Laminate flooring isn’t quite as popular as it used to be, but still a material you’ll find in millions of homes across America. Newer styles are incredibly realistic, and it is one of the more affordable options when you’re looking for durable, solid flooring. It shares several characteristics with hardwood, including the fact that it is easy to clean.
While you can use a number of cleaning tools to remove dirt and dust from laminate flooring, there are several things you will need to be aware of in order to clean your flooring correctly. We are going to cover those in our guide and give you some tips on how to find the best vacuums and mops for laminate flooring.
Laminate Flooring: Everything You Need to Know
How much do you actually know about the flooring beneath your feet? Homeowners purchasing hardwood understand what it’s made from, and the same goes for tile, cork flooring, and even luxury vinyl flooring. All laminate flooring is made in a similar fashion, but advances in manufacturing have made a drastic difference between today’s laminate flooring and the products sold a decade ago.
While we can’t tell you the exact materials used in your laminate flooring, all laminate is layered. There’s a stabilizing or backing layer on the bottom, which is followed by a core that’s typically made from HDF, and then a design layer. That layer gives your laminate the look of wood or stone, and it’s covered by a wear layer. That’s the part of your floor that you’ll clean, and it protects the design from damage.
Laminate is designed to take some abuse, but water is its worst enemy. That means certain types of cleaning methods like wet mops aren’t recommended. With that in mind, several manufacturers make water-resistant and waterproof laminate, so it’s a good idea to know what type of laminate flooring you have before considering a cleaning technique.
How to Clean Laminate Floors
We’re going to start with methods and equipment that are entirely safe for all types of laminate flooring, before getting into options for consumers with waterproof or water-resistant floors. Two of the top methods are also two of the cheapest with brooms and dust mops.
Dust Mops & Brooms
A broom is a useful tool to have on hand for apartment life or when you only have a few rooms of laminate to deal with. In larger homes, they will wear you out, but it’s hard to argue with their price tag or overall effectiveness. A broom can sweep up dirt, pet hair, and dust up with ease. You can also handle things like cat litter or larger debris without having to break out a vacuum cleaner.
Brooms are also designed to outlast other cleaning implements like mops and vacuum cleaners. There aren’t many parts that can fail as long as you choose a broom with an aluminum pole and a sturdy dust cap. There’s no real degree of upkeep with a broom, although there are quite a few options to choose from between brooms with straight and angled bristles.
While the overall design of brooms hasn’t changed much over the years, the way you collect dirt and debris has. Dustpans are still the most popular choice, but an upright pan can keep your back intact, while a stationary vacuum will suck in debris that’s swept towards it. Unfortunately, brooms are useless against mud or wet substances.
Dust mops are extremely handy on hardwood and tile, but also excel on laminate flooring. They are a step up from a broom as well, considering they allow you to cover more ground and require an entirely different motion to work. You typically push a mop, which is easier than sweeping, although the head can get dirty rather quickly.
There are two types of dust mops to consider, as some use disposable mop pads while others are washable. We’ve also seen plenty of dry or dust mops that can be used with cleaning solution or allow you to switch between dry and damp cleaning pads. There’s no upkeep with a broom, but you will eventually need to buy a new dust mop head or replacements depending on the style you choose.
Vacuum Cleaners for Laminate Flooring
If you have laminate throughout your entire house, you will need something that’s quick and efficient. Vacuum cleaners are an excellent solution for that problem, and also the ideal choice when you have carpet in other rooms of your home.
The best vacuum cleaner for laminate flooring can come in a variety of sizes, and there is a style with a price point to suit everyone’s needs. For ease of use, you can look for a thin stick vacuum cleaner or a robotic system. While they are on the opposite ends of the pricing spectrum, they are among the easiest types of vacuum cleaners to use.
Stick vacuums are known for their lightweight nature. While the bin size will be smaller on this type of machine, you can find corded and cordless models in this class. That includes budget-friendly options from companies like Eureka along with high-end models from Shark and Dyson. If you’re interested in this type of vacuum, think about the size of your home, and consider any other types of flooring as well.
Even the best cordless vacuum cleaner will struggle on thick carpet, and while corded stick vacuums will have more success, most are geared towards light-duty cleaning. For carpet, a traditional upright is usually the best option, although you’ll need to be wary of the brush roll. That’s true for any vacuum but tends only to be an issue on poorly designed systems or powerful corded uprights.
As for robot vacuum cleaners, they are perfect for hard surfaces like laminate flooring. There are several solid bots that won’t break the bank, although smarter models can be quite expensive. By nature, these vacuums clean autonomously, so the only thing you will need to deal with is dumping the bin and occasionally changing a filter. The best robot vacuums can dump their own bins, however, or even allow you to control them with your smartphone and voice.
Low pile carpet is suitable for robot vacuum cleaners, and some models do an excellent job on medium pile carpeting as well. The brush rolls on these machines aren’t powerful enough to damage laminate flooring, and some even have rubber brush rolls for additional peace of mind. While rare, there are a handful of suction-only robot vacuum cleaners as well.
Arguably, the best all-around style to deal with carpet and laminate would be a canister vacuum, in our opinion. While their design can take some getting used to, they have a few unique characteristics that set them apart from other styles. They are also lightweight, with most machines weighing around 7 to 12 pounds. That’s lighter than many uprights but slightly heavier than a svelte stick vacuum cleaner.
A canister vacuum is pulled along behind you and tethered to a vacuum hose. You’ll use a wand with a cleaning head attached on the floors. While it may sound overly complicated, that hose allows you to clean areas you’d only be able to reach with a cordless 2-in-1 vacuum. It also opens the doors to interesting attachments, including new cleaning heads.
It’s not hard to find a hardwood or parquet attachment for a canister vacuum, which allows you to go “suction only” and leave the brush roll behind. When you need to cleaner carpet or upholstery, you simply need to select the proper attachment and continue cleaning. If you suffer from allergies, canister vacuums are also a great choice as you will find plenty of bagged models in this range.
If you are unsure about how your floors will handle water, you may want to skip this section. While spray mops are safe for sealed hardwood and other types of surfaces, some manufacturers of laminate flooring warn against them. We feel that most are entirely safe for laminate flooring, but excess cleaning solution on laminate is never ideal.
As the name implies, a spray mop squirts cleaning solution onto your floor through a jet located near the bottom of the mop. All allow you to control how much fluid is used at any given time, but leaking and clogged up jets can become an issue rather quickly with some models. Most are also built like a dust mop with a microfiber cleaning head, but these mops have a holder on the pole for the cleaning solution.
A spray mop will make short work of mud, light stains, and dirt on laminate flooring. They are not ideal for pet hair or any type of debris, as they will just scoot it around, not suck it up like a vacuum. There are a few models that can actually vacuum and mop at the same time, but quality systems from that niche are few and far between.
What about other types of wet mops?
A spray mop is only one style of wet mop, but it’s also the only one we recommend. Manufacturers stress that water and laminate do not go together, and it’s something we totally agree on. While it’s entirely possible that you could use a traditional mop or sponge mop on laminate, it’s not worth the damage if something goes wrong.
Wet laminate flooring can bubble up and buckle. Whether it’s a chipped edge on a board or a gap near your baseboard, if water can find a way under your laminate, it will. If that happens, you could have a serious mold issue on your hand, and have to deal with an expensive situation. Laminate flooring is not easy to repair or replace compared to hardwood or tile.
Cleaning Tips from the Pros
The first widely agreed upon tip from professionals that make and install laminate flooring is to pay attention to the brush roll if you use a vacuum cleaner. Most systems have one, and if you’re not familiar with the part, it’s a spinning cylinder with small brushes located beneath your vacuum. Those brushes are for carpet, however, now laminate flooring.
While laminate is durable, those brushes can have an adverse effect on hard surfaces. Instead of picking up debris, it can scatter it just like an ill-placed exhaust vent on an upright. Vacuums that allow you to turn the brush roll off are ideal for laminate flooring. Alternatively, you can look for a system with a soft brush roller instead of a bristled one.
Even if your laminate is waterproof, it’s important to watch how much water or cleaning solution you use on your flooring – less is more. Follow the directions on the bottle, and don’t use any mixes with water, soap, or detergent. Only use recommended cleaners along with “safe” solutions suggested by manufacturers like vinegar and ammonia.
Is your floor losing its shine? It may be tempting to pick up a bottle of polish, although Pergo does not recommend waxes or refinishing solutions on their laminate flooring. Pergo and Armstrong both say to not pour cleaning solution directly on your flooring, but to dampen the cleaning pad or cloth with cleaning solution, and then treat the spot.
Both of those companies and others highly recommend using furniture coasters or felt pads. Those are helpful with heavy furniture or anything that may scratch your flooring when it’s moved. Steam cleaners are also bad news on laminate regardless of how it’s made or if a waterproof coating has been applied. Needless to say, stay away from steam.
While a buffing machine can work wonders on certain surfaces, they are another piece of equipment frowned upon by companies that manufacture laminate flooring. Entrance mats are a good idea as well despite this type of floorings durability, especially if you tend to track in gravel or live near a beach. Anything abrasive can affect your finish or wear layer, which is bad news when it comes to longevity.