’re unsure and want to check, there’s a simple water bead test you can try.
Pop a few drops of water onto your floor and leave it for five minutes. If it doesn’t soak into the floor after this time, you’re safe to try using a steam mop.
It’s still best to try a small patch before using steam cleaners on the whole area, though. Just in case.
And remember, check the details of your flooring manufacturer and NOT the steam mop manufacturer. They could give different information, and you don’t want to damage your floor.
Are Steam Cleaners Safe for Engineered Hardwood Floors?
To understand why, we first need to look at what engineered wood floors are made of.
Underneath the top layer of solid wood are more layers of different types of wood, usually plywood or fiberboard. It’s all held together with a mix of adhesive and wax, which gives the floor a small amount of water resistance.
But it’s still a wood floor. And the hot water from a steam mop can cause damage.
The can layer can warp, allowing more water to seep through. Eventually, it will damage the construction of the planks and subfloor.
So steam cleaning isn’t a recommended engineered hard floor cleaning system. Otherwise, you may find you need to replace your flooring every few years.
Steaming Real or Faux Hardwood Flooring?
Rather than risking damage to your hardwood flooring, why not try an alternative wooden look?
You can find porcelain and ceramic tile floors designed to look like wood.
Not only do they look great but they’re also easy to clean. You can use a traditional steam mop or a steam blaster on them without any worries.
So if you spill your coffee or a glass of red wine, you don’t need to panic about damage. Just sponge the stain down, and then clean it with a steam mop or whatever else you choose.
Tiles can handle hot temperatures and water since they’re made from materials like ceramic, glass, or stone. So they’re durable and easy to maintain.
On the other hand, real boards are harder to maintain and easy to damage. If you don’t get it right, your wood flooring will need replacing before you know it.