Maintenance, Care and Cleaning of Vinyl & Linoleum

cleaning-maintenance-care-guideLinoleum and vinyl flooring is popular because it is affordable but also because it is so easy to care for. Unlike hardwood flooring or cork flooring, it stands up well to water, so you can use a mop with plenty of warm, soapy water for the cleaning. Just make sure you mop up excess water afterwards.

All flooring needs to be cleaned and maintained to look good and last as long as possible. The key with linoleum and vinyl flooring is to get dirt, sand and debris off it. These materials are abrasive, and if you walk on them repeatedly, they will scratch, mar and dull the floor’s finish.

This guide to Vinyl and Linoleum flooring covers care, cleaning, and maintenance. To learn more about other aspects of vinyl and linoleum flooring, see our guides on pricing, installation and of course, a great place to start is the complete consumer buying guide which gives detailed information on how the materials are made, current trends, styles and more.

General Care

Sweep your floors a couple of times per week or more, depending on the level of traffic they receive. You can use a vacuum cleaner, but choose one that is made for hard flooring. It either won’t have a beater bar or will have a “Hard Floors” mode that doesn’t use the bar. A bristled, rotating bar will mar these flooring types.

Once the dust is up, use a floor cleaner designed for linoleum or vinyl flooring and mix it with warm water. Be sure to rinse the floors well since soap residue can dull the floor’s shine. A damp mop and warm water works very well.

Vinyl floors should not be waxed, but linoleum floors do require waxing. Ask your flooring dealer for recommendations on the right type of wax product or read labels to find one formulated for linoleum. Liquid acrylic floor polishes typically work very well. A new coat should be applied every 2-6 months depending on the level of traffic. Never use wax paste on linoleum. It won’t harm it, but it won’t shine like it should either.

NOTE: For the shiniest floors, consider using a lightweight buffer with a pad designed for linoleum. Buffing the polish will enhance the shine.

After several coats of polish, you may also want to strip off the old layers before applying the new wax. This is because the old polish will become dulled with wear and embedded dirt. Use a wax-stripping product designed for linoleum. Read the directions and follow them carefully.

Using felt cushioning pads on furniture legs can help reduce scratching on your vinyl or linoleum flooring. Use them on all furniture but especially chairs that are frequently moved and heavy furniture.

Tools, Equipment and Cleaning Supplies

For general cleaning, a soft broom or suction-only vacuuming is required. A mop, bucket and mild soap formulated for vinyl and linoleum flooring is next.

For stripping off old polish from a linoleum floor, you’ll need stripper and water, a bristled brush or nylon scrubbing tool. Be gentle. Do areas 4’x4’ to 6’x6’ at a time. You don’t want stripper drying on the linoleum flooring. If it does, use a mop with water only to re-wet it.

When the polish has been stripped, mop the entire floor with fresh, warm water and allow it to dry completely before adding new polish.

Replacing Your Flooring

Vinyl flooring will last 5-15 years depending on its quality and the amount of traffic it receives. How well you care for your flooring will make a difference too. Linoleum can last 10-25 years. Its greater durability is due in large part to the protective polish which can be removed and reapplied. It’s like replacing the clear wear layer of the flooring.

You’ll know it is time to replace your vinyl and linoleum flooring when it just doesn’t look good any more. It’s that simple.

Vinyl and Linoleum Flooring Maintenance and Care FAQs

Q: Are there any cleaners you should not use on vinyl or linoleum flooring?
A: Yes. Do not use vinegar or ammonia, especially on linoleum. Do not use abrasive cleaners like soft-scrub type cleaners. Do not use nylon scrubbers on vinyl or steel wool on either flooring.

Q: Which flooring stands up better to stains from pets or from juice or oil?
A: Vinyl is better. It holds up well to things that can cause stains. Still, you should clean up stains as quickly as possible. Check out our dedicated article on the best flooring for dogs and cats.

Q: What type of floor mats should be used?
A: Natural, absorbent mats are best. Launder or vacuum the mats regularly or they might become full of dirt and sand. Then, when the mat shifts because people wipe their feet on it, the mat will act like sandpaper, marring the finish of the linoleum or vinyl flooring. If the mat becomes wet, pick it up to dry it or launder it. Don’t use mats with solid rubber backs because they can trap moisture against the floor that can harm the finish too.

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