How to Clean Resilient Floors

Learn how to keep your vinyl, cork, or linoleum floor clean with these easy tips.


Resilient Floors

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If your home includes a floor made from vinyl, cork, or linoleum, you have a resilient floor. Such floors boast a slight softness and give, which makes them more comfortable to stand on but less durable than hardwood or ceramic tile floors. Heavy furniture may cause dents. Chairs scooted across the floor may gouge the surface. Sharp objects that are dropped may make cuts.

In addition to guarding these floors from damage, you can help keep them in top condition by cleaning them properly. Here's how.

Vinyl Floors: General Cleaning

Clean vinyl floors by removing dust and dirt with a broom, dust mop, or vacuum cleaner. Controlling grit and soil is crucial to prolonging a vinyl floor's attractive appearance.

A quick wipe with a damp mop works well for vinyl floors between deep cleanings. Choose a nonabrasive all-purpose cleaning product or the product recommended by the vinyl manufacturer. Some products are no-rinse solutions while others need to be rinsed well, so make sure you check the instructions on the container.

If you are unsure of the floor's composition or coating, check with the home's previous owner, real estate agent, or rental agent. If you still don't know, use a mild vinegar-and-water solution to clean the floor; it's probably safe. Water-base or acrylic-base floor polishes can be used on many resilient floors but may not be compatible with some no-wax floors.

Vinyl Floors: Care Don'ts

  • Do not use abrasive cleaners, scrubbing tools, or beater-style vacuums to clean vinyl floors.
  • Avoid harsh detergents and cleansers, paste wax, solvent-base polishes, and products that give a shiny look.
  • For a dull no-wax vinyl floor, use only products made specifically for no-wax vinyl.

Vinyl Floors: Common Stains

Some stains on vinyl floors may be permanent, especially if the floor is old, but these techniques can at least lighten the discoloration. You may have to repeat the process several times.

Black heel marks: Rub the area with an art gum eraser or a nonabrasive scrubbing pad and nonabrasive cleanser, or rub with regular toothpaste. If the stain remains, try using rubbing alcohol (91% isopropyl).

Crayons: Rub with lighter fluid or odorless mineral spirits.

Hair dye: Rub the area with rubbing alcohol. If the stain still shows, scrub it with lighter fluid or odorless mineral spirits.

Ink: Wipe the spot with rubbing alcohol; repeat. If the stain is still visible, rub with lighter fluid or odorless mineral spirits.

Lipstick: Rub the stain with rubbing alcohol.

Paint and varnish: Immediately wipe up any wet spills. If the stain is dry, carefully scrape it with a plastic card (such as a credit card) or a thin spatula. Remove residue with rubbing alcohol. If the stain is still visible, rub with lighter fluid or odorless mineral spirits.

Permanent marker: Gently rub with lighter fluid or odorless mineral spirits. Rubbing alcohol may also remove marker stains.

Rust: Rub the cut side of half a lemon over the rust spot. If it remains, pour on a small amount of salt-water solution and rub with a lemon.

Scuff marks: Buff off scuff marks with a tennis ball attached to a broom handle. Cut an X in the tennis ball and slide the broom handle into the hole. The texture of the ball removes surface marks from vinyl.

Shoe polish: Scrub the spot with lighter fluid or odorless mineral spirits. If the stain still shows, rub it with rubbing alcohol.

Tar: Scrub the spot with lighter fluid or odorless mineral spirits. If the stain still shows, rub it with rubbing alcohol.

Cork Floors: General Cleaning

Cork flooring is a soft surface that offers cushion as well as durability -- thanks to pre-applied finishes. Cleaning cork flooring means cleaning the surface finish. If the cork surface is sealed with polyurethane (most cork floors are), clean with water and mild detergent or white vinegar, then rinse well. If the cork is unfinished or waxed, follow the cleaning instructions for polyurethane but apply solid or liquid wax. Avoid polishes if you prefer a matte finish. To be perfectly safe, check with the cork flooring dealer or manufacturer to find out what cleaning methods they recommend for your product.

In addition to regular cleaning, make your cork floor last longer by using commonsense care. Avoid dropping sharp objects and sliding heavy furniture across the floor. Buy extra flooring at the time of installation to replace damaged areas in the future. Although the color may not match at first, it will blend as it ages.

Linoleum Floors: General Cleaning

Linoleum, often mistaken for vinyl flooring, has been around since the early 20th century. The differences between the two are significant. Vinyl, the most often-used sheet flooring, is made from petroleum-base polyvinyl chloride. It¿s flexible and resilient, and has a semisoft surface. Linoleum is made from linseed oil, resin, cork, limestone, and wood flour mixed with pigments and then rolled onto a jute backing. Expect to pay more for linoleum than for typical sheet vinyl; the long wear and design possibilities can be worth the added expense.

Clean linoleum using the resilient-flooring instructions. Sweep the floor, then wash with detergent or borax and water. Rinse clean and let dry. Apply a coat of paste wax or liquid wax, and buff to a shine.

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