Laminate flooring has come a long way over the years, and it’s far more affordable than other options on the market. (Yeah, we know that hardwood quote made you cry.) As such, it’s no wonder that this type of flooring is exceedingly popular. The only catch is that you really do need to know how to take care of it if you want it to stay, well, pretty. That’s because, unlike hardwood floors, the surface of laminate flooring cannot be refinished if it happens to stain or scuff. Good news: We tapped a couple experts and got the lowdown on how to clean laminate floors. Here’s what you need to know.
How to Clean Laminate Floors So They Stay Gleaming
What to Avoid When Cleaning Laminate Floors
Before we dive into the details of how to get your laminate floors squeaky clean and you start doing the dirty work, let’s talk about two major mistakes that can really mess up your shiny flooring: scrubbing too hard and cleaning with the wrong product.
The first thing to avoid when dealing with laminate flooring is taking abrasive action—so if you’re an overzealous cleaner, you best listen up. Indeed, laminate floors are particularly susceptible to scratching and scuffing, and aggressive cleaning is sometimes the culprit. (So whatever you do, don’t make your laminate flooring the target of a rage cleaning episode.) It’s also worth noting that, unlike hardwood floors, laminate floors cannot be sanded and refinished, which means any damage done will most likely be permanent. For this reason, you should not use steel wool or any other abrasive material to scrub up a sticky stain or dirty spot on your laminate flooring. You might also be surprised to learn that even your trusty vacuum cleaner can do damage, which is why your best bet is to swap it for a broom.
And yes, due to the fragile nature of laminate flooring, it’s also very important to avoid cleaning products with harsh chemicals (like bleach and ammonia) that can erode the finish of laminate flooring, as well as oil-based solutions, which can leave behind permanent residue.
So how should you keep your laminate floor nice and clean? Read on below.
1. Sweep Regularly
No one likes stepping on toast crumbs post-breakfast—and fortunately, there’s an easy solution. When it comes to collecting accumulated debris, laminate floors don’t require more than a quick once over with a broom. Of course, you can accomplish the same goal by passing the vacuum over the laminate flooring, but for daily tidying up, a broom is the gentlest and best option.
2. Vacuum Carefully
For those of you who prefer the vacuum to the broom (*raises hand*), proceed with caution. In theory, laminate floors can stand up to regular vacuuming; in practice, the wrong kind of vacuum can possibly screw up your laminate floors. According to Jason Tengku, licensed contractor and contributing author at Ten Minute Homemaking, it’s important to “avoid using a vacuum cleaner with a rotating beater bar, as this could cause damage to the flooring.” Instead, he recommends using a vacuum with a suction-only attachment.
3. Mop Every Two Months
For heavy duty messes that require a more thorough mopping, stick to a soft microfiber style. Beyond that, Tengku also tells us that it’s critical not to soak your laminate flooring with water or any other cleaning solution, as “this could result in moisture seeping under the planks…causing them to warp.” As such, it’s recommended that you clean laminate flooring with a mop that has been thoroughly wrung out—so it’s only damp to the touch—and follow up with a dry cloth to wipe away any residual moisture. (Pro tip: Mopping in a circular motion is the most efficient way to remove stains without over-saturating the floor.)
4. Avoid Abrasive Cleaning Products
Laminate flooring is delicate; so much so, in fact, that you can even damage it with baking soda, says CEO of Improovy Painters Glenview Andre Kazimierski. Avoid harsh chemical cleaners, and save the steel wool and other stiff, bristly scrubbers for other surfaces.
5. Steer Clear of Wood Cleaners
You love the smell and the glistening sheen of a surface that’s been polished with Murphy’s Oil Soap. Alas, you must exercise some restraint and say ‘no’ to all oil-based cleaners. These products, which are designed for hardwood, are bad news for laminate floors—namely because they leave a residue that results in a (sometimes permanent) streaky finish.
6. Use a Store-bought or DIY Laminate Floor Cleaner
Good news: There is an abundance of cleaning solutions designed specifically for laminate flooring that you can find at your local home improvement or grocery store, and you’ll find reassurance right on the label. (Psst: Zep is one such find, and Bona Stone, Tile and Laminate Cleaner is another great option.) Alternatively, Tengku says you can make a DIY floor cleaning solution composed of distilled white vinegar and water (more on that below).
7. Protect Your Floors from Damage
There’s no possibility of buffing away scratches and blemishes from laminate flooring, which is why it’s critical to prevent them from happening. Proper cleaning is a key preventative measure that can keep your laminate floors looking shiny and new. Beyond that, it’s wise to invest in floor mats or rugs for heavily trafficked areas, and furniture pads for the legs of chairs and tables.
Does Vinegar Ruin Laminate Floors?
Good news: Vinegar is a safe way to clean your laminate floors and will not warp the waxy coating, say the home experts at Bob Vila. To make your own DIY vinegar solution, follow this formula from Maid Brigade cleaning pros: Pour 1/4 cup (60 ml) of distilled white vinegar into a 32-ounce spray bottle, and fill the rest of the bottle with plain water. Shake the bottle well and gently spray the solution onto your laminate floor. Remove the solution with a damp mop or cloth, careful not to let it sit.