Linoleum Lament

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Dear Home Ec 101,
I was hoping you could help me with a cleaning problem I have been having lately.  I can’t get my floors clean!  No matter if I wash the floor on my hands and knees or if I use a mop, there’s still a dirt residue that will not go away.  I usually use Clorox Clean-Up with bleach (1/4-ish c.) diluted in a bucket of water, since that’s what my mom used when I was growing up.
The floor been like this since I moved in, despite my cleaning.  It’s a beige/tan colored linolium floor, so the dirtyness is not visibly noticable until you walk over it wearing a pair of light colored socks.  Please let me know if you have any suggestions… cleaning techniques, cleaners, etc.
The Girl with Grocery Feet
how to clean linoleum

Heather says:

Linoleum can be great and affordable flooring and cute if you are after retro look, not that we are biased or anything. However, it requires the same care as hardwood. Use door mats or throw rugs and sweep daily. The sand and grit that is tracked in on people’s shoes causes tiny nicks and scratches in your linoleum. These scratches are the perfect place for dirt to accumulate.

Don’t use bleach or products containing bleach to clean linoleum. The high pH can actually damage the flooring. For regular cleaning damp mop with, drum roll please, diluted vinegar.  However, it sounds like you have a buildup on your flooring that may need several steps to remedy. Not to worry, if you do this once you won’t need to repeat the process for 12 – 18 months.

guide to clean floors
Click the picture for more tips!

First, carefully sweep your floor. Then mop with a very dilute solution of hot water and detergent (I like original Dawn dish detergent, but it’s up to you). The detergent will help get the dirt out of those crevices. Next mop the floor a second time, but switch to diluted vinegar, this will remove any detergent residue. Finally Armstrong, a leading linoleum manufacturer, recommends using an acrylic floor polish. The polish will help fill some of those nicks and scratches that are the source of your dirty socks. It’s very important to have very clean floors before using the polish or you will simply be sealing the dirt to your floor.

Good luck!

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7 thoughts on “Linoleum Lament”

  1. FWIW, my mom told me to always mop with diluted ammonia first, to help remove the old polish on the floor & keep it from getting built up.

  2. Seconding Tara’s suggestion about the ammonia solution. I had a friend with white linoleum floors that left white marks on clothes when sat upon…linoleum that has not been treated well (washed with bleach in that case) and left unsealed oxidizes and releases a powder. The first thought that came to my mind when I read this was “is the ‘dirt’ the same color as the floor?” – if so, a good mop and thorough sealing should fix, but the life of the floor may have been shortened. Look for signs of brittleness to assess whether the problem can go for a while or if the floor is about to start giving real trouble.

  3. i work in a home building and supply / lumber store…you need to get a good floor cleaner recommended for laminates, vinyl, etc..Bona is an excellent one. then follow up with floor refresher by Bona for laminate, vinyl, etc.. Bona has two kinds of these products- for hardwood and ceramic and then another for the other floor products, so you need to make sure you are getting the right one. they are expensive but last a really long time.

  4. I have the same problem with the light-colored linoleum in my kitchen. No matter how much I clean it, if I take a paper towel and wipe across the floor, it will be dirty. I’m going to try the amonia suggestion and when that smell clears out, use vinegar. I clean it with white vinegar pretty regularly anyways. I was planning on replacing the floor in the next year or so, but it would be nice to have it clean in the mean time.

  5. I am not sure about linoleum…but I work in a cabinet shop applying laminent and to clean the glue and gunk off we use laquer thinner or paint thiner. And right before the cabinents get put in the truck they get another wipe down. Just a warning they produce some strong fumes so open a window.

  6. I second the ammonia treatment. I only use it once or maybe twice a month, but it takes up the dirt, and the filmy residue left by other cleaners. Inbetween ammonia treatment I use diluted vinegar, and I always follow every floor cleaning with my steam- mop. I haven’t tried the sealing of the linoleum, but looking forward to giving it a shot!


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