Cleaning vinyl and linoleum floors

For a long time, vinyl and linoleum have been amongst the most popular floor coverings. After disappearing from the limelight for a while, they are now experiencing a real comeback as designer flooring. In general these floor coverings are very easy to clean, but there are a few points to consider for best results.

Kärcher tips for cleaning PVC and linoleum

Correctly cleaning resilient floor coverings

There are many resilient floor coverings and, at first glance, it is difficult to differentiate between the materials. The three most frequently used are vinyl floor coverings, linoleum and rubber floor coverings. The floor coverings are generally cleaned in a similar way, but they mainly differ when it comes to their sensitivity to various cleaners.

Kärcher tips for cleaning PVC floors

Vinyl floors

Vinyl consists of polyvinyl chloride and is available as sheets, tiles or click-in tiles. This material is particularly robust and is resistant against strong alkalis and mechanical stress.

However acidic detergents may lead to changes in color. Care must also be taken when using organic solvents.

Some substances, such as shoe polish, soot, ink from felt tip pens, etc. may migrate into the floor covering. Vinyl is also sensitive to cigarette ash and flying sparks.

Kärcher tips for cleaning linoleum


Linoleum is an environmentally friendly alternative to vinyl flooring because the material is manufactured from natural raw materials, such as linseed oil, ground cork or wood flour, and natural resin.

This floor covering conducts heat very slowly and is therefore frequently referred to as warm underfoot.

Linoleum is sensitive to strong alkaline cleaners (pH value >10) and mechanical stress. It is therefore relatively resistant against organic solvents and cigarette ash.

Linoleum has moisture-regulating properties, but is sensitive to excessive moisture.

Kärcher tips for cleaning elastomer floor coverings

Rubber flooring

Rubber floor coverings are not as common in residential homes, but they are used in communal areas in buildings, such as staircases and laundry rooms.

This floor covering is extremely hard-wearing, but is sensitive to strong alkaline detergents (pH value >10).

Acidic cleaners may cause discoloration, but rubber floor coverings are relatively resistant to cigarette ash or flying sparks.

Using the paper clip test to identify floor coverings

If you are unsure what material your floor is made of, the so-called "paper clip test" can help.

First, find an inconspicuous area in the room. Use a lighter to heat the tip of a straightened-out metal paper clip for approximately five seconds.

Press the hot metal tip into the floor covering for around three seconds and then pull it out again.

You can now use the hole site, the penetration behaviour and odor to determine the type of floor.

Kärcher tips: Paper clip test for PVC and linoleum

Vinyl flooring

  • The hot paper clip penetrates the material relatively easily
  • The flooring melts at the surface
  • A hole site with bulging is formed
  • When hot, threads can be pulled out
  • The residues on the paper clip burns with soot
  • There is a pungent smell


  • The hot paper clip penetrates the floor relatively easily
  • The flooring does not melt at the surface
  • The surface is charred and there is no bulging
  • It smells of burnt wood or linseed oil

Rubber flooring

  • The hot paper clip hardly penetrates the floor covering
  • The flooring does not melt
  • There is a small hole site with no bulging
  • Typically, it smells of burnt rubber

Wet-cleaning PVC and linoleum with a Kärcher mop

Cleaner floors in just two steps

The most popular cleaning method involves using a combination of vacuuming and wet wiping.

In the first work step, loose dirt, such as dust and hairs, is picked up with a standard vacuum cleaner. Then wet clean the floor with a floor wiper or mop.

Ideally, you should regularly squeeze out the wiping cloth using a press, as this minimizes direct contact with the dirt.

You should first clean the edges of the room and then work from the rear-most corner to the door, in even strokes.

With a little practice, this mechanical method can be used to clean quickly. However the process also has a few disadvantages: stubborn dirt must be repeatedly wiped in order to loosen it.

Most floor wipers apply relatively large volumes of water when cleaning, meaning that the floor takes a long while to dry.

Cleaning more quickly with an electric floor cleaner

A modern alternative is electric floor cleaners, such as the devices in the Kärcher FC series. The microfiber cleaning rollers rotate at 500 turns per minute and effortlessly loosen stubborn dirt.

In particular, this is a real advantage for the structured surfaces on modern vinyl and designer flooring. The dirty water is collected in a separate tank so that you always use fresh water when mopping.

Cleaning more quickly with Kärcher floor cleaners

universal cleaning solution is suitable for vinyl flooring, linoleum and rubber floor coverings.

Since electric floor cleaners can work with just a little fresh water, only a small volume of cleaning solution is needed.

For structured floor coverings, we recommend working lengthwise and then crossways across the surface once in order to also reach deep into the surface structure.

For floor coverings with a wood grain, you should always work along the grain.

Cleaning PVC with a steam cleaner

Hygienically cleaning with a steam cleaner

As an alternative to an electric floor cleaner, a steam cleaner can also be used.

Steam cleaners produce hot steam and therefore work very hygienically. Thanks to the high temperatures, up to 99.99% of bacteria and viruses are removed, without any chemical cleaning agents being used.

Steam cleaners are therefore also particularly good for allergy-sufferers and families with small children who should not come into contact with aggressive cleaning agents on the floor.

Since the production of steam demineralises the water, the steam does not leave behind any lime residue or streaks after cleaning. Thanks to the heat, the floor dries quickly and can be walked on again sooner.

Attach a floor cloth cover to the floor nozzle and move the nozzle from side to side quickly in overlapping paths as the steam is released. In doing so, only the amount of steam that is required for loosening the dirt is released.

For structured floor coverings, we recommend cleaning diagonally in order to reach the depths of the structure. You should regularly replace the cloth covers as they become dirty.

Removing frequently occurring dirt from vinyl flooring and linoleum

Removing buildup

If, over an extended period, too much cleaning solution has been used, this may cause a layer to build up. Over time, dirt particles are deposited in these layers, which leads to an unsightly appearance.

The best way to eliminate layers of buildup is by using an electric floor cleaner and hot water (maximum 140 °F). To do this, work lengthwise and crossways across the surface multiple times without any detergent. Repeat this process until foam no longer forms in the waste water tank.

Cleaning after construction or renovations

If the room has been painted or renovated, leftover contaminants must be removed.

During the construction phase, pencil marks are often used for orientation and these can be easily removed with an eraser. Color stains following painting can be removed with a wooden wedge or warm water and a white, non-scratching sponge.

Varnish stains and adhesive residues can be removed from linoleum and rubber flooring using organic solvents, such as a universal stain remover; in certain circumstances, vinyl reacts sensitively to removers so it should first be tested in an inconspicuous area.

Kärcher tip: Removing migration on PVC

Removing migrations

With vinyl flooring in particular, but also with other types of flooring, substances such as shoe polish, strokes from felt tip pens or food coloring may migrate into the floor covering.

If the process has not yet progressed too far, the stain can be carefully removed using a solvent such as a universal stain remover. As a household remedy, a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide is suitable.

However, in many cases it is no longer possible to remove the migrated dirt.

Kärcher tip: Removing wax stains on PVC

Removing wax stains

Different stains may dull the overall appearance of the floor covering and often have to be treated individually.

Wax stains can be melted and absorbed using a kitchen towel. The best way to do this is to pour hot water over a towel, or use a hairdryer or steam cleaner.

Caution: vinyl is heat-resistant; you should therefore first carry out a test in an inconspicuous area first.

Suitable products for vinyl and linoleum

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