How to Remove a Red Stain From Linoleum

Linoleum is a more complex flooring material than you might imagine, and dyes that turn it red can cause unexpected problems. Linoleum isn't plastic; it has a finish similar to a wood finish, and acids can dull it. Many red substances, such as wine, berry juice and tomato sauce, are acidic, and the more quickly you can take care of spills, the less likely the floor is to sustain damage.

tipped glass of wine
credit: Samo Trebizan/iStock/Getty Images
The floor is no place for your vintage wine.

Linoleum Is More Vulnerable Than Vinyl

The surface of your linoleum is similar to varnished wood; real linoleum is manufactured by mixing linseed oil, pine resin, wood dust and limestone to form a type of cement that is laid atop a jute backing. Of course, your linoleum might actually be vinyl, which is thinner than linoleum, with a surface-imprinted pattern rather than one that extends underneath the surface. The acidic content of red-colored foods and liquids usually isn't high enough to damage vinyl, even though it can be high enough to dull linoleum.

Soak Up Liquids and Clean Surface Dirt

The first step in stain remediation is to soak up any of the offending liquid that hasn't dried out or evaporated. Dab the fresh liquid with an absorbent cloth or paper towel, or place the towel over the stain and let the liquid soak in; don't wipe, because that just spreads the stain over a larger area. Once the stained area is dry, remove dust from the floor by vacuuming or sweeping to ensure you don't grind it into the finish while working on the stain. You can also remove dirt by wiping gently with a damp cloth.

Weakest Cleaner First

Stain remediation should always begin with the weakest cleaner that is likely to remove the stain and progress to stronger ones. A mixture of 1 ounce of dish detergent per quart of water is one of the gentlest cleaners you can use, and it may do the job, especially if you rub vigorously with a non-abrasive sponge or cloth. If it doesn't work, you have several alternatives, but it's important to test each one on an inconspicuous part of the floor first. Don't use it if it damages or dulls the floor finish.

Vinegar, Solvents and Wax

Before breaking out the solvents, mix a paste of baking soda and lemon juice in a bowl and use the mixture to scrub the stain. If this doesn't work, some of the alternatives that you can use include: rubbing alcohol, which removes hair dye and wine stains; acetone, which removes paint and nail polish, and a 1-to-1 mixture of vinegar and water, which is good for acidic foods, like spaghetti sauce; and bleach, effective for most dye stains. All of these will also remove stains from vinyl. If removing the stain dulls the linoleum, restore the shine with paste wax or floor polish. Don't wax or polish vinyl.

Chris Deziel

Chris Deziel

Chris Deziel has a bachelor's degree in physics and a master's degree in humanities. Besides having an abiding interest in popular science, Deziel has been active in the building and home design trades since 1975. As a landscape builder, he helped establish two gardening companies.