Homeowners prefer laminate flooring for its aesthetics and excellent protection against stains and spills compared to the more expensive traditional hardwood floors.
Regular cleaning is good maintenance, but why does your laminate floor still look cloudy after repeated cleans?
How do you fix dull laminate floors, and is the dullness preventable?
Is Laminate Flooring Real Wood?
The use of wood in homes is widespread because its natural look blends effortlessly with various interior design schemes, furniture, and color palettes.
Wood and wood lookalike floorings have evolved to include various hardwood, engineered, and laminate alternatives to fit different budgets.
Laminate flooring is not real wood planks, but consists of fiberboard layers pressed into composite boards; an imprint of wood image completes the upper surface.
Hardwood flooring may be the more authentic choice, but laminate flooring is popular for its affordable initial price tag and ease of cleaning.
Laminate floors are cheaper, easier, and quicker to replace.
What Gives Laminate Floors the Shine?
Fiberboard materials are relatively porous and dull-looking.
After installation, polyurethane coating provides the laminate floor’s surface with the shine and protective layer that adds durability and moisture protection.
When the protective layer wears, the floor loses its shine.
The top layer of your laminate floor could be polyurethane or aluminum oxide (both can turn cloudy) – what is yours?
Polyurethane Protective Layer
Polyurethane is the more common, old-school application for laminate floors.
The polyurethane base can be water or oil – available in brush or spray format.
Water-based polyurethane has a clear finish and typically does not yellow over time if well-engineered – it ensures the natural wood look remains consistent for longer. The oil-base type gives a warm and more radiant sheen than the water base but will yellow.
Polyurethane coating for floors provides greater flexibility but is softer and has less wear resistance than the aluminum oxide option.
Aluminium Oxide Protective Layer
Aluminum oxide is available in fine powder and an additive to water-based urethane finishes.
It imparts increased abrasion-resistant properties that oil-based polyurethane lacks.
The aluminum oxide finish forms a crystal clear, impenetrable seal that waterproofs the laminate floor and provides a level of UV protection to preserve the floor’s color and sheen.
Plus, it is harder than the polyurethane alternative.
The hardness gives the floor enhanced durability and added resilience against scratches.
What Causes Laminate Floor’s Dull Appearance?
The laminate floor’s shiny appearance can dull with time due to general wear and tear and improper use, cleaning, and maintenance.
One or a combination of the causes below applies, depending on your current floor care routine.
1. Wrong Cleaners and Residual Cleaner Buildup
Typical over-the-counter floor cleaners may be safe for many applications, but they leave a residue that builds up over time.
This layer of residue covers the laminate floor’s high-gloss coating and clouds its appearance.
Laminate floors may be glossy or satin finish (degree of light reflection between high-gloss and matte).
Still, excessive use or a high concentration of regular floor cleaners can cause residue accumulation and a waxy film that dulls the floor surface.
Not all cleaners work on laminate floorings, so only choose cleaners formulated for laminate floors.
Do not use:
- Lemon cleaners
- Pine cleaners
- Ammonia-based cleaners
- Oil-based soap
A simple DIY solution (see below) can work for effective cleaning without resorting to harmful chemicals.
2. Waxing or Polishing
Laminate floor installations include a protective sealant for a shiny surface.
The layer of wax or polish masks the laminate floor’s original reflective surface and dulls its appearance.
Laminate floors are not actual wood.
3. Cleaning Mops with Fabric Softener
It is crucial to use and maintain a clean mop or microfiber pad.
You may treat your laminate floor delicately, but cleaning the mop with fabric softener can introduce undesirable active ingredients that cloud the floor surface.
Your mop needs to be clean; it does not require softening.
4. Inappropriate Cleaning Tools
The vacuum cleaner is a common solution to remove dust and dry solid particles, and it works for many types of hard flooring and soft surfaces.
Old vacuum cleaners may have a brush roll or beater bar not seen in newer models.
The vacuum’s brush roll rotates at a high frequency, suitable for removing dirt and debris embedded in carpet flooring, but it scratches and breaks the protective coating on laminate floorings.
The repeated brushing wears off the protective coating, and the laminate flooring loses its luster.
5. Excessively Wet Mop and Standing Water
A slightly damp mop helps clean dirt off the floor, but an overly wet mop leaves patches of standing water.
When the water dries, splotches form on the laminate floor’s surface. Repeated water stains that build up can make the surface hazy.
The polyurethane coating is waterproof and gives the floor the shine, but standing water typically indicates that the mop is too wet.
6. Infrequent Cleaning and Dust Buildup
Foot traffic tracks dust on the floor, and in a relatively dusty home, dirt and dust particles can form a hazy layer that becomes increasingly difficult to remove.
The layer of grime makes the surface less reflective, and the floor requires a more vigorous clean to regain its shine.
High floor cleaner concentration may remove the grime but leave the cleaner’s residue in its place.
Increase your floor cleaning frequency with the proper method (see below) – light and frequent remain the best approach.
7. Sun Damage
Is your laminate floor exposed to direct sunlight?
The aluminum oxide top coating provides the laminate floor with a degree of UV protection, but extended exposure to the sun can still wear it out.
If you have large windows that expose your laminate floor to intense sunshine up to several hours a day, dulling and discoloration can result. Flooring near west-facing windows can fade quicker than in other areas.
The UV damage to the floor’s appearance is more apparent on dark-colored laminate floors than lighter ones.
8. Wear and Tear
General use and foot traffic can wear out the protective coating on your laminate floor, but the effect is typically patches in areas of heavier use.
Tables, chairs, and high heels are hard, pointed objects that can dent or scratch the floor surface.
Inexpensive fixes are available, but repairs on localized areas may not return the floor to its original look.
If your entire laminate floor area dulls, the floor cleaner you use is likely the culprit.
How Do You Fix Dull Laminate Floors?
The right fix depends on why your laminate floor turned cloudy.
Fixing dull laminate floors caused by an incorrect cleaner, wax, or dirt buildup involves these steps:
- Step 1: Vacuum dust and dirt.
- Step 2: Mix a DIY vinegar, alcohol, and water solution (see details below).
- Step 3: Spray the solution and let it sit for approximately 20 seconds.
- Step 4: Wipe with a microfiber mop.
- Repeat(s) of steps 3 & 4 may be necessary.
Once your laminate floor develops a cloudy appearance, it may be challenging to rectify.
Enlist professional help if the condition does not improve.
Proper Care to Prevent Dullness
Wood flooring is an expensive investment, and the varied options can make the proper care for your floor confusing.
Prevention is always better than cure; the correct preventive measure addresses the corresponding cause.
Tips on preventing your laminate floor from clouding include:
- Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions – a simple but the best preventive action. The protective coat and proper care can differ between designs and installations. When in doubt, consult the contractor who installed your floor.
- Skip floor cleaners without the made-for-laminate label – harsh and unsuitable chemicals leave streaks and damage the protective cover. Only use specially formulated laminate floor cleaners.
- Skip the fabric softener – your mop and microfiber pad should be clean, but the fabric softener does more harm than good. Plus, fabric softeners coat the fibers, which makes cleaning less effective.
- Don’t wax or polish – laminate floors require no waxing or polishing. If the manufacturer’s instruction permits, quarterly buffing with a spray buff compound and microfiber mop can help restore the shine.
- Regular sweep or vacuum – the old-fashioned broom works timelessly well. If you vacuum, ensure that it does not have a beater bar or abrasive brush; use a hard floor attachment instead. Alternatively, use a microfiber pad. Schedule regular cleaning, and stay consistent.
- Separate the mops – don’t cross-utilize mops for other types of flooring in the house that use general floor cleaners (see Cause #1 above).
- Damp mop – do not saturate the mop. Re-mop the floor with a dry mop to remove excess moisture. Light weekly cleans are preferable to prevent dust buildup and avoid the need for a more vigorous clean that wears out the protective top coat.
- Mop in the direction of the grain – prevents streaks.
- Don’t let stains and water sit – the liquid can stain and cloud the floor’s appearance. Prolonged stains are harder to clean and will require a more extensive effort that, in turn, hurts the floor’s top coat.
- No outdoor shoes indoors – sand and tiny rocks lodged in the outsole can scratch and damage the floor surface.
- Utilize front door mats – One outdoor and another indoor as an added measure to prevent tracking dirt inside the house.
- Use protective rubber caps for table and chair legs – an inexpensive solution to avoid scratching the floor. Similarly, floor protectors work for other furniture.
- Trim your pet’s claws – they are sharp and easily damage the floor.
- Keep curtains and blinds closed (strategically) – direct sunlight is harsh and can discolor the laminate floor. Alternatively, appropriate window films can filter out UV but allow light to pass through.
- Direct horizontal blind slats upward – sunlight still fills the room but shines towards the ceiling.
- Upgrade west-facing windows – laminated or low-E coated glass is more expensive, but it effectively blocks UV rays without sacrificing natural lighting for your indoor space.
What is the Best Natural Cleaner for Laminate Floors?
Homemade solutions can often offer a simple and cheap but effective way to upkeep your home – your laminate floor is no different.
For a practical DIY laminate floor cleaner in a spray bottle, mix equal parts:
- White vinegar – acidic. Vinegar is handy during the winter months as it breaks down the minerals in salt deposits you track indoors.
- Rubbing alcohol – evaporates quickly.
- Water – dilutes the vinegar and alcohol, so the solution is gentle enough for your floor.
The vinegar smell can be overpowering – add a drop or two of your favorite essential oil to mask it.
Sweep or vacuum beforehand.
Spray the solution on the floor as you mop it with a microfiber pad.
Complete the clean with a dry microfiber pad or dry mop.
Cleaning once a month with this solution is ideal.
Is Vinegar Safe for Laminate Floors?
Vinegar is safe for laminate floors. Vinegar breaks down stubborn dirt buildup and dissolves soap, cleaner scum, and brines that hard water leaves behind.
Its high acidity makes it a valuable cleaner for many applications, but do not use vinegar alone to clean.
Dilute the vinegar with water and rubbing alcohol for a gentler cleaner.
Is a Steam Mop Safe for Laminate Floors?
A little moisture helps you clean effectively, but standing water can stain and seep into laminate floors. Water causes the laminate boards to swell and warp.
A steam mop on the low-heat setting is generally safe to use for laminate floors. Avoid standing the mop in one spot for an extended period.
Sweep or vacuum before you use the steam mop.
Is Laminate Flooring Heat Resistant?
Laminate floors consist of medium- or high-density fiberboards sealed in a protective coat for ease of cleaning, moisture resistance, and durability.
Laminate floors are porous materials with moderate heat-resistant properties. If you want to use a steam mop, go for the low-heat setting – the lowest of the three.
Excessive heat can damage the protective coat.
Is Laminate Flooring UV Resistant?
Modern laminate floors carry a UV-resistant layer. The treatment applies to the surface of every board during manufacture.
This protective layer slows the effects of UV rays on your laminate floor. Still, excessive direct sunlight exposure in areas with heavy use wears out the protection quicker and discolors the floor.
Is Laminate Flooring Stain and Scratch Resistant?
Laminate floors have a protective coating – polyurethane or aluminum oxide – that resists stains and light scratches.
But stain and scratch resistance does not mean that the floor cannot suffer damages.
The best approach to any floor is to wipe and clean liquid stains as soon as practicable before they seep into the floor material.
Similarly, protect the floor against knocks and scratches by sharp objects.
What is the Best Laminate Floor Polish?
The laminate floor’s protective coat gives the surface water- and stain-resistant properties and is naturally more reflective than raw wood.
Hardwood flooring requires periodic waxing and polishing to seal its porous surface; laminate floors don’t.
You can buff your laminate floor if the floor design allows it.
Can You Buff Laminate Flooring?
Check your floor manufacturer’s specifications and instructions before proceeding – not all laminate floors are the same.
If the floor design permits, you can buff your laminate wood floor with a spray buff compound made for laminate floors and a damp microfiber cloth or mop. Buff in sections and leave to dry – refer to the product instructions.
Do not use floor wax or floor polish for tile floors.