Linoleum holds up well against regular wear and tear, but it can turn dull. The problem stems from the materials linoleum is manufactured from, which make the surface of the floor just porous enough to scatter much of the incident light. The best way to counteract the dulling effect is to clean and polish the floor regularly, buffing it to a glistening sheen with a floor buffer.
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Linseed Oil Finish
Linoleum has been around for 150 years, but it fell somewhat into disuse during the middle of the 20th century, in favor of vinyl, and staged a comeback toward the end of the century. Unlike vinyl, which is a synthetic plastic, linoleum is made from natural materials, including linseed oil, pine resin and pine dust. They combine to form a smooth, glossy surface, but it has the same tendency to dull as a linseed oil finish on wood.
If you don't know whether your floor is vinyl or linoleum, look at the pattern. It's printed or embossed on the surface of vinyl, whereas a linoleum pattern has more depth.
Before you take steps to shine your linoleum floor, you need to thoroughly clean it. If the floor is vinyl, you can use the same cleaning procedure. It's important to vacuum dirt, because dirt can turn to mud when you wash and get pushed into the surface's microscopic pores. You can also use a dry microfiber mop to remove the dirt from the flooring.
Mopping with warm water will remove most dirt, but for a thorough cleaning, fill a spray bottle with white vinegar and spray it on the floor before you mop. You can also add 1 cup of vinegar to a gallon of water with a little dish soap for extra cleaning power. Cleaning linoleum with ammonia isn't recommended as it can strip and damage the polish. Standing water can damage linoleum, so dry the floor with a rag after mopping.
When it comes to shining your floor, it does make a difference whether it's vinyl or linoleum. Floor wax isn't recommended for vinyl floors, but it's a necessary part of the upkeep of a linoleum floor. You don't have to apply wax every time you clean, but you should re-wax every two to six months, depending on the amount of traffic on the floor.
If you're washing the floor, but it isn't yet time for a new wax coat, try adding a little fabric softener to the rinse water when you mop. It has a magical ability to bring out the shine in linoleum.
Getting the Linoleum Wax Shine
Regular waxing helps maintain the shiny look of your linoleum flooring. The linoleum wax shine comes from using the right type of product. When the time comes to re-wax the floor, use a liquid acrylic floor wax. Paste wax won't harm the floor, but it won't make it shine, either, so it's best to avoid it.
After waxing, you need one more procedure to get the floor sparkling, and that's to buff it with a floor buffer and a lambswool buffing disk. Once you get used to using a floor buffer, you'll find it easy to operate, and you can buff an average-sized kitchen or living room in less than 30 minutes. You can rent a linoleum buffer at any tool rental outlet.
Chris Deziel is a contractor, builder and general fix-it pro who has been active in the construction trades for 40 years. He has degrees in science and humanities and years of teaching experience. An avid craftsman and musician, Deziel began writing on home improvement topics in 2010. He worked as an expert consultant with eHow Now and Pro Referral -- a Home Depot site. A DIYer by nature, Deziel regularly shares tips and tricks for a better home and garden at Hunker and Family Handyman.