Floor identification and cleaning question
September 11, 2010 6:37 PM   Subscribe

This is a two part question about cleaning a floor. Our floors our filthy, and I need help identifying the type of floor we have as well as suggestions for how to clean it. Assume I'm an incompetent bachelor who knows nothing about cleaning.

Here are some photos:
Photo 1 Photo 2 Photo 3

Searching for how to clean "tile" online gives results about bathroom tile, which doesn't exactly describe these, so I'm hoping for a more exact description. It's the type of floor seen in schools.

How do I effectively clean this? Bleach? Ajax? I'm happy to put in grunt work and clean every single tile individually, but I want these to be sparkling. I've tried some spray cleaners, but they don't seem to do much. What kind of brush do I use? Rags? Any advice is appreciated.

posted by null terminated to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Those are linoleum tiles. Get some Pine Sol or similar product, a mop and a bucket. You'll dilute the Pine Sol with water and then use it to mop the floor. If your floors are particularly dirty, you may need to mop twice.
posted by onhazier at 6:40 PM on September 11, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks. I had assumed linoleum would be shinier. These are matte (but possibly because they're so dirty). We've tried mopping, but that seems to simply move dirt around which turns into a layer of grime when dried.
posted by null terminated at 6:45 PM on September 11, 2010

Best answer: Looks like vinyl floor tiles. Be very careful if it's lino, see first link.

How to clean lino tiles

How to clean vinyl tiles

How to shine vinyl tiles
posted by shinybaum at 6:49 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

We've tried mopping, but that seems to simply move dirt around which turns into a layer of grime when dried.

Change the rinsing/wringing bucket's solution often and with gusto, and mop twice. I use about a half cup of Simple Green per half-bucket of water. Also, get a rope mop and stay away from nasty sponge mops.
posted by carsonb at 6:50 PM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sponge mops from the grocery store are usually crap. Get a good string mop you can wring out, or get down & use a bristle brush. Either way, use lots of water and rinse often.

On preview, as carsonb sez.
posted by TDIpod at 6:52 PM on September 11, 2010

We've tried mopping, but that seems to simply move dirt around which turns into a layer of grime when dried.

For really dirty, mops are hard work. Get on your hands and knees with a medium bristle scrubbing brush and a mild cleaning agent and an old but clean dry towel. For every tile, scrub then rinse then dry then repeat. After you've got rid of the gunk a mop will do fine. Otherwise you'll just have dirty grey streaks drying all over the place.

(the dullness might be because it's old vinyl)
posted by shinybaum at 6:56 PM on September 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

I'm seconding vinegar from shinybaum's first link. I find it doesn't leave a 'sticky' residue like commercial cleaning preparations.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 6:56 PM on September 11, 2010

!. Sweep

2. mop

Mop is best when it involves not swiffer - but actually water and soap. Murphies Oil or whatever. Just mop, then do it again with clear water as a rinse, then (fun part), take and old bath towel you don't care about and put it on the floor: stand on it and "walk" around with it under your feet to dry. This part actually gets up a lot of residual dirt that sweeping and mopping will miss.

Do this once a week.
posted by marimeko at 7:00 PM on September 11, 2010

Best answer: Armstrong floor cleaner (it's blue) costs a little more but does a fantastic job cleaning floors and it dries quick and smells nice too.

Forget mops. Get a couple of rags and a bucket, (scrub brush would be handy as well) and get down on hands and knees. Just consider it exercise.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:42 PM on September 11, 2010

If it's linoleum, Mr. Clean and the like will just leave a residue and make it grungier. Fill a bucket with hot water, add a splash of white vinegar and a squirt of Ivory dish soap. Mop with some elbow grease.
posted by radioamy at 7:56 PM on September 11, 2010

I have to agree with the people who say that scrubbing on your hands and knees is the only thing that will work well for really dirty floors. Cotton rags or old towels work well. I like Murphy's Oil Soap or Pine Sol for really big jobs. Scrub one tile at a time, rinse with lots of water, then wipe dry. Change your water often. Once it's been cleaned really well, then maintain it by cleaning with a mop and diluted cleaner every week.
posted by gemmy at 7:56 PM on September 11, 2010

Nthing elbow grease and kneeling to scrub with a brush and towels. Be prepared to change the water often. It will take some time, but you'll feel as if you've really accomplished something.

You can get cheap foam kneepads at Home Depot and similar stores. Your knees will sweat (yes, your knees can sweat), but a little sweat beats a lot of soreness.
posted by maudlin at 8:11 PM on September 11, 2010

Nthing that really dirty floors require hands and knees and scrub-brush.
posted by desuetude at 8:20 PM on September 11, 2010

Best answer: Something I haven't seen mentioned (maybe I missed it): Be sure to use hot water. Preferably near scalding. If you have a squeegee to collect the remaining dirty floor water in one spot, you'll find it much easier to re-clean the one small area that will be dirty from the left over dirty water.

Once you've cleaned the floor the first time, hot water and some sort of vinegar/soap mixture will do a fabulous job cleaning and you can just leave it to dry.

Wring out your mop or whatever very often.

You might consider waxing it or something after you've cleaned it, as that will make it easier to clean in the future.
posted by wierdo at 8:24 PM on September 11, 2010

Let your non-acidic cleaning solution do the work: pour it on the linoleum floor, spread it around, leave it alone for five minutes, and then mop the mess up (I have used a squeegee and a dust pan to collect the dirty water). Rinse well, at least a couple of times. When the floor is dry, apply a linoleum wax. Sometimes there is a buildup of wax that you'll have to strip before applying the cleaning solution to the floor.

The other tiles (#3) should come clean with a regular general purpose cleaner.
posted by francesca too at 8:39 PM on September 11, 2010

Best answer: Everyone's answers are pretty good. Although I hate to mop, I am good at it:

1. sweep

2. spray the really dirty parts of the floor with Fantastic or another spray cleaner, let it sit for about 10 minutes

3. mix some Fantastic with hot water (read the label for amount), use this to scrub with a scrub brush. Don't use a very hard brush, a medium scrub brush will work well.

3.a. if it is truly disgusting, wash with ammonia, then,

4. rinse with a string mop and clean water, you may have to change the water a few times, don't keep using dirty water (you can also get one of those industrial buckets with a squeezer)

5. wash the floor with a good cleaner and a string mop, like Pine Sol or diluted Fantastic (read the bottle)

6. let the wash water sit a bit, to loosen up the gunk

7. rinse again, I like to put white vinegar in the rinse water, make sure you are using clean water, change it when it looks dirty

8. skate around the floor with a towel under each foot to dry it

9. If you want to wax the floor, this is the time to do it. If you keep the floor clean, you will not need to wax often. If the floor is in really bad shape, you may need to seal it, then wax it. I've never been much for waxing, but it does help keep the floor cleaner and makes it easier to clean the floor.

Use a Swiffer wetmop everyday or every other day, wash once a week (steps 1, 5, 6, 7, 8). I sometimes wonder why we gave up on rushes and hard packed dirt floors.

I owe this vast knowledge of floor care to home economics, which I was required to take 42 years ago. I would have much rather had taken carpentry, but the girls were taught to wash floors instead, thank you NYC Board of Education
posted by wandering_not_lost at 9:52 PM on September 11, 2010 [6 favorites]

OP, the linoleum in schools and other public installations is generally shiny because it is waxed regularly and buffed with an industrial floorwax buffer (it was a great boon to be allowed to help the janitor with the buffer when I was in grade school decades ago). Home linoleum, if waxed (and if real linoleum, not vinyl), rarely gets buffed and waxed with the same regularity and intensity.
posted by catlet at 10:04 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

We bought a small Shark brand steam cleaner (ours looks like this) and boy, it was the best $40 we ever spent. It worked really well on our old linoleum floors and keeps you from having to use buckets.

I would sweep twice and then steam the whole floor. Usually the water would evaporate before I could make it back to mop it up but if the floor was still wet I'd just scoot a towel around on the floor. It's easier and really fast and I also used the steamer with a little wand attachment to clean the bathroom and stove top occasionally.
posted by Saminal at 10:05 PM on September 11, 2010

Try sweeping 3 times, dry swiffering 3 times, and THEN mopping. Sweeping will get up the big dirt and swiffering will get up the small dirt, and it will be much less overwhelming.

(I say 3 times because that's how many times it took me on a particularly dirty and neglected floor before we stopped getting up MASS QUANTITIES OF DIRT and could actually mop without just pushing around yuck. Keep going until the mess quantities quit coming up!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:39 AM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

What everyone else is saying and adding that I vacuum thoroughly before mopping. It's easier than sweeping and gets up more loose dirt and dust. And dog hair, which is the big issue in my house.
posted by mygothlaundry at 6:23 AM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

It is hard to see in those pictures, but is the tile laid edge to edge, and the black lines are raised gunk, or are they laid with gaps in between? If there are gaps, it is going to be near impossible to make the floor seem clean, because there aren't supposed to be gaps.

It it is raised gunk, it is probably the glue that was used to lay the tile down squishing up. Scrape it off.

(BTW, that's almost for sure Linoleum or a Linoleum substitute. You can safely scrub the piss out of them.)

Don't buy a mop if you don't already have one; they aren't actually all that good for residential sized floors. Hands and knees and a rag will do a better job. Unless wielded with skill, a mop just shoves the dirt into the corners and under the cabinets.
posted by gjc at 1:40 PM on September 12, 2010

If you are a powertool sort of person, I'd recommend giving it a god wet scrub with a brush, and then use a shopvac to suck up the excess water and all the dirt that's floating in it. it works way better than mopping.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:12 PM on September 12, 2010

Please pardon the length of this answer -- I'm a cleaning nerd and can't help myself. Cleaning this floor thoroughly the first time will be time-consuming and will require plenty of rinsing and water-changing. But after that, it'll be much easier. I'm assuming it's vinyl, because the tiles themselves seem to be in very good condition. When I was a janitor in college, I took care of very similar kitchen floors. The ruling principle: loosen dirt with a cleaning product mixed with water; remove the water and soil; rinse. After that, apply a coating that will make life easier in the future.

Ammonia and Simple Green are good cleaners. (Save the vinegar or baking soda for when the floor just needs maintenance.) Follow the instructions on the label, because using extra doesn't help and can actually make the job more difficult.

Use two containers, such as pails or sinks. In one, cleaning product and water. In the other, plain water, which you will change often. You can use a sponge mop, kitchen towels/bar mops that you can fold a couple of times, or a combination of the two. To use sponge mop and towel together, put the towel down, set the sponge mop on it, and push the towel around. With just a towel, fold it twice, and turn it to a clean section as each part gets dirty. (Microfiber is excellent.)If you use a sponge mop, hold it upright when you wring the water out. The sponge mop by itself has a very small surface, so it takes a lot longer than using a cloth. Give special attention to edges and corners, because the next step will seal the dirt in place if you don't get all of it.

When it comes time to rinse, some people like to apply a lot of clear water and mop it up with towels. But since your floor is smooth, you can just wipe with a damp cloth/sponge/mop. If dirt is still appearing, keep rinsing till it's clean.

Once it dries thoroughly, apply a coating such as Mop 'n Glo or Future... use enough to get an even coat, but there's no need to use more than that. You need to do this only after a deep cleaning. If the coating wears off in a high-traffic area, you can recoat that area only. If you keep doing the whole floor, you'll end up with a thick coating in low-traffic areas, and you don't want that.

To maintain your floor, wipe or mop it weekly with plain water, or add a few drops (not a squirt) of dish soap or a little vinegar to a pail of water. The cloth or mop should be damp, not drippy.

Right before the weekly mopping, sweep the floor with a broom and pick up debris with a dustpan and brush or broom. Sweep during the week if you need to. Or use my favorite: The Swivel Sweeper. It's really great for kitchens, and very fast.
posted by wryly at 3:17 PM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: what catlet said about cleaning, stripping, waxing and buffing in commercial applications.

These are Armstrong vinyl tiles, btw (not linoleum, which is backed with cardboard) and boy are they awesome. The pattern goes all the way through, which is why you can strip them and buff them and mangle them and they keep looking -- well, either great or the same -- until you wear a hole all the way through to the concrete below.

Good news - you can just pour bleach on it, mop it up and call it a day. Bad news - if you don't strip/clean/wax/buff, it'll always look about the same, clean or dirty.

These are the kind of beasts we're talking about for buffing. Looks expensive as hell to rent, but in a residential application, you'd probably only need it once.
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:33 PM on September 12, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions!
posted by null terminated at 12:58 PM on October 12, 2010

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