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Flooring Resources

Maintaining and Cleaning Vinyl Floors

Vinyl flooring has come a long way since European chemist Eugen Baumann inadvertently created the material while tinkering around the gas vinyl chloride in 1872. Homeowners choose vinyl flooring due to its many benefits and cost versus other types of flooring materials. Vinyl construction and composition methods continue to evolve as well, bringing popular products to market such as engineered luxury vinyl planks, click-lock vinyl floor systems and fiberglass-backed sheet vinyl.

Vinyl flooring can also be relatively easy to maintain and clean. Modernize created this quick guide to maintaining and cleaning vinyl floors so homeowners can cut through the noise and zero in on the best ways to keep their vinyl flooring shining.

Table of Contents

The Backstory on Vinyl Flooring

Many people equate vinyl flooring with the dull sheet vinyl that became a popular commercial and residential alternative to linoleum flooring in the wake of World War II. However, vinyl flooring really started gaining popularity in the last few decades with the introduction of luxury vinyl plank flooring and luxury vinyl tiles. These materials imitate more expensive flooring products using high-resolution imagery of wood or tile embedded inside the product.

These realistic-looking products have a high-density performance layer stacked atop the decorative film, core and interlocking base layers. Most higher-end vinyl flooring products also have a urethane finish that helps the material maintain its looks and protects it against wear in high-traffic areas.

It can be challenging to keep vinyl planks, tiles or sheet flooring clean. However, routine vinyl floor maintenance  and cleaning involves little more than a few common household items and a small chunk of your time.

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How To Clean Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl is durable and can stand up to quite a bit of heavy traffic. However, like all types of flooring, vinyl requires routine maintenance to keep it looking its best, especially in high-wear areas.

Here are all the tools you’ll need for vinyl floor maintenance – but feel free to make personal tweaks to this list, since preferences for cleaning products, tools and routines vary from person to person:

  • Vacuum or dry mop
  • Wet mop and mop bucket
  • Apple cider vinegar or retail cleaning product

Go gather all the requisite tools, because it’s time to get to work!

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Step 1: Picking Up Loose Debris

Caring for vinyl floors starts by removing dust, debris, pet hair, dander, dirt and other detritus that can lead to dents, dings or scratches in the surface of your vinyl flooring and diminish its appearance over time.

You can run a vacuum or use a soft bristle broom or dry mop to remove all loose material from vinyl flooring surfaces. If you use a vacuum, switch the machine to its “bare floor” setting. Microfiber dry mops, on the other hand, work exceptionally well at attracting and retaining the large dust bunnies you can see and the smaller dust and dander particulates that you can’t.

Perform this task a minimum of two times a week, or more if you need to know your floors are free of nastiness.

Step 2: Wet Mopping

From time to time, you’ll find it’s necessary to give your vinyl floors a proper cleaning with a wet mop to remove built-up dirt and grime.

Note that using wax-based cleaners and other types of heavy-duty cleaning products during the wet mopping process will have your shoes sticking to the tacky residue these products leave on the floor. When it comes to wet mopping vinyl (and most other types of flooring), you don’t have to go heavy on cleaning products to get an impressive outcome.

Vinyl can look its best after mopping with nothing more than a gallon of warm water mixed with a cup of apple cider vinegar. If you prefer, you can opt for some type of retail cleaning solution, but make sure it’s designed for no-wax vinyl flooring. 

Removing built-up grime or food spills from vinyl flooring requires a bit of elbow grease and not a lot of fancy cleaning products.

Lastly, make sure not to soak your vinyl flooring during the mopping process, especially if you have planks, tiles or some type of click-lock vinyl flooring system. Excess water can seep into the seams and create warping and other troublesome issues.

Step 3: Pro tips

Follow these pro tips for optimal vinyl floor maintenance results over time:

Pro tips for cleaning vinyl floors:

  • After mopping, go back over the area with a drying cloth to eliminate streaking and give the flooring a buffed finish.
  •  If you use your favorite type of floor cleaner, you may have to lightly mop again with water to ensure you remove the thin film these products can leave behind. Over time, that built-up film will dull your vinyl floor’s appearance.
  • Increase shine by adding a couple drops of baby oil mixed into the water/apple cider vinegar solution.
  • Buff out scuffs with a squirt of WD-40 and a shop towel.
  • Baking soda and water, meanwhile, works well for removing food and other stains.

Other pro tips:

  • Strategically placing no-slip door and floor mats in front of entrances reduces dirt coming in.
  • Large area rugs in high-traffic areas such as hallways and living rooms helps protect your vinyl flooring from getting dirty.

Cleaning Vinyl Floors: The Bottom Line

Vinyl is an excellent choice for cost-conscious homeowners seeking a durable but affordable flooring material. It’s important to keep vinyl flooring clean because it’s much softer than materials such as tile or natural stone. Vinyl can take surface damage from loose dirt and other debris. Preventative care includes regular cleaning to remove dirt and dust to help avoid surface damage, increase the flooring’s longevity and extend its visual appeal.

With a little bit of effort, you can protect your vinyl flooring and keep it looking great now and years down the road.

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