Laminate Flooring Maintenance, Care & Cleaning
If you’re planning to install laminate flooring in your home, this guide will let you know how to care for your investment so it lasts as long as you expect. With proper maintenance and cleaning, you’ll get maximum life from your flooring, and keep it looking it’s best for many years.
Laminate floors are very easy to care for, but it is essential that you clean them on a regular basis. Their melamine wear layer can be scratched and scuffed by grit and dirt, reducing the shine of the flooring and creating a dull look. In this section we will look at how to clean laminate floors, the tools and supplies you will need and how to deal with minor laminate floor repairs.
Tools, Equipment and Supplies
The enemies of your laminate flooring’s good looks are:
- Gritty dirt that acts like sandpaper on the wear layer as it is walked on
- Liquid spills that seep into flooring joints and cause warping
- Excessive moisture from cleaning that can damage like a spill
Cleaning laminate floors properly will help you defeat these enemies and enjoy durable beauty for many years. Here’s an overview of the best equipment and laminate floor cleaning supplies you will need to maintain floors that wear longer while looking great.
Removing dust and debris without excess moisture: You’ve got several options for this job. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each.
A multi-floor vacuum: The same vacuum cleaner you use on carpeting can be used on laminate if the rotating brush can be turned off to prevent damage to the wear layer.
The advantage of this approach is buying just one piece of equipment for all the floors in your home. The disadvantages are that a standard vacuum is heavier than other options and the hard plastic wheels on some machines can scratch the floor, especially if dragged sideways. Suggested multi-floor vacuums include:
- Dyson Ball Upright or Canister All-Floor models, $365-$400, the top-rated brand in this class
- Sebo Felix vacuums, $585-$650, pricey but highly functional
- Bissell CleanView Complete Pet vacuum, $75-$90, a bagless vacuum
Always read the machine’s manual to learn how to clean laminate flooring without damaging it.
A hard-floor vacuum: These models are lighter than most multi-floor models. If they have wheels, be careful not to drag them sideways. The top laminate vacuums are all cordless for tremendous ease of use:
- Prolux Ion Electric Broom, $135-$150, a machine with excellent attachments
- Black & Decker Lithium Stick vacuums, $165-$190, light and powerful
- Dyson DC Series Cordless models, $375-$425 new, about $250 refurbished, combining cleaning performance and convenience
A microfiber mop: These tools are lightweight, quiet, relatively inexpensive and designed with laminate flooring in mind. They can be used dry to broom away the majority of the dirt, but going over the flooring with laminate floor cleaner is the best way to eliminate fine dirt. Here are the best microfiber mops for laminate flooring:
- 18” Professional Microfiber mop, $45-$55, easily the highest-rated tool in this class with separate pads for sweeping and mopping
- O-Cedar Dual Action (dry/damp) Microfiber Flip Mop, $18-$24, 18” wide with machine-washable pad
- Keeble Outlets Microfiber Mop with Extendable Handle, $27-$45, a pro-quality wet/dry laminate floor tool
Sponge mops and string-type wet mops are not recommended for laminate flooring because the risk of using excess water is and harming the floor is too great.
Laminate floor cleaner for use with microfiber mops: Laminate cleaner, used sparingly, helps pick up dirt without risk. The best laminate floor spray choices are:
- Bruce Laminate and Hardwood Floor Cleaner, $6-$8 for 32oz spray, made in the USA by one of the leading laminate manufacturers for safe, hassle-free cleaning
- Black Diamond Wood and Laminate Floor Cleaner, $9-$10 for 32oz spray, made in the USA with a polymer additive to fight dirt adhesion
- Bona Stone, Tile & Laminate Floor Cleaner, $10-$12 for 32oz spray, part of the complete Bona hard floor cleaning system
Hungry for more in-depth info? Find out which products Home Flooring Pros recommends when shopping for the best floor cleaner for laminate flooring.
The best way to clean laminate floors with a floor cleaner: Follow directions carefully, especially warnings about spraying the solution on too heavily. A good overview of the approach is to:
- Vacuum or sweep the floor
- Spray a fine mist of solution over an area about 8 feet wide and 3 feet deep (Area 1)
- Wait two or three minutes
- Spray the next section (Area 2)
- Go back and mop up the solution from Area 1
- Spray the next section (Area 3)
- Go back and mop Area 2, and so forth
This pattern prevents you from having to wait two or three minutes every time you spray an area. If your microfiber pad becomes saturated, you might be using too much solution. Either wring it out (best practice) or mop the next area without spraying it first in order to use up the excess cleaner in the mop.
Most microfiber mop heads and pads can be hand-washed or washed in the clothes washer. If you do launder them, dry them on low heat or allow them to air dry. DO NOT use fabric softener with mop heads because it might make them less absorbent.
Making your own laminate floor cleaner solution: The best recipe for clean, pet-friendly floors is to mix in a 32oz spray bottle:
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup rubbing alcohol (isopropyl)
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 4-6 drops liquid dish detergent
The vinegar smell does linger, and many laminate floor owners still get streaks with this recipe because they spray it on too heavily (see FAQs below). You might think of adding ammonia to the mix or using a window cleaner with ammonia to eliminate streaks, but resist the temptation. Ammonia is acidic, and in time it will dull the floor’s wear layer.
Floor polish on older laminate floors: Use polish ONLY if the manufacturer of your laminate flooring recommends it. Most often, polish is the technique of last resort to bring back the shine on worn laminate. Top laminate floor polishes are:
- Bona: $18-$22 for 32oz
- Pro Shot Industrial Re-Newing Floor Restorer: $20-$24 for 32oz
For spot cleaning tougher stains: either use hot water or use the cleaning products recommended by the manufacturer.
Floor mats at each entry door will help collect excess dirt and dust. However, don’t use rubber-backed mats because they can trap moisture against the floor.
Taking Care of Problems & Minor Repairs
For maintenance and repair, the same tools used for laminate installation will come in handy if you need to replace a damaged plank. These include a pull bar for working in tight spots, a tapping bar to secure a piece to the one next to it, a circular saw or table saw for cutting pieces lengthwise, a miter saw for cutting pieces to length and a jigsaw for trimming to go around floor vents or door jambs.
See the laminate floor installation guide for instructions on how to get to a damaged piece, replace it and put the floor back together. It is not a complicated procedure, but it can be a bit time-consuming. Hiring home flooring pros to do repairs is an option busy homeowners often choose.
Laminate flooring cannot be refinished. It is designed to last 15-30 years, possibly longer for top of the line products with a thick melamine wear surface. When the surface gets quite worn and dull, you’ll need to consider replacing it. If you plan to live in your current home for a long time, consider using laminate with a wear layer of at least 10mm, though 12mm or 15mm is even better.
Laminate Flooring Maintenance and Care FAQs
Here are the most common questions asked regarding care and maintenance of laminate flooring.
Q: How do you clean laminate floors without streaking?
A: Use one of the store-bought products or the homemade solution listed above. If you still get streaks, they are the result of too much solution on the mop head. When the cleaning solution dries quickly, there are usually no streaks. Try these methods:
- Use less cleaning solution, so the mop head stays drier and the floor dries quickly
- After mopping with a wet mop, go over the area before it dries with a dry mop
The first technique takes less work, and with a little bit of practice, you should master using it to achieve clean, streak-free floors.
Q: What cleaning products SHOULD NOT be used on laminate?
A: Never use abrasive products such as a scouring pad, steel wool or abrasive liquid cleaners they will mar the surface and make it dull.
Q: What about “mop and shine” products?
A: DO NOT use them. They won’t hurt the surface, but they’ll actually dull the finish. They aren’t designed for laminate.
Q: How can you reduce scratches to the flooring surface?
A: Put cushioning pads on all furniture legs including kitchen chairs. Next, lift and move furniture rather than sliding it across the surface. If the piece is very heavy, use carpet pieces with the nap down under each leg if you must drag it.
Q: What if the floor gets really wet?
A: If you have a leaky pipe or something else that dumps a lot of water on the laminate floor, mop up the excess as quickly as you can. Then towel dry the floor. Place a fan so that it blows directly on the floor. If you have a dehumidifier, turn it on to remove excess moisture. If it is in the summer, turn on the AC since it will also remove excess moisture.