How to Clean Vinyl Floors

While it doesn’t seem that vinyl floors are really as popular as they used to be, many of us still have vinyl in certain parts of our home.

And they are usually in places that tend to see a lot of foot traffic and spills. The spills and dirty footprints can be wiped up easily enough, but sometimes dirt and grime from shoes or stains from food and drink can get down into the tiny crannies of the vinyl and stick around for a long time.

But an easy little tip can help you get those vinyl or linoleum floors clean as a whistle again, and it won’t take a ton of elbow grease or expensive cleaning products to do it.

yellow mop and blue bucket with bottle of cleaning fluid on vinyl floor

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When our first baby was born, my husband and I lived in a rental house which had a first floor that was covered mainly in white linoleum flooring.

The bad thing was that our front porch did not have a covering over it, so whenever it rained or whenever we had pollen or autumn leaves falling from the trees, there was always something dirty tracked in on our floors.

Yes, we did start removing our shoes when we came into the house, but the entry way still got dirty, especially with our dog tracking in quite a bit of grime on his little paws.

I must have tried a million things to get that white vinyl clean again, but nothing really worked well. I was able to get the surface of the floor clean, but you could still see dark gray dirt down in those tiny crevices of the vinyl.

It wasn’t until I heard a cleaning tip from a show on television that I was finally able to get those floors looking clean again.

What can I use to clean vinyl flooring?

There are many different tools and cleaning supplies that you can use to clean your vinyl floors:

  • a string or sponge mop, water and some gentle soap
  • a spray mop, which consists of a flat cleaning pad (can be disposable or reusable) attached to the bottom of a mop pole that is fitted with a device that sprays cleaning fluid directly on the floor
  • a steam mop, which uses just water, in the form of steam, and a reusable cleaning pad that is attached to the bottom of the mop
  • a liquid floor cleaner wiped up by hand with a rag or sponge

I must have spent hundreds of dollars over time trying out different products to get my floors clean.

While some were very convenient (the disposable pads from the spray mop were the easiest!), they could cost quite a bit of money, and didn’t really give me the results I wanted.

I finally discovered that the best way to keep my vinyl floors bright and clean is to use a little bit of bleach in some warm water, along with a squirt of liquid laundry soap.

This tip came from a professional home cleaner, although she originally recommended using some dish soap, not laundry soap.

But on the day that I tried this new cleaning method, I found that I was out of dish soap, so I just substituted liquid laundry soap.

It worked like a charm. I couldn’t believe that the floor was finally white again!

Surprisingly, just a tiny amount of bleach in the mopping water helps to get rid of that hard-to-remove grime that can accumulate in the bumpy texture of linoleum.

I did eventually try out the dish soap in the mopping water, but it didn’t seem to work as well as the laundry soap, so that has been my go-to cleaner ever since.

Are steam cleaners safe for vinyl floors?

After a few years in the rental home, we finally purchased a home and moved away.

Our new home has laminate floors on the main level, and mopping with a string mop didn’t work for me, as it left a lot of streaking.

I thought a steam mop could help, so I purchased one to use on the laminate in the living room and on the vinyl in the bathrooms.

You can use a steam mop on your vinyl floors, but you have to be careful to use a low steam setting.

The heat from a steam mop can warp the floor, and water can get underneath the tiles and loosen the glue that adheres the vinyl to the subfloor.

While the steam mop works to clean a vinyl floor, I still feel that mopping with a soap/bleach/water solution is still the best way to go.

If you do use a steam mop, make sure to use it sparingly on a low heat setting, and never leave it in one spot for long.

string mop and bucket of soapy water

The best way to clean a vinyl floor

In order to clean your vinyl floors, follow this method:

Sweep first

Sweep the floor first in order to remove any crumbs, hair, dust or dirt. This handy broom is my favorite, because it has two kinds of bristles that help you pick up the big pieces as well as the bits of dust. The angle also helps you get into corners more easily.

You can also vacuum your floor instead of sweeping it, but you have to be careful about the vacuum scratching the floor.

Make sure to put the vacuum on the bare floor setting when you vacuum a vinyl floor, otherwise the sweeping bar can leave scratches.

Prepare your cleaning solution and mop

Next, fill a gallon-sized bucket (this one is also good) with hot water, adding a squirt of dish soap or liquid laundry soap and a couple of tablespoons of plain bleach.

Dip a wet mop (this Libman Wonder Mop is my favorite) into the bucket of soapy water, then wring it out well. You want to make sure that you don’t leave too much water standing on the floor.

Start mopping

Starting at the far end of the room, place the mop down on the floor and wipe it in a back and forth motion, moving your way backwards.

Rinse your mop in the bucket of soapy water every few minutes, making sure to wring it out very well before continuing your mopping.

When you’re done, pour out the mopping water…I just pour it down the kitchen or bathroom sink…and let the floor dry (which it will do in just a few minutes).

There’s not really any need to rinse, as the amount of soap and bleach in the water was minimal, but you could go over the floor again with a mop rinsed out in clear water.

Make sure that you keep separate mops for the kitchen and bathroom so that you can avoid spreading bathroom germs to your kitchen floor (yuck!).

Enjoy your clean floor!

This method of cleaning my vinyl floors always leaves them sparkling clean…and without the leftover grime that can sometimes get stuck in the texture of the floor.

For more helpful home cleaning tips, you’ll want to visit my page on How to Clean a House, where I share advice on cleaning everything in the house, plus my recommendations on cleaning products to use!

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