How to Clean Laminate Floors

A mop cleaning a coffee spill on a laminate floor.

These days, it seems the average person is barely able to find time during the day to take a dump. If we’re not busily putting in our 60 hours at the office, we’re running kids around, taking animals in for their shots, fulfilling obligations with family and friends, or trying to squeeze in those few all-important moments of relaxation. With all this other crap going on, who has time to worry about floor cleaning? With that question in mind, it’s no wonder that the relatively low-maintenance option of laminate flooring has become so popular.

The only problem is that when it comes time to clean laminate flooring, people assume it should be cleaned like any other floor. Not only does it take longer to clean laminate floors using the “any other floor” method, it can also cause serious damage. Too much moisture can cause laminate tile and planks to expand, warp and dislodge. Deep cleaning laminate floors, for many people, doesn’t even have to be done all that often. This is especially true when we’re talking about cleaning wood laminate floors. The wood grain pattern does a pretty good job of making dirt relatively unnoticeable. Regardless, a thorough laminate floor cleaning session does on occasion need to be had. And while I must insist that you follow the directions you received when your laminate wood flooring was installed, so that you don’t inadvertently void your warranty, I also know that you’ll probably clean ’em however the hell you want. For that reason, I have put this article together to teach you how to clean laminate flooring with ease and without risking damage to them.

How to Clean Laminate Floors

  1. Flash the superheroWipe up spills with all haste. As stated above, an overabundance of liquids of any sort on wood laminate floors or any other type of laminate floor design can be extremely damaging. Moisture can seep into the cracks between planks or tiles and cause them to swell, warp and become displaced. For this reason, it is extremely important not to allow liquids to remain on the floor for extended periods of time. If at all possible, clean up any spills, even those that seem insignificant, as soon as you notice them. I don’t care if you have to body check a baby to get to it, just get to it.
  2. Moving CouchPrepare the area for cleaning laminate flooring. I realize full well that many of you will completely disregard this step. All I can do is to strongly urge you not to. It is, in fact, a very simple thing to do. All it entails is getting all your crap, large and small, out of the way. While you may be tempted to just work around things, I promise you will be able to do a better job and have an easier time cleaning laminate wood floors if you move everything that’s movable into the next room. When doing this, it’s important to lift furniture rather than drag. If little bits of sand or dirt get trapped under the feet of whatever you’re dragging, they will leave a trail of little scratches in your laminate. If you can’t enlist help for this and must drag, put gliders under the feet of heavy furniture. Gliders can be purchased (EZ Moves HS brand shown above), or you can use little upside down carpet squares as homemade ones.
  3. sweeping floorStart cleaning laminate with a broom or dust mop. I know it seems like a no-brainer, but since I want to do a thorough job teaching you how to clean laminate wood floors, I don’t want to leave anything out. Once you’ve moved everything out of the way, grab a broom or, better yet, a dust mop (pictured right) and remove as much of the loose stuff as possible (sand, dirt, dust, hair, etc.). When performing this step of the laminate floor cleaning process, it is important to work in the same direction the planks are running. This will allow you to remove more of the bits that are resting in the cracks. If you have the time, it’s also a good idea to drag out the vacuum cleaner and use a hose attachment for getting the corners and for doing a better job between the planks.
  4. bottles and jugs of cleaning suppliesThe #1 method for cleaning laminate floors. The first thing you’ll need to do is to make your own homemade laminate floor cleaner. All you have to do is grab a large, clean, empty squirt bottle and fill it to the top by thirds, using equal parts distilled water, rubbing alcohol and white vinegar. Next, grab a mop or towel and lightly dampen it with distilled water. If you get it too wet, don’t be afraid to wring some of the water out. Remember, too much moisture is bad. Finally, squirt your laminate cleaner onto your mop or towel and, if you’re using the mop, start mopping; if you’re using the towel (my preferred method) get on your hands and knees and start wiping. Re-squirt your cleaning implement frequently throughout the cleaning process. While I feel this is the best method to use to clean laminate wood floors with, the following paragraph explains a slightly different method.
  5. mopping the floorThe #2 method. If the above method of how to clean laminate wood floors doesn’t strike your fancy, there’s another option. To be honest, I don’t like it as well as the other. I think it poses too much risk to your floor. There are, however, many people who swear by it, so it would be remiss of me to not mention it. This method for how to clean wood laminate floors is nothing more than a slight variation of the old-fashioned damp mop method. There are only two differences, and they are both equally important to the success of your laminate floor cleaning operation. The first of these is your choice of floor cleaners. Instead of using typical floor cleaners that have a tendency to leave films and spots on your floors, fill your mop bucket with one gallon of distilled water (it doesn’t leave water spots) and add to it one cup of white vinegar and one cup of rubbing alcohol. There you have it. The other difference is that you must wring out your mop head as thoroughly as you possibly can between dips.
  6. Standing on a towelDry your clean floors. As kick-ass as laminate floors are, this may be their largest downfall. Once you have cleaned your laminate hard wood flooring, you will need to dry it. While it may seem unnecessary to you, especially if you did a good job of using very little moisture in the cleaning process, I assure you, you’ll be irritated with yourself if you don’t do it. I say this because laminate floors water-spot like no other. By drying them with a towel or three or four, you can avoid these spots and leave your floor looking great. While you can dry your floors on your hands and knees, it seems a pretty good idea to me to lay your towel on the floor, step on it with both feet, and skate around your floor. If there are areas of the floor that dried on their own and spotted before you were able to get to them to dry them, use the towel to buff the spots out.

Tips for Cleaning Laminate Floors & Keeping Them Nice

  • Place rugs and doormats everywhere to catch dirt, dust and water. Especially in high-traffic areas, including doorways, halls and in front of the couch.
  • Never use products with ammonia for cleaning laminate flooring. Ammonia, over time, can remove the protective coating applied to your laminate floor.
  • Never wax or polish laminate flooring. Not only will it turn your floor into a skating rink, it also wears off unevenly and causes your laminate flooring to look bad.
  • Never steam clean laminate floors. Excessive water and heat will damage the floor.
  • If you have a stain on your laminate floor that simply cannot be removed by ordinary means (i.e. tar, oil, paint, shoe polish), apply a little nail polish remover to a rag and start rubbing. Once the stain is up, rinse the area by wiping it with a clean rag made slightly damp with distilled water.
  • Laminate floors can be vacuumed instead of swept or dust mopped as long as you don’t use a vacuum cleaner with a beater bar.
  • Don’t ever clean laminate flooring with a sponge mop. The metal that the sponge attaches to can easily scratch the floor.
  • Remove wax or gum from laminate by applying ice and scraping with a credit card or a plastic spatula.
  • Rubbing with an old nylon stocking works well for removing crayon and shoe scuffs from laminate floors.

Chemical-Free Laminate Flooring Cleaners

Microfiber Mop PadMethod Wood Microfiber Mop Pad. The folks at method have done it again. This microfiber mop head sells for about six whole bucks and is washable and reusable. Microfiber does an amazing job of grabbing and trapping dirt and dust. This product is used completely dry and is even comes in 100% recyclable packaging.

Artgum EraserArtGum erasers.Next time you get some shoe scuffs or a crayon masterpiece on your floor, quickly locate a third grader on his way to school, beat him up, grab his book bag, steal his art gum erasers, throw his book bag back at him (aim for the head) and head home with your prize. Use the erasers to rub out the offending marks. If beating up a third grader sounds too cruel, find a college freshman art student instead. Chances are, he’ll be easier to beat up anyway…and you can guarantee he’ll have the name brand erasers. Or, in lieu of that, you can always just order Artgum Erasers from Amazon.

green microfiber slippersMicrofiber slippers. No explanation required here. By now we all know how well microfiber works at picking up dirt and dust. Whenever the mood strikes, throw a pair of these babies on and glide your way to clean laminate floors. The pair shown is called Slipper Genie and is made by Evriholder Products.