How to Clean Linoleum Floors

illustration of linoleum floors

Illustration: Lisa Fasol. © The Spruce, 2019

Linoleum is a tough, low-maintenance resilient flooring material. It is also an eco-friendly flooring material, since it is made of natural substances, including linseed oil, cork and wood dust, and limestone particles. However, it is not as durable as some similar surface covering options, such as vinyl. Because of this, you have to take a little extra care when cleaning linoleum, avoiding harsh chemical mixes and taking precautions not to ruin its shine or harm its surface.

How Often to Clean Linoleum Flooring

How often you need to clean a linoleum floor will depend on how heavily the floor gets trafficked, as well as on a variety of other factors: Is mud and grime being tracked onto the floor routinely? Are foods and drinks getting spilled frequently? Is it a newer form of linoleum with a sturdy wear layer, or an older floor that is easily scratched by dirt and grit.

Generally speaking, it's a good idea to clean a linoleum floor weekly, but depending on circumstances, you might need to do it every day, or no more than once a month.

The best gauge is to carefully examine the floor daily. If dirt and stains are evident, clean the floor, even if it was just cleaned yesterday.

What You Need

Supplies

Broom or vacuum cleaner
Bucket
Dish soap
Mop
Scrub brush (where needed)
Cloths or towels

How to Clean Linoleum Flooring With Household Soap

Here is a quick method for routine cleaning of linoleum flooring: 

  1. Remove loose particles and debris. First, remove any loose particles or debris that may be on the surface of the material. This is done by thoroughly sweeping or vacuuming using the “hard floor” setting on your vacuum cleaner. As you work, be sure to pay special attention to corners, crevices, and underneath furniture and fixtures.

  2. Wipe with a dry microfiber cloth. It's a good idea to wipe down the entire floor with a microfiber cloth, which will remove any remaining small particles of grit that could potentially scratch the floor during deep mopping.

  3. Prepare cleaning solution. Fill a bucket with a gallon of hot water, and then mix in about 6 to 8 drops of normal, over-the-counter dish soap. Avoid using anything that is particularly harsh or acidic. Rather, just stick to the same soap that you use on your dishes. This solution should then be stirred slightly.

  4. Dampen the mop. Dip your mop in the soapy bucket, then wring it out thoroughly. Linoleum can be susceptible to damage from standing water, so use as little liquid as possible when cleaning the floor. The strands of the mop should be just barely damp and soapy.

  5. Mop the floor. Divide the room up into sections that are roughly 6 x 6 ft. in size. As you complete each section dip the mop back in the bucket, wring it dry once more, and start over in the next section. Do this until the entire floor is complete. Once you’re done, dump the bucket of soapy water out, and wash both it and the mop in clean water.

  6. Rinse the floor. Fill the empty bucket with hot, clean water. Then mop the entire linoleum floor again, once more in 6 x 6-ft. sections. The goal is to remove any lingering soap residue that may be left on the floor.

  7. Dry the floor. Once the floor is washed clean, you need to get rid of any excess moisture that remains behind. Standing water can be very dangerous to a linoleum flooring installation. To do this, take old cloths or towels and pat down the floor's surface to dry it. The cloths should absorb any excess moisture rather quickly.

  8. Scrub stubborn stains. If necessary, the above methods can be employed with a scrub brush in order to get a more thorough, rigorous cleaning. Some tough stains, such as pet stains, may need a more rigorous approach. 

How to "Green-Clean" Linoleum Flooring With Vinegar

Commercial soaps and detergents are often harsh, abrasive substances that can fill the air with foul smells and chemicals. At the same time, the more acidic cleansing agents in these products can actually strip the finish from a linoleum floor. Because of this, many people are turning to natural floor cleaning practices, using materials that they often already have in their home. The most common natural cleaning substance is vinegar—which is inexpensive, widely available, and can clean your floors without filling the home with nasty chemical smells. At the same time, its low acidity ensures that the finish of the linoleum will not be worn away.

  1. Mix vinegar with water. You can use either white vinegar or apple cider vinegar mixed with water. One cup of vinegar to each gallon of water is a good ratio.

  2. Add lemon juice, if you wish. If you choose, add a splash of lemon juice to the mixture to fill the air with a pleasant citrus smell.

  3. Use baking soda for deep cleaning. Vinegar can be used in conjunction with baking soda to get a linoleum floor really clean. Spread dry baking soda on the surface of the floor before you mop it.

  4. Mop the floor. Dip a mop or scrub brush in the vinegar or vinegar solution and swiped it across the surface. The cleansing power of the vinegar combined with the grittiness of the baking soda powder creates a powerful scrubbing mixture.

  5. Wipe and dry the floor. Once you have the floor thoroughly scrubbed, a damp cloth can be used to pat away any loose remaining baking soda particles that are left behind.