Homeowners often choose laminate flooring because it's durable, low maintenance and has beautiful finish options. But despite its strong construction, laminate requires care when cleaning to avoid damaging the protective coating and the photographic wood-grain reproduction that creates the beautiful look. Sometimes, the best laminate floor cleaner is nothing at all or something as simple as a damp mop, but certain safe products can give you more cleaning power to keep your laminate shiny.
Broom or Vacuum
Before you reach for a laminate floor cleaner, consider your everyday cleaning routine. Regular sweeping and dusting keeps dirt and debris from collecting on the floor, which can cut down on your need for cleaners. If you vacuum your floor, use the hard floor setting to avoid damage to the laminate. Move the soft-bristled broom or vacuum along the length of the laminate wood flooring boards to help get the little pieces of debris out of the gaps where the boards meet.
Damp Mop Cleaning
The next step is a simple damp mopping using clean water to wipe away any remaining debris or marks. You never want standing water or lots of moisture on your laminate flooring, so always wring the mop out well before using it. A wet mop can let water get into the gaps or along the baseboards, which can cause warping and damage.
When damp mopping, change the water frequently to keep it from getting too dirty. Mopping with dirty water can leave behind streaks. Wipe up any spots of water you notice on the floor with a soft, dry microfiber cloth to keep it from soaking into the material.
Commercial Laminate Floor Cleaner
If you need a little more cleaning power, reach for commercial floor cleaners that are designed specifically for laminate flooring. Look for a cleaner made by the same manufacturer of your floor or check with the flooring manufacturer to find approved brands. Commercial laminate floor cleaners use safe ingredients to clean without warping the boards or removing the protective surface.
Homemade Floor Cleaner
Some people prefer a homemade laminate cleaner. Adding just a little vinegar to a bucket of warm water is a safe and gentle way to clean laminate. One squirt of liquid dishwashing detergent gives you a little extra cleaning power. You can dip your damp mop into the solution or put it in a spray bottle and spray the cleaner onto your damp mop pad.
Avoid using vinegar too often on laminate, though, as the acidity in the vinegar can eat away at the protective coating on the floor. Make sure you always dilute the vinegar properly to minimize the chances of flooring damage.
Spill and Stain Removal
The best cleaner for spills on a laminate floor is a soft cloth. Dab up the spill immediately to keep it from penetrating the laminate. Window cleaner can help with some stains, such as blood, but avoid using it too often as the ammonia can cause damage. Rubbing alcohol can get rid of shoe polish, nail polish, ink or crayon stains.
Cleaners to Avoid
Some products seem like a good idea for general cleaning or stain removal, but they can cause serious damage to the laminate. Bleach is one common household product often used for cleaning, but never use it on laminate flooring as it can remove the finish, stain the floor or discolor the laminate when it soaks into the pores.
Products designed to add shine are also usually bad for laminate flooring. Many of them use film or filler, which results in a waxy residue and buildup on your laminate. That can have the opposite effect of dulling the finish.
Murphy's Oil Soap can also have a negative effect, leaving noticeable streaks on the flooring. Ammonia-based cleaners can cause damage as well. Avoid abrasive cleaning products or tools, which can scratch the protective surface. Steam mops and wet mops are also best avoided for cleaning laminate as they use too much moisture and can damage the material.
Shelley Frost combines her love of DIY and writing in her freelance career. She has first-hand experience with tiling, painting, refinishing hardwood floors, installing lighting, roofing and many other home improvement projects. She keeps her DIY skills fresh with regular projects around the house and extensive writing work on the topic.