What's the Best Way to Clean Formica?

By: Emilie Sennebogen  | 

Kitchen picture
Your kitchen can look high-end without the price tag.
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Formica is a popular brand of laminate countertops that comes in a large variety of patterns and styles. These countertops are considerably less expensive than granite or tile, but are manufactured to mimic these pricier materials. So, what exactly is a laminate countertop? It's a thin sheet of laminated plastic that adheres to a base, usually made of plywood or particle board. Formica is known to be pretty heavy-duty, and unlike tile, it's scratch-resistant under normal conditions. But to keep your Formica in good shape, countertops need to be cleaned and cared for with some simple guidelines.

What to Use for Your Formica

All you really need to clean Formica is a soft cloth or sponge and a small dollop of mild dish soap. Window cleaner or just plain white vinegar also do a good job. Simply run your cloth under water and ring it out so it's damp but not soaking wet, and give the countertops a good once-over at least once a day, or after heavy use. Formica is typically stain-resistant, but it's still best to clean up spills and messes immediately. Be sure to have another soft cloth on hand to dry off the countertop after cleaning. This will keep water from leaking into the seams in the countertop, which are usually around the side trim. For tougher, caked-on food or crud, use a paste of baking soda and white vinegar for best results.

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What Not to Use When Cleaning Formica

Formica, like all other laminates, doesn't play well with abrasive cleaners. So any commercial products with a grit are a big no-no for your laminate countertops. Also, cleansers with an acid content or any other heavy solvents aren't good choices for your Formica -- they'll eventually damage the plastic coating. You should also avoid flooding the counters with a lot of water. The water can seep into the plastic coating, causing it to detach from the base, not to mention it will eventually warp the wood base. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so the key to keeping your Formica in great shape is to remember that it's not a good candidate for heat and flames. Be sure to use a trivet and avoid putting down hot pans from the stove or oven directly on the surface; they'll leave a scorch mark. And keep a cutting board handy, because although Formica is known to be scratch-resistant, a knife will likely leave a permanent cut in the surface.

Originally Published: Nov 17, 2010

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Clean Formica FAQ

What is the best way to clean Formica countertops?
All you need is soft cloth or sponge, warm water, and a little bit of dish soap. Alternatively, use window cleaner (like Windex) or plain white vinegar with water. Be sure to use a dry cloth to dry your countertops, especially along the seams.
How do you get stains out of Formica countertops?
It's best to wipe up food soon after dirtying up the countertops, as it may not be possible to get bad stains out. Stay away from abrasive cleaners. Instead, make a paste either of water and your choice of powdered cleanser or baking soda and white vinegar. Leave the paste on the stain until it's dried completely (up to 24 hours) and then remove it with a warm wet cloth.
How do you repair Formica countertops?
A small chip or scratch can be filled with laminate repair paste from a hardware store. Contact cement is great for reapplying laminate that's peeling. Countertop polish can cover really small scratches, but will likely need to be reapplied every few months.
How do you refurbish Formica countertops?
One of the best ways to refurbish Formica is to paint it. All you need is a few days, a DIY spirit, a bit of soap and ammonia or denatured alcohol, sandpaper, wood glue (if your countertop has any deep scratches), primer, an oil-based paint of your choice, and a polyurethane topcoat. All of these will cost you significantly less than ripping out the countertops and can provide a facelift to a tired kitchen.
Is there a difference between laminate and Formica?
Formica is actually a popular brand of laminate that's been around since the late 1930s. It's known to mimic pricier granites, tiles, and other higher-end countertops.

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Related Articles

  • "Cleaning Formica Grand And Other Laminate-Type Countertops." Naturalhandyman.com, 2010. http://www.naturalhandyman.com/iip/infcountertop/infcleaningformica.html
  • "Countertop Options." Bobvila.com, 2010. http://www.bobvila.com/HowTo_Library/Countertop_Options-Countertops-A1579.html
  • Company Website: formica.com, 2010. http://www.formica.com/
  • "Genericized Trademark." Nowsell.com, 2010. http://www.nowsell.com/marketing-guide/genericized-trademark.html