My floor is covered with years of dirt and I don't know how to fix it.
December 27, 2009 6:30 PM   Subscribe

I have no idea if my floor is vinyl or linoleum. What's the best way to clean it?

I've read over this post about how to tell if my floor is actually linoleum. However, my floor is individual tiles, and no parts are coming up so I can't see the backing. I live in an old building that has a lot of original features, so it is possible that it's the original floor from 1920. How can I be sure? Does the fact that it's individual tiles mean that yes, it is real linoleum? I've also seen this which suggests that it's actually vinyl.

Second, if I'm not sure what it's made of, what's the best way to clean it? Is there a method that's safe for both linoleum and vinyl? Should I assume that years of being the floor of a rental unit have left it covered with the residue of a thousand cleaners and not worry so much about it? With all the contradicting information, I don't think I'm going to be 100% confident that I know what it is, so what is my best bet in getting deep black marks off?
posted by ohisee to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Oops. I edited out this link about deep-cleaning linoleum floors. It says that it's not a good idea to use ammonia on linoleum, but then suggests that lots of cleaning residue means that ammonia is probably ok. So, I'm thinking I should just use ammonia. After all, the floor is basically destroyed as it is.

Please also note, that regular floor cleaners and scrubbing aren't do anything. I need something stronger.
posted by ohisee at 6:40 PM on December 27, 2009

this link
posted by ohisee at 6:41 PM on December 27, 2009

Does the fact that it's individual tiles mean that yes, it is real linoleum?

No, vinyl comes in tiles too.
posted by cabingirl at 7:24 PM on December 27, 2009

It's probably vinyl, ideally commercial vinyl, which is solid and has color all the way through. Residential vinyl flooring varies a lot, and isn't as sturdy. Cleaners don't leave much residue, but wax could be built up in the corners. I'd use ammonia and water. Instructions will be on the ammonia. You may have to use a scrubber. Wax it after it's clean. It will be crazy slippery for a little while, but will stay much cleaner, much longer.

Never mix ammonia and bleach - it releases chlorine gas, which is very, very bad for you.
posted by theora55 at 7:37 PM on December 27, 2009

You haven't told us where you live. US? UK? Elsewhere? Assuming you live in an urban area of the US, look up Janitorial Supplies in your Yellow Pages. Go there and ask this question. They will be able to sell you a good floor stripper, cleaner and wax. If they suggest you use these three separate solutions, find a part of the floor that is generally not visible (next to the refrigerator?). Use the stripper according to its directions on a small piece of floor to test whether it does the job and doesn't harm the floor. If the answer is yes, move on to the cleaner, according to its directions, and then the wax. If all of these solutions work on the test area, expand your horizons.

Lots of work, but worth it.
posted by Old Geezer at 7:42 PM on December 27, 2009

Ammonia cleaned it up. It's not super sparkling great, and maybe if I'm still in that apartment next year, I'll think about stripping and waxing. Thanks!
posted by ohisee at 8:29 PM on January 29, 2010

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