Laminate shelves: learn to clean them without damaging them

by Mark Bennett

April 03, 2024

Laminate shelves: learn to clean them without damaging them

Laminate shelves - known by many as "formica shelves" (after the name of the American company that invented them) - are amongst the most widespread found in kitchens, bathrooms and other high-traffic areas. So, how can we wash laminate shelves without ruining their finish? It's actually very simple if you use the right products.

What are laminate shelves?

What are laminate shelves?

You wouldn't think so by just looking at them, but laminate shelves are made of paper! Or rather, they are made up of layers of paper dipped in thermo-setting resins and applied to support bases made of MDF, i.e. Medium Density Fibreboard; (or various types of chipboard). And nowadays, even floors and furniture is made using laminated wood.

Due to the materials they are made from, laminate finishes can be made to look like solid wood, marble, or even metal sheeting (and more)!


What is needed to clean laminate surfaces?

What is needed to clean laminate surfaces?


Amongst its many advantages (ie. being cheap, durabile, robust, to name but a few) there is also the ease of maintenance of laminated furnishings. Unlike traditional wood or stone (such as marble and granite, which require special care and cleaning tools), you can be a little more "relaxed" when it comes to cleaning laminate.

In fact, you just need to avoid using acidic or abrasive products to protect the shine of the laminate itself.

Acid-free and non-abrasive detergent products only should be used. Chose from one of the following:

  • Buy a multi-purpose antibacterial detergent, suitable for laminate;
  • Make your own detergent with a teaspoon of organic dishwashing liquid (or Marseille soap) dissolved in a liter of warm water;
  • Alternatively, use white vinegar dissolved in water (one part vinegar, 3 parts water);
  • Another alternative: a solution of 2 parts water and 1 part alcohol.

You will also need:

  • Soft microfibre cloths;
  • (optional): a polish for laminate surfaces. 

How to clean laminate shelves and surfaces

How to clean laminate shelves and surfaces


The cleaning process is very simple and fast:

  • Dampen a microfiber cloth in your detergent (see above) and wipe it over the laminate surface/shelf.
  • If you use an antibacterial spray instead, you can spray this directly on the laminate surface and wipe it off with a cloth that has just dampened in warm water.
  • Rinse off with another damp, clean cloth.
  • To avoid leaving any water marks/stains, use the solution of water and vinegar or water and alcohol alternatively: spray this on then, wipe off to shine the surface.
  • Make sure wipe up any water residue as the laminate can easily be stained by limescale.

Polish the laminate

Continuous use and repeated cleaning - no matter how delicate - can cause laminate to lose its shine over time. When this happens, buy a proper laminate polish: apply this polish with the help of a soft, clean, dry cloth, rubbing in systematically to distribute a uniform film. Allow to dry and finish by polishing off with a dry, clean cloth.

With the proper care, any laminate surface will stay pristine for ages!