Steam mops promise a deeper clean than regular mops and instant sanitization. They effectively remove dirt and residue without the need for harsh chemicals. But steam mops are not ideal for every type of flooring. Can you use a steam mop on vinyl flooring? The answer is that it depends… 

How Do Steam Mops Work?

Learning how steam mops work can help you understand why they might not be the best option for cleaning certain types of vinyl. Steam mops operate by heating water past its boiling point in an internal reservoir. The resulting steam escapes through the mop head, which disperses the hot mist through the mop head. As the steam loosens dirt particles on the floor, the mop head wipes them up.

Here are some benefits of steam mops:

  • Cut down on cleaning time
  • Less effort spent scrubbing
  • Kill bacteria and dust mites
  • Penetrates surface pores for a deeper clean
  • Non-toxic cleaning

Why Can’t You Use a Steam Mop on Vinyl Flooring?

Vinyl is made of a synthetic material that is durable, water-resistant and affordable. It holds up well to spills and traffic. Therefore, you might think that it can stand up to a deep cleaning from a steam mop. 

Unfortunately, that’s not the best idea. Whether you have vinyl sheet flooring or luxury vinyl planks, you should consider the following factors before using a steam mop.

It Degrades the Surface

Vinyl flooring usually has a factory coating that protects the surface from heat, abrasion, water and fading. While this layer offers some protection, it isn’t invincible. The high heat and moisture from a steam mop can wear away this layer more quickly than usual. Then, the design layer is susceptible to reactions with the environment.

You might notice that the steam mop changes the appearance of your flooring. The high heat melts some of the materials, spoiling the design. It can also change the texture of the surface, creating bubbles, waves and lumps.

It Damages the Adhesive

The glues that hold the layers of vinyl flooring together are not intended for exposure to high heat. Therefore, when you use a steam mop, you could reduce the adhesive’s ability to hold. This may result in floorboards coming off of the subfloor, creating gaps and movement in the flooring. 

Even if the floor isn’t glued down, the adhesives within the flooring itself become compromised. This leads to peeling, lifting and wrinkling.

It Gets Into the Core

The core of a vinyl plank is composed of several materials fused together. Some are more waterproof than others. If your vinyl floors have a porous material, such as cork, within them, they’re likely to absorb any moisture that seeps in. With a steam mop, you’re essentially forcing moisture into the tiniest cracks in the material.

Over time, this causes the layers within the flooring to separate. It can also lead to mold and mildew growth, which can show up as black stains between the boards and affect your health.

It Might Smell Bad

Have you ever noticed an unpleasant odor when you try to clean your vinyl flooring with a steam mop? If so, you’ve likely heated the vinyl too much. A plasticky smell indicates that compounds within the vinyl are deteriorating from the high temperatures. A musty smell could be a sign that moisture is trapped beneath the floorboards.

It Voids the Warranty

Many vinyl flooring manufacturers include a warranty with their products, which guarantees that the material will stand up to regular use. Check the details of the warranty before cleaning the floor with anything. In many cases, damage from steam or excess water will void the warranty.

Is There a Safe Way to Use a Steam Mop on Vinyl Flooring?

If you already have a steam mop, you might be tempted to use it periodically to make your floors shine. You can consider using a steam mop on vinyl flooring with the following adaptations:

  • Adjust the temperature – You might be able to do some sprucing up with a steam mop set to a low temperature and steam setting. This would be akin to mopping the floor with hot water.
  • Use a microfiber cloth – Microfiber glides over the flooring and prevents the hot mop from coming in direct contact with the vinyl. Use cloths that are in good condition, with no tears or holes.
  • Change the pad frequently – Going over the floor with a dirty mop pad simply spreads dirt and germs. Change the pad as you go to get the most effective cleaning power.
  • Move quickly – Prevent heat from building up by moving the mop continuously. Turn the machine off if you need to scrub a limited area repeatedly. 
  • Vacuum first – Remove surface debris with a vacuum, broom or dry mop before steam cleaning. Mopping with abrasive particles on the floor can scratch the vinyl.

Cleaning Vinyl Flooring Without a Steam Mop

If you have any doubt that your steam mop could damage your vinyl floors, avoid using one. There are plenty of other ways to clean and sanitize your vinyl flooring to preserve its appearance and life span. 

Vacuum and Sweep

Sand, dirt and other grit that you track in from the outdoors is an enemy to vinyl flooring. You grind it into the surface as you step on it, creating scuffs, scratches and dull spots. Eventually, this wear and tear can erode the protective layer on the vinyl, making it particularly susceptible to damage from a steam mop.

The best thing that you can do to clean your vinyl flooring is to vacuum or sweep it daily. Use a vacuum with a protective brush head, which won’t scratch the floor. You can also use a dry mop, which dusts the floor with a material that attracts dust so that you don’t spread it to other areas.

Clean Spills Right Away

Removing liquids from the floor immediately is important for preventing water damage. But you should also clean sticky, stubborn spills off of the floor right away. This prevents them from getting grimy and requiring extensive scrubbing down the road. 

You can use a diluted solution of vinegar and water or a dedicated vinyl floor cleaner to remove stubborn stains. If you keep your vinyl floors clean on a daily basis, you won’t feel the need for a steam cleaning.

Use a Damp Mop Periodically

Nothing feels as fresh as a newly mopped floor. You can use a damp mop on vinyl floors as long as you don’t introduce too much water or leave puddles around.

As for your cleaning solution, use a product that’s designed for use with your floors. Cleaners such as Pine-Sol are safe for vinyl floors. You should avoid using products with ammonia, wax or detergents. These can damage the surface of the material.

After mopping, dry the floor immediately. Standing water can trickle into even the smallest spaces. Therefore, you should remove all traces of moisture after cleaning.

Get It Professionally Cleaned

Professional cleaners who work with vinyl have equipment that safely buffs your vinyl floors to a glossy finish. If possible, ask for references or before-and-after photos to ensure that they have experience working with this material. A professional floor cleaner will also have high-powered vacuums, which remove all traces of dirt from the floor.