Prevent wear and tear—on new floors and old—with these DIY cleaning methods
Wondering how to clean laminate flooring and keep it looking as great as it did upon installation? Even though your laminate wood floors may look as good as hardwood floors, that doesn’t mean you should clean them the same way. The best way to clean laminate flooring is not the same method you would use to make those hickory planks in your living room shine.
Laminate planks need special care because, unlike hardwood floors, the surface can’t just be refinished if stains, scuffs, or other types of damage occur. To avoid pricey repairs and replacements, it’s critical to maintain the flooring material and treat it with care—especially in high-traffic areas. (Wearing stilettos around the house is one way to increase wear and tear!) But don’t worry, keeping your floors looking good doesn’t take a lot of time, work, or elbow grease.
“Regular sweeping or vacuuming, with occasional mopping, will extend the life of your floor and keep it looking as good as the day it was installed,” says Jennifer Meska, director of merchandising at LL Flooring, who mentioned that laminate tends to be less expensive than real wood, so its become a go-to option for many homeowners and builders.
Whether you have new laminate or vinyl floors or simply want your existing surface to look like a new flooring installation, here are the best laminate flooring tips, and the mistakes to avoid.
1. Do read the cleaning instructions that come with your laminate flooring
Before you get cleaning, consult the manufacturer’s instructions for your floors. The brand may have specific recommendations based on the materials used. Most companies have detailed product guides and instructions on how to clean laminate floors on their websites. Read carefully as using harsh or abrasive cleaning products can null the warranty.
2. Don’t let stains sit on the floor
“If something spills, clean it up immediately,” says Steve Evans, cleaning expert at Memphis Maids. “Use a dense microfiber cloth or a sponge and gently blot until you absorb whatever has spilled.” Tackle stains pronto. Even if your laminate flooring is water-resistant, if you leave liquids for too long, they can potentially damage or discolor the surface.
3. Don’t use abrasive tools
Technology has made a lot of recent laminate flooring materials scratch-resistant, but that doesn’t mean you should reach for abrasive (steel wool, for example) items. You’ll want to use a soft-bristle broom or dust mop to sweep up debris. If you’re vacuuming, be careful to use an attachment without a beater bar or rotating brush, which could scratch the surface.
4. Do (carefully) mop the laminate flooring every two months
To keep laminate floors fresh, mop them every two months. Damp mops (a.k.a. microfiber mops) are gentle enough to use on laminate flooring. If you’re going to use a regular mop, just wring it out until it’s almost completely dry.
5. Don’t use too much water
“The number one factor to keep in mind is that laminate floors do not get along with water,” Evans says. “At least, with excessive water. Keep water and liquids to a minimum whenever you’re cleaning these floors.” Even if the flooring material is water-resistant, you don’t want the water to pool or seep through the top layer, which could potentially lead to extra installation costs that come with replacing the laminate planks. That said, a traditional mop bucket is a no-no for laminate floors. If you forget to pick up all the water it can also cause staining or fading. A spray mop could come in handy because sprays limit the amount of water you’re using. Dry the floors immediately.
6. Do skip cleaning products not labeled for laminate flooring use
Oil-based cleaning products can leave streaks and residue, or damage the protective sealant of the floors. If you use laminate cleaner, do so sparingly and apply it to the mop or microfiber cloth rather than directly to the floor. Never use wax or polishes on laminate floors.
7. Do consider a DIY laminate floor cleaner
Make your own DIY floor cleaner. For regular cleaning, combine a teaspoon of clear and unscented dish soap with a gallon of hot water.
Evans recommends a solution of white vinegar and water because it doesn’t leave a sticky residue, which is often an issue with hard floors. He suggests one part vinegar to 10 parts water. “It’s effective yet not that aggressive to your floors,” he notes.Another option? If your floor has developed a slight film or waxy buildup on it (which happens over time when the wrong cleaning products are used), you can instead combine a gallon of hot water with a cup of white vinegar. Vinegar, which is a natural cleaning agent, will break down the film without hurting the laminate surface. (Note: The same rules about water apply to either of these DIY solutions. Make sure to wring the mop so it is only slightly damp. Never let water pool on the floor.)
8. Do use household hacks for stubborn stains
For tough stains like candle wax or ink, the best cleaning methods are right at hand. Apply a plastic bag of ice to chewing gum and candle wax, and remove with a plastic knife, scraper, or credit card once it has hardened. Tackle paint, ink, nail polish, and crayon with rubbing alcohol.
9. Do protect the surface from future damage
To avoid future scratches, add furniture pads under the legs of chairs and tables, especially if they get moved frequently. For spots that are likely to get dents or withstand heavy foot traffic, invest in rugs to help prevent wear and tear. Placing a rug under a dining room table or under a desk chair not only saves your floors but enhances your interior decor.
If your laminate flooring already has scratches, you can try the Pergo repair kit to camouflage the damage.
10. Don’t forget a doormat
Dirt that gets tracked in from outside not only makes your floor dirty, but can also damage the floor. The grit, for example, from a dirty shoe bottom can be one of the biggest enemies your laminate floor faces because it can scratch, dull, and even dent. Stop dirt in its tracks with a welcome mat that is as fashionable as it is functional. A woven wool-and-jute mat from Hay does just that. Something this low-maintenance can make all the difference.
11. Do trim your pet’s nails
True, this isn’t a tip to clean your laminate floors, but it is a solid tip to care for your floor. Keep your pet’s nails trimmed to prevent abrasion on the decorative layer. Your cat or dog’s nails can scuff up the laminate floor.
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