First, always start cleaning your vinyl floors by sweeping them. After loose debris is off the floor fill a bucket with warm water and add 1 cup of white vinegar. Lastly, clean the floor with a damp but not sopping wet mop.
DIY Vinyl Flooring Cleaner recipe
- 3/4 bucket full of warm water
- 1 cup vinegar
Seriously, it’s that simple. This slightly acidic concoction is perfect for vinyl and won’t cause any damage over the long haul.
Many premade floor cleaners contain ingredients like bleach (pH is too high) or alcohol (too strong of a solvent) and those two chemicals will slowly erode the top layer of vinyl flooring.
So what’s my secret weapon? It’s not the vinegar. It’s my Swiffer WetJet. I fill the fluid reservoir of my WetJet with water and add 1 tablespoon of vinegar for everyday floor cleaning.
Here’s why the cleaning solutions that Swiffer sells aren’t safe for regular use on vinyl.
Those are the basics of keeping your floor in tip top shape over the long haul, but you may have more specific questions. Keep reading and I’ll do my best to answer them.
How To Clean Vinyl Planks
Vinyl plank flooring looks shiny and new right out of the box, but if you don’t clean it regularly, it will get dull and get grimy, especially if it’s in a heavy traffic area. Sweep or vacuum on the bare floor setting to prevent damage from small particles that can scratch the surface of the planks.
You can wet mop planks with a mild cleanser but be careful not to scrub with anything abrasive, it is possible that you could leave scratches that will dull their shine. If you wash your floor with liquid soap make sure you rinse it after with clean plain water. If you skip the plain water rinse soap residue can build up over time.
It’s especially important not to use a sopping wet mop with plank floors because excess water can seep between the joints.
Cleaning sheet vinyl
Like planks, sheet vinyl should be kept free of dust and debris. A great way to minimize tracking in dirt and debris is to place a good quality floor mat in front of doorways to stop people from carrying it in on the bottoms of their shoes.
When you mop you can be less careful about the amount of water in your mop. Unless you have a very large kitchen the are no joints in the floor. Just be a little more careful at the edges where the floor meets the wall.
Vinyl tile with grout lines
Vinyl tiles installed with grout look very much like stone, but thankfully they’re easier to maintain than real tile. Sweep or vacuum the tiles regularly, and mop when you feel the floor can use a refresh. The grout lines are highly water resistant but not water proof, so wet mopping is fine but don’t let water soak into the surface for too long.
You’ll want to clean the grout between the tiles from time to time too. It’s tedious, but worth the effort because it will keep your floor looking amazing. Use warm water and a soft-bristled toothbrush to get into all the nooks and crannies.
If you install the tiles without grout treat them like planks and wring your mop out as much as you can before wiping the floor with it.
3 best cleaning products for vinyl flooring
Believe it or not, several everyday cleaning products you probably have in your home already are perfect for vinyl floors. Vinegar is one of the best products to use. Mixed with warm water, the resulting solution cuts through grime without dulling shine.
If you’d rather buy a premade cleanser the people at Armstrong probably know floors better than anyone else and they sell this product called Once ‘n Done that I can confidently recommend.
Liquid dish detergent is a gentle cleanser that cuts through grease and grime, but you need to make sure you rinse the floor after using it. It leaves a thin layer of soap scum and over time and it will rob your floors of their shine. Soap scum can be removed but it a tough job. Save the liquid soap for cleaning up oil spills and grease stains, just be sure to rinse the spot with fresh water when you’re done.
If you have food stains from spilled tomato sauce, juice, or wine, try a blend of baking soda and water mixed into a paste. Use a soft-bristle toothbrush to work the paste into the stain and then clean it up with warm water.
DIY Recipes With Baby Oil
I see making a DIY vinyl floor cleaner with baby oil recommended over and over again on the internet. Even Bob Vila recommends it.
I’d skip this step though. For starters baby oil is not water soluble. You’re just going to end up with a few drops of baby oil spread out in a small area on your floor because it’s not going to disperse through the solution.
The second problem is that wherever it does end up it’s going to make the floor slippery as well as cause whatever comes into contact with it stick to the floor. If you have been using baby oil I wouldn’t get too upset, it does evaporate.
How to maintain vinyl flooring
Keeping your floor looking new takes some work, but maintaining your floor is definitely better than replacing it. Sweep regularly, wipe up spills immediately, and clean the floor as soon as it starts to look dirty using products that are safe for vinyl.
Avoid scratches and scuffs by using furniture pads and use caution when moving furniture around on it.
A soft mop is your floor’s best friend. Be careful not to buy a mop with a scrubber attached–it can scratch the surface top surface.
Steam mops are also a bad idea because they can cause the adhesive holding vinyl sheet and tile in place to soften. Even with plank floors, steam can damage the substrate below the walking surface if it’s made of wood.
Stains can be a problem for vinyl floors if spills are left to dry. The best cure is prevention, so mop up spills immediately. You can also use a baking soda/water paste to help remove acidic stains from foods like tomatoes and wine.
Jojoba oil or WD-40 can be used to eradicate scuff mark – just apply some to a soft towel and rub the scuff marks vigorously until they disappear. Follow up with a quick cleaning using liquid soap and water to remove the oil and follow that up with just water to remove as much of the soap as possible.
Some stains can be removed using a soft-bristled brush and household solvents. Use solvents like rubbing alcohol, mineral spirits, and acetone sparingly–prolonged and extensive use can dull the shine on your floor’s surface. These solvents can blast away stains from makeup, markers and crayons, and nail polish, respectively, so it’s worth keeping them on hand, just in case.
Most of the vinyl flooring sold today is the ‘no wax’ variety. You don’t have to wax these to maintain the shine, just wash as recommended. Older floors may require wax applications to help them maintain their luster. Always make sure you buy a wax that’s made for your specific type of floor and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, except for one thing.
Most of these waxes will say you don’t have to rinse the floor after your regular cleaning. Ignore this–even mild soap can build up on wax and cause the gorgeous finish to become dull. Be careful when washing these older floors. If you scrub too hard and the wax comes off you’ll have to reapply it again.
How to polish and restore shine to vinyl flooring
Vinyl can dull over time, but you can take steps to bring back the shine. If you have been using liquid soap to clean your floors stop now. The soap is probably what has caused your floor to lose it’s luster by leaving a thin deposit behind every time you used it.
How To Remove Soap Film
Start by thoroughly cleaning the floor with a vinegar and water solution. You can also use commercial strength vinyl cleaners, but make sure they aren’t the kind that add a layer of wax.
Next mix up a paste using equal parts vinegar and baking soda. Use it to gently scrub the floor and never use soap on your floor again. If that doesn’t strip it you can substitute the vinegar for ammonia.
How To Polish It
The same mix of vinegar and baking soda that’s great for soap film makes a great all purpose polish for vinyl too. Just don’t scrub too hard with it and let the slightly gritty baking soda do the work. Try it in a small area first and see if it restores the shine you’re looking for.
Steam cleaning may seem like a good idea. After all, it’s fully waterproof, so steam can’t hurt the floor itself. However, it can penetrate the spaces between tiles and planks, allowing moisture to get trapped between and underneath them.
It can also soften the adhesives used to glue tile and sheet vinyl to the subfloor. In extreme cases steam can even cause individual planks to warp and bend. Skip the steam and just use a regular soft mop.
Using Ammonia Or Vinegar On Vinyl
Vinegar works well because it’s just acidic enough to help loosen the dirt on your floor without damaging it. Ammonia, however, is a strong base and should not be used to regularly clean your floors.
With regular use ammonia can cause the top layer to deteriorate and cause cracks in the surface. Bleach is also a bad choice for the same reason.
How To Clean Vinyl Floors With A Swiffer Sweeper
Swiffers are a great alternative to classic string mops but there are a couple caveats.
Some Swiffer sweepers have a scrubber attachment which you should never use. The nylon bristles are too stiff and can cause scratching, even with just a little pressure.
Also, be careful with the cleaning solution that comes with the Swiffer. Most of them contain alcohol and if vinyl comes in constant contact with alcohol it will slowly deteriorate the surface of your flooring.
It’s always best to start with the gentlest cleaners and work your way towards stronger ones. After sweeping or vacuuming, use a soft mop to clean the floor with a solution of one cup distilled white vinegar and one gallon of warm water.
If that’s not enough try polishing it with the a baking soda and vinegar paste. If that’s still not enough you can try using ammonia or one of the commercial strength cleaners below.
Commercial Strength Cleaners For Vinyl
There are some common name brand cleaners available that are designed for use on vinyl floors. Pledge makes a cleanser that’s safe to use and classic Pine-Sol is also a fine choice. I recommend Armstrong’s Once ‘n Done and their Shinekeeper Polish, but none of those are commercial strength.
If I needed a true commercial strength vinyl cleanser, for the record I never have needed one, I would buy Zep (available at Home Depot) or Lestoil (sold at WalMart), but my first recommendation would definitely be Zep.
With a little care and minimal effort, you can keep your vinyl floors looking great for decades. Always make sure you read the manufacturer’s guidelines and follow them to the letter for the best and safest results.
Learn More About Vinyl Flooring
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