How to Clean Vinyl Floors

Playroom with vinyl flooring

Kittichai Boonpong / EyeEm / Getty Images

Vinyl flooring has come a long way since it was introduced to the world in Sweden in the 1930s and zoomed into popularity in the 1960s and '70s kitchens. No longer limited to kitschy patterns, this durable flooring choice is now available in tiles, sheets, and planks that can look like wood, stone, or ceramic tile.

Vinyl flooring is waterproof, which makes it a low-cost option for bathrooms, kitchens, and basements. Since the flooring is made of 100-percent polymer materials, it is not going to warp when exposed to excessive moisture like laminate or wood flooring.

How Often to Clean Vinyl Floors

Vinyl floors in high-traffic areas of a home should be swept or vacuumed daily to remove grit that can cause scratches. Spills should be wiped up immediately to prevent staining that is more difficult to remove and the floors thoroughly mopped weekly.

What You Need

Supplies

  • Warm water
  • Liquid dishwashing soap with a degreaser
  • Baking soda (optional)
  • Rubbing alcohol (optional)
  • WD-40 (optional)
  • Distilled white vinegar

Tools

  • Vacuum, broom or dust mop
  • Wet mop
  • Bucket or deep sink
  • Microfiber cleaning cloths

Instructions

  1. Remove Loose Surface Soil

    Grit and dirt can cause scratches on the surface of the vinyl and leave it looking dull and permanently damaged. Use a vacuum, dust mop or broom to remove grit daily. If using a vacuum, choose a setting that does not engage the beater bar which can cause dents in some vinyl flooring.

  2. Mix a Cleaning Solution

    Fill a bucket or deep utility sink with warm water and add just a few drops of liquid dishwashing detergent. For kitchens, choose a detergent like Dawn that includes a degreaser to cut through cooking messes. Do not overdose because too many suds just makes more work for you.

    Tip

    Harsh cleaners like scouring powders and ammonia can damage vinyl flooring. "Mop and shine" products leave a film on the floor that attracts more soil. If you choose a commercial floor cleaner, always read the product label to make sure it is safe for vinyl flooring and whether it requires rinsing. A gentle detergent and water will clean vinyl without causing non-reversible damage.

  3. Mop Away the Dirt

    Dip the wet mop into the cleaning solution and wring out most of the moisture. While vinyl is waterproof, older vinyl flooring had a fabric backing that should not be saturated with water because curling and separation of seams can occur. Newer vinyl can stand up to excessive water but putting it on the floor takes longer to remove.

    Start at one corner of the room leaving yourself an exit point. Rinse and wring your mop frequently as dirt is transferred from the floor to the mop.

  4. Tackle Tough Stains

    If you have not wiped away spills as they happen or you have lots of traffic, stains can happen. Fortunately, most are simple to remove.

    Food Stains: To remove dried-on food or discoloration caused by tomato sauce or red wine, mix a paste of baking soda and water (two tablespoons of baking soda and one teaspoon of water). Spread the paste on the stains and then use a microfiber cloth to gently scrub away the food. The mild abrasive action of the baking soda will work wonders.

    Lipstick, Grease or Ink Stains: Dampen a microfiber cloth with rubbing alcohol to remove these stains. Start at the outer edge and work toward the center of the stain to prevent the stain from growing larger. Keep moving to a clean section of the cloth as the stain is transferred to prevent smearing.

    Scuffs: Shoes and furniture can leave scuff marks on vinyl. Simply spray the scuff with a tiny amount of WD-40 and buff the area with a dry microfiber cloth.

  5. Decide Whether or Not to Rinse

    If you have not used too much soap and the floor wasn't excessively dirty, you do not need to rinse the floor after mopping. However, if the floor feels sticky, add a quick rise of plain water mixed with one cup of distilled white vinegar. This will leave the floor squeaky-clean.

  6. Allow the Floor to Air-Dry

Try your best to stay off the floor until it has dried completely. If time is of the essence, use a fan to circulate air to speed the drying process.

Tips to Keep Vinyl Floors Looking Their Best

  • Do not apply paste or liquid wax to no-wax vinyl flooring. It will build-up and ruin the finish. If a no-wax floor loses its shine, use a commercial sealant made for no-wax flooring to restore the shine. 
  • Never use steel wool or a stiff-bristled brush to scrub vinyl flooring.
  • Place a doormat or throw rug at every entrance to catch grit and dirt that can damage floors.
  • Prevent dents from heavy furniture by outfitting tables and chair legs with felt-backed floor protectors.
  • Remove rolling casters from furniture or use a protective mat to prevent scratching.
  • Never drag heavy furniture or appliances across a vinyl floor. Use a sheet of plywood when moving items to prevent scuffs and tears.