Un-gross my floors
April 26, 2021 5:41 PM   Subscribe

My textured laminate flooring never quite feels clean. What am I doing wrong?

A few months ago I moved into an apartment with textured laminate floors. They're a blonde-ish wood color with a faux wood grain. Even after I mop, they don't feel clean. In the light the boards still look kinda dirty. It's like I can't quite get everything out of the "wood" grain.

All my internet searches warned against steam mops (could cause warping, and this is a rental), so I got this mop and a bucket. All my internet searches also recommended mopping laminate with hot water mixed with vinegar and/or dish soap, but the floors still don't feel clean to me afterward. (I've done the single pass version of this and the two pass version, once with a soap solution and once with plain water.) Wet Swiffers kind of make the floor look cleaner than usual, but briefly.

Admittedly, while I like things to *be* clean, I hate cleaning, so I'm also not super consistent about wet cleaning the floors. But it has felt like this since we moved in, even though we don't wear shoes indoors and have no pets (yet). We do sweep and vacuum weekly, but my distaste for mopping is exacerbated by the feeling that it doesn't do anything. If after all that wrangling the floor dries looking exactly the same as before I mopped...what the hell's the point?

Our last apartment had cheaper, uglier, but smoother laminate floors which actually felt clean after we, well, cleaned. So do I need a different kind of mop? Is there a cleaning solution that's safe and effective for use on laminate flooring? Does everything really need to be mopped TWICE? Is this just a thing that happens to laminate flooring? And while we're here, is there a bucket that a petite person with crappy upper body strength can haul to and from the bathtub with minimal discomfort?

(My partner and I do share cleaning duties, but my ideal setup is one I can use without assistance if necessary.)
posted by Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have a similar issue, except with textured vinyl flooring. I've used Swiffers and sponge mops. Also steam mops, which didn't seem to help much so don't waste your money. The best I've found so far is a spin mop which does a pretty good job and has the advantage of being easy to use. But I feel like the deeper part of the texturing *still* isn't clean. Getting down on the floor with a grout cleaner and a grout brush, coupled with a bunch of elbow grease, does the job but I don't recommend it. So I'll be watching this thread with interest...
posted by DrGail at 7:29 PM on April 26

I had a similar issue, except with textured vinyl flooring (beige) in my kitchen. Essentially the texture had captured the dirt of decades of previous renters and - because it was so difficult to remove (I tried all sorts of treatments with absolutely no impact) - I'm guessing that that dirt just continued to accumulate over the years. By complete accident I happened to spill a mixture of water, ammonia and baking soda (which I use to clean my enamel tub) and that left a mark - i.e. caused a minor degree of lightening of the dirt - so I had at it with the water/ ammonia/ baking soda mix plus steel wool and found - with the application of considerable elbow grease - that I was able to make an impression and eventually reveal the original color underneath. All that said, I was doing one 8"x8" square at a time, in blocks of 8, on my hands and knees, leveraging my body weight onto my wrist for maximum effect, and it took me all of a weekend with multiple breaks just to do the kitchen.
I know nothing about laminate floors and have no idea what ammonia could do to them, so I'm not recommending this approach per se, I'm more pointing out that if you - as I did - have years and years of ingrained dirt in the texture of your flooring, then the amount of exertion required to roll back the clock is factors higher than that used during a typical outing with a mop, which is likely why you've not been seeing any results.
On the bright side though, now that I've got the flooring back to an acceptable level of cleanliness, it doesn't take much to maintain (I too am a no-shoes-indoors person and I'm guessing the shoes-indoors people are major contributors to this problem).
posted by my log does not judge at 9:07 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]

It is possible that a previous tenant used an acrylic floor wax, perhaps Mop and Glo, on the floor. Acrylic floor waxes are not recommended for laminate floors and will cause dirt to stick in the acrylic coating and in the texture of the floor. This dirt is embedded in the acrylic wax and cannot be removed with just soapy water. You have to remove the acrylic wax.

Use a floor wax remover to dissolve the old acrylic wax. You can test with a cup of ammonia to a half gallon of water. Ammonia helps dissolve acrylic coatings. Apply the ammonia mixture to a small test area of the floor. Let it sit for a few minutes then sponge away and rinse. If this removes the dirt, it suggests that indeed the problem is old dingy acrylic floor wax. You can get a commercial floor wax remover at the hardware store and do the whole floor.

Once you have removed the old acrylic wax, just clean the floor with a regular mild cleaner and mop. Don't apply new wax.
posted by JackFlash at 9:33 PM on April 26

... is there a bucket that a petite person with crappy upper body strength can haul to and from the bathtub with minimal discomfort?

Non-commercial-grade wheeled mop buckets.
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:40 PM on April 26

If there isn't a wax, I find using a cleaner made for wooden floors (literally, 'wood floor cleaner' and I'd recommend a brand if I were in the US) makes for a much cleaner finish because it's streak-free without rinsing. I vacuum and mop once a week, and our various floors look pretty clean.

I've also found my cleanest floors are when I vacuum well and then clean by hand with a small bucket and a microfibre cloth, just using elbow grease and a damp cloth to ensure I don't miss anything. I only do it periodically for the rooms with fussier floors because it's boring and my arms ache afterwards, but just to mention that scrubbing with soft cloths and a floor soap is worth trying too.
posted by carbide at 12:10 AM on April 27 [1 favorite]

While I think domestic technologu has improved in countless way, I don't think any of those ways has improved hands-and-knees punitive scrubbing with an acrual scrub brush. Since nobody wants to do that in 2021, I'd try a version of the scrub brush on a long handle, possibly a grout brush type of thing (but there are so many options.)

I think once you are able to de-grunge the compacted dirt by scrubbing with hot water and ammonia, you'll be able to just mop like a normal human going forward.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:23 AM on April 27 [1 favorite]

My rental apartment has floors that are some kind of polyurethane over wood, and it's gotten random scratches and dings in it from roommates moving in and out and furniture being shifted and what-not so I think that this may make it similar to your floor. The absolute cleanest I got my floors, this is what I did.

1. I made a solution of hot water and OxyClean, following the instructions on the side. I think it was about two scoops for a gallon or something like that.

2. I started in an area about 5 feet by 5 feet on the floor. I had an old-school string mop, and I dunked that in the water - but DID NOT wring it out. It was absolutely drenched. I slopped that on one corner of the area I was working on and "spread" the puddle around a bit. Then I soaked the mop again, soaked up another puddle, and slopped that out on the next section of my section of floor. I repeated that, moving left to right, until that whole section of floor was covered.

3. Then I dunked the mop back in the bucket, and this time I wrung it out REALLY REALLY well - and starting back in the left side of that section of floor, I used the mop to scrub a bit, and soak the water back up. I worked back around to the right side of that section of floor that way.

4. Then I moved to another 5 by 5 section of floor and repeated that process.

The big things that seemed to help were that "first pass with a soaking-wet sudsy mop so that the cleaning solution soaks stuff up" and the OxyClean; I realized that before, I'd just been dampening the floor and pushing the damp around a bit, which didn't really clean it all that well. With this soaking-wet mop for the first pass, that was hitting the grime with a whole lot of cleaning solution, and then the wrung-out mop actually soaked that back up instead of just spreading it around the floor again. And I can't explain why OxyClean worked as well as it did, but it did (I think I discovered how well it worked when I was soaking some stained laundry and spilled a little of that solution on the floor, and then after I wiped that up I noticed how clean the floor looked).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:00 AM on April 27 [1 favorite]

I'm a big fan of using GoCleanCo's viral method - with the mop you have, fill it with the hottest water you can and add a teaspoon of powdered Tide. Make sure you wring the mop very well so that it is barely wet (I do 10+ pumps). Change the water frequently and mop all areas twice.

Seconding carbide's recommendation to vacuum first.
posted by mcgsa at 7:52 AM on April 27 [1 favorite]

Vinegar isn't very strong. Ammonia is quite strong. I'd get a good detergent (I like Pine-sol, and pine is a mild disinfectant) and add ammonia*, which this article recommends. I do find that coming back in an hour and scrubbing again is effective; the grime has had time to soften a bit. I liked the sponge mops that you could squeeze out the dirty water, but they're harder to find now.

*Ammonia of any sort must never be mixed with bleach of any sort; check labels. Ammonia is being phased out because mixing it with bleach is extremely dangerous, potentially deadly. Ammonia is really great at cleaning grease, can be used to clean the oven, is a useful product, but be careful.
posted by theora55 at 8:05 AM on April 27

Back when I used that type of self-wringing mop, I never used a bucket. I just filled the kitchen sink (if downstairs) or the bathtub (if upstairs).
posted by kitcat at 8:53 AM on April 27

Also, try a Magic Eraser/melamine sponge once in a while - it's tedious, but it works on almost everything.
posted by tristeza at 11:54 AM on April 27

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