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Laminate countertops are made from layers of plastic that are bonded to particleboard or kraft paper to create a solid countertop surface. These countertops are available in a wide variety of colors, textures and patterns, ranging from options that look like marble to ones that mirror the appearance of stainless steel.
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LAMINATE COUNTERTOP PROS & CONS
Some home buyers turn up their noses at laminate kitchen counters but laminate has its advantages. For starters, the counters are easy to maintain and in Consumer Reports' tests of 14 materials, laminate resisted stains, heat, and impact almost as well as materials that cost much more. And they come in a wide variety of colors and designs.
When asked, 71 percent of prospective home buyers said that granite and natural stone countertops are desirable or essential, according to a new study from the National Association of Home Builders.
On the flip side, 40 percent of those asked said they would be unlikely to buy a home with laminate countertops, although that number dropped to 25 percent for first-time buyers.
THE PRICE IS RIGHT
Laminate is inexpensive and usually costs a lot less than most other materials.
Countertops take a lot of wear and tear so you'll want some idea of how they'll age before choosing a material.
In Consumer Reports' countertop tests 14 materials were stained, sliced, scratched, scorched, and nicked. Stains and heat weren't a problem for laminate in our tests, but it was easily scratched by knives and isn't repairable so if you choose it, always use a cutting board.
LAMINATE IS NOT GRANITE
For years some have predicted that granite was on its way out, saying it's been overused and will become as outdated as avocado green appliances.
LAMINATE HAS LOST ITS' EDGE
Cool colors and patterns have been added but until recently that ugly dark line along the laminate countertop edge remained. Formica loses the dark seam by adding a decorative edge. The bullnose is rounded at the top and bottom while the ogee edge has an S-shaped curve. Wilsonart also offers decorative edges for its laminate countertops and integrated sinks are also an option.
LAMINATE MAINTENANCE & CARE
Laminate is an affordable and and durable option for kitchen and bathroom countertops. It’s a made of a mix of plastic, paper and board. It’s often called Formica, a trademarked term that has become a generic word for laminate. Whatever you call it, knowing how to clean laminate countertops is key to keeping it looking lovely.
The best way to keep laminate counters clean is to wipe up spills immediately. The longer it sits, the more likely it is to stain.
For daily cleaning, use a soft cloth to wipe a mild liquid detergent or commercial cleaner on the countertop. Use a soft toothbrush to clean along seams or metal edging. Rinse with clean water and dry with a cloth towel. Don’t use too much water, especially near the seams of the laminate, because it can penetrate and cause the laminate to swell and crack. Don’t use an acidic cleaner like bleach, or a tub and tile cleaner, because it can etch or permanently discolor the laminate. To clean greasy buildup, use a commercial kitchen cleaner or make your own cleaning solution by mixing vinegar and water in a 50/50 solution.
To remove stains from coffee or tea, mix a paste of baking soda and a mild household cleaner and apply to the soiled spot. Let the paste sit for five minutes, then rinse with a soft cloth. You can use a nylon bristle brush but don’t scrub. You might scratch the surface of the laminate. Baking soda is a bit abrasive and can leave fine scratches, so take it easy. Don’t use steel wool, ever. Once a laminate countertop is scratched it becomes more porous and will stain much easier. For incredibly tough stains, leave the baking soda paste on the stain overnight and wipe off in the morning. Another option for removing stains is to rub the spot with a cotton ball moistened with bleach. Rinse and dry.
Another tip on how to clean Formica countertops: Use nail polish remover for stains like ink. Put a little on a cotton ball or soft cloth and rub it on the stain. Be sure the cloth is white, because nail polish remover could remove the dye from the fabric and stain the laminate.
You can buy countertop coatings at home improvement stores that will seal the laminate and help it resist future stains.
Knowing how to clean Formica countertops will keep them looking lovely and help them last longer.