How to Clean Laminate Floors

published May 31, 2020
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If you want the classic look of wood floors without breaking the bank, laminate flooring, a synthetic floor covering made of fiberboard topped with a photographic appliqué layer that looks like wood or another material, is one alternative to consider. 

Laminate may get a bad rap from time to time, since it doesn’t always achieve that traditional wood look, but it can also be a practical option in some scenarios. Laminate flooring is a lot cheaper than other floor types (up to half the price of hardwood, in some cases), and it’s usually a cinch to install. Laminate flooring also withstands scratching and wear and tear, making it a smart option for people with pets, small children, or just heavy foot traffic. 

In spite of their many differences, there’s one thing laminate and wood do have in common: They both require a bit of coddling when it comes to cleaning and maintenance. Unlike stone or tile floors, laminate doesn’t stand up to harsher cleaning products, or even excess water, making it a bit trickier to clean. Fortunately, though, if you follow the right steps, you can achieve polished, sparkling clean laminate floors without worrying about damaging them.

If your laminate floors are in need of some love, here’s everything you need to know about doing the job.

Things You Should Know Before You Start

Too much moisture and laminate flooring don’t get along, so Georgia Dixon and Angela Bell, Grove Guides with Grove Collaborative, say it’s best to avoid excessive cleaning or allowing moisture to build up on your laminate. High heat cleaners, like steam mops, can also cause irreversible damage to laminate. 

To avoid the need for lots of water or heavy-duty cleaning products that could cause your floors to warp or swell, Bell and Dixon recommend a clean-as-you-go approach: Take care of small messes right away rather than waiting for lots of dirt or debris to accumulate.

Credit: Kate Keesee

How to Clean Laminate Floors

Routinely spot-cleaning laminate floors is the key for keeping them in good condition. Dixon and Bell recommend using a dry dust mop or microfiber mop for everyday maintenance, pairing it with a laminate-safe product for particularly stubborn spots. If your vacuum has a hard floor setting, you can also use that.

Floors in need of a deeper clean? Try this laminate-safe method every two or three months:

  1. Make a cleaning solution: Add a few drops of castile soap to 3 gallons of hot water. You can also use a teaspoon of unscented baby shampoo in a gallon of hot water. Never use oil-based products on your floors, as they can leave difficult-to-remove streaks.
  2. Damp mop the floor: Dip a mop in the solution, then wring it out so it’s almost dry—remember, your goal is to clean without getting the floor too wet. Go over the floor’s surface with the mop.
  3. Remove excess water: Use a clean microfiber cloth or a dry mop to clean any remaining water from your now-clean floors.
Credit: Cat Meschia

Is vinegar bad for laminate floors? 

Since acidic cleaners like vinegar can wear down the finish of laminate, so if you don’t want to make your own solution, it’s a better idea to use a store-bought cleaner instead of vinegar. Just do your homework to make sure the cleaner is safe to use on laminate. 

“Cleaners that are safe for laminate floors will often indicate so on the label,” Bell says. “Keep in mind that excessive moisture is the enemy with laminate, so use cleaners in a spray bottle, and use sparingly.”

Why do laminate floors turn white or discolored?

If you’re not careful with how often you clean or the products you use when you do it, your floors may discolor. “Using cleaners that are not intended for laminate flooring, or cleaning floors too often, can break down the protective sealing and lead to whitening or discoloration,” says Dixon. If you’re not cleaning too frequently, then excessive foot traffic could be to blame. Dixon recommends adding a rug to those areas to prevent whitening or discoloration.