Do Not Steam Clean Vinyl Flooring (Do These Instead)

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Vinyl flooring is a popular choice for many homeowners because it is affordable, easy to install, and even easier to maintain. Cleaning your vinyl flooring regularly will preserve its appearance and ensure its longevity.

That being said, a favored cleaning method amongst homeowners is steam cleaning for its ability to loosen and remove even the toughest debris, but is this method safe for vinyl floors? 

You should not steam clean vinyl flooring. Steam cleaners heat up water to temperatures as high as 325 °F. Exposing vinyl flooring to these temperatures will result in warping, discoloration, and other irreversible damage. Gentler tools should be used for this task instead.

In this article, we’ll discuss the ideal method for cleaning your vinyl floors and what tools and products are safest and most effective as opposed to the destructive potential of steam cleaners.

As you read, you’ll learn more about why steam cleaners aren’t ideal for this task and how you can keep your vinyl floors clean and well-maintained for years to come.

What Happens if You Steam Clean Vinyl Floors?

We’ve already given a glimpse into the damage steam cleaning can cause to your vinyl floors, but let’s go a little more in-depth as to its effects and why this occurs on vinyl versus other flooring materials.

Most vinyl floors are water-resistant to some degree due a durable coating applied to its outermost layer. This allows the floors to sustain spills, scuffs, scratches, and other potential causes of damage, but it is not enough to protect them from the excessive water and heat.

In fact, homes with vinyl flooring should not exceed internal temperatures of 81°F, for the sake of the flooring’s integrity. When the hot, pressurized steam comes into contact with your vinyl floor, it can loosen the adhesive that holds the flooring material in place.

As a result, you might notice the boards are no longer flush with one another but feel loose underfoot instead.

The high temperature of the steam can also penetrate the flooring’s protective layer and seep into the materials’ fibrous core, causing it to warp and even melt. Once this happens, you’ll likely see permanent damage to your floors that will require on or multiple boards/tiles to be replaced.

Another risk steam cleaning poses to your vinyl floors is that, if this water is not thoroughly extracted, what remains between and even inside the boards can promote the growth of mold, mildew, and harmful bacteria that can contaminate anything that walks on the floors and eat away at the vinyl boards themselves.

How to Clean Vinyl Flooring

Now that you have a clear idea of what steam cleaning can do to your vinyl flooring, let’s discuss the best alternative cleaning method for floors made from this material.

The best way to clean vinyl flooring is to use low-impact and gentle tools paired with mild detergents or cleaning agents that won’t damage the floor’s protective coating.

Ideally, you should clean your vinyl floors the classic way, using a mop and a bucket of water mixed with a mild detergent. You can either use a classic sting, strip, flat, sponge mop or you can go a bit more modern and use an automatic spray mop, like the Swiffer Wet Jet, if you prefer.

Most experts recommend vinyl floor owners use dry mops over wet mops to reduce the level of moisture you apply to your flooring, but this is a personal choice.

If you can use minimal amounts of water and soak up any excess, then a wet mop is fine.

When it comes to choosing the right cleaning agent for your vinyl flooring, the most important note to keep in mind is that you should always avoid any harsh chemicals. If you see bleach, chlorine, ammonia or similar components listed on a potential product’s label, then this isn’t the cleaning agent for you.

Here are some mild detergent options we recommend that will be gentle but effective for cleaning your vinyl floors:

Mrs. Meyer's Multi-Surface Cleaner Concentrate
Method All-Purpose Cleaner Spray
Method All-Purpose Cleaner Spray,...
Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds Concentrate Mild
Dr. Bronner's - Sal Suds...
Method Wood For Good Floor Cleaner
Method Squirt & Mop Wood Floor...
Mrs. Meyer's Multi-Surface Cleaner Concentrate
Method All-Purpose Cleaner Spray
Method All-Purpose Cleaner Spray,...
Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds Concentrate Mild
Dr. Bronner's - Sal Suds...
Method Wood For Good Floor Cleaner
Method Squirt & Mop Wood Floor...

When cleaning vinyl flooring, many people also find success using a minimal amount of mild dish soap or mixing a cup of apple cider vinegar with their bucket water instead.

Vinyl Flooring Cleaning Tips

Here are some extra tips and tricks for cleaning your vinyl floors that will help reduce the number of deep, extensive cleans you perform, keep your floors protected, and can even restore some of its original integrity.

1. Sweep Often, Vacuum Weekly

The easiest way to ensure you only need to perform a quick mop here and there on your vinyl floors is to keep them consistently tidy (within reason; we understand you can’t always clean messes immediately).

A soft-bristled brush is a total game changer. Using a soft-bristled brush for daily sweeping will do wonders for your vinyl floors to ensure they don’t become caked in grime.

When the time comes for a deeper clean, try your best to bust out the vacuum once a week. If you’ve been sweeping daily, then there shouldn’t be too much for your vacuum to pick up, but their extra suction power will allow you to remove dust, dirt, and debris your broom might have missed.

Remember that you always want to avoid using abrasive tools and/or harsh products on your vinyl floors, so make sure your vacuum is on the “bare floor” setting so the beater bar isn’t scraping against the floors.

2. Keep an Eye on Your Mop Head

Something many homeowners tend to forget when cleaning is to check the condition of their cleaning tools before, during, and after the process.

The last thing you want to do is try to clean your vinyl floors with a filthy mop head. This will significantly impact the mop’s ability to sanitize the floors and could even result in them being dirtier than when you started as debris and contaminants from the mop had been transferred onto the vinyl surface.

If at any point in your cleaning process you find that your mop head has turned an unsightly color and remains that way even after a few rinses, the time has come to swap it out for a new one.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Apply a Vinyl Floor Sealant or Restorer

There might come a time when you notice your vinyl floors are appearing a bit lackluster.

Maybe you can even see sections where its protective layer has been scraped off. In these moments, the best thing to do is to apply a layer of a vinyl-safe sealant or restorer.

Permatex 81786 Super Clear Vinyl...
  • Kit contains clear vinyl sealant and filler, special applicator nozzle and grain pattern paper
  • Makes invisible repairs from rips, cuts and tears to upholstery, luggage, clothing
  • This item is not for sale in Catalina Island

These products will patch up and thicken your floor’s worn protective layer, ensuring it is safe from potential damage and can perhaps last several more years. Sealants and restorers shouldn’t be applied after every cleaning session, just on occasion when it seems necessary.

Final Thoughts

Thanks to their exceptional durability, high-quality vinyl floors can last up to 25 years if they’re maintained.

Unfortunately, running a steam cleaner over them is probably one of the fastest ways to ruin your vinyl floors, so make sure you follow our cleaning tips above for the best products, tools, and methods that will help ensure your vinyl floors last as long as possible.

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