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Laminate Flooring Care

Laminate flooring care is something that should be easy and relatively low-effort. In fact one of laminate's advertised selling points is that it's a low-maintenance floor. It can be that as long as you adhere to a few common sense rules and practices.

One way to approach laminate flooring care is to break it down into these 4 facets:

Awareness

Awareness simply means getting familiar with what it takes to maintain a laminate floor (see the sections below) as well as what the manufacturer recommends for its upkeep.

Be sure to get familiar with the warranty on your particular floor because it's validity may hinge on how you maintain it. Most laminate manufacturers provide recommendations on how to care for the product and many even offer their own cleaning kits and cleaning solutions. You're not locked into using these but you'll want to make sure there are no warranty implications if you don't maintain the floor correctly.

If you're not handed a copy of the warranty and maintenance/care guidelines when you buy your floor, be sure to ask for them. As a backstop most of the large floor producers have information about laminate flooring care on their websites.

It's more difficult to know the manufacturer of your floor if you're not the original buyer but any warranty implications are really a moot point here. Most laminate floor warranties are good only for the original purchaser and aren't transferable. In this scenario, just be aware of what's involved in good laminate flooring care to adequately maintain them going forward.

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Protection

Protecting your floor from most of what threatens it is a key component in laminate flooring care. The biggest threats are dirt and excessive moisture.

  • Use floormats and area rugs
    A lot of the dirt that ends up scratching your floor is carried in on your shoes. Use protective mats at the entry points to your laminate floor to remove the bulk of the dirt and gravel. Use mats and non-slip backings that are colorfast to prevent transference of dye from the mat to the floor.
  • Clean up any liquid spills as soon as possible and don't wet-mop
    Laminate floors are made with a wood fiberboard core underneath the decorative laminate layer. If this material gets wet (usually by way of the seams), the fibrous material may swell causing the edges of the planks to lift slightly or worse, cupping the plank. Don't wet mop or flood (pour) any liquid on the floor for these same reasons (a damp mop is not the same as a wet mop).
  • Use pads and cups under chair and furniture legs
    Using felt pads on chair legs reduces the abrasive action that occurs when they slide back and forth. Brush off these pads periodically to remove grit that inevitably gets caught in them. Furniture cups distribute the weight of heavier items like tables and prevent them from making indentations in the laminate.

    Rolling office chairs should be placed on a mat designed for this purpose as even rolling casters still have a grinding effect on the floor as they move back and forth. That's because there's always going to be a certain amount of grit on the floor, even if you can't see it, no matter how often you sweep.

Following these common sense guidelines are key to any laminate flooring care system and will prolong their life and good looks. But, stuff happens. So if your floor becomes a victim don't fear because touch-ups and repairs are available.

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Maintenance

Good maintenance is the second key factor in proper laminate flooring care. Without it, your floor will show the wear and tear rather quickly.

  • Vacuuming and sweeping
    Whatever dirt gets past the floor mats ends up on the laminate surface and acts as sandpaper to wear and dull the floor if it's not removed. The frequency with which you should sweep depends on the type and amount of traffic (kids, pets, etc.) your home sees. More frequent is better than less frequent.

Regular sweeping and vacuuming is probably the most important maintenance action you can take. Using a damp mop is another option but you'll want to remember that damp means "barely moist" - not wet. It also makes more sense to sweep or vacuum up the larger grit first before using a mop so you don't end up scraping the grit along the floor.

Be Careful About Which Cleaning Products You Use
Not all cleaning products are compatible with laminate floors. Don't use any type of soap-based cleaners, "mop-and-shine" products or wax on the floor as this will only cause buildup and result in dull, streaky floors (most manufacturers stress this in their literature on laminate flooring care). Also avoid cleaners that contain any oils as this will have the same effect.

A lot of information on the web regarding laminate flooring care involves frustrations associated with streaky and dull floors. Some solutions to the problem include using a vinegar and water solution or using glass-cleaning products like Windex® to clean the laminate.

Again, just be careful and be aware of what the manufacturer of your laminate floor recommends. Some manufacturers (Shaw Laminates® for example) do not recommend use of strongly ammoniated products. In contrast, the Pergo website discussing maintenance of the laminate floor allows the use of ammonia.

One cleaning method that appears to work well in the quest for streak-free floors is the use of microfiber pads or cloths to clean the floor. Their success lies with their efficiency in picking up the dirt and liquids. Some manufacturers, Quick-Step® for example, actually recommend using microfiber cloths and include them in their cleaning kit.

Dull streaks on the floor are usually the result of residue left behind after the floor is wiped. It could be an oil residue from the cleaning solution, smeared dirt or even deposits that precipitate out of the water (mineral deposits from hard water for example). The more effectively and quickly you can get these deposits off the floor (clean and dry) the better chance you have of a clean and streak-free surface.

Publisher's Comments - Microfiber Magic??

When researching this information about laminate flooring care I was surprised with the number of times these microfiber pads and mops were mentioned. They're not a miracle cure but it was apparent that some people were having success in getting their floors clean with them. That piqued my curiosity and I had to find out "how & why" they worked.

In simplistic terms the structure of the microfiber is shaped so that it can gather up a lot more dirt, debris and liquid than a conventional cotton fiber, which can't collect as much material and tends to just push it along. Microfiber is incredibly thin and a lot of them can be packed onto a small surface area, multiplying its effectiveness.

To get an understanding of how they work picture the microfiber as a wet spaghetti noodle. If you make slices along the length of the noodle so that it resembles a tassel (with all the strands joined at one end), you've got the rough makings of a microfiber. All those spaces between the slices or strands in the one fiber provide more room and surface area to collect dirt and debris.

Consequently, when you use a microfiber pad to dry the floor or simply to sweep up dirt, you get a much more effective result than you would with more conventional means. And the icing on the cake is that the microfiber pads can be laundered and reused.

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Repair

The final piece of the laminate flooring care puzzle involves repairs. Hopefully you won't have to go there but for those unexpected occurrences, repair techniques and supplies are available.

Dents, gouges and punctures are common types of damage that can occur. They can be repaired several ways depending on their size and severity.

For small damage there are repair kits that consist of either colored putty or wax-like repair sticks. The putty or wax is troweled into the damaged area and smoothed out with a putty knife. The material then hardens like the material surrounding it.

Some laminate floor manufacturers make repair kits for their floors. Generic kits are also available from floor centers and businesses that specialize in floor care and floor installation products.

One such example is FloorFil by Kampel. FloorFil is an easy to use, color-matching repair epoxy that fills in seams, holes and gouges in laminate flooring. If the surface of your laminate floor gets dented or the top layer chips off you can easily fix it with this kind of repair kit.

If you have some topical scratches you can try a product called ScratchAway. It comes in an aerosol can that you spray onto the scratched area and buff in a circular motion while it dries. You can match the surrounding sheen of the floor by varying the amount of buffing. The manufacturer claims that it reduces the visibility of scratches up to 80%.

If the damage is too large to be repaired with the aforementioned kits the next alternative is to replace the defective board or boards. This is an easier job if you're dealing with glueless laminate since the boards can simply be "disassembled" by disengaging their locking feature.

For laminate floors that are glued the process is more involved as it requires some cutting and fitting. You can do this yourself or hire a flooring professional. For information on how to do this check with your floor manufacturer as some provide instruction procedures. Other sources include do-it-yourself websites (search for "repair damaged laminate floor") and similar home-related DIY literature.

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Here's More Related Info That Might Be Helpful...

Choosing Laminate Flooring - Lots of varieties and brands but which do you choose? Discover what's available and what to know before choosing a laminate floor.

Laminate Vs Wood Flooring - Wondering how laminate and wood flooring compare to each other? Find out the highs and lows of each in this article.



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