Laminate floors are beloved among no-fuss, no-nonsense homeowners because they are so durable, easy to maintain, and look great. You can recreate just about any hardwood look for a fraction of the cost. Of course, the fact that laminate is so durable and rugged doesn’t mean that it’s indestructible.
The truth is that excess moisture and laminate can be a damaging combination. That’s why understanding how to properly clean your laminate without ruining your beautiful floors is so essential.
Don’t let the reputation laminate has for being a bad mix with moisture convince you that you can’t thoroughly clean your laminate floors regularly. You can often get your laminate looking as fresh as the day it was installed with a few simple tricks.
Take a look at what you need to know about keeping your laminate floors super clean, without causing damage.
The First Thing to Know About Cleaning Laminate Floors
This often comes as a shock to well-meaning owners of laminate flooring because water neatly pools on the top layer of their laminate flooring whenever they spill drinks or liquids. Yes, it’s true that laminate is engineered to endure everyday spills.
The problem is that excess water that is left to sit on top of the laminate can eventually seep between the joins, effectively bypassing the “protective” plastic layer.
Unfortunately, this gives moisture an opportunity to seep into the confines of your flooring’s delicate fiberboard core to create a swelling effect. Once expanded, boards will not settle back into their original dimensions. This can be a big problem that can really compromise the integrity of your flooring. The telltale sign that laminate flooring has been wet is warping that appears on the ends of a floor’s individual boards. You may also notice that layers of the floor may begin to peel away.
The Safe Way to Clean Laminate Flooring
Yes, cleaning a laminate floor is a delicate process. The goal is to balance the right amount of effectiveness with the need to avoid penetrating your boards with liquid. Generally, you’ll need to assemble some tools and materials for cleaning laminate floors.
Starting With a Good Vacuuming
It never hurts to start with a clean slate by picking up large and obvious debris from your laminate floor with a vacuum. This is a time to get into edges and corners that your broom might not usually get into! Stay on the lowest setting to ensure that your floor is getting a gentle touch.
Using the “Damp Mop” Method
With laminate floors, you must use an ultra-dry damp mop with a pad system. That means that no water is visibly trickling from the mop when you apply it to your floors. The mop’s condition will need to be considerably less wet than what you’d typically use on something like wood or tile flooring. You actually have a lot of freedom to choose the specific mop you want to use.
However, the big requirement is that you choose a mop with a smooth pad that is not abrasive at all.
An ideal laminate mop is one that is capable of picking up any dirt from your floor without leaving behind a trace of water. Most seasoned homeowners discover that a microfiber mop offers that sweet spot for gentleness and thoroughness. You should also be using a floor cleaner when mopping your laminate floor.
Don’t assume that the same formula you use for other floors in your home will work for your laminate floors.
It’s best to pick up a cleaning solution that is marketed specifically for laminate floors. You should avoid oil-based cleaners because they are notorious for leaving greasy streaks that sometimes never go away.
Some Thoughts on Technique
It’s not necessary to get your entire laminate floor cleaned in one pass. In fact, this may be impossible if you’re covering a big room. A glance at your pad periodically to see if you should give it a rinse before you keep going. Be mindful of very thoroughly draining your mop after every rinse to ensure that it hasn’t absorbed an excessive amount of moisture that could overwhelm your boards.
It’s perfectly fine to let your laminate flooring air dry. Opening up a window or door can often help with getting the moisture on your floor evaporated as quickly as possible. Some people also like to get down on their hands and knees to go over their laminate boards with a fully dry microfiber cloth just to make sure there’s no moisture lingering in spots where it could creep down into the fiberboard core.
Using a Hard-Floor Cleaner Machine
You don’t necessarily have to clean laminate floors by hand just because they happen to be delicate. Typically, smaller machines will use the same types of microfiber pads that are seen in mops. The big difference here is that the machine is able to apply more power and speed to really lift the “dirt layer” that is dulling laminate floors.
The results are often much fresher and crisper. A hard-floor cleaning machine can also save a lot of time. Many machines actually have powerful roll brushes that can remove stains and debris from a laminate floor much more effectively than vigorous spot cleaning.
Some use water, like a mop, but they vacuum excess water away to leave your floors dry. The best hard floor cleaner machines will wash and dry your laminate flooring simultaneously.
What You Never Need When Cleaning Your Laminate Floor
Lastly, it’s important to know that there are a few things that should never touch your laminate floors. It’s never necessary to use polishes or waxes on your laminate floors. This may come as a surprise if you’ve had to put effort into beautifying other types of flooring you’ve previously had.
The difference between laminate and other popular floor types is that the surface of laminate comes with a built-in, permanent treatment.
You should also stay away from any abrasive cleaning agents when sprucing up your laminate floors. Many of the popular cleaning “powders” that are used to scrub away stains can actually reduce the ability of laminate’s wear layer to resist scratching.
Never install cheap laminate in a kitchen or bathroom – unless using an expensive water-resistant brand that’s been confirmed by the manufacturer as a suitable flooring for those rooms. I personally recommend Quick-Step as they have water-resistant laminate with “HydroSeal” water repellent. I’ve laid this laminate in my hallway, just outside my bathroom, which is an area of flooring that gets wet often, and I’ve had no issues.