The problem with linoleum flooring is that many people confuse it with vinyl flooring. Linoleum is a natural product whereas vinyl is purely synthetic. Cleaning a linoleum floor is different from cleaning vinyl floors. They also need different handling and care. The “lin” in linoleum signifies linseed and “oleum” signifies oil (Latin derivatives). Linoleum flooring is made from linseed oil mostly.
To manufacture linoleum the oil is boiled down and to it various things like powdered cork, resins, wood flour, ground limestone and sometimes ceramics are added. Pigments are added to give it color and then it is pressed into sheets. As you can see it is a all natural product and needs to be handled differently from synthetic flooring materials. Here are some care and cleaning tips for linoleum floors.
If you are not sure which type of floor you have you can scrape off the surface slightly in an inconspicuous area with a razor blade. In the case of linoleum the design will not come of whereas in the case of vinyl it will. In case of vinyl flooring resealing is required once the sealant wears off but you should not apply a sealant to a waxed linoleum floor as it can lock in the buildup of wax. The linoleum floor pattern will not wear off on getting scratched whereas in case of vinyl it will, moreover linoleum is not easily scratched.
Now for some cleaning tips. Like wood, linoleum flooring is sensitive to water and acidic chemicals like vinegar if exposed to them for long periods of time. It is helpful if you can leave your shoes at the door as the bottom of you shoes usually have grit sticking to them. These will grind away the surface and damage it slowly. It is as if you have been using a sand paper over it. For the same reason dust or vacuum your floor before mopping it. For mopping linoleum floors usually only warm water is used. Most detergents will leave behind a sticky residue which will attract dirt.
If you do need to use a cleanser for your linoleum floor then use Ivory Liquid dish soap. Make a sudsy solution in your sink and mop the floor with it and then rinse with a clean cloth. Unlike other detergents Ivory will rinse clean and hence there is no problem of a sticky buildup. Ivory is inexpensive and cleans well. You can make solution of ivory and water in a spray bottle and you can use it as a prespray. Avoid other detergents as they can be a little too harsh for your linoleum floor.
Now for some smart cleaning tips. If your linoleum floor has grooves then use a nylon bristle brush and scrub it with Ivory solution already prepared with warm water in your sink. Don’t use hard brushes as they might scratch the floor. After cleaning rinse with a clean cloth. Such deep cleaning will be required only infrequently. If your floor has black heel marks then you don’t need to scrub. Just spray some WD40 on a cloth and lightly rub the spot and it will get cleaned easily. After cleaning rinse with the sudsy water as above or the floor may become slick.
If the floor is not properly cleaned by using the above cleaning tips then you may need to strip off the wax build up and rewax. To remove wax build up effectively from linoleum floors you have to use ammonia. Ammonia has a very strong smell and hence you must have proper ventilation. Have the doors and windows open and don’t mix ammonia with bleach as it produces a dangerous gas. Pour half a cup of ammonia into a bucket of warm water and use this to scrub with a towel.
If stronger cleaning is needed you can use the ammonia straight by pouring it on a portion of the floor and spreading it with a cloth and let it sit for 15 to 30 minutes. Repeat the process all over the floor. Then start with the first portion and scrub the whole floor in that sequence with a nylon brush. Finally rinse the floor with clean water to remove the ammonia. Cleaning with ammonia should leave your linoleum floor as good as new.
After cleaning is over you should wax the floor. This is easily done with a good floor wax with a cloth. A good floor wax can be obtained from janitorial supply stores. After several hours when the the first coat has dried up wax it a second time. A warning that should accompany these cleaning tips is never to machine wash the waxing cloth in your washing machine as the wax can stick to the sides of the machine and affect other clothes used in that machine.
Now some cleaning tips for removing stains from linoleum floors. To remove stains caused by hairspray simply rub the area with a clean cloth dipped in ammonia. Sometimes you may have newsprint stains on the linoleum floor. These are easily removed making a baking soda paste with water and applying it to the stain. Let it sit as such for half an hour and scrub the floor with the paste. If this fails you can use a laundry prewash spray on the affected portions.
Hair dye causes stains on floors and these cleaning tips must include their removal also. Hair dye is very difficult to remove once it has set in as it is usually stains permanently. The moment the floor is stained try blotting it out with rubbing alcohol and if that doesn’t work try it with a mixture of 1/4 cup of liquid handwashing detergent in a cup of warm water. For still harsher stains try to blot it out with a solution made up of half cup white vinegar and one cup water and finally rinse with warm water and a clean white cloth.
Here are more cleaning tips. To remove varnish stains from linoleum you can use turpentine or a paint thinner. This may alter the wax finish also and you may have to rewax that portion to restore its shine. So it is safe to use it first in a inconspicuous area. To remove mold or mildew from linoleum, use a chlorine beach to kill it. Spray a bleach and water solution on the area and then thoroughly scrub and rinse it. If you wish to avoid using a bleach then you can use a commercial oxygenated cleaner available in janitorial stores.
Removing wax crayon marks from linoleum floors is easy. Simply rub the affected area with silver polish. To remove candle wax, using a dull knife or scrapper, first chip off as much of the wax as possible and then place several layers of paper towels on the affected area. Then use a warm iron over it so that the wax is drawn into the paper. Repeat with new paper towels until all the wax is removed.
So much for cleaning tips and now some words of caution. Never scrub linoleum floors with sharp cleaning tools or strong abrasive cleaners. In most cases, simply washing with a mop dipped in warm soapy water will do the job well.