Laminate flooring comes with a super-hard wear layer that doesn't need wax. The finish has to be hard to protect the pattern, which is often little more than a thin, paper-like covering that bears a photographic image of wood, stone, tile or some other flooring material. When you apply wax, this hard finish can become dangerously slippery, and as the wax inevitably collects dirt, the finish turns dull.
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Perhaps you didn't know this and you spread a coat of paste wax or used a laminate floor cleaner that contains wax (yes, they exist, unfortunately) without reading the label. You may have even cleaned the floor with oil soap, which is another no-no when it comes to laminate flooring. No matter how the wax got on the floor, it was bound to turn dull over time, and now you're at the point at which you have to remove it.
The job isn't going to be easy, and you may want to invest in a good pair of knee pads. No cleaner magically dissolves wax without damaging the finish, so you're going to have to do a fair amount of scraping and rubbing.
Before You Get Down to It, Vacuum the Floor
If you have laminate floors, you should have a good vacuum with a soft floor cleaning attachment that doesn't have a spinning rotor. The best laminate floor cleaner reviews from the Home Flooring Pros single out the Dyson DC65 Multi Floor upright vacuum as one of the best vacuums for laminate floors, followed by the Dyson DC65 Animal, which runs on a rechargeable battery.
Run the vacuum on its highest suction setting to get as much dirt out from the joints between planks to make the job of wax removal easier. Don't forget to vacuum thoroughly under rugs and furniture because that's where dirt likes to collect and is most likely to get ground in.
Scrape What You Can
Now that all the surface dirt is gone, use a plastic scraper to remove as much of the wax buildup as you can with a plastic — not metal — scraper. A 4-inch plastic drywall blade, which costs a dollar or two at any hardware store, is ideal. Scrape along the lengths of the planks rather than going across them to avoid making streaks and stuffing wax into the joints.
It's a good idea to soften the wax before you scrape, using a hair dryer on medium to high heat. Don't try to soften the wax with hot water because the water can seep into the joints and swell the planks. Don't use a steam mop either; cleaning laminate floors with a steam mop is almost always a bad idea for the same reason.
Make a Homemade Laminate Floor Cleaner
After scraping, you'll want to rub off the rest of the wax residue with an appropriate cleaner. You can buy any number of commercial laminate floor cleaners that will work, but a vinegar solution is just as effective. Cleaning laminate floors with vinegar dissolves the wax residue without harming the finish.
Mix a solution of 2 cups vinegar per gallon of hot water, dip a cloth in the solution, wring it well and rub along the planks in one direction only, not back and forth. Rinse the cloth frequently to keep it clean and change the cleaning solution when it darkens.
You'll be able to get all but the most ground-in wax off using this procedure. For the really tough stuff, use mineral spirits or paint thinner. Once the wax is gone, keep the floor clean by damp mopping with the vinegar solution or a commercial laminate floor cleaner that doesn't contain wax.
Chris Deziel is a contractor, builder and general fix-it pro who has been active in the construction trades for 40 years. He has degrees in science and humanities and years of teaching experience. An avid craftsman and musician, Deziel began writing on home improvement topics in 2010. He worked as an expert consultant with eHow Now and Pro Referral -- a Home Depot site. A DIYer by nature, Deziel regularly shares tips and tricks for a better home and garden at Hunker and Family Handyman.