First, The Three Caveats
#1: Restricted options. If your instructions say that you shouldn’t use a certain cleaner, then don’t use that cleaner. This is one of the reasons we have more then one tip for some issues. This list is to help you determine which of the cleaners that you may use in the first place might provide the best help with certain vinyl cleaning issues. It’s worth the time to read the documentation that came with your vinyl flooring, so you don’t accidentally void the warranty (to say nothing of making the problem worse)
#2: Start with the weakest solution. Some of these tips come with “Use it like this…” suggestions. Most involve diluting the chemical, using it in a weaker form. We recommend starting with the weakest option. If our tip says “Use 1 cup per gallon,” but the instructions on your actual product say “Use 1/2 cup per gallon” then go with the 1/2 cup. Likewise if we suggest the weaker solution, try that first. You can always add more cleaner to your bucket of water after doing a test.
#3: Pre-Testing. As with any cleaner on any floor, test the cleaning procedure in an inconspicuous area. Go to a usually blocked corner, or try it in a closet. Do the procedure on a small area and make sure that your floor comes out fine. Test the cleaning rags you’ll be using as well, especially if they’re not white. Some solvents will transfer the color of your rags to your floor, which you don’t want.
Second, The Three General Tips
A. No flooding. If you have plank or tile vinyl, rather than one, big sheet of it, be careful mopping with excessive water, and of leaving the water on your floor for too long. Your flooring may be 100% waterproof, but that doesn’t mean that long standing water won’t eventually slip through the seams between planks. If your floor is a glue down vinyl, this could undo the bonding. Even if the floor is a floating floor, water sitting under it is not a good thing. If you were to have an all out flood, you know that you would have to take up your vinyl, dry both your planks (easy) and your subfloor (not so easy) off, and re lay the floor. When you slosh around a lot of water and leave it there, you’re basically flooding your floor. All mopping is Damp Mopping with non-sheet vinyl floors.
B. Two mops. Even the recommended cleaners for a vinyl floor may leave a residue behind, a build up of the cleaning chemical itself, one which might hold onto dirt. Whether you mop with just water or with a recommended cleaner, try to use two mops. With the first one, apply the chemical, go over any specific dirty areas, and “wipe up” the soap. With the second, damp mop with clean water and do a rinsing stage to pull up both residual dirt and the cleaner itself.
C. Spot cleaning spills.
I. Get up any solid material in the spill. A plastic spatula, credit card, or stiff card stock can be great for this.
II. Blot, do not rub, the remaining stain. Use white paper towels, or white rags. Remember that other colors may be pulled onto your floor by the spilled liquid.
III. If a stain remains behind, use only a cleansing agent that is allowed by your floor manufacturer. If they have one, or recommend one, always try that first. Absent success there, should they be approved, those in the list below should help with the specific spills mentioned. Apply the liquid to the stained area. “Scrub” with soft cloth, making sure to move from the outside of the spill to the inside of it. This prevents spreading the spill beyond its current borders.
IV. Once the stain has been removed, re-clean the stain area with a soft, white cloth and warm water to remove any residue from either the stain or the cleaning agent.
And finally, What We Suggest You Try for Specific Spills or Stains
Citrus based cleaners or mineral spirits
Freeze – You can spray compressed air, sold for the cleaning of computers, onto your spilled wax for 20-30 seconds. This should freeze the wax, rendering it brittle. You can also freeze it with an ice cube. It should either break apart and pop right off the floor, or peel up. A plastic spatula may help lift it off.
Melt – Use a hair dryer to heat up the wax. Once fully melted, wipe it up with a white paper towel. Any leftover wax residue should come up by cleaning with room temperature cooking oil.
Stain – Mineral spirits, acetone, nail polish remover or denatured alcohol
Dirt, ground in
Dullness on a no wax floor
Using one cup of white distilled vinegar, or one half cup of baking soda, for every gallon of warm water, mop your floor with one mop, then rinse with a clean mop and cool water.
also, see “no wax issues” below
Bleach (household) – 1 part bleach to 4 parts water. Soak a white cloth with the bleach. Lay it only on the stain, and leave it there for up to an hour to remove the stain. If the diluted bleach solution does not work, try full strength bleach.
Freeze it using either compressed air, sprayed on for 20-30 seconds, or an ice cube. Tap it gently with a blunt object and it should pop up off the floor.
Shampoo. Mix a small amount into your mop water. Shampoo is designed to remove hairspray. Mop it on, then rinse-mop it off.
Nonabrasive household cleaner
Citrus based cleaners
Same as “Fruit juice” above.
Nail polish remover (who saw that coming?)
No Wax Flooring Issues
Wax Build Up – “What happened?” The designation “no wax” doesn’t mean that you don’t have to wax your floor. It actually means you don’t get to. It means that your floor gets its bright shine from a polyurethane coating, something to which wax does not adhere very well. Instead the wax becomes the mess, hiding the shine beneath it. This will also happen with a product like Mop-n-Glow, which has some wax in it. The same can happen with so-called acrylic waxes, which are really just plastic. Resting on your polyurethane finish, they instead adhere to dirt and dust. You will need to get that wax off your floor. Use a solution made of 1 part isopropyl alcohol to 3 parts hot water. You will have to scrub the floor, not just mop it.
Non Wax Shine Loss – There are products made just for restoring the shine to no-wax vinyl flooring. Check your documentation for restrictions and recommendations. First make sure the floor is perfectly clean, then use the chemical as directed.
Wet – Mineral Spirits
Dried – Rubbing alcohol and scrape with a plastic spatula
Nail polish remover
Rubber Heel Marks
Just rub these with your fingertips. They should loosen, or even roll right off.
A cream of tarter solution
Oxalic Acid (found in paint stores, it might be labeled “wood bleach”, in which case check the ingredients on the label). Handle according to your specific product’s safety instructions. If the spot cleaning technique doesn’t eliminate the rust, wet a white cloth with the acid and lay it over only the stain. Do this for a few minutes at a time, trying spot cleaning in between, until that works. Remember to rinse the area once you’re finished.
Rinse the area with hot water afterwards
Citrus based cleaners
See “Fruit juice” above. It’s a fruit, you know, if only technically.
Equal amounts of vinegar and warm water, then
Just warm water
Wet – Mineral spirits
Dried – Scrape with a plastic spatula
See “Fruit juice” above. It was a great fruit once, of a noble kind…
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David is has written and made videos about flooring products and installation since 2011 at Floors To Your Home (.com), where he is also the PPC Manager, a Researcher, a Website & Marketing Strategy Team member, Videographer, Social Strategist, Photographer and all around Resource Jito. In my spare time I shoot and edit video, put together a podcast, explore film history, and mix music (as in ‘play with Beatles multi-tracks’). Connect with W. David Lichty
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