How to Keep Your Laminate Wood Floors Looking Shiny and New

Here's everything you need to know about cleaning laminate wood floors.

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While laminate flooring often looks like a hardwood floor at a first glance, it’s quite different. Laminate is much less expensive than hardwood, easier to install, more durable, and requires less maintenance. Made from pressed layers of composite wood, a printed design layer, and then topped with a thin, scratch-resistant wear layer, laminate flooring delivers a bit of bounce that makes it comfortable underfoot.

The downside is that liquids and laminate flooring don’t mix. If exposed to too much moisture, the high-density composite wood begins to swell and warp. We'll explain how to properly clean your laminate floors and keep them looking like new for years to come.

How Often to Clean Laminate Floors

How often your floors need to be cleaned depends a great deal on your lifestyle. Clean up spills and muddy tracks immediately, and remove grit, crumbs, and dust at least weekly. If you have pets, kids, or lots of foot traffic, vacuum or dry-mop more frequently to remove particles that can scratch the surface of the laminate and leave it looking dull.

What You Need

How to Clean Laminate Floors

Step 1: Remove Loose Soil

To capture grit, dust, and dirt on laminate floors, use a dry dust mop, electrostatic disposable mopping cloth, or vacuum. If vacuuming, choose one that's suitable for hard-surface floors with the beater bar disengaged. A traditional broom is not the best choice because it can leave grit in the cracks between the laminate boards. Don’t forget to remove any throw rugs or mats and clean under them!

Step 2: Select a Cleaning Solution or Make Your Own

With dozens of commercial laminate floor cleaners in the marketplace, check the labels to ensure you're using one suitable for laminate flooring. Do not use hardwood floor cleaner or wax on laminate floors, unless it is something like Zep, which is formulated for both hardwood and laminate.

To save money and still get a clean, streak-free floor, make your own laminate floor cleaner by mixing 2 quarts water with either ¼ cup distilled white vinegar or ½ cup isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol. Pour the solution in a spray bottle and label it for easy use.

Step 3: Damp-Mop the Floor

Lightly spray a small area of the freshly vacuumed floor with the cleaner you’ve chosen, being careful not to over-wet the floor. (If the floor doesn’t dry within a minute or so, you’re using too much.) Using a microfiber mop, work in a grid pattern starting in one corner of the room so you don’t miss any areas. If the floor is really dirty, rinse the mop head as needed and wring it until just slightly damp.

Step 4: Buff to a Shine

To create a shine once the floor is clean, buff it with a microfiber cloth in one of three ways:

  • Use a clean, dry, microfiber mop
  • Place a microfiber cloth underneath a mop head
  • Work on your hands and knees using a microfiber cloth.

Whichever you choose, work in small circles and buff the floor to create a shine.

How to Remove Scuffs From Laminate Floors

Remove scuffs from shoes and furniture by buffing the area with a slightly abrasive microfiber cloth or a clean tennis ball. Alternatively, try a new art gum or pink school eraser. Dampen the scuff and erase it away.

How to Prevent a Film or Residue

The best way to prevent filmy streaks on your laminate floors is by carefully selecting your cleaner and determining the right amount of it to use:

  • If using a commercial cleaner, ensure it's specifically formulated for laminate floors.
  • If using a DIY cleaner made with vinegar or rubbing alcohol, don't worry about streaks because they have no ingredients that linger on the floor to cause streaking.
  • Do not use all-purpose cleaners, dishwashing liquid, or floor waxes that promise a shine. 
  • Use only the slightest amount of any type of cleaning product. The floor should not remain wet for longer than two minutes.
  • Buff the freshly cleaned floor with a dry microfiber mop or cloth to prevent streaks. One of our favorite mops is Swiffer.

Mistakes to Avoid When Cleaning Laminate Floors

  • Using a vacuum with a beater bar. Aggressive beater bars are great for carpets but can dent or scratch laminate floors.
  • Using a stiff broom for sweeping. Stiff broom bristles can drag grit across the floor, scratching the surface of the laminate and leaving grit in the cracks between the boards.
  • Using the wrong cleaner. Hardwood floor cleaners, waxes, all-purpose cleaners, and soaps leave a film on the floors and can cloud the laminate surface.
  • Using too much moisture. Dripping mop buckets and steam cleaners used on laminate floors leave too much moisture, which can seep down through the joints in the flooring and cause warping.
  • Forgetting to clean under area rugs. When dry-mopping, remove area rugs and mop underneath, because grit trapped under a doormat or rug can scratch laminate.
  • Forgetting to prevent damage. Place protective pads under furniture legs to prevent scuffs, avoid setting houseplants directly on the floor (to prevent damage from overwatering), and keep pet bowls on a protective mat to prevent water spills. To keep dirt at bay, place doormats outside and inside the door, and consider a no-shoes rule.
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