Remove Tough Vinyl Flooring Stains

Updated: Jun. 23, 2023

Clean up problem stains faster and easier with these expert tips.

FH06_STAINV_01-2Family Handyman
If your vinyl floor has tough stains or scuffs that don't come up with ordinary cleaning, it's time to break out the chemicals. Here's a rundown of what to use and where to use it

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An hour or less
Less than $20

Remove tough stains from vinyl flooring

Photo 1: Isopropyl alcohol

Dampen a white rag with isopropyl alcohol and rub away heel marks.

Photo 2: Oxalic acid

Mix oxalic acid powder with water and dab rust stains to remove them. Protect your hands with rubber gloves and open a window for ventilation.

If you’re wondering how to paint or get paint off vinyl floor or how to remove another type of stain from vinyl floor, look no further! Sheet vinyl “resilient” flooring is so easy to clean that it may never require anything beyond damp mopping with a cleaner intended for vinyl floors. But if your floor has marks or stains that still won’t come off, you can use stronger stuff. Although the methods described here won’t harm most vinyl floors, we strongly recommend that you test them in a closet or on a section of flooring that’s hidden by furniture. Use white rags only; chemicals that dissolve stains can also make fabric colors bleed and stain your floor. Learn to clean luxury vinyl plank flooring.

Isopropyl alcohol, sold as a disinfectant at drugstores, is a mild solvent. It’s the best cleaner for heel marks and works on other tough stains too. You can also use lighter fluid or mineral spirits. Remember that all these products are flammable; turn off any nearby pilot lights and hang rags out to dry before throwing them away.

Bleach will often erase stains left by liquids like fruit juices, tomato sauce and wine. Mix one part household bleach with four parts water, soak a rag in it and lay the rag over the stain. Bleach works slowly; you may have to leave the rag in place for an hour or so.

Oxalic acid is the solution for stubborn rust stains. It’s often labeled “wood bleach”—but not all wood bleach contains oxalic acid, so check the label. Most paint stores and some hardware stores carry oxalic acid. If the stain won’t rub off, wet a rag with the acid solution and lay it over the stain for 10 minutes. If the stain remains, rewet the rag and repeat. When that’s done, rinse the floor with clean water.

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Rags
You’ll also need rubber gloves and a sponge.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • Bleach
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Oxalic acid