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Can You Steam Clean Carpet Over Hardwood Floors?

Can You Steam Clean Carpet Over Hardwood Floors?

Carpets can go a long way in elevating your home’s decor and interiors but need constant care. As well as vacuuming your carpet every few days and spot cleaning it as soon as it gets stained, it’s also important to give your carpet a deep clean every few months. 

One of the best forms of deep cleaning is steam cleaning – but can you still use this method if you have hardwood floors under your carpet?

Can you steam clean carpet over hardwood floors? Yes, you can technically steam clean carpet over hardwood floors. However, you must recognize that hardwood floors are vulnerable to getting damaged by water, and you should take the necessary steps to protect them. 

To learn more about how to properly steam clean a carpet over hardwood floors, read on. 

What Is Steam Cleaning? 

What Is Steam Cleaning?

If you want to understand the impact of steam cleaning on hardwood floors, it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with the process of steam cleaning. 

When steam cleaning, you use a special steam cleaner that heats water and then converts it into steam. You move the steam cleaner over your carpet, and it infuses the carpet with steam. This breaks down even the smallest particles of dirt. 

After this, you run your machine over the carpet again and lift both the steam and dirt out. After steam cleaning, the carpet remains moist and damp and can take a few hours to dry. 

Many people prefer using steam cleaning to other methods of deep cleaning a carpet. The advantages of steam cleaning are: 

  • It can remove almost 97% of the dirt and stains in or on your carpet. The high temperature of the steam breaks down and lifts the dirt more easily than shampoos or other cleaning chemicals can. 
  • It removes dust mites and bacteria. Again, the temperature of the steam can kill any hidden mites and bacteria, making your carpet not just cleaner but more hygienic. 
  • It’s more environmentally friendly. Because steam cleaning doesn’t need any chemical detergents or additives to work, it’s better for the environment. It also makes sure no toxic chemicals are getting immersed in your carpets. You won’t even have to worry about the expiry dates for your carpet cleaners!
  • It’s more convenient. When you hire professional cleaners or are shampooing your carpet yourself, you will likely have to take your carpet off the floor or remove all the furniture. With steam cleaning, you don’t have to worry about that – although you do need to be mindful about how your floor can get affected when you steam clean the carpet over it. 

Steam cleaning can also be used safely on ceramic floors; indeed, it can help lift dirt and grime that even the strongest chemicals can’t. 

However, steam cleaning can damage other types of flooring, like vinyl. In the case of vinyl, steam cleaning breaks down the glue that holds together vinyl planks. 

Another type of flooring sensitive to steam cleaning is hardwood floors, as wood is especially vulnerable to water and heat. 

How Can Steam Cleaning Affect Hardwood Floors? 

How Can Steam Cleaning Affect Hardwood Floors?

Hardwood floors are made by laying out planks of wood, each with a unique character and design. They are appealing for a variety of different reasons: they’re long-lasting, they’re durable, and they can support the weight of even the heaviest furniture. They can also make a room look more aesthetic. 

However, hardwood floors are some of the most expensive types of flooring on the market. For that reason, it’s worth considering the impact that steam cleaning on a carpet over them can have. 

Here are some of the ways steam cleaning can damage your hardwood flooring:

Steam cleaning can cause hardwood floors to rot

Wood can rot or develop mold when exposed to water for a prolonged time. When you’re steam cleaning, steam may seep through your carpet into your floors and condense into water. As the water cannot evaporate, it will simply sit on the floors, causing them to break down and deteriorate rapidly. 

Rotting floors are not only ugly but can also be dangerous, as they can sink beneath heavy weights. When wood is rotting, it can also smell bad and attract pests. 

Steam cleaning can cause cupping 

Cupping is when certain parts of the floor become lower than others, causing an uneven floor. This can impact the aesthetics of the room as well as impact the way your furniture is placed and supported. Steam cleaning can cause cupping because it adds moisture to a room. As a response to the extra humidity, the wood begins to expand, causing the planks to become uneven. 

Steam cleaning can cause stains 

When water seeps into the lower part of hardwood floors, the finish – that is, the top planks – can stain. These stains can be lifted using hardwood floor cleaners and watermark erasers. However, that’ll take a lot of elbow grease – isn’t it better to avoid getting them altogether?

Your floor’s warranty may become void

When you’re installing a hardwood floor, the installer or builder will typically give you a warranty of one to two years. The warranty will guarantee replacements if the floor begins to rot or deteriorate. 

However, you should check the fine print of this warranty – it may state that if the hardwood floor comes into contact with steam cleaning, then the warranty will become void. 

Do All Steam Cleaners Have the Same Effect on Hardwood Floors? 

Do All Steam Cleaners Have the Same Effect on Hardwood Floors?

Some steam cleaner manufacturers claim that their steam cleaners are safe to use on hardwood floors, even without the buffer of a carpet between them. However, take these claims with a grain of salt. Several consumer reports have found that all steam cleaners leave some moisture on hardwood floors. 

And don’t count on your carpet acting as a buffer between the steam and your hardwood floors. Carpets are notorious for absorbing anything – be it spills or, in this case, steam. It’s very likely that while you’re steam cleaning, steam will seep through the carpet and come into contact with your hardwood floors. 

How Can You Protect Your Hardwood Floors? 

How Can You Protect Your Hardwood Floors?

So, how can you stop your hardwood floors from getting impacted when you’re carpet cleaning? 

First, check whether your hardwood floors are protected with sealant or not. If your hardwood floors have been professionally installed, it’s likely that after the planks were laid down, they were coated with a sealant. 

Some sealants offer better water protection than others; these include: 

  • Polyurethane. Polyurethane offers a clear, high gloss or semi-gloss finish on your floors. 
  • Wax oil. Wax oil is applied to finished hardwood floors and then dries to form a great barrier between your floor planks and water. 
  • Varnish. Varnish combines solvent and oil to create a concoction that, when applied to floors, is a very effective barrier for all liquids that want to seep into your floors. 
  • Boiled linseed oil. If you want to limit the number of chemicals you use to clean and seal your floors, then you can also use boiled linseed oil as a natural hardwood floor sealant. Linseed oil can protect floors from both water and sun damage. 
  • Lacquer. Lacquer is another natural sealant you can use as it’s made of tree resin mixed with spirits. 

Adding sealants to hardwood floors is typically done when the floors are laid down. But for it to be most effective in protecting your floors, the sealant needs to be refreshed every few years.

While sealants can act as the first layer of protection from moisture, don’t rely on them alone if you’re planning to steam clean your carpets. 

Steam is lighter and can maneuver better than water. It can seep through even a tiny hairline crack on the sealant and accumulate in the floorboards over time.  

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to protect your floors if you’re steam cleaning your carpets over them. 

Step 1: Vacuum your carpet first 

Before beginning to steam clean your carpet, it’s helpful if you vacuum and spot treat it first. Vacuuming your carpet will take care of large pieces of dust and debris that are on the carpet. It will also loosen up the fibers in your carpet, making it easier for steam to penetrate and clean the carpet. 

Step 2: Roll up your carpet 

Before you begin steam cleaning, roll your carpet up to the end of the room. If your carpet is attached to the floor, rolling up your carpet may not be as simple as it sounds. Use pliers and wear gloves to prise your carpet from the floor in one corner and pull it back. And make sure that you’re super gentle when doing this – if you’re not, it’s easy to rip and tear the fibers.

With the carpet off, it’s a great time to do a little maintenance on your hardwood floors before beginning to steam clean. Dust and sweep your floors well, making sure to use dry cloths as you go. 

Copyright protected content owner: and was initially posted on January 25, 2020.

Once your carpet is safely rolled up, place a sheet of plastic, a tarp, or any other waterproof material over your hardwood floor. Tape the waterproof sheet to the edges of your wall so that you can be sure it won’t budge once you roll the carpet back.

Step 3: Put your carpet back in place

Once you’re sure that you’ve covered your whole floor with plastic or tarp, roll your carpet back into place. Try not to shift the sheet as you do so, or the waterproof layer may be ruptured.

Step 4: Fill up your steam cleaner 

Most steam cleaners only need water to run. However, if you’re mixing your water with detergent or cleaning solution, check to make sure it’s not harmful to hardwood floors. 

Several carpet cleaners can also double up as floor cleaners – when you’re buying them, look for a multi-tasker!

It’s also helpful if the cleaning solution you’re using has a near-neutral pH value. This ensures acidic and alkaline elements are not impacting your carpet or floors. 

Also, make sure that you’ve read the instructions on the steam cleaning machine well – it’s a good idea to test the machine on a small patch of the carpet before going all out. 

Step 5: Steam clean your carpet! 

Once you’ve done your due diligence, it’s time to take the plunge and begin steam cleaning your carpet! 

Be sure to work in lines, steam cleaning each line twice. And while you’re cleaning, be careful to keep your eye out for any gaps between the carpet and the floor. Being diligent about this ensures you’re not letting your machine come into direct contact with the floor. 

Step 6: Allow your carpet plenty of time to dry 

Once you’re done steam cleaning the whole carpet, don’t immediately take out the plastic sheet under it. The carpet will take at least 4 hours to dry – more if it is large, thick, and dense. To be safe, allow your carpet at least 12 hours to dry. 

To help it dry faster and evaporate any steam that is trying to make its way towards your floorboards, place a dehumidifier in the room. The dehumidifier will pick up water particles in the air and quicken the drying process. You should also leave windows open and fans on to allow more airflow into the area. 

If you don’t allow your carpet time to dry, moisture may settle in it and sink down into the floor. This can cause issues with mold, bacterial growth, and other problems that can ruin both your carpet and your hardwood flooring

Step 7: Remove the plastic sheet 

When you’re sure that your carpet is completely dry, roll it back and remove the plastic sheet from the hardwood floors. Run a completely dry mop over your floors to pick up any water. If you want to be extra cautious, use a moisture meter to check if there’s water in the wood. If there is water, you need to power up your dehumidifier again. 

At this point, you can also choose to polish your hardwood floors – but be sure your floor is dry before beginning to polish it. If it isn’t, the polishing process won’t work as intended.

Step 8: Roll the carpet back

When you’re satisfied that your floors are completely dry, roll your carpet back on over the floors. 

Congratulations! You’ve successfully steam cleaned your carpet over hardwood floors!

Copyright article owner is for this article. This post was first published on January 25, 2020.

What Other Carpet Cleaning Alternatives Can You Consider?

What Other Carpet Cleaning Alternatives Can You Consider?

Of course, the best way to ‘protect’ your hardwood floors from steam cleaning is to avoid steam cleaning your carpet over them! 

If you don’t want to steam clean your carpets, there are a few other ways you can give your carpet the thorough cleaning it needs. 

Dry compound cleaning

When you use the dry compound cleaning method, you spread a foam or powder over the carpet that is designed to absorb dirt. 

After allowing it to sit for a while, you can simply vacuum up the powder and say hello to a cleaner fresher carpet. However, dry cleaning a carpet is not considered as effective as wet or steam cleaning as there may be some deep-set dirt that it can’t get to. 

Dry encapsulation cleaning

Encapsulation cleaning involves spraying a special chemical onto your carpet and then using a circular machine powdered brush to lift both the chemicals and the dirt. There’s barely any moisture released when using this method – so your carpets stay dry, your floors stay safe, and you can use your carpet immediately after cleaning it. 

The machines needed for dry encapsulation cleaning are most commonly seen in offices and hotels – this is because they are often too expensive for household use. 

Professional cleaning 

Another option is to call in a professional carpet cleaner who is used to cleaning carpets over all kinds of surfaces. 

Professional cleaners may choose to move your carpet away from the flooring or will take extra precautions to make sure they’re not damaging your hardwood floors. 

However, professional cleaning can be expensive. 

If you have the manpower and space, you can also consider taking your carpet off from the floor and steam cleaning it somewhere else. Once it’s completely dry, you can bring it back in to sit on your hardwood floors. 

If these alternatives don’t sound feasible, then you should do what you can to protect your hardwood floors and start steam cleaning your carpets. 

Final Thoughts

Armed with the correct information (and the right steam cleaner), you can begin steam cleaning your carpet. 

Be careful to do everything you can to protect your floors and make sure you’re sure that there are no gaps between the carpet and floor while you’re steam cleaning. Also, allow your carpet plenty of time to dry, using a dehumidifier and by leaving windows open and fans on. 

If you follow all these steps, it’s almost completely guaranteed that your hardwood floors will be protected. So go forth with the steam cleaner and make your carpets immaculate!

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