Vinyl flooring is versatile, trendy, and durable. It’s a popular choice for homeowners as it comes in a variety of designs, and can be installed virtually anywhere inside the house.
More importantly, it isn’t as expensive as carpet, porcelain, or hardwood flooring. Installation and maintenance are a piece of cake, as well! What’s there not to like?
But despite its low-maintenance, it can easily be damaged by simple cleaning mistakes. Using a steam mop for vinyl floors is one of the most common faults.
In this post, I’ll list all the reasons why it isn’t ideal to clean vinyl floors with steam mops, including alternative cleaning options. I’ll also include a bunch of other common mistakes that people make when cleaning vinyl floors. Let’s get started!
What Are the Types of Vinyl Floors?
Vinyl flooring comes in three distinct styles; each comes with its own benefits and shortcomings. Let’s closely examine each of these floor types to see which is best suited for you.
Vinyl planks are designed to imitate the appearance of hardwood floors. But, unlike the latter, they don’t cost as much. They’re also easier to maintain than traditional hardwood planks, especially since they offer a greater stain resistance.
Despite being engineered as an economical substitute, the structure of vinyl planks has improved over time to become comparable to real hardwood. It can now authentically mimic numerous wood species in both texture and color.
Another advantage of vinyl planks is that they’re entirely waterproof, whereas hardwood isn’t. These planks can be sealed entirely to prevent moisture from seeping through the gaps.
Sheet vinyl is a popular choice primarily due to its extremely easy installation. It comes in rolls of 6 to 12 feet, and all you’ll need to do is roll it down your floor, smooth it out, and glue it in.
As it dramatically limits the number of seams when installed on your floor, sheet vinyl is a great option for high-moisture areas such as bathrooms and kitchens.
This type of vinyl flooring is durable, low-maintenance, and can be purchased at a reasonable price. Just like vinyl planks, sheet vinyl can be installed over concrete, tile, wood, underlayment, or even old vinyl flooring.
With printed vinyl, thin paper-like material is laid over a vinyl top layer. In other words, this type of sheet vinyl is manufactured by printing a pattern on a backing material, which is then covered with clear vinyl or urethane finish.
With that design, the damage that extends beyond wear will be visible in the printed pattern. This means that the design of this type may fade quicker than that of the inlaid.
Inlaid vinyl is made up of colored particles that are laid and fused together on a backing material. This results in granules going through the material from top to bottom, giving them optimal texture and color.
Inlaid vinyl is much more expensive than regular print due to its complex production process. However, inlaid vinyl looks more authentic, thicker, more durable, and has the capacity to hide scratches better than printed.
Vinyl tiles are the most expensive type of vinyl flooring. It’s the best bet for homeowners who want to customize their flooring to the utmost possible degree. As its name suggests, vinyl tiles come in individual squares of various sizes.
This type of tiles allows users to arrange a pattern to further enhance the resemblance of ceramic and stone tiles. It has a peel-and-stick installation, so owners can easily install it themselves.
If you don’t mind paying a little more, you’ll find a type of tile called luxury vinyl (LVT). These types of tiles are designed to imitate almost any flooring type due to its 3D imaging technology, thereby providing a more authentic feel.
From traditional to marble, luxury vinyl tiles can resemble high-end floorings without breaking the bank. They’re also warmer and softer underfoot compared to standard vinyl tiles.
What Happens When You Use a Steam Mop for Vinyl Floor Cleaning?
Although steam mops come with a ton of benefits, they don’t do so great when met with vinyl floors.
As you probably know, a steam mop cleans the surface by producing heat and moisture. It dampens its microfiber pads to loosen and remove dirt and stains from your flooring. But that’s exactly why they shouldn’t be used for vinyl floors.
One of my friends, which we will call Delilah, decided to opt for vinyl planks instead of real hardwood because they’re easier to maintain and aren’t as expensive.
Before that, she used to have ceramic tiles that were pre-installed ages ago. Her preferred cleaning method was using a steam mop about once a week. So she did the same on her new, shiny vinyl planks.
But after a couple of months, the glue on her vinyl plank floors started to loosen. Furthermore, the planks themselves seemed warped, bent, and less shiny!
When she called me to explain the situation, she sounded quite distraught. “What did I do wrong?” she had asked. “I can’t believe they’re ruined. I just bought them half a year ago!”
After seeing this, I decided to look into it and I realized her mistake. It was a simple one, really. Something a lot of homeowners would easily make; she used a steam mop!
So why exactly can’t we use steam mops on vinyl floors?
Vinyl Floors Can’t Resist Extreme Heat
Steam mops work by heating the water inside its reservoir to high temperatures reaching 248 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bacteria are killed after 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which is why steam mops are so effective. Due to its high heat capacity, a steam mop can kill almost 99% of all the bacteria and dust mites found on the floor.
Vinyl floors, unfortunately, can’t resist that extreme heat.
As vinyl is 100% synthetic, it’s almost entirely made of plastic materials. And what happens when plastic, no matter how thick, is exposed to extreme heat? It melts. This is especially true with vinyl, as it’s often coated with a polyurethane (plastic) surface to make it shine.
Steam and Water Can Loosen Your Vinyl Floors
But Annabel, isn’t vinyl floors known to be water-resistant? Indeed it is, but when coupled with extreme heat, water can loosen the glue underneath the vinyl flooring.
The steam and dripping water from a steam mop can seep between the planks, which can loosen and overheat the glue that holds them in place. Overheating glue causes the floor to warp, bend, slip, and/or slacken.
Vinyl planks and tiles face this problem the most because of their creases.
Cleaning With Steam Mops May Dull the Vinyl Floor’s Finish
Not only can steam mops loosen the grout or glue you used to install your vinyl floor, but they may also cause your flooring to lose its shine!
Can vinyl dull over time? Yes, especially in heavy traffic areas. But steam mops causes it to lose its shine even quicker as it melts the surface’s composition.
Because it’s primarily made of acetate-based latex, which is also used as a coating in plastic films, the more it’s exposed to extreme heat, the more the shine wears off.
How You Should Clean Your Vinyl Floor Instead
Vinyl is known for easy maintenance, so there are a ton of other ways to clean vinyl flooring.
For Daily Cleaning
Vinyl floors are heavy-duty, but they’re not entirely scratch resistant. Leaving dust and debris on your floor can seriously damage and scrape the finish of your vinyl.
Even small clumps of dust and dirt can sometimes come with sharp edges that may cause scarring over time. They may even slowly remove the shiny finish from the floor as you walk inside your home with your feet or shoes.
You don’t need anything extravagant to clean your vinyl floor; a simple broom or vacuum cleaner will work wonderfully!
Get the dirt off before it gets grounded in, I always say. Make it a habit of running your soft broom across the floor every day or every other day, maybe after putting away your dishes or before going to bed.
This type of cleaning suits all three vinyl floor types: planks, sheets, or tiles.
For Deep Cleaning
If you believe your vinyl floor needs a bit deeper cleaning, you’ll need to bring out the big guns — your trusty tile mop and bucket.
But before you mop your floors, you need to make sure you’re using the right cleaning products.
Here’s the process I suggest:
- Use warm water and dish soap.
- Add one cup of apple cider vinegar to a gallon of warm water to bring the shine back. If you don’t have apple cider, a plain ol’ white vinegar will do.
- Baking soda and water clean and remove stains such as ketchup, tomato paste, and wine.
- For tougher stains from lipstick, paint, or ink, apply rubbing alcohol to the spot with a soft-bristle brush.
- Use a nail polish remover for nail polish stains.
- Use shampoo to remove hairspray buildup.
- It’s better to use a microfiber mop as it cleans more effectively than standard mops.
You can apply these steps for every type of vinyl floorings.
Do You Still Want to Clean Vinyl Floors With a Steam Mop? Here’s What You Should Do
Steam mops are great, so I understand why you’d still want to use them despite the risk of damaging your vinyl floors.
So if you still insist on using a steam mop for vinyl floors, remember to keep these tips in mind:
- Never hold the steam mop for more than two to three seconds in one spot.
- Use quick, straight strokes while cleaning.
- Mop along the printed grain to avoid depositing particles and bits of moisture into the seams.
- Always set your steam mop to the lowest heat level.
- Don’t use harsh chemicals when cleaning with a steam mop.
Other Common Mistakes People Make In Treating Their Vinyl Floors
It’s normal for us to make mistakes while cleaning, but it’s best to avoid them as much as possible to ensure the longevity of our vinyl floors.
Here are some of the most common mistakes we often make while treating vinyl floors.
Using Too Much Water
Using too much water causes a lot of problems, and makes your overall cleaning experience more difficult. Plus, there’s a chance that your kids, bless them, may undo all your hard work by running on your still wet floor!
When cleaning vinyl floors, an overly wet mop will allow water to work its way into the cracks, seams, and edges of your floor. If this happens, the glue or grout that holds the vinyl floor together may cause the corners to curl or come loose entirely.
Use enough water to clean, but not too much that it floods your vinyl floor. You’ll have to be especially careful with water if you own seamed vinyl planks or tiles.
Not Rinsing Well Enough
Soap works brilliantly for cleaning vinyl. But if you don’t rinse it well enough, it’ll leave a film of soap scum that will collect dirt.
Cleaning with soap isn’t always necessary, especially if it’s only a quick clean. Don’t be afraid to mop with just water! After all, vinyl floors are stain-resistant.
But when you do need to wash the floor with soap, it’s best if you use two mops — one for washing, and another for rinsing. This will ensure that you remove all the soap scum from the floor.
Waxing Your Vinyl
If your vinyl starts to look a bit dull, it makes sense to use wax. Floor wax, after all, is made specifically for shining floors, right? Well, yes, but this doesn’t apply to certain vinyl floors. Specifically, No-Wax Vinyl.
This type of vinyl comes with a tough acrylic, urethane, or clear polyurethane coating. As such, it doesn’t require the application of any type of wax to make it shine.
If you decide to wax your vinyl floors, the product won’t work effectively as it won’t stick to the vinyl. Instead, it’ll leave behind a mess that’s difficult to remove. So if your vinyl floor loses its shine, it’s best to restore it with a polish or sealant that’s specifically made for such a type of flooring.
Alternatively, you can use a solution of water and vinegar (1 gallon to 1 cup) with a few drops of baby oil. This will leave a nice, gleaming sheen that’ll restore the shine of your flooring.
For scuffs, apply a water-displacing lubricant or jojoba oil on a piece of cloth and rub the area gently until the scuffs disappear. You can then remove the lubricant traces with the water-vinegar method.
Placing Heavy Furniture Directly on Top of Your Vinyl
Delilah made this mistake when she first got her vinyl planks installed. When she and I went to move her couch a couple of months later to redecorate her living room, we were stunned to see obvious dents and scuffs made by the couch’s feet.
Luckily, there’s an easy way to prevent this—fit your furniture with floor protectors! What are floor protectors, you might ask? It’s like socks but for furniture, and they actually look more like plates or caps than actual socks.
It might sound silly, but these floor protectors are a real lifesaver when it comes to vinyl floors. That knowledge would’ve been super helpful if I knew it beforehand!
You can buy these floor protectors in hardware stores, home improvement centers, and basically any trusted online store.
Rolling casters on an office chair, laundry basket hamper, or cabinet, are a vinyl floor’s enemy. Wheels can easily damage your flooring over time by leaving permanent scratches.
Sheet vinyl is difficult to replace, unlike tile or plank vinyl. So if your floor gets damaged by an office chair, you’d be at a disadvantage.
If you own furniture with rolling casters, try these solutions:
- Place a clear mat underneath the furniture to protect the vinyl surface.
- Replace plastic casters found on office chairs with rubber wheels.
- Buy an office chair suited for vinyl floors to reduce further damage.
- Consider fitting the casters with felt tips.
Vinyl floors can stand up to a lot of abuse. But like other types of flooring, they still need proper care to keep it in the best condition.
In conclusion, should you use a steam mop for vinyl floors? I’d say no. However, this isn’t to say that you absolutely shouldn’t. As long as you’re carefully following the tips I’ve given earlier, your flooring will be A-OK.
If you own a vinyl floor, I’d love to hear your own tips and tricks on how to care for them! Be sure to leave a comment below if you have any questions.