Don’t Get Steamed: Surfaces to Avoid with Your Steam Cleaner


Steam cleaners are a fantastic tool in the modern cleaning arsenal, offering a chemical-free way to sanitize and refresh various surfaces. However, not all surfaces can handle the heat and moisture that steam cleaning delivers. Understanding where not to use a steam cleaner is crucial to avoid unintended damage and maintain the longevity of your home’s materials and finishes. Here are the key points this article will cover:

1. Heat Sensitive Surfaces: Steam cleaners excel at high temperatures, but that same heat can damage materials like unsealed wood floors, laminate flooring, water-based paint, and delicate fabrics.

2. Moisture Magnets: Porous surfaces like untreated stone (marble, granite), unglazed tile, and even cardboard absorb moisture readily. Steam cleaning can lead to warping, staining, and even mold growth.

3. Electrical Equipment: Water and electricity don’t mix! Avoid using a steam cleaner near electronics, outlets, or appliances.

4. Deep Carpet Cleaning: While steam can freshen carpets, extensive steam cleaning can soak the pad underneath, leading to mildew and long drying times. Stick to spot cleaning or professional carpet cleaning for deep dirt removal.

5. Cracked or Uneven Surfaces: The pressurized steam can loosen or widen cracks in grout, tile, or wood flooring.

6. By understanding these limitations, you can get the most out of your steam cleaner without causing unintended damage.

Heat Sensitive Surfaces

Steam cleaners operate at high temperatures, which is part of what makes them so effective at sanitizing and cleaning. However, this same heat can be detrimental to certain surfaces that are sensitive to high temperatures. Here are some key surfaces to avoid:

Unsealed Wood Floors

Unsealed wood floors are particularly vulnerable to steam cleaning. The heat and moisture can penetrate the wood, causing it to swell, warp, or crack. Even sealed wood floors should be approached with caution, as repeated exposure to steam can degrade the finish over time. Instead, it’s best to use a damp mop with a cleaner specifically designed for wood floors.

Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring might seem robust, but it’s often made with materials that do not react well to heat and moisture. The high temperatures from steam cleaners can cause the laminate to bubble and peel away from the core layer. Additionally, the moisture can seep into the seams and edges, leading to swelling and warping. To clean laminate flooring, a slightly damp mop and a laminate floor cleaner are safer choices.

Water-Based Paint

Walls and surfaces coated with water-based paint can be damaged by steam cleaning. The high heat and moisture can cause the paint to bubble, peel, or discolor. For painted walls, particularly those in kitchens and bathrooms that can accumulate grime, it’s better to use a mild detergent and a soft cloth or sponge for cleaning.

Delicate Fabrics

Certain fabrics, especially delicate ones like silk, velvet, or some synthetic fibers, are not suitable for steam cleaning. The high temperature can cause these materials to shrink, lose their texture, or become discolored. Always check the care label on fabrics and, when in doubt, opt for dry cleaning or other recommended cleaning methods.

See also: A Guide to Wallpaper Steamer Prices: A Complete Overview

Moisture Magnets

Porous surfaces can absorb moisture readily, leading to a host of problems such as warping, staining, and even mold growth. Here are some surfaces where you should avoid using a steam cleaner:

Untreated Stone (Marble, Granite)

Untreated natural stones like marble and granite are highly porous. Steam cleaning can drive moisture deep into the stone, leading to discoloration, staining, and even structural damage over time. These stones should be sealed and cleaned with products specifically designed for natural stone maintenance. Even with sealed stone, it’s best to avoid excessive moisture.

Unglazed Tile

Unglazed tile lacks the protective coating that glazed tile has, making it more susceptible to moisture absorption. Steam cleaning can lead to staining and damage the integrity of the tile. For unglazed tiles, use a pH-neutral cleaner and a soft brush or mop to maintain their appearance and longevity.


Using a steam cleaner on cardboard is a definite no-go. Cardboard is highly absorbent and can quickly become saturated, leading to warping, disintegration, and mold growth. For cleaning surfaces involving cardboard, such as storage boxes or packaging, stick to dry dusting or spot cleaning with minimal moisture.

Electrical Equipment

Water and electricity are a dangerous combination, making it essential to avoid using steam cleaners near electrical equipment. Here’s why:


Steam cleaning near electronics such as computers, televisions, and other gadgets can result in moisture entering the devices, potentially causing short circuits or permanent damage. Always power down and unplug electronics before cleaning around them and use dry methods or specialized electronic cleaning products.

Outlets and Power Strips

Never use a steam cleaner near electrical outlets or power strips. The moisture can seep into the outlets, posing a risk of electric shock or fire. Instead, turn off the power and use a dry cloth or a vacuum with a brush attachment to clean around outlets safely.


Large appliances, such as refrigerators, ovens, and dishwashers, should not be steam cleaned, especially around their electronic controls and wiring. While some appliance exteriors might benefit from a quick wipe with a damp cloth, avoid using steam. For deep cleaning, refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Deep Carpet Cleaning

Steam cleaners can be very effective at freshening up carpets, but there are significant limitations to be aware of:

Soaking the Carpet Pad

Extensive steam cleaning can lead to the carpet pad becoming soaked. This not only extends drying times but also increases the risk of mold and mildew development beneath the carpet. For deep carpet cleaning, it’s often better to use professional services that utilize powerful extraction equipment to ensure thorough drying.

Professional Carpet Cleaning

Professional carpet cleaning services have the right equipment to handle deep cleaning without leaving excess moisture behind. They can target deep-set dirt and stains more effectively than a home steam cleaner, which is better suited for spot cleaning and light refreshes.

Cracked or Uneven Surfaces

The pressurized steam from a steam cleaner can exacerbate existing issues in cracked or uneven surfaces. Here’s why you should avoid these areas:


Grout between tiles can be particularly vulnerable to steam cleaning. If the grout is already cracked or damaged, the steam can further erode it, leading to wider gaps and potential water damage beneath the tiles. Use a gentle cleaner and a brush designed for grout to maintain these areas instead.

See also: Bissell Steam Cleaner: A Comprehensive Guide


Tiles that are cracked or have loosened should not be steam cleaned, as the pressure can worsen the cracks and potentially lift the tiles. Repair any damaged tiles before considering steam cleaning.

Wood Flooring

Even minor cracks or separations in wood flooring can be aggravated by steam cleaning. The moisture can seep into the cracks, causing the wood to swell and further damage. Regular maintenance and repair of cracks should be performed to keep wood floors in good condition, and cleaning should be done with appropriate wood floor products.


Steam cleaners are powerful tools that offer numerous benefits for cleaning and sanitizing, but they are not suitable for all surfaces. By understanding the limitations and potential risks associated with steam cleaning, you can avoid causing unintended damage to your home’s materials and finishes.

By following these guidelines, you can maximize the benefits of your steam cleaner while ensuring the longevity and integrity of your home’s various surfaces.

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