How to Revitalize an Old Linoleum Floor

A dull expanse of cool linoleum flooring drags down the entire look and feel of an otherwise stylish room. Linoleum floors look best when buffed to a proper shine. But that sheen can be stripped away in high traffic areas or have layers of grime ground into its surface of dimples and grooves.

Beautiful kitchen room with green island and farm sink.
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Linoleum floors look best when buffed to a proper shine.

Linoleum needs a little TLC from time to time to keep it at its best. Returning dull linoleum to its former smooth, clean and shiny state isn't difficult to do. To rejuvenate linoleum floors, it simply requires buying the right products for the porous material and knowing how to use those products correctly without further damaging the floor or wasting your time.

Rejuvenate Linoleum Floors

Linoleum can last for years with a gleaming surface if it is maintained and cleaned properly on a regular basis. If the floor isn't completely clean when a commercial floor shine product is placed down, then the dirt will collect within the cleaner and leave a light, dull film. This will have to be removed in order to get the flooring truly clean.

The film can be difficult to remove and requires a floor finish stripper. Mix the weakest solution recommended by the manufacturer of the floor finish stripper, and apply it in a small area that is out of view, if possible. A mix of turpentine and water applied with a clean mop will also remove layers of wax and grime.

After stripping the floor of old gunk and wax build up, re-wax the floor. Use a drop of toothpaste and grind into any small scuff marks before applying several coats of floor wax. Apply a small amount to an area farthest from an exit and work in small batches across the floor, allowing the floor wax to dry between each coat.

Best Everyday Cleaner for Linoleum Floors

To keep a linoluem floor looking pristine, it needs a good everyday cleaner that won't cause buildup or dull the surface. A low residue floor cleaner is the best for the linoleum material. It will pick up dirt and loosen grime that can settle into any grooves or dimples in the flooring, all without damaging the sheen on the linoleum.

A mix of 1 part vinegar to 2 parts warm water can get a linoleum floor clean on a daily or weekly basis. For dirtier floors, increase the mix to 1: 1 and add a drop or two of mild dish washing liquid. Soap can build up on linoleum, so avoid putting down truly soapy mixes in large puddles across the floor.

Dry mops with plain pads will work well for cleaning up daily dirt that is tracked indoors via pets, kids and family members. Mop pads that have cleaners on them can contribute to the dullness of the linoleum flooring. This will require a lot more work in the long run, so always use plain, untreated dusting pads on a dry mop when cleaning on a regular basis.

Ammonia to Restore Linoleum Flooring

Linoleum floors can lose their shine over time no matter how much daily maintenance you put into them. The brilliance of old linoleum floors can be brought back after a good cleaning to remove wax buildup and layers of old dirt. The strong cleaning action of ammonia does a quick job in removing layers of grime and wax buildup.

Mix 1 cup of ammonia with a half gallon of warm water in a large bucket. Use a sponge and get down on the floor to tackle the more difficult areas of the floor. Use a mop to work the ammonia mix over the entire floor to finish the cleaning job.

When working with ammonia, the fumes can be harsh and cause issues with your eyes and throat. Wear a breathing mask and protective eyewear to ensure you don't create respiratory problems, watery eyes or otherwise become overwhelmed by the fumes of this serious cleaning solvent.

Best Way to Wax Newly Cleaned Linoleum

Once the linoleum flooring is brought back to its former lustrous shine, it can use a good waxing. However, you don't want to waste all that hard work from cleaning the linoleum by using the wrong type of wax.

The best wax for linoleum flooring is a pH-neutral floor polish. There are many commercial products on the market that are specifically designed for putting on linoleum flooring without taking down the shine factor. Apply two thin and even coats of a high-quality linoleum floor polish to create a stain-resistant and shiny surface that should last through many meals and months of foot traffic.

When It Is Time to Replace Linoleum

When properly cared for, linoleum can last up to 30 years or more. However, if the color and pattern on the linoleum has been scuffed away or worn down, then it is probably best to replace the flooring rather than repair and clean it. If the linoleum isn't damaged and is structurally sound, then you can possibly lay new linoleum or other flooring material over a cleaned surface without issue.

Cracked and yellowed linoleum should be removed rather than restored. It can be a safety issue that creates problems for children, pets and anyone who has difficulties with mobility. Old linoleum can be lifted by pulling on the curled and cracked tiles or edges and using a wide putty knife to lift any pieces that cling to the subfloor.

The cost to remove linoleum flooring depends on the area where you live, the difficulty in removing it from the concrete base and the cost of hauling it away. On average, the cost to remove linoleum flooring is around $2 per square foot.

How to Remove Old Linoleum

To remove old linoleum, start at the worst areas that have curled and popped up from the subflooring. Pull the broken pieces back as much as possible without fully breaking it from the main piece of linoleum. If it cracks a little, don't worry. But try to keep it attached to the main piece to increase the leverage you will need to pull the old linoleum away from the subflooring.

Once the easiest pieces are pulled up, take a cutting utensil to the rest of the floor and score it as deeply as possible in 6-inch swaths. Be careful not to cut through and damage the subfloor, in case, for instance, the subfloor is made of wood.

For any remaining linoleum stubbornly stuck to the subflooring, pour boiling water over the strips. Cover it with damp towels for 10 minutes before taking a scraper to the stuck pieces of linoleum. A floor stripper can scrape away remnants of the linoleum flooring and adhesive.


Kimberley McGee

Kimberley McGee

Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at www.vegaswriter.com.