By Robert Blochinger
After an LVT or LVP floor is installed, it will need regular cleaning and maintenance or it may fail. When maintaining and cleaning LVT and LVP resilient flooring, always follow the manufacturer’s specific instructions and guidelines. The manufacturer’s recommended products must also be used to keep the warranty in effect. These instructions will supersede any generic industry standards and should be part of the post-installation service, given to the consumer.
Consider that maintenance can be broken down into tasks performed daily, weekly and monthly. –A thorough cleaning usually includes the stripping of dressing or wax buildup and other cleaning agents, with the goal of returning the flooring to the original factory surface, followed by a reapplication of new dressings or wax.
The first item in defensive maintenance is the walk off or entry mat. These mats should be placed on both sides of the exterior entry before the LVT/LVP installed flooring. These mats require cleaning daily, by sweeping or vacuuming. The mats should be thoroughly cleaned weekly, by washing, with water and a cleaning agent. Knowledge of the fiber is essential to selecting the correct cleaning agent. Is it olefin or nylon? Both fibers have different inherent properties for liquid absorption and pH tolerance.
The LVT/LVP floor, whether a glue-down or floating system, should be dust/dry mopped daily, along with vacuuming as needed and depending on the type of usage—such as heavy foot traffic and any pets. Take care that the dirt and soil (plus any other debris) is not shaken out indoors. Best to vacuum the mop head to also help ensure dust control.
If there are soiled areas on the floor, determine whether they should be addressed with a water- or solvent-based cleaner. With water-based cleaners, you can either spray the area directly for small areas, or apply spray to a cleaning cloth first for larger areas. When using a solvent-based cleaner to wipe up oil or grease, apply the spray to a cleaning cloth. One item not to use is vinegar, or a lemon-based product to clean LVT/LVP flooring. These are mild acids and can cause damage to the surface layer. An oil-based product such as Murphy’s Oil can create a slip hazard (when walking in socks) as there will be a shiny haze on the surface.
Do not use heavy, concentrated rubbing with the cleaning cloth. Blot the soiled area first, then swipe with the cloth to complete. Keep in mind a water-based agent will not remove an oil/grease-based spot, and that includes any joint oozing with adhesive or sealer. If the spot is an organic material, such as from a food spill or pet accident, gently remove the bulk of the material with a scraper first, then continue cleaning with the agent and cloth. If it’s located in the joint, vacuuming during the cleaning or after may be required. Brushing should only be done with a soft bristle brush; this will prevent damage to the surface layer.
For large open spaces and commercial areas, a typical method of cleaning is the rotary machine with pad attached, (white or green depending on the flooring product). When applying a cleaning agent with a string mop, care must be given not to immerse the flooring with liquid as this will create damage. NEVER use a saturated mop on a floating floor; the mop should only be slightly damp. A wet vacuum can be used to remove all excessive liquid, followed by string mop use and perhaps air movers. Once the surface is deemed clean and dry, a dressing may be applied and buffed out to the desired finish.
Nationally advertised cleaning systems do work; however, care must be taken to not over-wet, while using these systems. Leaving a steam jet on floating floor joints too long will enable moisture to enter the joint and damage the center core. Whether WPC or SPC makes no difference—prolonged moisture introduction is not good for the product.
One important point from the installation side of things: use of a rubber mallet to install a click system or align a plank to an adjoining plank WILL create a spot that may be permanent. The rubber of the mallet, when in contact with the vinyl layer of plank, creates friction hot enough to fuse fine particles of rubber to the plank surface. History shows this is not easily removed, if at all. Manage your customer’s expectations accordingly.