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How to Clean Vinyl Plank Floors

One of the advantages of vinyl plank flooring is that it is relatively easy to maintain. For most day-to-day spills and dirt, you can simply mop with soap and water. Vinyl plank flooring is tough and resilient. With proper care, your vinyl plank flooring should stay beautiful for many years. However, without regular cleaning, vinyl plank flooring can quickly lose its lustre.

Day-to-Day Cleaning

Crumbs and small particles of dirt can act very much in the same way as sandpaper. If left unattended, they can scuff and scratch your vinyl flooring and damage the acrylic finish of the vinyl planks. This, then, would leave your vinyl planks vulnerable to further degradation. This can easily be avoided with regular vacuuming.

Sweeping vs Vacuuming

To remove day-to-day dirt and dust, vacuuming is preferred to sweeping when it comes to vinyl plank flooring. A vacuum will lift large pieces of dirt off the floor, while a broom would drag them across the floor which could result in light scratches. And these light scratches will only accumulate over time.

The Right Kind of Vacuum Cleaner

You’ll want to make sure the vacuum you use doesn’t have any metal plates or sharp surfaces on the nozzle that could potentially leave nicks and scratches. Instead, opt for a vacuum attachment with soft bristles like a parquet nozzle attachment.

Mopping

To clean up simple spills and remove grime, mop your vinyl plank floor with hot water. Make sure you don’t use a mop that has a scrubber attached as that could potentially scuff the surface. In order to make sure that your vinyl plank flooring retains its shine over many cleanings and for many years, there is no better cleaning method than using a mop, water, and a good dose of elbow grease.

Cleaning Products That Are Suitable for Vinyl Plank Flooring

While there is no better cleaning agent than good old-fashioned elbow grease, when your floor is particularly dirty, you can add a touch of regular dishwashing soap to your mop water. Make sure you rinse your vinyl plank flooring after cleaning it with dishwashing soap to avoid leaving behind a soapy film that could make your vinyl plank flooring looking dull.

Additionally, you can use a variety of effective commercial cleaning products, just as long as the product you select has a neutral pH level, which should be clearly indicated on the label. A perfect example would be Pureflor cleaner, which is pH neutral, and non-toxic. Since it does not contain any soap, it does not build up on a surface no matter how long you use it.

If you want to avoid leaving a potential soapy film or soap residue on your vinyl plank flooring, rinsing your mop and giving the floor a quick rinse pass should do the trick. You could also use diluted apple cider vinegar or lemon juice instead of dishwashing soap.

But be careful. Both lemon juice and vinegar have a pH between 2 and 3. This means they are acidic and could potentially strip your vinyl planks of their finish or their shine. It is important that you thoroughly dilute any vinegar or lemon juice you are using in your mop water.

Additionally, while lemon juice and apple cider vinegar may leave a pleasant scent, they are not disinfectants. Their acidity will help in removing stubborn stains or caked-in dirt, but despite popular claims to the contrary, they will do little to kill bacteria.

If you feel the need to use a disinfectant, white vinegar has a higher acid level than other types of vinegar. But this means it should be further diluted, plus it is too strong to be used as a part of your regular cleaning routine.

Cleaning Products You Should Avoid Using on Vinyl Floors

You shouldn’t need anything stronger than vinegar (either apple cider or white) or dishwashing soap and a bit of elbow grease to keep your vinyl plank flooring nice and clean. However, if you are going to use an alternative product, you should choose a product that is pH neutral. And you should definitely avoid the following cleaning agents:

Ammonia

Ammonia has a pH of 11, ranking it as quite firmly alkaline (or base) on the pH scale. This means that ammonia has the power to strip vinyl planks of their finish and could leave them looking dull or faded.

Bleach

Bleach has a pH of 13.5. Although it is effective at killing bacteria, it is also quite corrosive and will severely damage your vinyl plank flooring even when heavily diluted.

Baking Soda

With a pH of 8.5, baking soda is too alkaline to be used to clean vinyl plank flooring.

Undiluted Lemon Juice or Vinegar

Both lemon juice and vinegar have a pH of 2 (white vinegar’s pH is slightly higher), marking them as quite firmly acidic on the pH scale. Undiluted, they are too corrosive to be used to clean vinyl plank flooring.

When thoroughly diluted in water, these agents can be used occasionally. However, extended use could result in your vinyl plank flooring losing its shine and looking dull or faded. As a last resort, slightly diluted lemon juice can be effective at removing rust stains, but make sure to rinse the surface thoroughly after scrubbing.

Baby Oil

As odd as it may seem, baby oil has been recommended on some websites as an effective product to use on vinyl plank flooring. The problem with this solution is that baby oil is not completely soluble, which means it will leave your vinyl floor streaky and slippery in places.

Heavy Duty Cleaning

For particularly stubborn stains or caked-in dirt, there is still no better alternative to hot water and elbow grease if you want to make sure your vinyl plank flooring will keep its colour and its shine for years and years.

If you feel the need to take it to the next level, start with a slightly acidic cleaning agent like apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, or any commercial cleaning product that has a pH between 2 and 3. Whichever of these solutions you implement, make sure they are diluted in warm or hot water. A good dilution ratio to use is 1:32. For example, for every 10 centilitres of vinegar, you’ll want to dilute with 3.2 litres of water.

Ammonia and bleach are heavily alkaline and should be avoided when cleaning vinyl plank flooring. Before resorting to these corrosive agents to tackle any heavy duty cleaning you feel may be required, consider trying white vinegar first. Use the same dilution formula as above, 1:32, or reduce slightly according to your needs.

Removing Scuffs and Scratches

While vinyl plank flooring is quite durable and resilient, it is known for its tendency to get scuffed up. If the scuff and scratches are not deep but rather on the surface of your vinyl planks, the solution is quite simple.

Apply jojoba oil or WD-40 to a soft cloth or towel and simply rub the scuff marks away. Then rinse and wipe dry with a damp sponge to avoid leaving slick marks or traces of the lubricant behind.

Do’s and Don’ts of Vinyl Floor Maintenance

Vinyl floors are resilient and easy to maintain, however in order to keep them looking good and shiny there are some basics do’s and don’ts you should be aware of.

Do use doormats and rugs. Especially in high-traffic areas, you can minimize the potential for scratches and scuff marks by protecting your vinyl floor with a simple rug or doormat.

Do place felt pads under your furniture. Even if you don’t anticipate moving your furniture around, you still want to place felt pads under the legs of your furniture. This way, when you sweep or mop you will be able to shift your furniture slightly to get to those otherwise hard to reach spots.

Do clean regularly with a mop and some elbow grease. Make sure not to use too much water. Vinyl isn’t porous, but it’s also not 100% waterproof.

Do rinse after mopping. To avoid leaving behind a slick or soapy residue, use clean mop water and give your vinyl floor another quick pass. Even if you didn’t use soap or detergent in your initial mopping, a quick rinse can help to remove streaks.

Don’t use abrasive cleaners like bleach or ammonia. The cleaning agents you use to take care of your vinyl plank flooring should have a neutral pH (e.g. Pureflor). And acidic cleaning agents like vinegar and lemon juice should be well diluted.

Don’t use abrasive scrubs or brushes. To properly care for your vinyl plank flooring, you’ll want to clean or wipe it with soft cloths, mops or towels.

Don’t use too much water when mopping. Vinyl plank flooring isn’t 100% waterproof. Water can seep through the edges or seams of the tiles and potentially weaken, if not ruin, the adhesive underneath.

Don’t steam clean. As is the case with using too much water, steam can easily penetrate through the edges and seams of your vinyl planks and could potentially damage, if not ruin, the adhesive layer underneath.

The Takeaway

Originally created as a replacement to rubber flooring, vinyl flooring has gained in popularity thanks to its many advantages. Vinyl plank flooring is easy to install, it is durable, and it is easy to maintain – not to mention that it’s often a more affordable alternative to other types of flooring solutions.

Vinyl plank flooring does not require sealing or waxing and will maintain its lustre and good looks if cared for regularly and in the right way. While it is water resistant, vinyl plank flooring is not completely waterproof. So, you should avoid using excessive amounts of water when cleaning it, always rinse to eliminate streaks and soapy build up, and avoid alkaline or acidic cleaning agents like ammonia, bleach and baking soda. For best results, a specialised cleaning solution for vinyl flooring such as Pureflor is strongly recommended.

If you follow these simple guidelines, you should be enjoying your beautiful and durable vinyl plank flooring for many years to come.