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best ways to clean cork flooring

Best Ways to Clean Cork Flooring

By Maria Hernandez / September 27, 2021 / 1 Comments

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Sure, that salesman convinced you cork was the answer to your flooring woes. But, did he explain the steps for cleaning your brand new cork flooring? It’s reminiscent of bringing home a new car; it looked shiny in the showroom, but will it stay that way?

Should you treat these floors like other hardwood, carpet or something entirely different? While the answer isn’t always black and white, there are definite do’s and don’ts.

The secret lies in striking a balance between what works for you and what works for your floors. Here’s a look at the most popular ways to keep your cork in tip-top shape.

Essential Cleaning Materials

Keeping loose debris and dust off your cork will help you win the war against scratches. With that in mind, remember: cork is vulnerable to dents and scarring. You may have to invest in some new tools.

I’ll bet you have a broom lying around. Unfortunately, it might not be suitable for this type of flooring. Make sure you have the soft-bristled kind. Or, better yet, use a static duster.

You can vacuum these floors with a hardwood floor vac, provided you can disconnect the beater bar. If your machine has a bare floor setting, even better – just make sure to test it out in a small area. You’ll want to make sure you’re cleaning your floors without causing damage.

Aim to vacuum or sweep your cork at least 2-3 times per week. If you have pets, you may want to clean daily.

Mopping cork floors is not taboo, but you need to be careful of water damage. Use a damp mop and wring it out before it touches the floor. No need to add cleaner, warm water will work fine.

Don’t forget to dry the floors with a rag. For small stains, consider using a sponge to blot the area.

If you add soap, use it sparingly. A couple drops of dish detergent or mild wood cleaner is all you need. Keep in mind, the cleanser must be ph-balanced and made specifically for use on cork.

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Dealing with Tough Stains

Life happens and so do stains. It’s inevitable that you’ll run into this problem sooner or later. Stains can be tricky, but handling them doesn’t require any specialized equipment – just a bit of knowledge.

Try to wipe up spills before they dry. Allowing the liquid to sit increases the chance of staining. Understand: sealed cork will fare better than untreated varieties.

Never use a steam cleaner on cork floors. The moisture will penetrate the surface and leave mold or water spots. Not only that, dragging these machines across your floors can leave dents and marks.

Spray mops are also off the table. While these products use less liquid than steam varieties, they’ll leave behind residue.

Don’t use bleach, the cork will absorb the chemicals and break down. You can use wood cleaner, but be selective with the brand you choose. Don’t use anything that is wax, solvent or oil-based.

Soak up any residue and excess liquid with a clean white cloth. While air drying is convenient, it allows too much time for moisture to absorb.

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Long-Term Care

Some people choose to use wax on their cork. This process is time-consuming and must be repeated 2-3 times a year. For the best results, use a paste that’s at least 10% pure wax.

If your floors are solid cork and not veneer, you can refinish them. Use fine grade steel wool or a 150 grit pad to gently buff scratches. Test this method out in an inconspicuous spot to ensure it’s not too rough.

When you’re done, wipe the surface with a thin coat of mineral spirits. Apply sealer as indicated on the bottle, working with long even strokes. Allow the sealer time to dry before walking on your floors.

Even if you’re not refinishing, try to seal your cork annually. It takes a few hours, but this process keeps your floors from looking worn or discolored.

If your floor comes pre-finished with an aluminum-oxide coating, it’s almost impossible to buff out the scratches. The cork must be stripped before you can refinish it.

When in doubt, ask a professional. Most companies offer a complimentary on-site consultation. Professional refinishing may be less expensive than you think.

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FAQ

What is the best way to clean cork floors?

You should clean your cork flooring regularly. A daily sweep with a soft-bristled broom or a quick vacuum with a hardwood floor vacuum is enough to keep your cork floors in top condition. If you’re short on time, a dry clean using a broom or vacuum every couple of days is sufficient.  

On a monthly basis, clean your cork floors with a mild cleaning solution and a damp mop. Remember that this type of flooring is sensitive to water, so be sure to use water sparingly and dry it thoroughly immediately after cleaning.


How does vinegar clean cork floors?

Because it’s eco-friendly, non-toxic, inexpensive, effective, and versatile, vinegar is a staple cleaning product for many people. Even though it’s harsh and abrasive, when properly diluted vinegar makes for an excellent cork floor cleaner.

Vinegar cleans cork floors by dissolving any dirt, grease, grime, or mineral deposits that settle on them. White vinegar is a potent cleaner, but even when properly diluted its high acetic acid content can be too harsh for cork floors, so apple cider vinegar is the top choice.


Are cork floors easy to clean?

Compared to other types of flooring, such as waxed wood floors and carpet, cork floors are generally considered easy to clean. 

As long as you have the right tools for the job and keep up with the basic maintenance requirements, cleaning a cork floor is not a difficult task at all. 

Just remember to avoid steam cleaners, spray mops, bleach, regular-bristled brooms, or wood cleaners that are wax-, oil-, or solvent-based, and cleaning your cork floors will be a breeze.


Does cork flooring fade in sunlight?

Like many other types of floors, cork flooring is susceptible to damage caused by exposure to the sun’s harsh rays. As a result, your cork flooring may fade if it’s installed in an area that gets a lot of direct sunlight. 

To counteract the risk of your cork floors fading, use rugs, blinds, or curtains to prevent direct sunlight from damaging them. For a more permanent solution, consider installing a window film that is capable of blocking the sun’s UV rays.

In Closing

Cork floors require little maintenance and are comfortable to stand on. They are excellent at retaining heat and noise.

Try to sweep or vacuum them weekly, and mop as needed. Don’t drag anything heavy across your floor and use coasters under heavy furniture. If you have pets, keep their nails trimmed short so they don’t scratch the cork.

Use blinds & curtains in particularly sunny spots to prevent your cork from fading. If you have heavy foot traffic in your home, use mats to avoid tracking in dirt. Remember to seal your cork floors annually, and they will likely last a solid 20-30 years.

Do you have Cork floors? Help others by sharing your best cleaning tips in the comments below.

About Maria Hernandez

Senior Floor Critic, 25 years of experience in residential and commercial cleaning

Maria Hernandez has 25 years of experience in residential and commercial janitorial and cleaning services. From hardwood to carpet to marble floors, Maria has developed a deep expertise in cleaning and maintaining many different flooring types.

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1 thought on “Best Ways to Clean Cork Flooring”

  1. Hi there, I have cork vinyl planking installed recently (4 months ago). After the contractor mess I cleaned the flooring with Armstrong Once N Done, then was advised to use shine keeper. Unfortunately, I put the shine keeper on too heavy in some spots and used new beginnings to remove the access build up. Big mistake, as I had to do the whole 955 square foot flooring area. I removed most of it but the floor is still blotchy in a lot of areas. How can I remove this blotchy mess that is driving me mad? I think one area in particular may have to have replacement planks as I think one of the contractors may have dropped something and it looks like the finish is off in some areas! HELP ME….. a frustrated new person to Cork planking.

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