no longer pretending my kitchen floor is't revolting
March 20, 2009 3:50 AM   Subscribe

How can I do the best job cleaning my floor for the least amount of effort?

We have a white kitchen floor of your standard kitchen floor material. It's pitted with these grooves that are basically just little paths of dirt, and it's old and whatever was supposed to happen and keep the non-pitted part from getting etched is way gone, so basically it's a gray floor with deeper pits of darker gray.

Plus, we're a high traffic outdoorsy household, and while in general we're quite tidy, nobody ever wants to clean the kitchen floor and haven't done so in over a year.

The last time we did it we used Dr. Bronner's cleansing suds and scrubbies. It's not a small kitchen and took forever, but it wound up looking pretty decent. Mops don't work. ("Do you want it to be clean or do you want to use a mop?")

What are your tips for the best bang for my buck, in terms of time, effort, or materials, for cleaning my kitchen floor?
posted by A Terrible Llama to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Buy a Scooba? I can never bring myself to mop, but pushing a few buttons on a Scooba is manageable even for someone lazy like me.
posted by olinerd at 4:04 AM on March 20, 2009

Best answer: Honestly, the easiest way is to clean it more often. Do a thorough, tedious deep cleaning - the kind that takes forever - and from that point on, get a Swiffer WetJet and make a pass with it every night before you go to bed. A small amount of effort every night trumps losing an afternoon to a mop.

Also, Mr. Clean Magic erasers ROCK for heavy traffic spots where the dirt gets ground in (ours are right in front of the microwave and in the corner where we keep the TV), but it's hands-and-knees work.

(/not a shill for P&G)
posted by Sweetie Darling at 4:17 AM on March 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

I have a slightly textured kitchen floor and the dirt just snuggles into it. I regularly curse the person who chose those tiles. What works for me is to vacuum the floor regularly, and wipe up spills as they happen. Then a few times a year I scour the floor, tile by tile, with a brillo pad and a powdered cleanser like Comet.
posted by orange swan at 4:41 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Depending on what your floor is made of, and I've not used it on a floor mind you, but the powder version of Barkeeper's Friend is my go-to cleanser on crap that I can't get rid of any other way. May not be suitable for your flooring, but is the best cleanser I know of.
posted by Medieval Maven at 4:58 AM on March 20, 2009

Best answer: Consider putting down a new floor that's better suited to your collective lifestyle (not white). Vinyl flooring is cheap and you may very well be able to DIY.

Aside from that, I WOULD use a mop, but I'd use it very frequently... like maybe twice a week. The mop should be dripping wet so that the floor gets flooded with cleaning solution, so that dirt floats free of the floor and is easily picked up with a pass of the wrung-out mop.

I bought one of the newer PVA mops a year or so ago, and really like it. It does a much better job than the urethane- or cellulose-sponged mops that have been on the market for ages.
posted by jon1270 at 5:12 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

We had the same exact problem for years. Then we got a Hoover Floormate. Somehow it managed to pick up the dirt that had been embedded in our floor for years, and it only took 15 minutes to do it. Our friends actually thought we had gotten a new floor. Our Floormate wasn't good with edges. I mean, it was really, really bad about edges, so unless you're willing to scour them yourself, make sure Hoover's fixed that problem or look elsewhere.

Actually, now that I think about it. The first month with our FloorMate, it took 15 minutes / week for four weeks. Since then, we've used it once a month or so.

That being said, if the Scooba really works well, it sounds cool.
posted by larkin123 at 5:22 AM on March 20, 2009

Best answer: Best idea I ever heard was to first give it a real good scrubbing - use Dr.Bronner's that's fine. Let dry, then go a tad creative with spackling, flipping, dotting enamel paint in all kinds of nice bright colors, letting each layer of color to dry. When you have the floor nicely done the way you like, you cover with about 3-4 coats of polyurethene - allowing to dry fully between each coat and you're done. All that's left then is to give it a good wipe every day or so and the angst is replaced with bliss.
posted by watercarrier at 5:23 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here is an explanation from someone who did it. And the word I was looking for was *splattering* the paint.
posted by watercarrier at 5:41 AM on March 20, 2009

Sweep at least once a week and wet mop(or rag and bucket of soapy water) at least every 2-3 weeks. Unless your kitchen is 2,000 SF, both of these will take 5 minutes and will make you happy. I would rather clean a kitchen floor than a bathroom but if this is the case for your kitchen floor, your bathroom must be unusable =O
posted by JJ86 at 5:52 AM on March 20, 2009

Best answer: This is pretty low-tech, but when I had a HUGE old kitchen with white, textured tiles, this is what I did, it took less than 30 minutes, and the floors were damn clean after. Much, much easier and more efficient than any method involving a mop of any kind. You need 3-4 big towels (not the good towels), an empty washing machine, a plastic garbage bag, and some floor cleaner. I like the way Pine-sol smells. Don't use dish soap, or soap of any kind, because it will leave a residue that will attract more dirt. Also, don't use my method if you have wood floors, or laminate, or anything other than vinyl or stone or ceramic tile, really.

Make sure you're wearing old clothes and then sweep thoroughly to get up all the loose dirt. Fill a bucket or the sink with hot, hot water and half a cup or so of cleaner. Starting in a corner, use an old plastic cup to pour the water-cleaner solution all over the floor in sections about 6 feet square (about 2-3 cups is enough for each section) and use the first big towel to wipe the floor, scrubbing the dirtier patches with a corner of the towel when you need to. This works best on your hands and knees. The towel will quickly become sopping wet, which is fine. Use the full width of the towel (as wide as you can reach) as a kind of dam-slash-squeegee to keep the water on the dirty side of the floor as you go. If the floor is super dirty, use 2-3 towels and toss the wet, dirty ones in the garbage bag and starting with clean ones as needed. Once you've done the whole floor this way, start again with clear, warm water and a new towel. Finally, use the last towel to dry. Don't worry about drying it all, just get the corners and the edges so water won't seep under the flooring too much and go over the rest lightly. Dump all the towels in the washer, set it going on the hottest setting, and you're done. I used to turn the garbage bag inside out and pin it to the clothesline for a little while to dry it so I could use it again (yes, technically the bag is dirty on the inside, but not any diritier than the garbage it will soon be used to contain).
posted by Wroksie at 6:06 AM on March 20, 2009 [5 favorites]

I really, really hate to shill a product, but I bought one of these steam cleaners and it makes cleaning the floors a snap. The cleanliness that results from using it, too, is far and away superior to regular mopping. It also can be used to clean many other surfaces, but it really makes deep cleaning the floors very easy. We used to mop maybe once a month or so but now we "mop" the floors using this every weekend. It takes maybe 5 minutes, too.
posted by hecho de la basura at 6:28 AM on March 20, 2009

Response by poster: Jon1270 and Wroksie are floor washing geniuses.

It's done.

The secret: tons of water. I remember last year doing the floor w/Mr. Llama and being vaguely jealous that it looked like it was going so much easier and faster for him and thinking it must just because he's stronger and could really scrub. I also thought, he's using way too much water.

But you HAVE to use too much water. So I did it with a scrubbing brush, concentrated floor cleaner, and a single hand towel that I used to wipe up and just wrung out over and over into the bucket.It took me about half an hour.

Also flagging Watercarrier's answer as awesome, because while I can't do anything permanent to the floor (it's a rental) that sounds way cool.

I'll look into the products mentioned and also into becoming the kind of person who cleans the floor more than once a year.

The weekend hasn't even started and I feel like I've achieved something major! Thanks all.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:51 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Dr. Bronners is a soap, which does need to be rinsed thoroughly. If it wasn't, it just attracts more dirt.

But if the floor is rough in texture, the only way to get it clean is to scrub it with a brush. You need the digging action of all those bristles getting into the tiny crevices where the dirt is hiding. Otherwise, you're just getting the dirt off the tops of the texture.

In this situation, I'd either give up and make peace with the dirty gray floor. Or, replace it. Or, make peace with the reality that if I want a clean floor, I'm going to have to wash it very regularly.

Or, (and I have no idea if this would work, or how) get it really, really clean and then seal it with something. Paint or polyurethane or something. Something that would fill in the crevices so that dirt couldn't get in them. But if it's linoleum or vinyl (soft, non-stone), you'd need something that would give as the floor moved.
posted by gjc at 6:54 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mop w/ soap, hot water & ammonia*. Repeat w/ soap & hot water. When it's really clean, apply acrylic wax. It will help the floor stay cleaner, and should be reapplied approximately annually. "No-wax" floors come with a thick plastic coating that wears off. Floors sold for residential use are absurdly high-maintenance and planned obsolescence, with a pitted surface, and a no-wax coating that wears off.

*Never, ever mix ammonia & bleach. Even if it doesn't kill you, it can hurt your lungs.
posted by theora55 at 7:36 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am a big fan of the deck brush, high volumes of water/ammonia mixed, and a mop in this sequence: splash a reasonably sized area of the floor with cleaning mixture, scrub with deck brush, sweep area with absorbent mop, ring mop, repeat. I make sure i have swept or vacuumed floor before I move into the wet work.
posted by ransom at 8:17 AM on March 20, 2009

Best answer: Once you've given it a thorough scrubbing and want to *keep* it clean - I am immensely fond of the Swiffer Wet Jet. I initially mocked this product, but have come to see its brilliance - especially at work (where I nanny) with two small children and a cat. Definitely a significant amount of bang for your buck.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:18 AM on March 20, 2009

I just wanted to make a note about Sweetie Darling's comment. I LOVE the magic eraser, and it might be OK for this poster's floor if it's already had the protective top coating ruined.

However, we have vinyl sheet flooring that has a deep groove pattern, and I thought the magic eraser would be awesome to get in there and get the dirt out. It was, but I also destroyed our floor. Now it's not shiny, it's matte, and instead of getting gross and dirty in a week or two, it's disgusting hours (literally!) after we clean it.

If you have a decent vinyl floor, the magic eraser will eventually destroy it. Don't do it!
posted by peep at 8:51 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's a rental so you can't do anything permanent, but I'd say there are some nonpermanent options that might make you less crazy while you live there.

Maybe a big area rug in the most-trafficked area? If you get one of those indoor-outdoor type rugs, available in a wide variety of colors and patterns these days, you can take it out and hose it off occasionally.

Maybe a floating floor that you lay over the white vinyl? There are a million types of snap-together flooring out there. It's in a kitchen, so you probably don't want "wood" laminate, but there are lots of other options. Ikea has flooring that's like vinyl squares, but it's more like plastic and it snaps together. There are rubber work mats if you want an industrial look, there are squishy lock-together panels of the same kind of stuff that kids' bath toys are made of, heck you could get a piece of vinyl you like and cut it to fit on top of the floor that's there. Stick down the edges along the wall with double-stick tape, put threshholds on the doorways, call it a day.
posted by Sublimity at 9:10 AM on March 20, 2009

I have white ceramic tiles in my kitchen (not my choice -- *sigh*) that are the bane of my existence. I sweep often, but have given up on any and all Swiffer products because of the sticky residue they leave. A squeegee mop works well enough for most of it, but I break out the kneepads and generic magic eraser for the worst bits.

My stove won't pull out far enough from the wall for a full under-the-stove cleaning (thanks, gas connection guy!), so I manage to clean the floor gaps next to the counters with a dry, narrow broom, then the same narrow broom, but wet, then a green scrubbing pad (not steel wool) held with a super-long pair of grill tongs for the last stubborn bits.

(peep, can you now put a polyurethane coating on your vinyl floor to prevent future dirt build-up in the crevices?)
posted by maudlin at 9:32 AM on March 20, 2009

For once-a-year cleaning, nothing beats ammonia and a scrub-brush. And then you're set for more regular cleaning.
posted by leahwrenn at 9:34 AM on March 20, 2009

maudlin, maybe. But at this point, it's permanently dingy. I can't even get it clean anymore, so we'd be coating over dirt. We're waiting to put ceramic tile in this summer.
posted by peep at 10:10 AM on March 20, 2009

Seconding the idea of a new floor. My first townhouse had white ceramic tile and it showed EVERY speck of dirt and I had to sweep it all the time even though I was single.

Before selling it, I put down some peel and stick gray patterned vinyl tile and the difference was amazing. The new tile showed MUCH LESS dirt. I think the tiles were a dollar a piece.

And I'm loving our ceramic tile that's in our house, which was built 4 years ago. Doesn't show dirt and looks pretty much like the day we moved in. (Although I wanted wood floors for the comfort factor and Mrs. QSYSOPR wanted ceramic).
posted by qsysopr at 12:44 PM on March 20, 2009

I have a Roomba and I really think it's kept our floors a lot cleaner. We run it probably 3 or 4 times a week in the kitchen so it gets up all the little bits of junk that would normally get ground into the floor and make it dirty and sticky.
posted by radioamy at 8:31 PM on March 20, 2009

I have a textured, patterned vinyl floor in my kitchen--the kind that's pretending to be linoleum but isn't and has shrunk back from the wall moldings as the adhesive that's stretching it against the concrete subfloor ages and loses grip (I'm guessing.)

It has that slight pebbling that's supposed to make it feel less ersatz but of course is a filth magnet, making it hard to even wipe up sills without leaving a resiude. Yay.

Here's what I do:

Cuban Mop (save the soft mop cloth they give you for other rooms)
Costco cotton shop towels
Oxy Clean (you may need to use something else, depending on your floor surface)

The cuban mob lets me work the knap of the towels against the pebbled texture, and the towels do a good job of picking up grit and debris. The oxyclean does a great job lifting dirt from the pebbled texture.

Sweep/vacuum, prepare a fairly hot solution of oxyclean in a medium sized bucket (or just the stoppered sink basin), and dump a few towels into it. Grab one, lay it on the floor, clean a section of the kitchen, when the towel is dirty put it into a seperate smaller bucket and change to a new towel. When complete, I quickly go over it again with towels dampened w/plain hot water, and then finish up with a couple of dry towels. Then I toss the towels into the washing machine with some bleach.

I use the same bulk shop towels for use as dishtowels, then cleaning towels and then for the floor as they deteriorate.

I've experimented with a number of different methods, and I've found this one to be extremely simple and effective.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:15 AM on March 21, 2009

Response by poster: I have reflected, experimented, and reversed my position on Swiffers. I discounted them as yet another item I'd have to buy supplies for at the supermarket, but we got one as a gift and those things are awesome. It's really slowed down our efforts to build auxiliary pets out of the fur the first two leave behind.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:27 AM on April 28, 2009

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