How to Clean Vinyl Plank Flooring the Right Way - Public Goods Blog

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How to Clean Vinyl Plank Flooring the Right Way

Vinyl plank flooring will last for decades if you take care of it. Keep your vinyl flooring looking its best with these tips for proper cleaning methods.

Image of woman mopping the floors

When remodeling or building a new home, being cost-effective is a priority. One design choice many homeowners have made over the last several years is vinyl flooring. Vinyl plank flooring is relatively inexpensive, and it’s easy to care for and keeps looking nice for many years if properly maintained. But what does proper maintenance look like? Knowing how to clean vinyl plank flooring the right way can be the difference in flooring that looks great for a few years versus a few decades. Here’s what you need to know to make your vinyl plank flooring go the distance.

First, What Is Vinyl Plank Flooring?

Vinyl plank flooring was invented and popularized as an alternative to linoleum. Vinyl is durable, affordable, and temperature-resistant and its design can mimic the appearance of more high-end materials like wood or even stone. It’s sometimes called luxury vinyl or luxury vinyl plank, which are larger tiles designed to be even more convincing that they’re more expensive than they really are. The planks are easy to install, with each one locking into the grooves of those around it, which is why many DIY remodelers turn to it when replacing flooring.

How to Clean Vinyl Plank Flooring

So how do you take care of it? Properly cleaning vinyl plank flooring can be broken into three easy steps.

1. Dry Clean to Remove Debris

Dirt, yard clippings, dust, and other debris can get pressed into plank grooves or cause scratches when tracked around your flooring. It’s a good idea to sweep or vacuum your floor a couple times a week to prevent buildup and remove any debris that may dull or scratch the surface. The more that builds up, the harder it will be to clean later. Be sure to get into corners, around baseboards, and under furniture. To help preserve your flooring, have rugs at entrances and in high-traffic areas, and encourage family members and guests to wipe their shoes when coming in.

2. Tackle Stains

To prevent stains from setting, wipe up any spills immediately, ensuring you soak up all moisture. The longer a stain sits, the more the vinyl will absorb it. If the stain has already begun to set, make a sudsy solution of dish soap and water. Using a toothbrush or nylon brush, test the solution in an inconspicuous area, like a corner or under the couch or a rug. If the vinyl doesn’t react adversely, use the brush to gently scrub the stain. If that doesn’t work, try a bit of rubbing alcohol or mineral spirits. Again, it’s wise to test these before applying.

3. Use a Cleaner to Remove Grime

Now it’s time to do a wet clean to get rid of any residue. A mop is the best tool for this, though you can use a large sponge if you want to get down and dirty and really clean out those grooves. As for the cleaning solution, you can use any that lists it’s vinyl safe on the label. If you want to go the more natural route, a mixture of vinegar and water will work about as well as anything else. Vinegar is great at killing bacteria and cutting through grime, and it doesn’t have the chemicals from products you find on the shelves.

In a bucket, mix one cup of vinegar (white or apple cider without the mother will do) into one gallon of very warm water. Dip your wet mop into the solution, ring it out, and then mop in the direction of the planks. Be careful not to have your mop too saturated. Applying too much moisture to vinyl planks can cause them to buckle and warp, an issue that isn’t easy to fix.

How to Clean Pet Urine From Vinyl Plank Flooring

If it’s pet urine you want to clean off vinyl planks, add a drop or two of dish detergent to your vinegar-water solution and mop with that over affected areas. Again, be sure not to oversaturate the planks. If you want a second approach to deep clean the area, combine some baking soda and water to create a paste. Apply it with a rag, and rub the stain in circular motions. Finish by wiping up the paste with a damp cloth, and then pressing a paper towel or dry rag over the area to soak up any remaining moisture.

How to Fix Scratches & Scuffs on Vinyl Plank Flooring

As hard as you try to maintain your vinyl plank flooring, scratches and scuffs are bound to happen, especially with kids and pets in the mix. That’s okay. Those can be cleaned, too. For scuffs, you can use a melamine sponge to buff out the scuff without damaging the floor’s surface. You can also use a tennis ball (you read that right) to remove mild scuffs by rubbing them over the area.

For scratches, a dab of olive or jojoba oil can do the trick. Drip a small bit of oil onto a clean microfiber cloth and gently buff the scratch. If that doesn’t work, you may want to enlist a vinyl floor sealer. After fixing the issue, don’t forget to wipe away any remaining oil so no one slips.

Image of room with wood or vinyl flooring

How Not to Clean Vinyl Planks

All that said, let’s talk about what not to do to your vinyl plank flooring.

First, don’t apply wax. Vinyl plank flooring is already coated in a polyurethane coating for protection, so it will never need waxing. Wax-based products can actually cause damage to vinyl flooring by wearing away the topcoat and leaving your floor with a dull buildup and vulnerability to wear and tear.

Also, don’t use abrasive scrubbers. Avoid abrasive sponges, steel wool, and any other rough materials that can scratch floors or wear down that protective topcoat.

Lastly, avoid ammonia. Ammonia breaks down the flooring’s finish. Plus, it’s not very healthy to breathe in.

How to Maintain Vinyl Plank Flooring

Once your floor is clean, the key is keeping it in top shape. Here are some tips for protecting your vinyl plank flooring so it looks its best for years to come.

  • Use nylon or felt floor protectors under furniture legs to prevent divots
  • Lay rugs in high-traffic areas
  • Keep direct sunlight off your floors to prevent fading and discoloration
  • Use rugs or cardboard when moving furniture to reduce scratches
  • Regularly sweep and mop to prevent buildup
  • Try a no-wax polish or a drop of baby oil in your cleaning solution to increase shine

Staying on top of these tips should keep your investment in lasting shape. Public Goods has you covered for a variety of cleaning needs. Browse our household cleaning items designed for serious cleaning power without harsh chemicals.

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