Thanks to the 1980s, we have VCRs and Formica countertops. This popular plastic laminate material started out as electrical insulation before it became a countertop. The same properties that made it good for that also made it perfect for resisting heat from cooking pots and pans. Formica went out of favor for a while, but has made a recent comeback into the design world as a less expensive alternative to granite and other pricey stones, so it never hurts for a refresher course on how to care for it. Here are five tips for removing stains from Formica.
Formica, at its root, is made of paper that's been pressed together many times. Because of this, it can stain if a colored liquid sits on it too long. If you have older Formica countertops that have begun to yellow due to age, your best bet is to replace them. But with other stains, the first attempt to get them out should be plain old soap and water. Formica can scratch easily, so use a liquid soap with some warm water and let it sit on the counter for about 10 minutes before you wipe it up. You may be surprised at how much of the discoloration is on the outer surface.
Because Formica is made from pressed paper, letting a stain cleaner soak in can yield positive results in the stain removal department. Which cleaner you use is up to you and your comfort level with various chemical ingredients. Just pour some of the liquid directly onto the stain and walk away. Let it sit for about an hour or more, and you'll likely find that much of the stain has soaked up into the cleanser. A quick wipe with a warm wet rag will reveal the final result. If you made some headway but there's still some discoloration, repeat the process.
OK, so this one isn't so much of a miracle as a basic chemistry lesson. For stubborn stains on your Formica, blend a pasty mix of water and your choice of powdered cleanser. Depending on the size of your stain, you may not need more than a few tablespoons of water. Once you have your paste, smear it out over the stain, covering it completely. Let it fully dry out and crust over, and then remove it with a warm wet washcloth, being careful to not let the abrasive nature of the dried paste scratch the surface. A quick wash down with some soap and water and you should be stain-free.
If you're not into covering your eating and meal prep surfaces with harsh chemical ingredients, give this all-natural baking soda method a try. All you need is soda water, baking soda, plastic wrap and patience. For this method, make your paste just like you did on the previous page, but use baking soda and soda water, instead. Brush the paste on the stain, and cover it with some plastic wrap. This time, you're going to need to leave it alone for a full 24 hours for best results. Wipe the surface clean with warm water and a washcloth the following day and your stain should be a thing of the past.
Some Formica stains are more stubborn than others. Grass stains, coffee, food dyes and watermarks can be tough, but still manageable. Newsprint and many inks will be a bit tougher. Hair dye is on the list of stains that could be permanent, but with a little help from some nail polish remover, you could achieve the near impossible. After you've tried the other methods listed, including the overnight baking soda paste soak, brush some acetone nail polish remover onto the stain with some cotton balls. Before using it on a colored countertop, test it out in a hidden corner and see if it changes the color. If it does, you might want to just live with the stain. If it seems like it will work, though, try it out, and then wash down the counter with some soap and warm water.
HowStuffWorks looks at some very creative uses for hydrogen peroxide, including as a mouthwash, pit stain remover, laundry additive and plant food.
- "Cleaning Formica Brand And Other Laminate-Type Countertops." Naturalhandyman.com. June 4, 2012. http://www.naturalhandyman.com/iip/infcountertop/infcleaningformica.html
- Hinders, Jennifer. "How to clean old Formica countertops and backsplashes." Helium.com, November 26, 2009. http://www.helium.com/items/1663714-how-to-clean-old-formica-countertops-and-backsplashes
- "How to Remove Hair Dye from Formica/Laminate Countertops." Howtocleanstuff.net. June 4, 2012. http://www.howtocleanstuff.net/how-to-remove-hair-dye-from-formicalaminate-countertops/
- "Our Legacy." Formica.com. June 4, 2012. http://www.formica.com/home/ContentPage.aspx?code=PAG_OURLEGACY_EARLYYEARS
- "What is a Formica Countertop?" Wisegeek.com. June 4, 2012. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-formica-countertop.htm