How to Clean Vinyl Floors (4 Easy Steps)

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Categories Hard Floors
The best way to clean vinyl floors — hands down.

Vinyl is one of the most popular kitchen and bathroom floor types available. But why is this?

For one, it’s versatile and easy to clean. Vinyl is resistant to both water and stains, and comes in a variety of shapes, colors and patterns. Often mistaken for laminate, vinyl is, however, more resistant to damage and scratches.

If you’ve got vinyl floors, you’re in luck! There are many ways to keep your floors looking sharp. You can even use natural ingredients, such as vinegar — no chemicals needed.


What Is Vinyl Flooring?

Vinyl is a resilient type of flooring made from PVC and various other compounds. These components combine to create different designs and colors. They come as floor tiles or sheets and are applied to the subfloor with the help of a special adhesive or mastic.

Originally created as a replacement for rubber floors, vinyl is more durable and unaffected by oxygen exposure or alkaline moisture (1).

Often used in commercial settings, vinyl floors are easy to clean and resistant to wear. It also comes in various price ranges, making it a possible choice for people on a budget.

Advantages of Vinyl Flooring

1. Durable

Vinyl flooring can handle high traffic for a long time, compared to other floors, which is why it’s so popular for commercial use. A well-maintained vinyl floor can last up to 20 years. Some manufacturers will even give a 15-year warranty! (2)

It’s resistant to stains and water, unlike other floors such as laminate that will be damaged when exposed to water. Because vinyl is water-resistant, it’s very easy to clean — you don’t have to hurry to dry it afterward.

2. Low Maintenance

Cleaning vinyl floors is easy since it’s so durable. Still, it’s also low-maintenance and doesn’t require resealing or waxing, as hardwood does, for instance. When your vinyl floor needs a deep clean or redo, you can easily do this with a mechanical buffer and chemical strippers.

3. Affordable

The process of making vinyl flooring is inexpensive and, therefore, buying vinyl isn’t expensive either. Different styles and prices do vary between manufacturers. However, it’s not as highly-priced as hardwood or natural stone.

Installing vinyl floors is easy and won’t cost you a lot. This can save you even more since you won’t need to pay a professional. Because of the durability and aesthetics, vinyl floors can even increase your home’s resale value. It’s a one-time investment that will pay you back if well-maintained.

4. Variety of Styles

One of the main reasons why many homeowners go straight to vinyl is the various style and color options available.

Vinyl tiles and sheets can mimic a range of patterns and other types of flooring such as concrete, wood, stone and terrazzo. Some can be very hard to distinguish from the original without looking very closely at the sheets or tiles.

It’s also easy to style your house the exact way you want, thanks to the different colors available. If you’re put off by the porous surface of marble, but still want the luxurious look in the master-bathroom — vinyl is an excellent option. It’s a great way to express yourself and your style by mixing and matching different colors and patterns.

5. Short Installation Time

Installing new floors can be a major job and you often end up spending a week in a hotel or at a relative’s house.

However, vinyl is super quick to install because it can be applied directly onto other flooring, such as linoleum or old vinyl. You won’t need to spend time demolishing the previous flooring.

In fact, vinyl is popular among DIYers because of the installation — some complete the job in 10 minutes!

6. Soft Floors

Hard floors such as tiles and natural stone can be rough on the body as we stand and walk around. Not to mention how cold they can become during winter. However, because of the PVC construction, vinyl floors are soft to walk and stand on.

Additionally, a very thin layer of felt or foam is placed underneath the vinyl, which gives the floor more flexibility. This extra protective layer also helps to make the floor last longer.

Types of Vinyl Floors

There are multiple varieties of vinyl flooring, such as luxury and basic, but what are the main types?

1. Plank

The main purpose of vinyl planks is to appear like hardwood or wooden floors — but without the cost. The planks can look very natural and because of the soft surface, they can also feel very similar to the real deal. However, vinyl planks are much more durable compared to wooden floors.

It’s also much simpler to clean vinyl planks since you can use nearly all products. Plus, you don’t have to worry about water damage. For basic mopping, you can easily use vinegar and water or dish soap.

2. Tile

Vinyl tiles are cut into squares of various sizes. They often resemble natural stone flooring but are a more affordable version.

Besides, natural stone is highly porous and shouldn’t be cleaned with several products and methods. Vinyl tiles, on the other hand, are easily maintained.

If one tile were to break or become damaged, it’s straightforward to change without needing to replace whole sections of the floor.

You can easily keep vinyl tiles clean by sweeping or vacuuming to remove dust and dirt. Use a mixture of vinegar and water to mop and restore shine.

3. Sheet

This type of vinyl is a single roll that is 6 to 12 feet wide. Because of the sheet-style, there are fewer seams. This makes it excellent for high-moisture areas such as kitchens and bathrooms (3).

Sheet vinyl is easy to maintain and keep clean. Due to the limited number of seams, there aren’t many hiding places for dust. You might only need to sweep it a couple of times a week and mop when it’s needed.

4. Urethane and Enhanced Urethane

Urethane isn’t a type of flooring, it’s a top coating or layer. It’s highly durable and adds strong protection to the vinyl. Regular urethane will keep the floor safe from scratches and scuff marks while keeping a glossy finish.

Enhanced urethane, though, is stronger than the latter. It’s often used in high traffic areas and will protect your vinyl floors from wear and tear.

The glossy finish will require regular cleaning to keep dust and dirt at bay, which can make it look dull. You can easily maintain the gloss by mopping once a week (4).

5. No Wax

No-wax vinyl is also a type of coating rather than floor type. People who opt for this finish choose shininess over durability, so it’s mostly used in areas with less traffic.

The no-wax finish requires more maintenance compared to urethane. You’ll need to sweep and wash the floors regularly, and then, apply polish to keep the shine.

Best Tools for Cleaning Vinyl Floors

Because vinyl is so long-lasting and resistant to water, chemicals, and stains, it’s difficult to use the wrong product or tool. However, this certainly doesn’t mean there aren’t any tools and products that are especially good on vinyl.

Let’s take a look at the things we prefer to clean vinyl floors with.

Light Cleaning

Light cleaning is what you might do daily or weekly, depending on how busy your home is. The following tools are invaluable for light cleaning:

  • Brooms: On vinyl floors, we prefer a soft broom for quick sweeping. Although the surface is resistant to water and stains, tiny scratches can happen if you’re using rough tools.
  • Dust mops: A dust mop is also highly effective at removing fine particles of dust, dirt and hair. It’s also easier to use than a traditional broom since it doesn’t require back and forth sweeping. You simply glide it across the floor.
  • Vacuums: Many homeowners are unsure whether or not it’s safe to vacuum vinyl floors but don’t worry — it’s perfectly safe. However, there are a few things to keep in mind with vacuuming. One key tip is to steer clear of any carpet attachments such as beater bars. These are designed to dig into thick fibers but can cause scratches.

Deep Cleaning

Depending on how busy your home is, you might be doing a deeper clean weekly or monthly. This will usually include sweeping or vacuuming and then finishing off with mopping.

It’s important to keep in mind that although vinyl is water-resistant, it isn’t waterproof. Therefore, mopping should only be done when necessary.

Mopping too often can dull the finish on the vinyl, and it can even weaken the adhesive. Worse still, small amounts of water can penetrate through the seams and edges, if you use an excessive amount.

Keep in Mind

If water comes through to the felt or foam, it can cause mold or mildew (5).

We trust these tools for deep cleaning vinyl floors:

  • Spin mops: When we mop vinyl floors, we prefer to use a spin mop, such as the O-Cedar. Spin mops are excellent since you can quickly wring out the mop to make it damp.
  • Spray mops: Another good option is a spray mop like the Bona Stone or the more high-tech Bissell Spinwave. These are also easy to use as you spray the area right before sweeping. Doing this reduces the amount of standing water left when mopping.
  • Vinyl floor cleaner: You can fill spray mops with a special formula such as the Bona Stone Tile and Laminate Cleaner.
  • Homemade floor cleaner: Enjoy DIYs? Then you can also make your own power-cleaner by mixing water, vinegar and your favorite essential oil to refresh your home. If you’re using a regular mop, pour this solution into the bucket. Use a few drops of dish soap or a vinyl floor cleaner, such as the COREtec, for a deeper clean.

Note, though, that a specialized cleaner is a good option if you want to help preserve the finish. Dish soaps can leave a film or residue on vinyl floors, so it’s essential to rinse it thoroughly after mopping.

Drying the floor with a clean towel after mopping is preferred. This will reduce any hard water stains or streaks left by the mop or cleaner.

Is It Safe to Steam Mop Vinyl Flooring?

It’s not advisable to clean vinyl flooring with a steam mop since it can damage the planks and adhesive. Steam mops use high-temperature steam to kill bacteria and dissolve dirt and grime without chemicals. It’s an eco-friendly way to sanitize your home. However, the hot steam can do substantial damage to vinyl floors.

Irreversible problems such as warping, bending, edge cupping and bubbling underneath the planks can occur. If this happens, the affected sections will need to be replaced. Because of the risks, damage caused by steam cleaners isn’t usually covered by warranties (6).

How to Clean Vinyl Floors

Now that we know what tools and products are safe, it’s time to see how to clean vinyl floors. To give your vinyl floors a deep clean, you don’t need to purchase any expensive products. Items such as dish soap, vinegar, baking soda and jojoba oil are excellent at tackling dirt and grime.

1. Remove Dust and Dirt

Getting rid of dust and dirt is essential if you want clean floors and no scratches. As fine grains of dirt or tiny rocks are dragged inside by shoes, they can cause minor scratches when walked on. So we suggest that you sweep daily in high-traffic areas to keep dirt and dust at bay.

Pay close attention to corners, underneath furniture, and near the baseboards. If you wish, you can easily use a vacuum or dust mop instead of a broom.

Vacuum Settings

Opt for soft settings and attachments while vacuuming. All settings for carpets should be switched off to prevent any damage.

2. Choose a Cleaner

Before you start mopping, figure out which cleaner you’d like to use. We recommend that for daily quick cleaning sessions, you use a mild cleaner such as apple cider vinegar. This cleans effectively without wearing the finish.

You can also choose a commercial product that suits your floors. If you have waxed vinyl floors, you’ll need to use a product suited for waxed surfaces. On the other hand, if your floors are unwaxed, you must use a no-wax cleaner.

Dish soap is also excellent at cutting through dirt and grease. We prefer to use this only once in a while to prevent wear on the finish. You can add a few squirts to the apple cider vinegar solution, or mix it with some clean water.

3. Mop

Remember, we want to use as little water as possible. Although vinyl isn’t porous like stone, it’s not entirely waterproof.

Start at the farthest part of the room and work your way towards the entrance or exit. Keep wringing the mop as you go, and if the water begins to look dirty, consider dumping it and mixing up a new batch.

Textured vinyl is trickier to clean and keep clean. Because of the texture, it can seem as if dust and dirt are hiding comfortably on the floor. These will require a bit more attention when cleaning, so you might need to go over the area a few times (7).

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4. Rinse

Rinsing the floor after mopping is essential. We highly advise that you don’t skip this step even if the product you’re using doesn’t require rinsing. You might notice a sticky film or soap residue clinging to your newly washed floors.

After mopping, fill a bucket with clean water and mop the floor. You can also pour a small amount of water onto the floor and then wipe it off immediately using a cloth. If you want a nice finish, dry the floor using a clean cloth or towel.

How to Remove Ground-In Dirt and Stains

Method #1: Removing Scuff Marks

Scuff marks are unfortunately likely to happen on vinyl floors. Fortunately, however, they’re easy to remove. All you need is WD-40 or jojoba oil and a soft cloth.

Apply some oil or WD-40 to the soft cloth and rub it into the marks. Scuff marks that are right on the surface will be off in no time. Older or deeper marks, though, will need more scrubbing. You may not be able to remove it entirely, so you might need to replace the tile or plank.

Method #2: Removing Stains

The best way to remove stains such as wine, food or juice is by using baking soda. This universal product might just be in your pantry already. Baking soda is mildly abrasive and is, therefore, very effective at cutting through tough grease and stains.

For this method, mix equal parts of water and baking soda and combine until it forms a paste. Before applying, wipe away any excess liquid. Apply the paste and rub with a soft cloth — the stain should come off right away.

Method #3: Removing Makeup, Marker and Ink

If you’ve unfortunately spilled makeup or ink on your vinyl floor, you can quickly remove it using rubbing alcohol. The alcohol lifts the pigment from the stain and you can quickly wipe it off without damage. Try some acetone-free nail polish remover to remove spilled polish.

Avoid

Don’t use acetone nail polish remover on vinyl floors. This will cause damage to the surface.

Method #4: Scrubbing

For any particularly stubborn stain or mark, you can scrub back and forth with a soft nylon brush. Apply a stain remover, such as baking soda paste, and scrub it into the stain. Avoid using a stiff brush or steel wool since these will scratch the soft surface.

Do’s and Don’ts of Maintaining Vinyl Floors

Vinyl floors may be durable and resistant to water and stains. However, there are still things you should avoid to preserve the surface. Here are a few do’s and don’ts:

  • Don’t use too much water: Soaking vinyl floors is a major mistake. As water is left on the surface, some will begin to seep into the seams and edges of the floor. This will eventually ruin the adhesive keeping the floor in place.
  • Avoid abrasive cleaners: If your vinyl floors have a shiny finish, it’s essential you avoid using bleach or abrasive cleaners. These will likely remove the shine from the surface. Instead, use vinegar or a specialized cleaner for vinyl floors.
  • Avoid abrasive tools: Never use a stiff brush or steel wool to clean vinyl floors. You should also avoid scraping any stuck substances off the floor using a knife or sharp tool. Instead, soak the area in a cleaner and remove it with a soft cloth.
  • Do protect the floor: Heavy furniture can cause deep dents or scratches. Fit each leg of your furniture with felt pads; these will act as a small cushion and prevent scratches.
  • Do use rugs: In high-traffic areas, wear is likely going to happen — causing scratches and dull spots. Avoid this by placing a few rugs in the busy areas of your house.
  • Do use doormats: Doormats are an excellent reminder for guests to wipe their shoes before entering or even removing them. This will reduce the amount of dirt, rocks and mud that might be dragged inside.
  • Do clean spills: By cleaning spills as they happen, you can avoid having to deal with set stains later on. Also, liquids can seep into the seams just like water. Unfortunately, this could cause an odor to develop, depending on the spilled item.

FAQ

How Do I Clean Vinyl Floors Using Vinegar?

Vinegar is one of the best ingredients to use for regular cleaning. It’s non-abrasive but mildly disinfecting. Another reason why we prefer vinegar is that it adds a natural shine to vinyl and neutralizes odors.

When cleaning vinyl, you can use white vinegar or apple cider — either one is safe and effective. Mix a cup of vinegar in a gallon of water and mop your floors as usual.

How Can I Make My Vinyl Floors Shine?

If vinegar isn’t cutting it, you can try a vinyl floor polish to restore shine and gloss. However, it’s crucial to remove all dust and dirt from the floor before applying. Leaving dirt and dust can alter the end result.

Mop and remove stains, then choose a good polish and follow the instructions carefully. If you want to wax your vinyl floors, consider hiring a professional since using the wrong wax can cause problems.


Maintaining Vinyl Floors

Vinyl floors are popular due to their durability. A well-maintained floor can last you decades and add value to your house. There are different types of vinyl, often made to resemble other kinds of floors such as wood and stone.

Maintaining vinyl floors is easy — with regular sweeping or vacuuming, you can keep them clean. Mopping should only be done when necessary and using an appropriate cleaner such as vinegar.

Vinyl is water-resistant. Remember, however, that it isn’t entirely waterproof; liquids can seep through the seams and edges. So use water only as needed.

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About the Author

Amy Anthony

Amy is a stay-at-home-mom, seasoned writer, and a home cleaning and organization aficionado. Amy enjoys having an absolutely spotless home and has worked hard to develop strategies to keep it that way, despite having 2 kids and 3 dogs!
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