Steam mops seem so simple that you would think you couldn’t possibly mess up when using them. Water goes in; steam comes out. Unclean surfaces are quickly cleansed and sanitized. From drink spills in the kitchen to mud tracked in from the front door, your steam machine helps you keep up with your busy household. While you may depend on your mop to keep your home comfortable and presentable, there are five ways you could actually mess up with a steam mop.
1. Do not use your steam mop on unsealed hardwood floors.
Some people refuse to use steam on any hardwood floor whether it is sealed or not. Others use their steam mops on their hardwood floors regularly and report fantastic results. Which decision you make for your floors depends on the following factors:
- Type of wood
- Age of the floor
- Condition of the wood
- Sealed or unsealed wood
If you have sealed hardwood floors in great condition, you will find some steam mops that are designated for safe use on your floors. The problems come when an older floor has lost its finish due to wear and tear over the years, a flooring installer misses a spot when finishing the floor, or the flooring is otherwise damaged and left exposed. Since steam cleaners create moisture and may leave the surfaces they clean wet, they can cause exposed wood to swell up and warp.
2. Do not use your mop on delicate fabrics, such as leather.
Some floor steamers are safe for use on furniture and a variety of fabrics, but there are limits. If you have Italian leather couches, the material may not react well to the direct application of moisture. This is especially true if your steam mop tends to leave too much water behind. You may need to use caution when cleaning some synthetic fibers as well.
Read your steam mop’s manual to ensure you know what materials it was designed to clean safely. When you clean a fabric for the first time, try it on a small, inconspicuous area first. If the test does not come out okay, then you know that fabric is not an option for your steam mop. If you know a material does not mix well with water, then chances are your steam mop is also a bad idea.
3. Do not use your steam mop on a floor that was recently waxed.
Your newly-waxed floor is shiny and beautiful, and you want to ensure it stays clean. Unfortunately, the heat from a steam mop can melt the wax and destroy that shiny finish. If it has been some time since your floor was waxed, you may want to try your steam mop on a small area that normally sits under furniture to see if the surface is undamaged after your mop. Let the test surface dry completely before you make that decision.
4. Do not assume your steam mop will sanitize your floors after a quick cleaning session.
Since many steam mops are marketed as safe ways to sanitize surfaces throughout the home, some people assume that a fast mopping session sanitizes completely. Unfortunately, most steam mops must be held over a surface for 10-15 seconds to get those results. That is still faster and easier than scrubbing a surface manually, but it does slow down the process of mopping considerably.
The good news is your floor doesn’t need a slow, sanitizing clean every time you use your steam mop. If someone has been sick in your home, you may find it necessary to spend some time sanitizing every inch of the floor in the bathroom they have used. If you need to get rid of a sticky residue left from a spill or quickly give the floor a shine, sanitizing the surface is unnecessary.
5. Avoid holding your steam mop over one spot for more than 20 seconds.
You will find a warning similar to this in most steam mop manuals, but the exact time frame may vary. Even if the warning is not in your manual, you may want to take caution when holding the steam mop on one area of any surface. If a spot is extremely dirty or you fear the bacteria that might linger after an illness, it should not take more than 15 seconds for a hot steam to do its job of sanitizing. If you hold the steam there much longer than that, you have a much higher risk of damaging your floor due to the collection of heat and moisture.
Your steam mop is an amazing tool to keep your home sanitary, but there are some limits to its use. When you buy a new one, make sure you read the manual and all care instructions that come in the package. Do not assume that all steam mops work the same and are cared for in the same way.