Laminate floors are a great addition to any home, bringing the beauty and style of hardwood flooring for a fraction of the price, and without the complicated upkeep. Thanks to its protective coating, laminate flooring can be quite easy to maintain: you don't have to worry about stains or waxing, and your floor will hold up well to most daily wear and tear.
On the other hand, there is some maintenance involved: you have to keep your laminate floors looking healthy, which involves staying away from any potentially harmful materials and substances. Luckily, a simple cleaning routine and a few tricks to clean up messy spills are all you need to make sure your laminate flooring stays shiny and smooth.
There are a few basic rules you should follow with laminate flooring. First, you need to avoid anything that could cause scratches: that means no stiletto heels, no untrimmed pet claws, and furniture pads under all table and chair legs. It is also a good idea to have a doormat in front of every entry to the house so people can make sure their shoes are clean; you could even consider a "no shoes" policy for the family in order to avoid bringing dirt in altogether.
With those precautions taken, a basic maintenance routine of sweeping and cleaning should be enough to keep your floors shiny and clean.
Sweep or vacuum every few days so that dirt, pet hair, and other debris can't accumulate, as these can also scratch the flooring. Make sure you use a dry dust or microfiber mop (if you are sweeping) or soft bristle attachment (if you are vacuuming), to further protect the floor. Sweep in the direction of the flooring, along the floorboards as opposed to across them, so you can pick up anything that has fallen between the boards.
Remember that some areas will need more regular sweeping than others: your kitchen, for instance, will probably need to be swept a few times a week because of food crumbs.
For cleaning, the main thing to remember is that you should avoid anything too wet: water can get under the laminate flooring and warp or buckle the wood. Instead of a regular mop and water, use a slightly dampened microfiber mop. Spray your cleaning product of choice onto the mop as you go (never spray directly onto the floor as it can cause staining). You can either choose a store-bought product made specifically for laminate floors or make a homemade version with three parts water to one part vinegar.
Whatever you do, do not use any products that contain soap, wax, oil, or polish. These can leave a layer of residue on your laminate floor that will make it look dull. This layer of residue can be removed with vinegar or dishwasher soap, however, this is likely to involve some hard work and elbow grease.
If you have a special occasion coming up, or simply want to bring out some extra shine from your laminate floors, you can gently buff them using a clean microfiber towel. Unlike a hardwood floor, you should absolutely not wax your laminate floor after you buff it, as it will not stick to the surface and may damage the finish.
You can try your hardest to keep your floors clean with regular maintenance, but spills do happen. When they do, the essential thing is to clean them up as soon as possible: remember that you don't want any liquid on your floor. Absorb the worst of the spill with a dry towel and then wipe it down with a damp cloth. Wipe away any leftover water residue, and you're done.
Laminate flooring is very stain-resistant, so you don't have to worry about liquid spills. However, you may still encounter some more challenging accidents.
If you come across fresh chewing gum on your laminate flooring, you should first harden it with some ice. Cover the gum with a bag of ice for at least 10 minutes (making sure that the outside of the bag is dry and that there are no leaks) and then carefully peel it off with your hand or a butter knife; it should come off without damaging the floor. Remember to clean any residue with some of your usual cleaning product.
Wait until the wax hardens fully and then scrape it off with something non-abrasive, such as a plastic spoon or a rubber scraper. Again, clean the area after scraping, even if you can't see any visible wax residue.
If you spill wet nail polish, you should be able to wipe it up like a regular spill. However, if you find an old stain that has dried, you'll have to soften it. Don't reach for the acetone or nail polish remover right away, as it could damage your floor. Try milder options like rubbing alcohol and mineral spirits (dabbing with a cloth, not pouring) before moving on to acetone or nail polish remover. Take care to not get any directly onto the floor - use a cotton swab to be more precise.
As with the nail polish, paint should be cleaned as soon as possible while it is still wet. However, it is quite common to not notice paint stains until well after your home improvement is done. If this is the case, you can clean dry paint off with a mixture of equal parts water, white vinegar, and rubbing alcohol, with a few drops of dish detergent.
This should get rid of the bulk of the paint, and you can get rid of what is left using acetone - as with the nail polish, just be careful you don't get it directly onto the floor. The acetone should soften the paint, after which you should be able to peel it off. You can then give the area a final clean with your usual product.