Best Ways to Clean Linoleum Flooring

The Best Ways To Clean Linoleum Flooring

By Maria Hernandez / September 27, 2020 / 16 Comments

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Over the years, we must have tried a hundred different methods for cleaning our linoleum floors. Some a sparkling success, others not so much.

Today we want to share with you the best ways we have found to clean linoleum flooring. We’ll start with a few of our tried and tested homemade methods, plus some of the best “store-bought” options we have seen.

We will look at exactly what to use and how to use it to get your floors looking their sparkly best and like new in no time.

But whatever you do, before you start, sweep and vacuum the floor thoroughly before getting underway (check out our research of the best hard surface vacuum options). If you don’t, you will just end up with a bit of a muddy mess.

Also, while all these methods are safe, always test a new cleaner on a small, inconspicuous section of the floor first. That way you know what the results will be before you jump in and do the whole thing.

Dish Soap And Water

The first method is an oldie but goodie. It takes two ingredients and costs a whopping $0.05 per bucket-load. You’ll need:

  1. Dish soap
  2. Water

While skeptics might question the effectiveness, seasoned cleaning pros have recommended this method for years. So if you’re game, grab your mop, favorite blue dish soap, and bucket.

  1. Start by adding 4–6 drops of soap to an empty pail. Then, fill your bucket with warm water. While there are no straightforward guidelines, you’ll probably want to use about 1–1 ½ gallons of water.
  2. Dip your mop into the bucket and swirl it around until the solution is mixed. Then wring the mop out until it stops dripping—you don’t want to soak the floors. Run the mop across the linoleum, using even strokes.
    • 2(a). Remember to start at the edges and work backward. Avoid boxing yourself into a corner or walking in the area you just cleaned. Let the solution sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Then, using clean water, go over the floors one more time. Try to follow the same path so you’re not leaving footprints or streaks. Once you’ve rinsed off the residue, allow the floor to air dry.

That’s it: two steps and done. This recipe works well for routine cleaning. However, if your linoleum is stained, you’ll need something tougher.

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Vinegar And Baking Soda

There are several variations of this solution. Some call for added ingredients like peroxide or rubbing alcohol. While those may work for spot cleaning, they can leave behind dull spots or cause your linoleum to crack. If the smell of distilled vinegar wrinkles your nose, try using the apple cider variation.

  1. To start, combine 1-2/3 cups baking soda and 2 tablespoons of vinegar with ½ cup of water. Stir the ingredients, making sure all lumps dissolve. Then add the solution to a clean spray bottle.
  2. Spray your floor in sections and allow the solution a minute to dissolve any dirt. Use warm water and a damp tile mop to go over the area one more time, working the mixture into any cracks or crevices. Rinse your mop and do a final pass over the floor.

Let the floor dry at least 10 minutes before walking on it. Any leftover odor from the vinegar will dissipate within a half-hour.

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Borax And Water

Here’s another two-step concoction that leaves out the vinegar. This time we’re using Borax. Known in cleaning circles as the go-to deodorizer, Borax has been around since 1891.

Use caution when working with this product, as it is harmful when absorbed or ingested. To prevent accidental exposure, be sure to store it away from pets and children. With that in mind, let’s proceed.

  1. Mix two tablespoons of Borax powder into a gallon of warm water. Use your mop to stir the mixture, making sure the powder dissolves. Wring the mop out to prevent flooding your linoleum.
  2. Wash your floors as usual, applying gentle pressure to soiled areas. When you’re done, rinse with warm water to prevent streaks.

As a bonus, Borax naturally repels pests. So, if you’re fighting the annual ant battle on your bathroom or kitchen floors or elsewhere in the house, consider yourself ahead of the game.

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Castile Soap And Water

Our final homemade contender is vinegar’s toughest competitor, castile soap. It’s odor-free and made from vegetables but isn’t entirely green. While castile soap is less hazardous than most cleaners, you should be aware of the health warnings.

You can buy castile soap online or at your local big box store. A 32-oz bottle will set you back around $15–20, but will last at least six months. While there are unscented versions, most have a clean peppermint or citrus smell.

  1. If you’ve got your bottle handy, go ahead and pour 2 tablespoons of castile soap into a bucket of hot water. Dip your mop into the bucket and stir slowly to avoid a sudsy mess. Using a well-wrung mop, apply the mixture to your floors.
  2. Work the cleaner into the floor and allow time for the soap to penetrate. Once the linoleum is clean, rinse out the bucket and wipe the floor with clean water. Take your time rinsing; castile soap can leave behind a filmy residue.

After two rinses, your floors will sparkle.

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Rejuvenate High-Performance All-Floors Cleaner

This formula made in the U.S. is pH balanced to neutralize and remove contaminants without harming your previous floors underneath. It removes grime and dirt, and it makes the floor shiny without feeling sticky or slippery underfoot.

They recommend that you use their special “Click n Clean” spray mop to spray the mixture onto your floor and mop, but there is no need—you can easily dilute the mixture in a bucket and clean with whatever you already have at home.

  1. Spray directly onto your floors. There is no need to dilute the mixture. Don’t apply too much, as it simply isn’t necessary.
  2. Mop your floors as normal, going with the grain and going over the floors as many times as it takes to remove stains and leave a general shine.

There is no need to clean the mixture off. Leave it to dry and you are good to go. Simple, easy, and effective.

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Aunt Fannie’s Floor Cleaner Vinegar Wash

Despite the truly terrible name of this product, it is a great natural cleaner if you can’t be bothered to make your own at home.

It is a vinegar-based cleaner, but also has other plant-based ingredients as well as essential oils to leave behind a delicious scent. There are a variety of options available including Bright Lemon Eucalyptus, Fresh Lime Mint, Lavender, and Sweet Mandarin.

Designed for sealed floors such as laminate, it is strong enough to remove even the toughest stains and leaves behind a light and appealing shine. It is EWG (Environmental Working Group) A-rated for safety, which means it is safe for pets, kids, and you. You could even eat off it, if you are into that kind of thing.

  1. Dilute half a cup of the mixture with two gallons of water in your household cleaning bucket.
  2. Distribute lightly on the floor using the bucket, a cleaning machine, or a simple spray bottle.
  3. Use a mop to work the cleaner into tough stains and lift them up. Then you can use the mop again to soak up any excess liquid and help your floors dry quickly.

There is no need to worry about the product leaving a harmful residue behind. Rather, you will see a non-sticky sheen that brings your floors back to life.

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Better Life Naturally Dirt-Destroying Floor Cleaner

This is another environmentally friendly and safe cleaner that you can spray directly onto your linoleum floors and it won’t leave a residue or any harmful chemicals behind.

It is made primarily with coconut oil, peppermint and spearmint leaves, grapefruit, limes, and tangerines The resulting formula is completely free of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), but is still tough enough to dissolve stains without damaging your floor.

This is another formula that is ready to go as it is.

  1. Squirt the non-diluted formula directly onto your floors. You only need to use enough to dampen the floors, as a little goes a long way.
  2. Work into stains with a mop, sponge, or microfiber towel. You can also put the mixture into a steam cleaner if you want.
  3. Dry floors with a mop or towel once you have worked the liquid into any stains so that your space is ready to use again sooner.

Your floors will be clean and have a natural-looking sheen. I tried this product after seeing it on Oprah—and Oprah can’t be wrong!!

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Annual Cleaning Requirements

As well as regular cleaning, linoleum floors should be stripped and re-waxed at least once a year. This basically means removing the waxy shine layer and applying a fresh coat.

  1. You can use either a commercial floor wax stripper, or you can make your own by mixing together a bucket of hot water with one cup of vinegar and half a cup of baking soda.
  2. Coat the floor in the solution and leave it for five to 10 minutes to soak in.
  3. Scrub the floor to fully remove the existing wax using a scrubbing brush. You may want to add some ammonia to the mix if you find there are any areas of the floor where the existing wax simply won’t come off.
  4. Dry the floor using a mop or cloth and leave to dry completely before proceeding to the waxing stage.
  5. Apply a liquid acrylic floor wax evenly to the floor using a terry cloth towel. Apply one layer and allow it to dry completely before applying a second layer. You may choose to apply a third layer, but decide once the second layer has dried.

Make sure the way is completely dry before you start using your floor again.

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Linoleum Floor Cleaning Tips

While we think that if you use any of the cleaners above you will be very happy with your linoleum floors, here are our top 10 tips for the ultimate care for your floors.

  1. Sweep daily – Linoleum floors can be scratched by a sharp piece of debris caught underfoot, and dirt left in place is more likely to stick. Make your cleaning task a lot easier by thoroughly sweeping your floors daily.
  2. Avoid vacuums with beater bars – The high-speed rotation of the better bar and bristles can be abrasive against linoleum floors and cause scratching. Make sure you use a vacuum cleaner designed for hard floors.
  3. Use cleaning products sparingly – Linoleum, like hardwood, can be damaged by excess moisture as it warps. So, while you will need to use a little bit of liquid to get the floor clean, use it sparingly. Dry mop rather than wet mop, and dry up as much water as you can once cleaning is done so that your floors are clean and moisture-free as quickly as possible.
  4. Avoid ammonia-based cleaners – Ammonia-based cleaners conflict with the pH balance of linoleum. They may remove dirt, but they are also likely to damage the flooring underneath. This is why a pet accident left unattended can cause major damage to your floor, as it is strong in ammonia.
  5. Always use warm or cool water – While you might be tempted to use piping hot water to get your floors clean, it is best avoided, as hot water will cause moisture damage to your floors faster than cooler liquids.
  6. Check before steam cleaning – Steam cleaning can also cause serious water damage to your linoleum floors. Always check your manufacturer’s guidelines to see whether your particular brand of linoleum is safe to steam clean. Be aware that the manufacturer may void your warranty if you steam clean your floors against their guidance.
  7. Wipe up detergents – While some detergents are designed to be left on as a kind of polish, if your cleaner isn’t specifically designed for this, make sure you remove the cleaner thoroughly after use. If you don’t, the detergent left behind can form a sticky residue, which will just attract dirt.
  8. Buff out stains with a nylon brush – The pigments on linoleum tend to go all the way through, which means you can buff out stains by removing layers of the linoleum with a nylon brush. You may want to polish the area afterward to give it a shine.
  9. Remove foot scuffs with baking soda – If you find yourself dealing with the kind of black scuff marks that shoes can leave behind on floors, treat them with a paste of baking soda and water.
  10. Don’t use latex of rubber-backed rugs – While it is a good idea to use rugs and pads to protect your floors, make sure you do not use latex or rubber-backed options, as they will likely stain the floor. Choose colorfast rugs with natural backings.

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What Is The Best Cleaner For Linoleum Floors?

Vinegar-based cleaners tend to be the best option for linoleum floors. But any cleaner that is acidic should do the job. Plain old dish soap diluted in water is a popular and effective solution. Avoid alkaline-based cleaners, especially ammonia-based cleaners, as this can strip the finish from your linoleum floors and ruin them.

How Do You Make Linoleum Floors Shine?

To shine your floors, you can use either a cleaner that includes ingredients designed to leave behind a bit of shine, such as those we have recommended above, or you may want to wax your floors regularly using a liquid acrylic floor wax.

Is Bleach Safe For Linoleum?

It is safe to use bleach on linoleum floors as long as it’s properly diluted with water and any residue is removed with an alternative cleaning agent, such as a vinegar cleaning agent, so no residue is left behind that can damage your floors.

How Can You Tell The Difference Between Linoleum And Vinyl?

If you aren’t sure whether you have linoleum or vinyl flooring, there are a few signs to look out for. On linoleum flooring, the pattern goes right through, while with vinyl, the pattern is limited to the top layer. If you can see areas where the design has worn through, you probably have vinyl. You can burn vinyl with a match, while linoleum won’t burn.

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To Sum It Up

Keeping your linoleum floors clean doesn’t need to be difficult if you know what you are doing. It is a matter of finding the right cleaning products and knowing how to use them.

Choose acidic cleaning products such as those based on vinegar, that complement the natural pH of the linoleum. Use liquid cleaning products sparingly, as excessive moisture can damage the floor. Also, make sure to remove all moisture and cleaning product residue when you are done cleaning, to restore your floor to proper use as quickly as possible.

Do you have linoleum floors at home? How do you care for them? Share your advice in the comments section 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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16 thoughts on “The Best Ways To Clean Linoleum Flooring”

  1. You know what I’ve done? It works so don’t laugh 🙂 I use an iron… Yes and iron and a wet towel. Then iron over the wet towel and it pulls the dirt out of those crevices. I do this after I clean the floor thoroughly then I get down and do the iron in the wet towel it works. Time-consuming but it does work. 🙂 good luck

  2. The baking soda, vinegar recipe is like paste! Theres no way you can spray that. Is there something wrong with the amounts?

  3. Thanks for sharing this useful information. When linoleum floors are properly cleaned and taken care of, they can last nearly 50 years. Sweep, dust mop or vacuum your linoleum floor to remove excess dirt on the floor’s surface. Focus on collecting dirt from areas underneath cabinets, cupboards, and appliances. Thanks again and keep on sharing.

    1. My floor is white with dimples on it. The dimples turn gray and are almost impossible to get white. The floor is in good shape, but probably at least 15 – 20 years old. I have tried everything. The gray makes the floor look dirty, even when it is clean?

      1. My linoleum floors are white with dimples also. I wish I had a solution for you, but I have tried EVERYTHING. Solutions, both homemade and store bought, Bissel, Hoover, and other cleaning machines, all types of mops, everything. I spent the first month here on the floor on my hands and knees with a toothpick going from dimple to dimple to pop the dirt out, but gave up. Good luck. If you find a solution, please post it here.

      2. One of the houses I clean have the same type of flooring. The white floor looked like it was covered with blackheads. Google searches suggested vacuuming before cleaning. Tried it. Also tried several other things; sweeping, mopping, straight bleach, the list goes on.

        Here’s what works (discovered totally by dumb luck):
        *Remove loose dirt – however you’d
        like; sweep, vac, blower lol.
        *Swiffer wet mop – pull wet sheet
        out of container, attach to handle
        and mop floor (all or in sections).
        *Remove used wet sheet, fold in half
        (dirty side turned inward together),
        place on the floor and step on it.
        While applying pressure shuffle
        your foot back and forth. This
        scrubbing action can be done with
        your hands also, but Im lazy so the
        foot dance is fine for me.
        *Change as needed to continue
        cleaning. Can use fresh sheet to
        begin with under feet, I just try to
        stretch their life span. The Dry
        Sheets may be used instead, but
        must spray the floor or sheet itself.
        Can spray with cleaner, water, it
        really doesn’t matter.

        1) Sweep or vac floor,
        2) Swiffer mop floor,
        3) Shuffle around floor with “wet”
        sheets under feet.
        4) Be amazed!

      3. I have the same issue with my floor, struggled for years on my hand and knees cleaning it. I just recently bought a hand held pressurized steam cleaner off amazon. It comes with a scrub brush you put on the end. I spray my floor with a bleach, vinegar water solution and use the steam cleaner. I barely even have to apply any pressure and it cleans the floor in seconds. Will never go back to my hands and knees again. I highly recommend it.

    2. The magic eraser mop is the only thing that worked on the dimpled linoleum floor other than heavy steaming. I use the magic eraser mop (which only needs water) and then finish by spraying vinegar/water mixture and wiping with an old towel or paper towel.

  4. My painters left several areas with paint on my floors. It has been very difficult to remove. Any suggestions on the strongest cleaning solution for paints that won’t damage the floors?

    1. If minor, you may be able to your a paste wax to fill scratch, especially if you find a matching color. If large scratches, replace flooring or cover with a rug.

      1. Christopher Lively

        I put a hand sized bristle brush in a power drill, like a Dremmel, but much bigger. That did the trick though I haven’t tried baking soda. Vinigar and dawn solution.

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