If your home has laminate flooring, you may notice it begin to dull over time. The surface might not be as smooth or lustrous as it used to be, and it can start to take on a generally dirty look. If you’re experiencing this, you’re probably wondering if you can polish laminate flooring.
Laminate flooring cannot be polished. However, you can achieve the same result by performing a thorough cleaning with the right formula to remove the buildup that prevents your floor from shining as it should. Afterward, you can implement regular maintenance to avoid future dulling.
As you continue in this article, we’ll cover the details you need to know about alternatives to polishing your laminate floor, as well as care tips to keep it looking great.
What is laminate flooring made of?
Let’s take a look at what your laminate flooring consists of and how it’s made. Knowing this is helpful in the understanding of why you shouldn’t attempt to polish your laminate flooring.
While some people call laminate floors “laminate wood flooring,” it only includes bits of wood in its construction, as explained below. There is no real wood on its surface, so it cannot be polished or waxed like natural hardwoods.
Laminate floors have a few layers. We’ll explain starting at the top and work our way down:
|Top layer 1 – Protective wear layer||This is the part of your laminate that you see and feel. The wear layer is a clear top sheet that protects the lower layers from all the elements, UV rays, scratches, and moisture. It is tough against dog nails, chair bottoms, high heels, and more. This transparent layer acts to seal everything up with a clear, durable protective sheet.|
|Top layer 2 – Image layer||Your laminates look so much like real wood because just below the transparent top layer is a highly detailed photographic quality image of natural wood. You see it easily since it sits right under that clear top wear layer.|
|Base layer or core||This composite layer consists of pressed chipped wood particles, or HDF (high-density fiberboard). Wood chips get mixed with a wax and resin binder and heat pressurized to form panels. This layer is what gives your laminate flooring stability. It’s typically about a half-inch thick. It’s important to understand that this is the only place there is real wood in your laminate floors.|
|Backing layer or balancing sheet||This bottom piece seals up your floor planks with a smooth backing. It helps keep the boards straight and ensures dimensional stability as well as protection from moisture. Some laminates have foam padding as well, while others will require separate padding or underlayment.|
All in all, laminate flooring does a fantastic job of imitating the look of real wood in a very durable and budget-friendly way.
Now that you understand the many layers in laminate flooring, you can see that it doesn’t make sense to polish it.
The top layer of laminate flooring is simply a transparent protective layer applied in many coats to protect the layers below. An attempt to polish it would only worsen the problem by likely removing some of this layer. Wax should never be applied to laminate either, as it can further dull the surface.
Instead of polishing laminate floors, you should perform a thorough cleaning with the right formula or product.
Any haze or dullness you see on your laminate floors is likely the result of using the wrong type of cleaning product in the past. Cleaners with soap, oil-based ingredients, or chemicals can cause a buildup of gunk over time. They actually cause your floors to lose luster instead of cleaning them and can even leave a sticky residue that may attract dirt and make it stick to the surface.
A deep cleaning will give your laminate floors shiny, bright, revitalized appearance that you’re seeking.
Here’s how to deep clean your floors:
- Remove debris. Begin by removing loose dust and debris with a hard surface vacuum or soft microfiber mop. Dust and dirt can be a common culprit of dulling laminate floors because once it’s there, foot traffic only pushes it further into your floors. With enough built up, it can cause scratches.
- Apply a laminate cleaner. You must select something especially formulated for laminates to avoid the pitfalls mentioned above. Try something like Bona Laminate Floor Cleaner Spray. Alternatively, get crafty and make your own. In an empty spray bottle, combine equal parts of water, rubbing alcohol, and white vinegar. Spray the cleaner onto your floors in a thin and even layer, remembering that a little goes a long way.
- Wipe it down. Going in small sections, work the cleaner into the floor and wipe it clean using a flat-head microfiber mop. Avoid sponges or string mops, which can leave streaks. Your laminate cannot withstand large amounts of moisture. Never pour on large amounts, or you could risk it penetrating the layers and getting between boards, therefore warping your floor.
- Let air dry. Give your laminate a good 20 minutes to thoroughly air dry without footprints.
- Optional: Buff your floors. For a little added shine, try buffing freshly-cleaned, dry laminate floors with a soft, dry lint-free microfiber cloth. Lean until the light catches the floor and look for any spots that are still dull. With a little rubbing in a circular motion, they’ll really gleam!
As we mentioned earlier, there are some things you can do to keep your laminate floor in tip-top shiny shape and prevent dulling.
Doing a few things regularly will prevent damage and dulling of your laminates. When you get into these habits a couple of times a week, you’ll prevent things from building up to the point where you need to do a deep clean.
- Sweeping: Regular sweeping or dry mopping will keep dust, debris, and grime at bay. By doing this frequently during the week, you will stop any buildup from forming a layer that dulls your laminate’s shiny finish. Avoid a tough, wiry broom that could scratch your floors. Opt for something soft to treat your floors gently and protect that top layer.
- Damp mopping: Get into the habit of damp mopping your laminates. They should look damp when you’re mopping, but not wet. Never use wet cleaning methods like a classic mop and bucket, as your laminates cannot withstand that much moisture.
If you have a spill of something dry, make sure you sweep it up promptly before it has a chance to get stepped on and ground into your laminate’s surface.
If something wet or sticky spills, dry it promptly. Don’t be afraid to give something sticky a bit of elbow grease by rubbing it clean with a damp, soft cloth.
In the end, if you try these steps to revitalize your laminate flooring and they just don’t shine up like you’d like them to, it may be time to consider new floors. While this type of flooring usually lasts a long time, there can come a day when it’s just plain worn out.
Scratches and years of dust, debris, and buildup can accumulate, and there may come a time when they’re past salvage. Since laminate is a type of floating floor, you have the option to uninstall it reasonably easily and select new flooring.
We hope you’ve learned a lot about laminate flooring and how to give it a “freshly polished” look without polishing! With the right tools, supplies, knowledge, and techniques now in your toolbelt, you’re on your way to caring for your floors and enjoying their bright sheen for years to come.