Caring for and Cleaning Linoleum and Vinyl Floors

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  • 1-3 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-300
What You'll Need
Warm water
Ivory liquid soap
Clean towels
Spray bottle
Nylon bristle brush
Floor wax

Proper care of your floor prevents damage, extends its life, and keeps it looking new for years. So how do you properly care for your flooring? Learn to prevent unnecessary dirt, grime, and damage, and regularly clean your floors with the proper solutions and methods.

Damage Prevention

If you enjoy going barefoot or even if you don't, kick your shoes off at the door. Why remove your shoes? Well, if you have a rough board that needs smoothing you grab a sheet of sandpaper for the job. Guess what's on the bottom of your shoes? Sand and dirt that will grind away at the surface of your flooring, causing them an early death.

A closer look at the bottoms of those shoes and you'll also find oil, dirt, and heaven only knows how many tidbits of unknown substances. In cases like this, it's a small wonder why your floor stubbornly refuses to come clean. Aim to wear only slippers or socks inside. The oil from the bottom of your feet can also dirty your flooring. Using socks and slippers can also keep your feet much cleaner at the same time.


Always vacuum or dust hard floor surfaces before mopping.

Linoleum floors generally require only warm water for cleaning, as most detergents won't rinse clean and leave behind a sticky residue. That residue becomes a magnet, attracting dirt off the bottom of your shoes or slippers. It builds up, deteriorating the sealant and leaving you with the hard job of stripping and waxing.

If you find your floor requires a cleanser, use Ivory liquid dish soap. Fill your sink with suds, mop away, and then rinse with a clean towel. Ivory rinses clean so the sticky buildup never causes problems. Other detergents can be too harsh for the floor so stick to Ivory. You can also mix Ivory in a spray bottle of water as a floor pre-spray or all-purpose cleaner. It's inexpensive and quite good.

Some linoleum floors have grooves so deep you can sink a submarine. Grab a nylon bristle brush, fill your sink with warm water, add a good squirt or two of Ivory dish soap, and scrub the floor. Other brushes might scratch your flooring so take extra caution when choosing the right one. Rinse again with a clean towel. Your floor should only need this deep cleaning twice a year or so.

Black heel marks? Not a pretty sight. To get rid of them, spray a little WD-40 on a towel and lightly rub. They should disappear without scrubbing. Rinse thoroughly with sudsy water or the floor might be slick.


If your floors still don't pass the white glove test, it may be time to strip and wax. Open the windows, turn on the fan, put on some marimba music, and prepare for a good workout. Use straight ammonia and a towel for this. Pour the ammonia in one area and spread around with a dishtowel, letting it set for 15 to 30 minutes. After 15 minutes treat the next area. Go back to the first spot and scrub with a nylon brush, and repeat until you finish the floor. Mop up the ammonia with a clean, damp terry towel. Then, rinse with 1/2 cup of vinegar per gallon of water. The vinegar will remove any lingering ammonia.

Good floor wax can be found at janitorial supply stores. You will pay more, but the finish lasts a long time without yellowing. Apply the wax with a clean dishtowel. Let the first coat dry for several hours before applying a second coat. (Do not machine wash a towel you have used to apply floor wax. The wax will stick to the side of the washer and can damage future loads of clothing.)

Mary Findley spent 12 years professionally cleaning homes and answers your questions as moderator of our Cleaning Forum. Visit her website at for her free bimonthly cleaning tips.