Despite the popularity of flooring materials like engineered hardwood and various types of tile, many homeowners still prefer vinyl flooring. While the choice is often one that’s driven by budget, technology and design advances make the options very appealing for reasons of aesthetics as well as durability.
These floors are very easy to care for but they’re not indestructible, so knowing how to clean vinyl floors is key in preserving their good looks.
How To Clean Vinyl Floors
Fortunately, the right way to clean vinyl floors doesn’t require special equipment or anything fancy, which can be part of their appeal. Depending on the state of the floor and what you are specifically trying to clean up, you might need a few different things, so here’s a list of the potential supplies you’ll want to have handy:
- Sponge mop
- Floor duster of your choice
- Cider or white vinegar
- Dish soap
- Baking soda
- Soft bristle brush
One of the best things you can do when considering how to clean a vinyl floor is to sweep or dust it daily. How you dust the floor is entirely up to you. The dust and dirt that collect on the surface are like sandpaper and can dull the finish and possibly scratch it. Use a vacuum cleaner (no beater bars, please!), a microfiber cloth or pad or an old-fashioned dust mop or soft broom. Be sure to pay attention to corners, the areas under furniture and along baseboards because dust and debris tend to collect in those spots.
Regularly cleaning a vinyl floor is one of the simplest things: Mopping with water and a sponge mop. That’s really all it takes if the floor is kept in good shape. Before mopping the floor, always dust the floor first using your favorite method. The aim is to get all the dust and crud off the surface of the floor before you start mopping. The most important thing about how to clean a vinyl floor this way is to do so frequently and wipe up any spills right away when they happen.
A Deeper Clean
Plain water can likely do the job on a regular basis but there will be times when the floor gets a little messier or greasier and you’ll want a little extra cleaning power to tackle the mess. In these cases. All you need is vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is one of the best things to use because it’s an acidic substance and will cut through grime with ease: Just mix one cup of vinegar with a gallon of hot water. If you want to disinfect at the same time, just substitute white vinegar instead. Mop the floor and make sure that you rinse the mop frequently with hot water. Vinegar also leaves the floor squeaky clean and without any type of build-up on the surface.
If the floor is dirtier than usual – pets have tracked in dirt, you had a party, etc. – you can add a little bit of dish soap. Don’t add too much because a lot of suds will make it harder to rinse off. Also, if you’re washing the kitchen floor and there’s some grease build-up, choose a brand that cuts grease. After washing, be sure to go over the floor a second time with just vinegar and water to make certain there’s no soap film on the floor. Finally, if you want to bring out the shine of your vinyl floor, add some baby oil – just a couple of drops – to the vinegar and water mixture.
Many commercial products that are specially formulated for cleaning vinyl floors are available, and you can always use one of those if you wish. Before using it, make sure that it’s safe to use on your particular vinyl floor. But, as explained above, you don’t necessarily need one.
Scuffs can come from shoes but also from furniture and other things that drag across the floor. If they don’t come up when you’re washing the floor, they’ll need a little extra help. Just spray a little bit of WD40 and rub the scuff until its gone. Make sure you wash the area well with vinegar and water to make sure none of the WD40 remains on the floor. Some people swear by the magic erase for eliminating scuffs. Just be sure it’s safe to use on your particular floor by testing it in an inconspicuous spot. Then, rub lightly to avoid damaging the floor or dulling the finish.
Food stains are another thing that might not come up entirely when mopping the floor. If faced with a stain from tomato-based foods, juice or red wine, you can always turn to baking soda. Mix up a paste of baking soda and water and use it to rub the stain with a cloth or soft brush. Be careful to rub gently until the stain is gone. Rinse thoroughly.
There are also other types of stains that need extra steps for removal:
- Lipstick or hair dye – For these use rubbing alcohol to get rid of the stain.
- Paints, crayons and markers – Mineral spirit are the best for removing these
- Nail polish – To remove nail polish, use a commercial remove that contains acetone.
Focus on Prevention
As with any type of flooring, you want to avoid dirt and damage before it becomes an issue. Besides frequent dusting, there are other preventive measures that will keep your vinyl floors looking great:
- Use area rugs – Putting a rug in front of any doorways not only helps keep water off the floor will help minimize how much dirt and dust make their way onto your floors. Using a floor mat by the kitchen sink or prep area can help too.
- Get felt pads or coasters – We’re not talking about the type of coasters you use on your wood table, but the kind that goes under the feet of furniture to protect the floor from scrapes, scuffs and permanent dents in the flooring.
- Cover the floor – If you’re moving heavy things across the floor like furniture, appliances or other heavy loads, lay down a sheet of plywood if possible. Even a sheet or two of heavy-duty corrugated cardboard can help if that’s all you have.
- Be judicious with the water – The right way to clean a vinyl floor means using a damp mop, not one that is soaking wet. While newer vinyl flooring can stand up to more water, older types sometimes have a backing that can curl or separate at the seams if it is saturated. In either case, keep water on the floor at a minimum.
Don’t Do This….
- Don’t use the beater bar – We said it once but we’ll say it again. Turn off the beater bar on the vacuum cleaner if you’re using it to dust a vinyl floor. The banging of the brush and bar on the surface of the floor could damage it. If you can’t turn it off, use another method to dust the floor.
- Skip abrasive cleaners and tools — Scrubbing with abrasives will dull the finish of a vinyl floor, so don’t use them. This goes for steel wool and heavy-duty scrub pads and sponges too.
- Don’t “mop and shine” – Products that are sold as “mop and shine” all in one go will leave a film on the floor that will dull and possibly yellow over time. In fact, they can cause more dirt to build up on your floor.
- Say no to paste wax– Vinyl floors are called “no-wax” for a reason: They have a polyurethane coating to which wax won’t stick. You don’t want to use wax because it will build up on the surface and dull the finish. If you want to restore shine to a vinyl floor, look for a commercial product made specifically for no-wax floors. If you’re not sure, consult your local flooring store.
- Never use ammonia on vinyl floors – Ammonia and cleaners that contain it can damage the floor by causing the material to deteriorate and develop cracks.
- Swap out casters – You might think that rolling casters are a good thing because they make it easy to move bulky furniture. For vinyl floors, however, that can cause dents over time and create scratches as you roll them. You’re better off having fixed legs with protector pads or coaster underneath.
The correct way for how to clean a vinyl floor is pretty straightforward with a few dos and don’ts. Taking the best care of your vinyl floor also depends on prevention and easy maintenance. It might be one of the most budget-friendly options for home flooring, but it can easily give you many years of use and great looks once you know how to clean a vinyl floor.