How to Clean Vinyl Floors

Vinyl flooring has come a long way since the days when it was only available in sheets or glue-down tiles. Both are still popular options if your subfloor is uneven or you want something affordable, although luxury vinyl has grown incredibly popular over the past decade. You can’t walk into a hardware store without finding an isle full of luxury vinyl planks, and there are dozens of brands available online as well.

One of the reasons luxury vinyl planks and tiles are so popular with homeowners today is because they are low-maintenance. Whether your vinyl comes in the form of a tile, plank, or sheet, it’s as easy to clean than hardwood or carpet. Unfortunately, you can also ruin the wear layer if you don’t understand which products to use and what equipment is the best.

Vinyl Flooring: Everything You Need to Know

What type of vinyl flooring do you have in your home? Do you have a travertine-like tile in the kitchen or sheet vinyl in the bathrooms? That makes a difference, as does the quality of the flooring itself – especially with sheet-based products. It’s important to remember they are softer than luxury vinyl flooring. That means they are more prone to damage from sharp or blunt objects when compared to LVP or LVT with a thick wear layer.

Sheet Vinyl

This product has been around for decades. It’s more durable than linoleum and completely waterproof as long as the seams are sealed. It’s also cheaper than other types of flooring, and quite resilient against the rigors of daily life. That includes things that would stain carpet and hardwood, and you’ll never have to drag out a vacuum to clean sheet vinyl.

Vinyl tiles are similar to sheet vinyl. While they add more depth to a room, there are also more seams to deal with. With either form, check the seams before using water or any type of cleaning solution on your floor. Our guide will give you the lowdown on sheet vinyl if you’d like to know more.

Luxury Vinyl Flooring

Luxury vinyl products are available in two forms, although both are cleaned the same way. Luxury vinyl tile and luxury vinyl planks are designed to look like wood or stone. While glue-down installation is still an option with many brands, most of these floors click together and are considered floating floors. Brands like Coretec, have rigid core products that won’t dent like hardwood, but you still need to be wary of what’s used to clean them.

Most luxury vinyl flooring is water-resistant as it’s primarily made from plastic with a top layer, core, and backing layer. The best vinyl flooring brands will have flooring that’s completely waterproof, which makes a difference when cleaning time rolls around. With that in mind, the floors have to be installed properly with no gaps or water will eventually get beneath the boards or tiles.

If you’re not sure what type of installation was used in your home, you will be able to narrow that down by looking into the manufacturer. Once you find the brand and collection, simply locate the installation manual for your flooring online to get a better idea of how it’s made and what to expect when it comes to water resistance. Those guides are also a wealth of information if you have damaged luxury vinyl flooring that needs to be replaced.

How to Clean Sheet and Luxury Vinyl Floors

Now it’s time to talk about how to clean vinyl flooring in all its forms and the tools you need. We’re also going to discuss the time each method involves along with the potential costs for the upkeep of your luxury vinyl or sheet vinyl flooring.

Brooms

When you need to pick up dust or debris, a broom is the cheapest and arguably the most effective solution for vinyl sheet vinyl flooring. A broom won’t damage your floors, its lightweight, and inexpensive to replace if something happens to break. IVC and other manufacturers recommend that you use a soft-bristled broom on sheet vinyl, however.

Brooms will work on all forms of vinyl and require little to no upkeep, aside from cleaning off the bristles on occasion. You can cover a lot of ground quickly on sheet vinyl and vinyl tiles, but certain types of luxury vinyl flooring can present an interesting problem. If your planks have beveled edges, you may need to put some extra effort into those crevices.

Dust Mops

A dust mop is any mop that’s made to be used dry, not wet. There are a variety of mop head styles on these mops as well, although microfiber heads are the most popular choice. As the name implies, they are used to pick up dust and dirt, which makes them an excellent choice for light-duty cleaning.

Depending on the design, some dust mops can be used with a cleaning solution or dampened to spot clean a stain. They are just as easy and lightweight as a broom, although not a great choice if things like paw prints are a problem in your home.

Vacuum Cleaners

Sweeping isn’t for everyone. Brooms and dust mops won’t be of much use in carpeted areas of your home either, whereas a vacuum cleaner can handle any type of flooring. A powerful system can use suction to pull debris from the corners of rooms and from within beveled edges. With luxury vinyl planks and luxury vinyl tiles, your option of vacuum cleaners is unlimited, but you’ll want to be a little more careful with softer materials like sheet vinyl and glue-down tiles.

For hard surfaces, you don’t need to be as concerned about friction between the bristles of a brush roll and your flooring. A high-speed roller with stiff bristles could potentially damage the finish over time, however, or cause scratches if something hard gets caught in the bristles. We’ve seen that happen with cheaper LVP, but it’s a more significant concern with sheet vinyl.

If you’re dead set on using a vacuum cleaner for vinyl flooring, check out systems with a height adjustment feature. It allows you to raise the height of the brush roll for different types of carpet but also works well on hard surfaces. If you have carpet in your home and need a dual-purpose machine, check out our list of the best vacuum cleaners for hardwood and carpet.

When it comes to styles geared towards vinyl flooring, you can choose from uprights, cordless vacuums, canister vacuums, and automatic systems. If you don’t plan on cleaning carpet or rugs, consider a vacuum with a soft roller. They can be challenging to find, but LG, Dyson, and a few other companies have top-tier models. Most are cordless, but there are a few canister vacuums with heads built for hard surfaces as well that are without a bristled brush roll.

In our research, we found that most homeowners with luxury vinyl flooring prefer cordless vacuum cleaners. The best cordless vacuums can handle pet hair, dust, and relatively large debris with ease. Battery life can be a limiting factor, but only in huge homes or when you use things like MAX mode for extra cleaning power. Many of these systems have a handheld mode as well or come with useful attachments for hard to reach places and above-floor cleaning.

We also feel that robotic vacuum cleaners are a great fit for homeowners with vinyl flooring. They are slow but effective and have an array of unique features that can make life easy. Some of the best robot vacuums have voice control, can empty their own bins or even wet mop and vacuum simultaneously. That’s a handy feature for vinyl flooring, but you’ll need to pay a premium for it.

Wet Mops & Cleaning Solution

Clean Vinyl Flooring

If you just have a spot to clean or food hits the floor, you have a few options with vinyl flooring. Your first step is to remove the issue with paper towels, a cleaning rag, or something soft like a plastic spatula if needed. With water and other non-staining substances, you may simply need to soak up the spill and go about your day.

With other substances, it’s not quite that easy, so a bottle of cleaning solution may be required. As always, you’ll want to refer to the manufacturer of your flooring to see what they recommend if it’s not something water, a sponge, and a little elbow grease can remove. High-quality luxury vinyl is incredibly difficult to stain, but rust and substances like grease can be more difficult to remove on sheet vinyl and peel and stick tiles.

For larger areas that need to be cleaned or a frequent basis, a spray mop is your best option and a great tool to have in your cleaning arsenal. They are a little more expensive than a broom or mop but work magic on sheet vinyl and vinyl tile. They are also the go-to option for luxury vinyl flooring and highly recommended by several manufacturers.

With spray mops, the cost of replacements can be a concern for some consumers, but it all depends on the type of spray mop you choose. Some have disposable pads ala the Swiffer WetJet, while others use washable pads. Some wet mops even let you choose between dry, damp, and scrubby pads, which can also be helpful with hard to remove stains.

The cost of cleaning solution can also add up over time, but shouldn’t be a hindrance if you set your sights on a spray mop. Check the price and availability on refills beforehand, and consider a system that allows you to use your own cleaning mix as well. Those are a great alternative that’s often overlooked by homeowners and can save you a lot of money in the long run.

Spot cleaning and spray mops are the two safest ways to wet clean your vinyl flooring. It’s the best way to combat stains, but you’ll still need to pay attention to the seams on sheet vinyl and glue-down tiles. You also don’t need to soak your floor in a cleaner if you pick up a soft scrub brush.

Tips from the Pros

Vacuums, mops, and brooms are all cleaning tools that are simple to use, and most will even come with a few cleaning tips or advice on how to care for your flooring. Well, those are general tips, and not necessarily suited for sheet, tile, and luxury vinyl flooring.

Vinyl flooring is popular in areas like kitchens and bathrooms, so eventually, you’re going to have to deal with a stain. For substances like crayon, rust, or lipstick, Mannington suggests you use their Heavy Duty Cleaner and Stripper along with a cleaning pad or bristle brush on their sheet vinyl flooring.

You’ll want to use a bleach solution for rust afterward and lighter fluid or isopropyl alcohol for a wipe down with a clean rag for lipstick, antiseptics, permanent markers, and hair dye. Other manufacturers will have a similar solution, so if you have older tiles or don’t know the brand of our sheet vinyl, check care sheets from the top brands.

Pros from every corner of the vinyl flooring world recommend paying close attention to the amount of cleaner you use regardless of the brand. Use too much, and you’ll end up with a film that dulls your floor and can be a chore to remove. It’s also a good idea to keep the “slippery when wet” motto in mind when using water or cleaning solutions on sheet vinyl flooring or tiles.

To prevent dents from heavy objects on soft vinyl, use non-staining felt protectors or wide plastic protectors made specifically for heavy furniture. With appliances and other heavy, rigid objects, you’ll need to put down something a little sturdier than cardboard, and even a dolly can be a bad idea. LVP and LVT are more forgiving in that area, although you can still wreak a thin wear layer quickly if you’re not careful.

Hardwood Flooring Care FAQ

Q: Can I use a steam cleaner on luxury vinyl flooring?

A: No. While most is water-resistant or waterproof, direct head and moisture is not a good idea on luxury vinyl flooring or vinyl flooring in general.

Q: What’s the best cleaner to use on luxury vinyl flooring?

A: Something that’s safe. While that’s a vague answer, there are hundreds of products that will do the trick, although a number of manufacturers recommend a pH neutral formula.

Q: Is floor polish safe to use on luxury vinyl planks?

A: Yes, and it’s a great way to add luster to your flooring. Just follow the directions on the bottle and make sure the formula is suitable for luxury vinyl flooring.

Q: How do I repair a gouge or deep cut in my sheet vinyl?

A: The best thing you can do is minimize future damage by using a piece of masking tape over the affected area. After that, refer to the manufacturer for further instructions to see if a fix is available.

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