Reclaim your floor from dings, dirt and other damage

Consumer Reports News: July 09, 2012 10:08 AM

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Most flooring comes with some specifics on maintenance dos and don'ts (don't use ammonia-based cleaners on wood, say). But how do you remove chewing gum, wax, and other messes? Here are some tips from our experts.

Gum and wax. On wood, cover the stain with a sealed ice pack to make it brittle enough to break off in pieces. Do the same on plastic laminate, vinyl, or linoleum, but be especially careful when scraping it off (try a plastic scraper or credit card). And on any flooring, finish the job by wiping the area clean with a damp cloth to get up any residue.

Oil, paint, marker, lipstick, ink, and tar. On vinyl, use a clean cloth dampened with warm water and detergent; on wood and plastic laminates, use some nail-polish remover. Avoid using abrasive cleaners, steel wool, and heavy scouring on any flooring.

Minor scratches and chips. Some hardwood flooring manufacturers offer color blended filler. If a small area of hardwood flooring is worn, try sanding and refinishing the area. But heavily damaged pieces might need to be replaced, especially plastic laminate, which can't be sanded or refinished (the damaged piece will have to be chiseled out and a new one inserted). On all floors, try a color-matched felt marker for small scratches.

Scuff marks. An eraser might remove shallow marks on all floors. But be sure to test it on a hidden area first.

If your flooring can't be saved, check the results of our latest flooring tests. Vinyl isn't only the bestselling flooring at retailers; it also stood up to our battery of everyday abuse better than any other flooring. Our latest tests found a new top pick that blends the toughness of vinyl with the natural look and feel of slate for a fraction of the price. We tested more than 40 products and found 11 other winners, including an oak flooring that fended off the effects of foot traffic almost as well as the best vinyls and laminates.

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