Today’s vinyl floors are a far cry from the shiny, plastic-looking sheet or tile floors your grandmother might have installed in her home. Although yesterday’s were prone to tears, scratching and scuffing and looked so artificial, today’s feature more durable matte finishes and more realistic, natural designs that get installed as click-together planks. They’re the newest members of a category called “resilient flooring,” and because they come as individual planks, replacing damaged sections is easier too.
For these reasons, modern vinyl plank flooring has become a popular alternative to wood floors in homes across the globe, especially in areas like kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms. These floors are not only easier to maintain than traditional hardwood floors, but they’re more moisture-resistant too, so they’re better equipped to withstand heavy traffic — ideal for families with kids and pets.
But that doesn’t mean vinyl floors don’t need routine TLC. Even these fuss-free, wear-resistant floors need a proper cleaning once in a while, so it’s a good idea to incorporate the task into your regular cleaning schedule. We checked in with Carolyn Forté, executive director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Home Care & Cleaning Lab, for the best cleaning tips and advice.
How to clean vinyl plank flooring after installation
First things first: If your vinyl flooring product was installed with glue, you may notice excess glue seeping to the surface. Avoid cleaning this mess or walking on the flooring for at least 24 hours to give the adhesive time to set properly. Once set, you can safely remove the excess product without damaging your brand-new floors by following these steps:
- Gather the proper tools: You’ll need a scraper, a spray bottle and a floor stripper or an acetone-based nail polish remover to help loosen the excess glue.
- Spray the floor: Put the cleaning solution into a spray bottle, then spritz a small amount on the glue you intend to remove. Let it sit for a few minutes.
- Scrape up the glue: Once the glue begins to soften, position your scraper so that the blade is parallel to the floor and apply gentle downward pressure to carefully remove the adhesive. (You want to get under the blob of glue to gently lift it up off the floor.)
- Wipe clean with water: Once the glue is gone, rinse the area with water using a damp microfiber cloth. Then dry the area with a second clean cloth. Alternatively, you can mop the area for a deeper clean.
How to regularly clean vinyl plank flooring
Vinyl plank flooring may be low maintenance, but there are a few things you should know to help extend the life of this surface. Namely, dust, sand and other gritty particles are “the enemy,” according to the World Floor Covering Association. As such, it’s important to sweep or vacuum frequently — and especially if there’s visible debris on the floor.
- Remove dust with a soft broom, a microfiber mop or a good vacuum cleaner designed for hardwood floors.
- Use your vacuum’s soft-bristled oblong floor brush or fluffy roller attachment if you have them, or at least switch off the vacuum’s rotating brush. Avoid using stiff scrubbing brushes or your vacuum’s beater bar (the rotating brush attachment that vibrates to loosen dirt from carpeting), as these cleaning tools can damage the surface of the floor.
- Wet-clean the floor using a damp mop and a vinyl-safe floor cleaner once you’ve eliminated any dry dirt and debris.
- If needed, rinse after mopping, being careful not to over-wet the floor. Let it air-dry.
How to clean spills from vinyl plank flooring
Though vinyl floors are moisture-resistant, it’s not a good idea to let spills set. And you should never use a steam mop on these surfaces. The high temperature combined with excess moisture and pressure can seep into the cracks, loosen adhesive and cause the floor to swell. Here’s what to do instead:
- Use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe up spills as soon as they happen.
- For tougher stains, you can use a soft nylon brush and a baking soda paste (combine baking soda and enough water to form a paste). Simply use the brush to gently rub the paste into the affected area, then wipe clean with a damp microfiber cloth.
- Alternatively, you can use a mild cleaning solution made with equal parts vinegar and water. There are also cleaning products, like Bona Hard-Surface Floor Cleaner, that are specifically manufactured for this type of flooring.
Expert tip: No matter what you use, it’s good practice to test your cleaning solution in an inconspicuous area first to make sure it doesn’t damage the flooring.
How to remove scuffs from vinyl plank flooring
Occasional scuff marks from shoes or furniture are unavoidable, but thankfully there’s an easy way to get rid of these unsightly spots:
- Dip a microfiber cloth into a sudsy mix of dish soap and water and use it to buff the area. Then, rinse clean with a damp microfiber cloth or a mop.
- For stubborn scuffs, try a lubricant like WD-40 or Goo Gone. Put a small amount on a towel and rub the affected area until the scuffs clear. Then, follow the cleaning steps above, using baking soda, vinegar and water or another cleaning product marked safe for vinyl floors to remove any remaining lubrication.
How to keep vinyl plank flooring clean longer
While regular maintenance is vital, there are a few steps you can take on a daily basis to keep your vinyl plank floors cleaner and in better condition, reducing the frequency of deep cleans and repairs.
- Place a doormat or an area rug in front of the entryway to your home, since this will minimize the amount of dirt and debris tracked in.
- Attach felt or rubber pads to furniture legs — especially items that regularly move, such as barstools and dining chairs.
- Put down a protective floor covering whenever you are doing heavy home-improvement work — rearranging furniture or repairing and painting drywall, for example.
Brigitt is a writer, editor and craft stylist with nearly 15 years of experience. She specializes in lifestyle topics, including home, health, parenting, beauty, style, food, entertaining, travel and weddings. She has written for Glamour, People, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Health, Real Simple, Martha Stewart, Apartment Therapy, The Spruce, and more.