Last Updated: August 22, 2023, by: Rob Parsell
Homeowners choose laminate as an attractive, “are you sure it’s not the real thing,” alternative to genuine hardwood. And laminate floors are pretty easy to clean and maintain. If you follow the guidance here, your laminate floor will remain in great shape longer, giving you the best long-term value from your investment.
In short, you’ve come to the right place for all of the details on how to properly clean your laminate floors.
A GOOD PLACE TO START – READ THE INSTRUCTIONS
Most manufacturers include cleaning instructions for their flooring with recommended procedures and products based on the materials and the finish on the floor. If you don’t have these instructions, you should be able to find them on the manufacturer’s website, like these from Pergo.
DO I HAVE TO USE THEIR LAMINATE FLOOR CLEANER?
No. A few brands including Pergo and Bruce make their own stuff. But laminate floor cleaners are formulated to work on any brand of laminate. A few stand out as doing a better job, and we’ve listed them along with tools to keep laminate pristine clean!
MOISTURE IS THE ENEMY – QUICKLY CLEAN UP LIQUID SPILLS
Why the hurry? Water can safely sit on top of the board. But if a lot of it gets into the seams, either the wood core of the laminate or the wood subfloor might absorb it and swell. And that’s anything but swell, if you know what we mean. Once those materials are distorted by water absorption, they will not return to their normal shape.
Even minor swelling and warping will eventually cause the image and wear layers to separate, and then that section of floor is done for. It will need to be replaced.
Mine’s water-resistant! Most laminate is constructed to resist water in the short-run, though some brands are better at what they do in this regard than others. But the clock starts ticking when a significant amount of liquid is spilled, and you want to soak it up before it seeps into flooring joints.
Mine’s waterproof! Yes, a few even make laminate that is sealed on all sides, and they market it as waterproof even when wet for up to 24 hours – surface wet, not submerged wet. Nobody is going to guarantee that flooded laminate flooring is waterproof.
But here’s what all manufacturers agree with – you can’t let large spills sit on the floor indefinitely. You still need to limit the amount of water or liquid on the floor and the length of time it sits there.
HERE ARE RECOMMENDED TECHNIQUES FOR HANDLING LIQUID SPILLS:
Clean them up as soon as they happen, so the moisture won’t be absorbed by the flooring. Soak up the liquid with paper towels or a clean cloth. Give the area a second wipe with a barely damp paper towel or cloth. For larger areas, you can use a damp microfiber mop after you soak up the liquid. Always make sure that the floor is completely dry after cleaning.
If the liquid has been on the floor for a while, and you suspect it might have seeped into the seams, clean it up as just described, and then run a fan or dehumidifier for 24 hours to completely dry the flooring.
DAILY CLEANING – DRY CLEANING
Walking over dirt, grit, and crumbs on the floor will eventually scratch the finish, so regular cleaning is important to keep your floors at their best. Sweep up dirt with a soft-bristled broom with an angled edge, so you can get into the corners. Then use a dustpan to pick up the debris.
You can also use a vacuum cleaner with a wood or hard floor setting. Never vacuum laminate using the rollers or beaters, which are designed to separate and lift carpet fibers for deeper cleaning. You can imagine how that action could damage laminate floors.
When the floor becomes dusty, particularly under furniture, use a microfiber cloth or mop, dry or slightly damp, to pick up the dust and other small particles. Furniture tip: Get a mop with a long handle attachment, so you can do the job without moving furniture – because sliding heavy furniture over the laminate’s surface can scratch and gouge it.
DEEP CLEANING – DAMP MOPPING
After sweeping or vacuuming the floor to remove the larger particles, use a damp microfiber mop. Lightly wet the mop with water and a cleaning product made for laminate. If you’ve used a lightly damp mop, you probably won’t have to dry the floor when done.
For gunk like syrup, oil, and dried sauces, use a slightly dampened paper towel or cloth to wipe up the bulk of the material. You may need to further clean the floor with a cleaning product. Use one that is made for laminate flooring. If you don’t have one on hand, you can use a small amount of clear dish soap and a damp cloth. Be sure to rinse and dry.
Try this: Rather than scrubbing at stubborn stickiness, which might scratch the flooring’s wear layer, leave a damp paper towel on it for five minutes to soften the mess. Or drip a few drops of water directly onto it, and wipe it all up after a few minutes.
WAX AND GUM
Use ice to freeze the dried candle wax or chewing gum on a laminate floor. Always put the ice in a waterproof zip-type bag and let it set on the material for a minute or two. You should then be able to scrape the wax or gum from the floor with a credit card, plastic knife, or something similarly soft, that won’t scratch the floor. And in case you were thinking about it, no, don’t use a metal putty knife for the job.
There are several things you can use to remove scuff marks from laminate flooring. Start with the gentlest – a rubber eraser or a magic eraser like Mr.Clean. Go easy on the pressure. If those fail, then try a dab of either baking soda or toothpaste mixed with a few drops of water. If the marks remain, spray a little WD-40 on a clean cloth – never directly onto the flooring – and gently wipe the marks away. Then, clean the affected area as you normally would your laminate floors.
Got a scrap piece? If you have a spare piece of laminate, do a test on it using the cleaning options mentioned to ensure they don’t damage or stain the floor.
PAINT, MARKERS, INK, AND TAR
Acetone nail polish remover can be used on laminate to remove paint, markers, ink, tar, and other tough spots or marks. Clean the spot with the nail polish remover applied to a clean cloth. Rinse, and dry the area.
If that sounds like a harsh cure, first try WD-40 or even a little olive oil on a cloth, and rub gently.
USE THE RIGHT TOOLS AND PRODUCTS
Use a soft-bristled brush or broom that won’t scratch the floor. Never use brooms that have been used outside or in the garage, because they might harbor dirt and gunk – and do more harm than good. Use mops that can be dampened and squeezed almost dry – like a quality spin mop.
Microfiber clothes and mops are excellent for laminate because, used dry, they are good at attracting dust, and used wet, they can easily be squeezed to almost dry.
Be sure that all of the cleaning products you use are recommended for laminate. Some products might be safe to use, but if they are not specially made for laminate, they might leave a residue or dull the finish.
LAMINATE FLOOR CARE – DO’S AND DON’TS
Don’ts – Most of this is common sense, but it never hurts to spell it out:
Never use something like a cotton deck mop that drips or leaves excessive water on the flooring.
Don’t use waxes or floor polish on laminate. Laminate has a surface treatment already built into the wear layer of the floor.
Don’t use abrasive cleaners including scrubbing sponges, steel wool or scouring pads. These can damage the wear layer and dull the floor.
Do not steam clean your floor. A steam cleaner can force moisture between the floorboards and cause buckling and warping. If you want a sanitary floor, try a damp mop and a 3:1 water to white vinegar mix.
Don’t use a buffing or polishing machine on laminate. The shine is built into the finish.
Do not use homemade cleaning solutions that include ammonia, lemon, or orange juice. Ammonia can make the flooring surface brittle, and it could crack. The others are acidic and can damage the finish.
Don’t use heavy-duty cleaning products like chlorine bleach, scouring powder, or pine oil, which can all damage the floor.
Do keep the floor free of dirt and grit.
Do clean liquid spills immediately – If we haven’t harped on that enough, here’s one more reminder.
Use mats at entry doors, both outside and inside, to limit the amount of dirt that comes into your home, unless…We go against the status quo here by saying that if you have a shoes-off policy in your home, skip the doormats for the reason shared below.
Use area rugs in high traffic areas like hallways and in front of the kitchen sink to limit wear.
Lift the mats and rugs weekly, and clean under them. You can imagine that grit under a mat that is walked on can easily mar the floor.
Do use protector pads on the ends of furniture legs that are often moved around, like kitchen chairs. This will keep the furniture from scratching the floor.
MORE CLEANING TIPS:
About the Author:
Rob joined the Home Flooring Pros team in 2014 and is a freelance writer, specializing in flooring, remodeling and HVAC systems (read more).
“I’m the son of an interior designer and picked up an eye for design as a result. I started hanging wallpaper and painting at 14 and learned enough on the job to be the general contractor on two homes we built for our family and did much of the finish plumbing, electrical, painting, and trim work myself.”