Laminate flooring is a popular choice for those seeking the look of hardwood, but also wishing to avoid the higher level of maintenance. It is much easier to maintain than real wood.
For everyday maintenance, laminate flooring only needs to be swept. This can be done with a soft broom, a dust mop, or even a vacuum.
If there are any messes on the floor, such as dog drool, spray a small amount of cleaner onto the spot, then wipe it up with a soft cloth. You always want to use a minimal amount of liquid, so only spray on as much cleaner as you need; do not soak the area and be sure to immediately wipe up all liquid. Here is a list of some cleaners you can use for this:
- A mix of one part white vinegar in two parts (preferably distilled) water
- A mix of equal parts isopropyl alcohol and (preferably distilled preferably) water
- Window cleaner, preferably ammonia-free
- Commercial Laminate Spray Cleaners (Earth Friendly Products, Zep, Dream Home, etc.)
- Swiffer Wet Jet
The best way to choose a cleaner is to test it in a small hidden area first. Every laminate is unique and the cleaner that will be safest for your floor can only be determined by testing. Some things to look for when testing are damage/removal of the sealant and residue. The vinegar and water mixture is widely recommended by laminate manufacturers, so that is a good place to start. Some people in the comments below recommend using Windex or a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. If you choose to use those products, do not overuse them because they contain ammonia, which can remove the sealant on your floor.
Mopping is the trickiest part of cleaning laminate. Laminate is a wood product, and like wood, it can warp and swell with exposure to too much water. One commenter (Thanks Jodie!) had the great idea to get a sample of her flooring and soak it in water to determine if and after how long the water would damage her specific laminate. Also, the main complaint people have commented about on this article is that after mopping, their floors are streaky, hazy, or dull. Here is how to safely mop your laminate without streaking. (Updated April 2017).
For general mopping, it is easiest to use a spray mop, such as a Swiffer Wet Jet or similar product. Some of these products, such as the Great Value brand, have washable microfiber pads so buying replacement pads is not a necessary expense. You can use a bucket of cleaner and sponge mop instead, but it is much easier to slosh or spread excess water onto the floor, as well as cause streaking. An alternative to a sponge mop is a terry cloth mop with removable (reusable) covers. Streaking is caused by residue that has not been removed from the floor. This residue can be from a cleaning product, hard water, or leftover dirt or oils (footprints) on the floor that you were trying to mop away. By using a spray mop or terry cloth mop, you can change the pad/cover several times when cleaning a large room, which will allow you to better absorb the dirt and oils on the floor than with a sponge mop.
You Will Need:
- A mop: spray mop, terry cloth mop, or sponge mop
- A bucket (depending on the mop)
- A cleaner (choose one):
- A mix of one cup white vinegar in 1 gallon of distilled water
- A mixture of one part isopropyl alcohol, one part white vinegar, and two parts distilled water
- A mix of equal parts isopropyl alcohol and and distilled water (if your floor already has streaks or haze)
- Commercial laminate floor cleaner, following instructions on the label
- A towel
Steps to Mop the Floor:
- Work in small sections, about 5’ by 5’. Doing this will lower the amount of time that liquid sits on your floor.
- If using a sponge mop, be sure to wring it out thoroughly after each dip in the bucket.
- Run the mop over the area of floor going with the grain of the wood with smooth, even strokes.
- After you have mopped a section, buff it dry with a towel. Doing this will also help to prevent streaking, as it will further absorb the excess water, cleaner, or dirt that may still be on the floor. It will also remove the remaining liquid from your floor as fast as possible, preventing water damage.
- If using a sponge mop, rinse it out thoroughly between each section to prevent streaking. If using microfiber pads, inspect the pad after each section to determine if it needs to be changed.
- If your floor already had a haze on it, you may need to mop it several times to fully remove all of the residue.
- If there are any spots that remain after cleaning, such as footprints, it means that the floor was not fully cleaned. (Footprints are caused by oils on our feet. If using a mix of vinegar and water, increase the amount of vinegar to better cut through the oil.)
Laminate Floor Stain Removal
Although laminate floors are generally stain resistant, some stubborn stains may require special treatment. Here are some of the more common trouble makers:
- Blood: Spray stain with window cleaner and wipe with a damp cloth.
- Liquor: Dampen a cloth with warm water and detergent and rub spot. If that fails, try using a cloth dampened with denatured alcohol.
- Grease: Apply an ice pack (a package of frozen vegetables will do in a pinch) until grease hardens, then gently scrape with plastic spoon or butter knife. Remaining residue should wipe away with a couple of squirts of window cleaner.
- Crayon marks: Rub with a soft cloth dampened with mineral spirits. If that doesn’t work, apply toothpaste and rub with a dry cloth.
- Nail polish: Use a small amount of scouring powder, warm water, and a plastic mesh pad. Work the scouring powder into a paste and apply, be careful no to rub too aggressively as it may scratch the finish.
- Ink: Wet a rag with warm water and detergent and rub. If that doesn’t work, try a commercial ink remover.
- Heel Marks and Scuffs: Rub the marks with a pencil eraser. Mr. Clean magic erasers are great for this.
- Chewing gum: Remove excess gum with plastic knife and rub residue with soft clothe dampened with mineral spirits.
Keep Your Laminate Floors Looking New
Although laminate floors are low maintenance and scratch resistant, that doesn’t mean they are indestructible or scratch proof. Taking these simple precautions will keep your floors looking new and scratch-free.
- There are laminate floor polishes you can buy to increase the shine on your floor. Be sure to read the label carefully though, as these products should only be used sparingly, such as every few months. Using the polish more often than that results in build-up that leaves floors looking hazy. To be more specific, you should not use these products every time you mop. You need to mop several times between applications to be sure the first application is removed (to prevent build-up).
- Use caution if using a laminate floor polish product as they can make the floor very slippery. It is best to test one in a small area first.
- Laminate floors DO NOT require waxing and applying floor wax of any kind can result in a dull build-up. This includes commercial cleaners that contain wax.
- Regular floor cleaners, such as the pine scented kind, are not recommended for use on laminate as they can leave a dull, soapy residue.
- Murphy’s Oil Soap is not recommended for use on laminate as it can leave it looking streaky.
- Do NOT overuse window cleaners that contain ammonia to spot clean laminate as excess ammonia can strip away the protective sealant on laminate floors.
- Wipe up water and other spills promptly as excess water or other liquid can damage floors and cause warping.
- Consider using carpet runners or area rugs (being sure to use non skid pads under either) especially for high-traffic areas.
- Try to avoid wearing heavy-soled shoes or high heels on wood floors. In fact, barefoot is best!
- If you have a problem with footprints showing on the floors, wear socks or slippers. Footprints are caused by the oils on our feet.
- You can clean the floor while you walk by wearing Slipper Geanie shoes.
- NEVER drag furniture or other items across the hardwood floor.
- Use furniture pads on the bottoms and legs of furniture (available at any home improvement or supercenter stores).
- Another environmentally friendly option is to use a steam mop. To learn more about this idea, read our guide Is It Safe to Steam Clean Laminate Flooring.