An unsealed floor is one that has not been polyurethaned or varnished. These floors have no protection and the wood is completely exposed. One of the major criticisms about steam mops is that they often leave too much water behind. When water gets into an unfinished and worn out floor, it puffs the grain. Water will absorb very quickly and cause the wood to warp. On an unsealed laminate, the steam will warp and buckle this floor immediately, causing permanent damage. Once water seeps into a laminate wood product, it will never come out! Also, in a laminate floor, the edges of the floorboard are unsealed and are just particleboard. If your floor is a hardwood, there is always a chance of steam absorbing into a scratch even through the thickest finish. Conclusively, there is always a chance that steam will get into your floor.
As we have seen, water damage is one major problem that can be caused by a steam mop. However, there are other concerns with this cleaning device. On sealed and finished hardwood floors, the replaceable cleaning pads on the steam mop have been known to leave scratch marks. Repairing a scratch is much more work than cleaning a wood floor! It requires sanding and refinishing. Clearly, not all cleaning pads are going to scratch a wood floor surface but it is always a possibility that it could happen.
Furthermore, on laminate and hardwood floors some consumers complain about streak marks. It is usually not for this reason but, if you are really fortunate, cleaning products that were used on the floor previously caused your streaks. Many cleaning products contain waxes and minerals that tend to leave marks. A more serious possibility for streak marks caused by a steam mop is that some of the finish has been stripped off, making certain areas of the floor discolor. Steam mops have been known to remove the topcoat of wax and the finish on wood floors. Many consumers have had problems with steam mops where they strip new hardwood floors right down to the bare wood. This is obviously a problem because it will require sanding and polyurethane the floor. It is hard to assess streak marks without actually seeing them. If you are lucky, it is a minor issue. If you are unlucky, it could easily mean a complete refinishing job.
Even though most steam mop brands are recommended for sealed hardwood floors, many people are very disappointed with their performance on hardwood floors. Some have said that steam mops are great for picking up dust and hair but not for removing caked on dirt. Also, numerous floor manufacturers are very specific with regard to what cleaning products and machines should be used on their floors. If you deviate from the manufacturer’s recommendations, you can void your warranty. For example, the Bellawood Prefinished Hardwood Floors Certified 50 Year Warranty expressly states, “Do not wash or wet mop the floor with soap, water, oil-soap detergent or any other liquid cleaning material. This could cause swelling, warping, delamination, and joint-line separation, and void the warranty.” It is that simple. It is quite a serious risk to void your warranty because you will never get support or compensation if you damage your floors.