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Can You Steam Clean Vinyl Floors?

Can You Steam Clean Vinyl Floors?

Steam cleaning everything sounds like a great idea. After all, steam is strong enough to disinfect and the entire cleaning process is almost automated. You don’t have to use as much elbow grease scrubbing as you would using another cleaning technique.

Though a plausible proposition, the hot steam can be harmful to some surfaces as it is to the bacteria, viruses and parasites you want to kill. Laminate floors and vinyl floors lie in the no-clean zone. Using a steam cleaner or steam mop on your vinyl floors will ruin them.

Why You Shouldn’t Steam Clean Vinyl Floors

Steam cleaners work by forcing hot steam into the surface you are cleaning. The high pressure steam penetrates pores and joints pushing out the dirt. The mob or extractor used after the steam cleaner then gets rid of any residual moisture.

While this will work on fabric, tiles and other surfaces, trying it on vinyl floors will yield mixed results. 

The High Heat Will Delaminate the Vinyl Planks

Vinyl floors are made of multiple layers of different materials glued together to form the stiff plank you laid down when installing the floor. 

The bond between these layers will survive normal room temperatures, a hot water mopping, constant foot traffic but will start falling apart the moment you apply hot steam to it.

The vinyl planks might not start peeling up and bubbling immediately but they will eventually show the strain as you keep cleaning. How fast you see the effect varies depending on the quality of vinyl floors you have in your house.

Steam Will Penetrate the Floor through the Joints

Apart from delaminating the planks, the steam from the cleaner can penetrate through the joints of different planks on your vinyl floor. Once it gets to the underside of the floor, it condenses forming water.

Steam cleaning a vinyl floor is essentially pushing moisture under the floor. The dampness will encourage rotting, mold and mildew. The result will be a rotting subfloor and an unsafe house that smells damp.

Summary: Steam cleaning ruins vinyl floor. Keep it off at all costs.

What is the Best Way to Clean Vinyl Floors

Steam mops and steam cleaning is out of the question. Don’t worry though. Vinyl floors are very easy to clean. 

Sweep Loose Dirt Away

The first step is using a soft bristle broom or a mop broom to whisky away loose dirty and dust. Do this as soon as the floor is dirty as leaving particles on it could lead to scratches.

Alternatively, you could invest in a robot vacuum and program it to do frequent cleaning runs throughout the day. 

Deal With Spills and Sticky Stains ASAP

Any spills, for instance, wine, baby food, or mud from dirty shoes shouldn’t lie on the vinyl floor for long. If it does, it will get all sticky and ingrained making it harder to clean.

Simple spot cleaning using a cotton or microfiber cleaning rug will take care of the problem without the need of cleaning your entire floor.

Wet Mop with Warm Water, Mild Soap and Some Vinegar

While sweeping and vacuuming will keep the floor looking clean for longer, you still have to wet mop it frequently to maintain a shiny and fresh sheen.

What you need

  • A soft mop or lint free rug
  • A bucket of warm water
  • Some vinyl or mild floor cleaner
  • A soft bristle brush

What to do

  1. Start by moving furniture carefully out of the way
  2. Use the broom to sweep away any loose dirt, dust and other debris
  3. Add some warm water to your mopping or cleaning bucket and a dash of the floor cleaner. Ensure that you are using a mild wax free cleaner or even dishwashing soap. It doesn’t have to create a foam
  4. Dip the rug or mop into the water and wring it such that it is wet, but not dripping wet
  5. Starting from the furthest end of the room, wet mop the vinyl floor, making frequent dips into the water to rinse the mop or rug before resuming
  6. If the water gets very dirty, muddy or murky mid-way, throw it away and prepare a new solution
  7. A single mop over should be enough but you can repeat the process again with clean water to rinse the floor and give it a sparkly streak free finish

If there are any trouble spots or stains, use a different mop, rug and water to spot clean. Be careful not to carry over the dirty water or rug to cleaner parts of the floor without rinsing it.

Avoid any abrasive cleaners or disinfectants like Clorox that are acidic. While they will deal with the pathogens faster than soap, they will ruin the top coat of your vinyl floor giving it a dull film look over time.

Don’t Pour Water onto the Floor to Wet Mop

Resist the urge to dump a lot of water onto the floor for a thorough wet mopping session. While it might seem more thorough, it really doesn’t yield better results than using a wet rug or mop and cleaning multiple times until the water is clean.

Moreover, letting water flow over your vinyl floor increases the chances of moisture leeching through the joints and into the underside of the vinyl planks – bad news.

Don’t Use Brushes or an Abrasive to Scour the Surface

Since vinyl floor has a glossy and smooth finish, most of the dirt will loosen up and wipe away using a damp cleaning rug.

There is no point in using a brush or another abrasive to scrub away stubborn dirt or stains. If you encounter something that won’t wipe away immediately, use this procedure to loosen it up:

  • Take a cotton rag and dip it into the cleaning mixture (warm water and soap, or your floor cleaner of choice)
  • Slightly wring the rug to leave it wet but not too soggy
  • Place it over the caked in dirt or stain and let it soak up the dirt for around five minutes
  • After this, the dirt should be loose enough to gently wipe out of the vinyl floor

Remember you wouldn’t be in such a position if you treated stains and spills as soon as they form. Cleaning wet food spills will be easier than ignoring and waiting until they dry and cake in.

Keep Harsh Chemicals Off Your Floors

When choosing the cleaning chemical or soap, ensure that you go for mild cleaners. Avoid anything you wouldn’t touch without wearing cleaning gloves or immediately rinsing your hands. This means bleaches, ammonia, and other strong soaps meant to chemically loosen stains are out of question.

Bottom Line

The biggest advantage of vinyl flooring is how easy they are to clean. However, you have to be very proactive and remove any dirt and stains as they form. They get harder to handle the longer they sit. 

Sweeping or dry mopping daily and using a mild mopping solution once or twice a week for thorough cleaning should do away with the need for harsh cleaning procedures like using steam mops and steam cleaners.