How to Clean Vinyl Floors [Step-by-Step Guide]

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How to Clean Vinyl Floors [Step-by-Step Guide]

Many opt for luxury vinyl flooring because it is cheaper and low-upkeep compared to most hardwood floor options.

And while vinyl floors are not yet as durable as hardwood, you can significantly extend their durability with good maintenance.

This article will cover:

  • How to clean and maintain your vinyl floors
  • Additional ways to preserve your vinyl floors
  • Useful information for when you want to replace your vinyl floors

In Short…

  • Sweep once or twice a week.
  • Vacuum weekly.
  • Mop once a month, but avoid overwetting!
  • Avoid cleaning products that are wax or solvent-based.
  • Clean up spills and stains as quickly as possible.
  • Use wax-free floor polish once a year.
  • If you experience a flood, getting professional help is the best route to take. However, salvaging your floors is still feasible as a D.I.Y. project.

How to Clean and Maintain Your Vinyl Floors

Regardless of your floor’s price or style, it deserves to be taken care of. Prolong its life with regular maintenance.

The Cleaning Products and Tools You’ll Need:

Step 1: Sweep and Vacuum Regularly

Sweeping gets rid of dirt and dust particles that scratch your floors when they are walked on, so aim to sweep at least once or twice a week.

Vacuuming is the most effective and efficient means of removing dirt particles. A trusty vacuum can go a long way to making your life easier.

So for more detailed advice on how to choose the best vacuum cleaner for you, check out our Unbiased Vacuum Cleaner Buying Guide.

Avoid using your vacuum’s beater bar attachment (or function) because it is too aggressive for vinyl floors’ protective coating. You can stick to using the default vacuum attachment as long as its underside is partially padded in order to prevent it from scratching your floors.

And remember to also vacuum at the right speed in order to give your vacuum enough time to pick up as much dirt as possible.

Step 2: Mop Once a Month

It is important to note that luxury vinyl is only water-resistant, while traditional vinyl is waterproof. This difference is due to the way they are designed and installed.

Luxury vinyl comes in planks, and water can seep through the thin gaps between each individual plank.

On the other hand, traditional vinyl lacks seams, so there’s no space for water to seep through in the first place.

NOTE: A more in-depth comparison between luxury vinyl and traditional vinyl is available on our Luxury Vinyl vs. Traditional Vinyl page. 

Regardless of which type of vinyl you currently have installed, it is always best to avoid overwetting your floors while you mop.

Ideally, you would use a sponge mop to clean your vinyl floors. But you may also use an ordinary mop as long as its head is soft and non-abrasive, so that it doesn’t damage your floor’s surface as you clean.Tools like vacuum mop combos will also work just fine!

While mopping, avoid cleaning products that:

  • are solvent-based (For example, ammonia-based cleaners)
  • contain wax
  • are strong detergents
  • are D.I.Y.

Staying away from the above ensures that your floor’s plastic-based coating remains intact for the years to come. You also can consult your manufacturer’s guidelines for more specific advice on products that are compatible with your floors.

You can use water-based cleaning products (such as Aero Cosmetics’ Interior Cleaner) to help you disinfect the floors as they usually do not contain as many incompatible chemical agents. 

NOTE: It is best to avoid homemade cleaning alternatives (such as, vinegar, apple cider, or baking soda) recommended by certain sources until you can verify with your manufacturer or seller that these solutions will not damage your floors.

The long-term impacts of regularly using these homemade cleaning solutions varies between floor models and manufacturers. So just because a solution works for someone else doesn’t guarantee that it will give your floors the same results. Be careful!

Step 3: Clean up Spills and Stains Immediately

The quicker you remove a stain, the less time it has to damage your floors.

Use warm water to dampen a soft cloth/sponge to wipe away food and drink stains.

Avoid using steel wool and other abrasive cleaning materials. More stubborn stains might require some dishwashing liquid (or baking soda and water, if it is compatible with your manufacturer’s guidelines).

Minimize the amount of soapy residue left behind by your cleaning products by wiping the area again with just plain water, and then drying it thoroughly with a separate cloth.

Additional Ways to Preserve Your Vinyl Floors

Many manufacturers advertise that vinyl flooring is maintenance-free. But it is inevitable that floors lose their initial shine over time and unexpected circumstances could deal potentially serious damage.

Here’s what you need to know to get your vinyl floors back in shape!

The Cleaning Products and Tools You’ll Need:

Use No-Wax Floor Polish Annually

Floor polishes that contain wax work well on hardwood floors with penetrating finishes, but they unfortunately leave a layer of residue when used on vinyl floors. Opt for floor polish that is completely wax-free.

Remember to move heavy furniture out of the way and to vacuum the floors before you begin the polishing process. And make sure that pets and young children are also kept in a different part of the house.

Apply the polish with a soft applicator pad (we recommend the MANGOTIME Dust Wet Mop) so that you can efficiently apply the shine to the whole floor evenly.

Depending on your polish’s instructions, apply one to two thin layers—which will be more than enough to keep your vinyl floors shiny for an entire year.

Additional Maintenance Tips:

  • Avoid walking on the floors wearing high heels, pleats, and other sharp-edged shoes, which would scratch your floors and damage the protective layer. 
  • Test cleaning products on more hidden parts of your floors first before using them on the entire floor. 
  • Consider adding an area rug to cover high-traffic areas so that your carpet can stay clean for longer.  Check out our area rug buying guide for more information. 
  • Carry, not drag, heavy furniture in order to avoid scratching the floor. 

What to Do When You Experience Flooding

Depending on the extent of the water damage, you may choose to take care of the repairs yourself.

But if circumstances permit, seek help from professional cleaners and repairmen as soon as possible.

Detach all of the planks from your subfloor and put them in a well-ventilated space where they can dry completely. Do not stack them together, and try to keep as much distance between planks as possible.

In the meantime, use a mop and bucket to wipe your subfloor dry.

NOTE: We do not recommend using vacuum cleaners for this part of the process—even if they are wet/dry compatible—because there will always be a risk of electric shock.

To speed up the drying process, you may either enlist the help of professional cleaners or hand another mop to a friend/relative willing to help.

Once your subfloor is completely dry, you can disinfect it by sprinkling baking soda onto it. This will also reduce the chances of mold developing. Then wait 15-20 minutes before vacuuming the baking soda thoroughly.

Replace vinyl planks that have become discolored and/or warped, so that they cannot spread mold to the less damaged vinyl planks.

When You Want to Replace Your Vinyl Floors

Looking to give your room a fresh new look? Or do your vinyl floors still look worn out after polishing? Then it’s likely that you need to replace them.

Check out our complete and unbiased luxury vinyl flooring buying guide for information on:

  • Picking the best vinyl flooring.
  • Pricing points to expect.
  • How to avoid getting duped by vinyl flooring salesmen, and so much more!

And if you’re considering replacing your carpet with a different kind of flooring, then check out our tiered rankings of the most durable flooring. And if you’re on a budget, you’ll find our cheap flooring ideas article quite handy!

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