Vinyl and linoleum differ, but one of these flooring materials looks so much like the other that it's easy to confuse them. Vinyl flooring is manufactured from polyvinyl chloride -- the same plastic used for plumbing pipes -- and linoleum is an all-natural product manufactured with linseed oil. As far as cleaning is concerned, you shouldn't confuse them, because they require slightly different cleaning methods. Gentle cleaners are best for both types of flooring, though.
Differences Between Vinyl and Linoleum
Because vinyl is plastic, the pattern is usually stamped on the surface, and your floor may have a raised texture. Linoleum, on the other hand, is covered by a coating of dried linseed oil that has much in common with wood varnish, and the pattern extends from the backing all the way through this coating. Because it's basically dried oil, linoleum is more susceptible to scratches than vinyl, and a coating of wax is recommended to protect it. You should never wax vinyl, though -- wax doesn't adhere well to vinyl, and it renders the flooring slippery and unsafe.
General Cleaning Guidelines
You should avoid cleaning vinyl floors with ammonia or bleach. High-pH detergents are corrosive and can damage the flooring. The best cleaners are pH-neutral ones, such as plain water or a solution of 1 ounce of mild dish detergent per gallon of water. Standing water can stain vinyl, so mop with a microfiber mop (not a string one) and wring it well before mopping. When mopping with detergent, go over the floor with clean water to rinse it afterward. Dry the floor with a clean towel or rag.
White and apple cider vinegar, both natural cleaning agents, can remove ground-in dirt, mineral streaks and scuff marks from vinyl floors. Vinegar is too strong to use full strength unless you have to remove deep stains. For regular cleaning, mix 1 cup with a gallon of warm water, adding an ounce of dish detergent and a few drops of baby oil to make a strong mopping solution that leaves a shine. Avoid using full-strength vinegar to clean vinyl floors as it can dull the finish and you can't polish the vinyl to restore its previous luster.
If a vinegar solution isn't strong enough to remove scuff marks or dye stains, you can make them disappear with a number of other cleaners. Rub out stains with isopropyl alcohol, metal lubricating spray or a paste made with baking soda and water. Use a vinegar and water mixture to clean away any oil or powder residue that remains. You can also scrub the stained area with 3 percent hydrogen peroxide from your medicine cabinet or non-gel white toothpaste. To remove greasy and waxy stains, spray white foam shaving cream on the stain. Let this sit for 15 minutes, then wipe it off.