Laminate flooring is an excellent budget-pick replacement for hardwood. Similarly to hardwood, laminate can be somewhat tricky to clean. However, by knowing how to clean laminate floors the right way, you can enjoy your hardwood-dupe for years to come.
What Is Laminate Flooring?
Laminate is often confused with vinyl. However, the two only share one similarity: water-resistance.
Laminate is a type of hybrid flooring. It was once only rarely used and was previously seen as cheap flooring. Nowadays though, laminate can be quite the staple piece in a home.
If you often confuse laminate flooring with wooden floors, you’re not entirely off. Laminate is, in fact, made up of fine particles of wood that are tightly pressed into planks (1).
But laminate only looks like wood because it has been printed to look that way. Some manufacturers will also make stone laminate flooring, which is also made of wooden particles but looks like natural stone. Here are a few laminate floor basics that are helpful to know:
Laminate is made up of layers of aggregated wood particles fitted with an image on top. Over the image, the planks are covered with a wear layer.
This layer is crucial and is what makes laminate so durable. The protective layer is a thin, clear sheet of aluminum oxide. It protects the sensitive parts from moisture, scratches and even UV rays.
Laminate planks require good underlayment and subfloor. The most commonly used with laminate is a foam that sits between the floor and the planks. This also helps to make the floor softer to walk and stand on, unlike tiles that often leave your feet sore.
The subfloor has to be adequate for the laminate planks to install easily and stay that way. If it’s not satisfactory, you might need to install a thin underlayment of plywood before the foam and laminate.
3. Installation and Joining of the Planks
Laminate floors are also referred to as “floating floors.” This is because you don’t attach or adhere the planks to the subfloor or underlayment; rather, they “float” on top.
The planks or boards are connected to each other, commonly using a fold and lock style. This style keeps the boards locked hard in place.
Because the installation of laminate flooring is so simple, it’s a popular choice for do-it-yourselfers.
When you compare laminate floors to hardwood, they’re inexpensive. However, compared to other types of floors, such as vinyl, laminate is a more high-end and pricier choice.
Laminate flooring is also somewhat easy to clean, especially compared to hardwood. It’s resistant to water but isn’t entirely waterproof. This depends on how close the seams are and how tightly they’re installed.
However, relative to vinyl floors, laminate is more fragile. Vinyl can easily take a good mopping and various cleaners — mild detergents work wonders on vinyl.
Laminate, on the other hand, should only be cleaned with specialized cleaners that are marked safe. Waxing isn’t necessary for laminate floors, unlike certain types of hardwood. Spills or any liquids should be cleaned immediately, similarly to hardwood floors.
If water makes its way underneath the protective layer or between the seams, it can cause the planks to swell. This is due to the fine wood particles that increase in size when exposed to water.
Advantages of Laminate Flooring
Although laminate flooring has many advantages, it’s essential to also compare it to what you’re trying to replicate — hardwood. Here are a few benefits of laminate flooring that are worth considering:
The appearance of laminate flooring is one of the main reasons why homeowners choose this type. It looks identical to hardwood or other wooden floors due to the photorealistic image layer — but much less fragile.
It’s an excellent choice for pet owners who like wooden floors but are afraid of damage done by claws. Thanks to its scratch-resistant surface, laminate can handle claw attacks.
As we briefly mentioned above, installing laminate flooring is straightforward, literally. You don’t need to remove or do anything to the subfloor as long as it’s level. This enables you to install laminate boards on top of existing floors such as vinyl or even hardwood.
Laminate also allows you to save a significant amount of money since you don’t need to remove the old floor. The previous flooring doesn’t need to be ripped out or treated before laminate planks can be installed.
If you’re a handy individual who is up for the task, you can have your laminate installed quickly. However, if you’re unsure of the process, or it’s the first time you install a floor, it’s best to hire a professional. But don’t worry, because the installation is so easy, it won’t cost you as much.
Child and Pet-Friendly
There’s no denying it, children and pets can be rough on any flooring. Toys being dropped and dragged, sharp claws that scratch as your pet runs — it can take a toll on even the most durable floors.
Although laminate isn’t entirely safe, it’s still more protected due to the wear layer. While hardwood can get deep scratches, laminate might see subtle scratches that can be removed. There are special markers and putties available to treat scratches.
If you or your children deal with allergies, laminate floors are an excellent choice. The hard top layer of laminate is resistant to dust and other allergens such as dust mites and pet hair. There are also not as many crevices for allergens to hide in laminate as you’d find in hardwood planks.
One of the main reasons why people choose laminate is due to its affordability. Hardwood can be quite expensive, not only to buy but also to install. But because the material used in laminate flooring costs less as well as installation fees, it’s an excellent budget pick.
Additionally, flooring manufacturers often offer an excellent warranty depending on the quality and price. The smallest warranty usually covers your floors for up to a year, whereas some manufacturers offer a lifetime limited warranty.
Because laminate is made out of wood particles, it can be both recycled and reused. And because of the fold and lock style, it’s simple to remove and reinstall in a different room or home.
Some laminate flooring manufacturers now also use eco-friendly practices to help protect forests and the environment. This includes the use of recycled wood materials and creating less waste.
Keeping your laminate floors looking top-notch isn’t as difficult as hardwood floors. Regular vacuuming or sweeping is the best way to keep dirt and dust at bay. When you need a deeper clean, use a microfiber mop and a spray bottle to spritz and mop as you go.
A spray mop is also an excellent choice for laminate floors as you won’t be using too much moisture.
Laminate floors also don’t require any harsh chemicals. Stains and spots can be easily removed with a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water.
How to Clean Laminate Floors
Cleaning and maintaining laminate floors is easy when you know the right approach. There are many cleaning methods you can use to suit your lifestyle and the level of cleaning required.
Light Cleaning: Vacuuming and Sweeping
In order to keep your laminate floors looking fresh and clean, a regular vacuum or sweep is necessary. This will help to keep dust and dirt at bay — which otherwise may cause your floor to look dingy or dull.
When sweeping, choose a soft-bristled, flared broom — these look like split ends. Flared brooms are softer and will also pick up more dust instead of merely moving it around. A stiff broom can cause damage, such as scratches, to the surface.
Always follow the natural grain of the planks. Sweeping across might scratch the surface. Following the grain will also help to pick up dust or dirt that might be hanging out in the seams.
When vacuuming, choose a vacuum with a low-setting and soft attachment. This is an effective way to remove dust, dirt and debris quickly. It’s also a better alternative when you’re in a rush or have a hard time sweeping due to back pain.
Light Cleaning: Dry Mopping
A dry mop is also an excellent tool for regular sweeping. These are fitted with a long microfiber pad that gently glides over the laminate surface.
Again, you should go with the natural grain of the planks. A dry mop won’t scratch the floor, but by going with the grains, you’ll pick up more dust and dirt.
Dry mops are popular cleaning tools for hardwood floors due to the gentleness. They’re also easy to use since most are fitted with a swivel and can move around furniture and corners quickly.
When dry mopping, start at the back of the room and work in sections. If there’s a lot of dirt, make small piles along the way that you can collect with a dustpan once you’re finished.
Quick Mopping: Warm Water
After sweeping or vacuuming the floor, it’s time to mop. This can be done quickly using warm water and a microfiber mop.
Fill a bucket with warm to hot water (not steaming and not lukewarm, somewhere in between). Dip your mop and wring out as much water as possible to leave it damp.
Start at the farthest part of the room and work your way in sections. Keep dipping and wringing the mop as you go. When the water begins to look dirty, dump it and refill with clean water.
Finish with a clean towel to dry the floor.
Deep Cleaning: Vinegar
When your laminate floors require a deeper clean, vinegar is an excellent choice. Not only is this a natural, mild disinfectant, but it will also restore shine and neutralize odors.
When cleaning with vinegar, there are two approaches you can take. One is filling a spray bottle with equal amounts of vinegar and water. Give it a good shake and spray in sections. Follow with a microfiber mop and watch as your laminate floor shines.
If you’re using a wring or spin mop, add a cup of vinegar to each gallon the bucket can hold. Dip the mop in the solution and wring out as much moisture as you can. Work in sections starting at the back of the room. Be sure to follow the natural grain of the floor for the best results.
Some people find the strong scent of vinegar too much to bear. Don’t worry, it will wear off once the area is dry.
However, if you can’t stand the smell, add a bit of lemon juice to the mixture. This will help to level out the pungent vinegar scent. You can also add a squirt of mild dish soap with a citrus scent for an even fresher smell.
Finish off by drying the floor using a clean towel or cloth. It’s important to avoid standing water; not only can this create annoying spots, but it might damage the planks.
Keep the spray bottle close at hand for any unfortunate spills. Vinegar works great at removing coffee, juice and wine stains from laminate floors.
Deep Cleaning: Alcohol
Alcohol is, surprisingly, a highly effective cleaner when it comes to laminate floors. For this method, you can use any sort of alcohol such as rubbing, gin, or even vodka.
When cleaning, you can make a solution of equal parts water and rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle. Use this mixture to mop the floor gently or as a spot cleaner for unfortunate stains such as oil or shoe marks.
You can also mix one cup of alcohol to each gallon of water in a mop bucket. Mop the floors with a damp mop to avoid standing water. Alcohol, such as ethanol and isopropanol, will help the water to evaporate quicker. This reduces any chance of annoying watermarks (4).
For a refreshing scent, add a few squirts of mild dish soap. This will also help to dissolve and remove grime and grease.
Once you’ve finished mopping, dry the floor with a clean towel or cloth.
Deep Cleaning: Commercial Product
If you want to clean your laminate floors while making sure no damage is done, choose a commercial product. One of our favorites for laminate is the ZEP Hardwood and Laminate Floor Cleaner. It’s easy to use and helps to restore shine.
When using a commercial product, make sure it’s safe for laminate floors and doesn’t contain oil or wax. Oil- or wax-based products will make laminate floors slippery and leave a filmy residue.
Mix the product as directed on the label. Read the directions carefully to know whether or not the product requires rinsing after mopping.
Spot Treatment: Acetone
If your kiddo has extended his or her art to the floor, don’t panic. You can easily remove pen marks or even permanent marker with acetone nail polish remover.
Apply a small amount of nail polish remover to a paper towel and rub the marker stain. Keep going until the drawing is gone. This also works wonders on spilled nail polish.
Spot Treatment: Window Cleaner
If you happen to have an accident on your laminate floors, a window cleaner is your best bet. These are mild yet effective at removing stains such as blood.
Spray the affected area slightly and wipe it away using a damp cloth. Never leave the cleaner on the area for too long.
Spot Treatment: Ice
Spilled something greasy on your laminate floors? Not to worry — apply an ice pack directly to the spot and leave it to freeze.
Once the grease is frozen and solid, simply scrape it off using a plastic knife or dull tool. If you don’t have an ice pack, use a bag of frozen peas or any other frozen item.
If there are still bits remaining from the stain, spray the area with a window cleaner. Wipe away immediately, and the grease should be gone.
Things to Avoid When Cleaning Laminate Floors
Cleaning laminate floors is easy as long as you use the right techniques and tools. You can get rid of stubborn stains and spots without using harsh chemicals. Here are a few things you should avoid:
- Don’t use abrasive tools: Tools such as steel wool or stiff brushes should never be used on laminate floors. These will cause scratches and can damage the protective layer.
- Avoid waxes or polishes: Using polishes or waxes on laminate floors can make them slippery and create a filmy residue. It can also dull the finish and attract dirt and dust. Instead, use vinegar or rubbing alcohol to restore shine to the surface.
- Never use ammonia: Ammonia might be an effective stain remover, but it should be kept far away from your laminate floors. The strong chemical can strip the top coating from the planks over time (5).
- Steam is a no-no: Avoid using steam cleaners — even mops — on laminate floors. These tools use high temperatures to blast dirt and bacteria away. However, the steam is jetted into the surface to bring out all embedded dirt. While this works great on grout, laminate is another story. The moisture from the steam might make its way into the seam and can damage the planks from within.
- Don’t sand or refinish: Keep in mind that laminate might look like hardwood, but it’s very different. While you might sand hardwood floors to refinish it or restore the surface, this can’t be done on laminate. If you try to sand it, you will remove the top layer and create scratches that can’t be fixed.
- Use doormats and rugs: To avoid scuff marks and wear, place a few throw rugs or doormats to protect the floor. Doormats will also help to keep dirt outside and even work as a friendly reminder for guests to remove their shoes.
- Trim pet nails: Although laminate doesn’t scratch as easily as hardwood, it can still happen. If you have an eager pup running around, make sure their nails are trimmed to avoid scratches.
How to Clean Laminate Floors — FAQs
How to Remove Scuff Marks From Laminate Floors?
Scuff marks might seem impossible to get off, but it’s actually quite easy. One way you can them is by using a pencil eraser — yes, you heard correctly.
Rub the eraser over the marks, and they should begin to lift off of the floor. If there are still signs of the marks, try to spray the area with a vinegar and water solution. Wipe away the solution immediately with a cloth and repeat if necessary.
Is Using Swiffer Sweeper Wet Mop on Laminate Floors Ok?
A Swiffer Sweeper is designed to dissolve and remove tough dirt and stains. However, you should be careful when using this convenient tool on laminate floors.
Make sure you’re using a Swiffer Sweeper pad that’s safe for laminate and dry the floor once you’re finished. The disposable wet cloths are quite effective on laminate floors because they don’t use as much moisture.
How Do You Make Laminate Floors Shine?
Sweeping or vacuuming regularly should be enough to keep the natural shine of laminate floors. However, when you need a deeper clean, we highly recommend vinegar.
Mix a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spritz it directly onto the floor or on a dry mop and work your way in sections.
Maintaining and cleaning laminate floors is easy using the right methods. The wood-like surface doesn’t require any use of chemicals or harsh cleaning tools. A simple solution of vinegar and water can do the trick — even warm water is sufficient.
Avoid using a wet mop as the water can seep into the seams and ruin the planks. Instead, wring the mop as thoroughly as you can — or spray a microfiber pad and mop the floor gently.