The paradox of cleaning laminate floors is that water cleans everything, yet laminate flooring and water do not mix. This applies not just to water but any liquid, including cleaning fluids. Every maintenance guide that comes with laminate flooring warns the owner to clean up spills immediately. So without water, how are you expected to clean the floor?
Laminate flooring's unique properties mean it does not clean like vinyl flooring, ceramic tile, or stone. Plus, laminate often has a static electricity problem. Blame the static on laminate's top transparent wear layer that rests on the visual (photographic) layer and its moisture-hungry core of flaked particle board wood. With laminate flooring, you need a two-step method of dry and damp cleaning, along with a few different cleaning tools.
1. Dry-Clean the Laminate Floor
It is difficult to stress the importance of using dry cleaning methods on laminate flooring prior to using liquids. Other types of flooring greatly benefit from picking up debris with dry methods like a broom or vacuum prior to bringing on the wet mop. But that is only in the interests of making your job easier. The more dirt and debris that the wet mop has to deal with, the more water you have to use on the floor. But eventually, the floor will get clean.
It is different with laminate flooring. Because your goal is to pare back the quantity of liquids used on your laminate floor to the absolute minimum, you need to step up your dry-cleaning efforts to the absolute maximum.
To that end, your laminate flooring purchase should include another set of dry-cleaning purchases:
- Clean, soft-bristled broom to be used only indoors
- Clean dustpan used only indoors
- Dry mop, such as a Swiffer with Dry Cloth Refills
- Vacuum with a bare floor setting and a hose with attachments
Quickly run the vacuum on its lowest setting for bare floors to pick up large debris. Sweep the floor with the broom and collecting debris with the dustpan. Sweep from the edges inward. If the floor isn't very dirty, use the dry mop instead. It helps to use an electrostatic-free cleaner like Swiffer Dry Cloth refills, especially if you are mopping in weather conditions that encourage static electricity.
With the vacuum, switch to the hose and attachments to vacuum the corners, edges, and other places that the broom and vacuum were not able to reach.
2. Damp Mop the Laminate Floor
By now, no visible debris should be littering the laminate floor. But if you kneel down and run your hand across the floor, your hand likely will pick up a thin layer of dust or dirt. Damp-mopping will get your flooring squeaky clean.
To save money, you can damp mop with ammonia. Add between 2 ounces and 4 ounces of ammonia to warm water, soak the mop, and then thoroughly wring out the mop. The mop must feel almost dry if you press your hand to it.
A second method is to use a dedicated laminate floor cleaner such as Black Diamond. In business since 1997, Black Diamond receives consistently high ratings from users. One downside of this method is that it is a two-step process. First, you spray the product directly on the mop or floor. Second, you mop the floor, clean off the mop head, and repeat.
A third and increasingly popular method is to use a Swiffer WetJet with disposable mopping pad refills. One value to Swiffer is that the cleaning fluid and mop assembly are one, making this a one-step process. By pressing a button on the mop handle, you dispense Swiffer-brand cleaning fluid to the floor. While Swiffer does not have a laminate-only cleaning fluid, its Swiffer WetJet Multi-Surface Cleaner Solution does include laminate floors. Be care with Swiffers, though, as it is still possible to deliver too much cleaning fluid on the flooring.
Tip: Close Laminate Floor Plank Gaps to Prevent Damage
Laminate flooring's particle wood core works only when the planks are tightly locked, allowing no moisture to seep downward. Some laminate floors inadvertently have open seams. If your floor has developed gaps near high moisture areas, such as around the kitchen sink or dishwasher, you need to close those gaps to avoid damage to the floor.
To permanently fix this area, run a thin bead of carpenter's glue in the gap, push the boards together, and then quickly wipe off the excess glue. Lay a strip of painter's tape over the fix until the glue has dried.
Laminate Floor Cleaning and Maintenance Mistakes
- Wet mops of the same saturation as you might use for a vinyl or concrete floor should be avoided at all times. Keep anything but the driest damp mop away from your floor.
- Never use waxes or polishes on your laminate floor. Your floor's surface treatment is already built into the wear layer, so it is impossible for you to change its appearance.
- Abrasive cleaners or anything remotely abrasive should be kept away from your laminate floor. This includes cleaners like Clorox or Bon Ami. While your laminate floor's wear layer is surprisingly good at avoiding fine scratches, abrasive cleaners will dull it down.
- Soapy cleaners leave a film that dulls the surface and even attracts dirt.
- Steam cleaners are unnecessary on laminate floors and possibly even detrimental. However, if you have a problem spot that is confined to a small area that spans only one floorboard and you are judicious about dispensing moisture to the surface, you may want to try using the hand-held attachment.