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We have laminate "hardwood" floors in my home office. What liquid can I use to mop this surface? My kids sometimes drop food on it and then pick it back up to eat it, so it must be nontoxic. Help! —Dr. Cindy Vicknair
The least toxic, most effective and economical way to clean any hard-finished/laminated floor is to make a DIY cleaner with 1 cup white vinegar and 1 gallon warm water. White vinegar (acetic acid) is a mild disinfectant, and the warm water will dissolve most sticky spills.
If the floor is dirty, add ¼ cup eco-friendly dish soap. (This mixture will have to be rinsed off with clean water, or the floor may be slippery underfoot.) I’ve carefully vetted the ingredients of the dish soap brands below, which are free of alkylphenol ethoxylantes and nonyphenols, ammonia, chlorine, phosphates, synthetic fragrance (which can contain toxic, hormone-disrupting phthalates), the overused antibacterial triclosan, and other harsh petrochemicals.
- Dr. Bronner’s
- Green Depot
- Martha Stewart Clean
- Mrs. Meyers
- Seventh Generation
Many of the products above also come in post-consumer-recycled packaging and are certified by independent third parties as being eco-friendly, fairly traded or truly cruelty-free. Here's my guide with more detailed info on each.
Some, such as Method liquid soaps, are also very highly concentrated, which reduces their water, energy and plastic footprint, too.
Laminate floors are durable thanks to the hard plastic layer that covers the paper printed with that “hardwood” grain. Because the top layer is thin, however, one has to be careful not to scratch it by, say, scrubbing at caked banana with scouring powder or steel wool. Instead, keep a rubber spatula on hand to pry messes off without damaging the finish.
Mindy Pennybacker is Whole Living’s eco expert. She regularly answers readers' green-living questions. She is also editor of GreenerPenny.com and author of Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices.