A room with a sink and a window

Ask Me Anything: Vinyl Flooring Care, Healthy 5-Min Bread, Stubborn Water Spots

If you’ve ever dealt with vinyl flooring—especially in an older home where the flooring has not been well-cared for—you know the heartbreak of trying to clean it. The problem is tiny grooves and crevices, especially along the baseboards and thresholds where stubborn dirt has built-up over time and is now holding on for dear life.

But, truth be told, vinyl flooring is still alive and well—highly improved, and quite lovely. In fact, some brands of vinyl flooring have now entered the luxury lines of flooring.

A room with a sink and a window

If you have new vinyl, old vinyl, grimy vinyl, or shiny vinyl, it’s good to know how to care for it—what to do and what not to do.

Vinyl Floor Care

I just installed new vinyl flooring in my bathroom. What is the best way to care for it? Is it ok to use rubber backed bathroom rugs? Sherry

Dear Sherry: Congratulations! I’ll bet your new luxury vinyl flooring is as gorgeous as it is practical. And affordable, too. Vinyl flooring has come a long way. But the problem remains that petroleum-based products like rubber can, over time, permanently stain vinyl. On light colors that stain will be an ugly shade of yellow. On darker vinyl, over time, the stain may give a dark, shadowy appearance.

Rather than rubber-backed rugs for your bathroom, look for those made of or backed with polypropylene, which will not damage vinyl.

You could apply lines of silicone caulk (not latex or rubber) to the back of a traditional bath mat that has no rubber or latex backing, to create a non-skid surface.

Another idea would be to use bath mats that have no rubber backing over thick felt rug pads. As long as the pad is heavy and slightly smaller than the rug itself, it should stay in place and provide a luxurious cushion for your feet and protection for your floor.

As for the care and cleaning of vinyl flooring, here are some guidelines:

Preventing dirt and damage

Try minimizing dirt, stains, and abrasions before they occur. Dirt and dust, over time, can wear down and degrade the finish on any type of flooring, including vinyl tile or laminate. That’s why it is is always a good idea to locate a good-quality doormat or area rug in front of doorways so that grit and grime stop there and are not tracked into the house.

Another helpful hint is to use a sheet of plywood or paneling whenever you need to move furniture across the floor, or some other type of furniture “mover” that will help prevent scuff marks or tears in the vinyl. Use vinyl coasters under the feet and legs of your furniture to safeguard against permanent indentations.

Cleaning vinyl flooring

Vacuum and mop the floor often with plain water to remove surface dirt, dust, hair and product build-up that happens in a bathroom. For weekly cleaning and disinfecting of vinyl flooring, use plain white vinegar. The acidity helps removed dirt and grime without leaving a build-up of soap or wax.

To Use: Mix one cup vinegar with one-gallon hot water. Use a damp mop to clean, rinsing the mop frequently with hot water. If the floor is especially dirty, add a few drops of Blue Dawn liquid dishwashing soap to the mixture before mopping. Then mop once with the soap mixture, a second time with vinegar and water to rinse.

Super dirty, stained vinyl

This can be a problem, especially in older homes where dirt and grime have been allowed to build up over time; at doorways and along baseboards. The solution: Bar Keepers Friend cleanser.

The folks at BKF have confirmed that Bar Keepers Friend is excellent for deep-cleaning vinyl. Work in a small area, wetting the floor and sprinkling BKF as you go, scrubbing and cleaning as necessary to remove ground-in dirt, and making sure to rinse very well, before moving to another area.

What not to do

Keep these “Don’ts” in mind as you care for your new vinyl floor.

  • Do not use a “beater bar” attachment when vacuuming vinyl. This can damage the flooring surface.
  • Never use highly-abrasive scrubbers or steel wool.
  • Do not use detergents, abrasive cleaners, or “mop and shine” products, because these can leave a dull film on the floor.
  • Do not use paste wax or solvent-based polishes.
  • Do not use ammonia or ammonia-based cleaning solutions on vinyl flooring; these can break down the material and cause cracks in the flooring.

Hope that helps!

Healthy 5-Min Bread

Love, love, love all the advice and the warm and caring relationship you have with your readers. Any 5-Minute Artisan Bread recipes that use 100% whole wheat (or whole wheat with oats), please? Cristina

Dear Cristina: Yes! Jeff Hertzberg M.D. and Zoë François, authors and creators of the 5-Minute Artisan Bread method have published dozens of recipes like those you’re looking for in The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day

This is a beautiful book with 33 new recipes as well as old favorites, including 100% Whole Wheat Bread, Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels, gluten-free breads, and other recipes showcasing whole grains and heirloom flours like spelt, sprouted wheat, and Khorasan.

Also new in this edition is a super-fast natural sourdough, using the quick and easy way to create breads that rival those of the finest bakeries in the world—with just five minutes a day of active preparation time! 

Your kind words mean the world to me. Here’s sending love, love, love right back to you!

Stubborn Water Spots

I’m an avid reader of your column but never thought I’d need your help. However, I made the mistake of letting the lawn sprinkler spray all over my large picture window this summer. I thought nothing of it and just expected to be able to clean off the water spots when I got around to it.

Well, first I tried my regular window cleaning solution of household ammonia in warm water using a squeegee to dry. That didn’t work at all. The water spots were still all over my window. Next, I tried an aerosol spray glass cleaner with ammonia and that also did not clean off the water spots. Help! It is a south-facing window so I suppose the sun just baked those water spots on good, but there must be some way to get   them off. Thanks for your help. LaVonne

Dear LaVonne: Have you tried plain white vinegar, straight up? I’d do that first, as vinegar is powerful to remove calcium and mineral build-up. This would be the simplest option, so it makes sense to try that first. If that doesn’t do the trick, read on.

Most tough hard water spots and build-up that sit on the surface of the glass in windows and shower doors need something more powerful, but can be easily removed using a mixture of vinegar and blue Dawn dishwashing liquid. But this can be tricky when working on an outside window because you do not want the mixture to drip onto plants or vegetation. And rinsing well, which is required when using this strong mixture, can make quite a slippery mess in adjacent areas if you have applied this heavily and do this with a garden hose.

Use your own judgment in trying the Blue Dawn/vinegar option, making sure you’re working on a cloudy day or when the sun is not beating down on that window. If you decide to give it a try, lightly spray the window surface. Allow this mixture to sit for a few hours, then rinse well.

If those spots still remain, most likely you have “silica stains.” Silica, which is found in all natural water in varying degrees, has bonded with the glass in your windows causing them to appear “etched.” The good news is that you may be able to remove these silica stains  yourself and bring your windows back to their original clean and sparkly condition, provided they have not become permanently damaged. Are you up for the challenge?

What you need to remove fine silica is a product that breaks the bond of the silica with the glass. Several very caustic chemicals will do that, but I won’t recommend you go that route because you would have to wear a respirator and heavy-duty gloves. And it could get pricey.

Instead take a look at a non-toxic, biodegradable product that has no acids, no bleach and no chlorides, that does the same thing as more caustic options on glass and other surfaces as well.

AMAZ Water Stain RemoverAmaz Water Stain Remover is, well … amazing! I’ve witnessed it remove tough silica stains with great success. It comes with a scrubber, so be sure to use it as you follow the label instructions.

I got a message from a reader not long ago who reported that he was finally successful in removing 5-years worth of hard water stains on shower doors with AMAZ, and now they look brand new!

Honestly, if I were you I think I’d try plain vinegar first and if that doesn’t work, I’d jump straight to AMAZ. It is quite inexpensive and has been proven to solve the kind of problem you’re dealing with.

We’d love to know how things go, and which method solved your problem.

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5 replies
  1. Cath says:

    I sold flooring for several years. You’re better off using the cleaners the flooring companies sell. Armstrong and Bona make excellent products.

  2. Judy says:

    I got wood look vinyl planks for my kitchen in 2012. I put felt pads under the chairs to help avoid scratches.

    The instructions specifically stated not to use vinegar. I vacuum and sweep often and mop with water. Occasionally I will use the cleaner the store recommended. I found it left a buildup if I used it as often as the floor store recommended.

  3. Gracie says:

    HI, if the Dawn-vinegar doesn’t work, in my experience, it is because the mold is under the caulk lines, OR perhaps in the grout. You’ll have to pull out the old caulk, then use a bleach mix to clean the mold COMPLETELY, let dry, and then re-caulk. If it is in the grout, I read that you could use a particular toilet bowl cleaner (now I’ve forgotten the name), but it was supposed to be great for grout. However, the Dawn-vinegar is the perfect way to start! Some problems are beyond even the miraculous DV mix! best wishes!

  4. Jean Hoffmeyer says:

    The Dawn and vinegar mixture that you suggested for the mold in the shower did not work. What other uses can I use the mixture in my spray bottle without throwing out that ‘precious’ Dawn and vinegar? Thanks for your help.


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