Getting GROUND IN Dirt Out of Vinyl Flooring

cleaning vinyl flooring As usual, when I post another crazy cleaning tip I have to wonder how many people will think I’ve completely lost my mind! :-)  Well, if you haven’t thought that before….this post may just convince you otherwise.

But here goes….because CRAZY or not…it works!:-)

So here’s a question for you…..take a look at this picture. Does this look like a floor that has JUST been swept and mopped? Of course not! Look at all the dirt that is still “polka-dotting” the floor!

Well, believe it or not…this picture WAS taken right AFTER I had swept and mopped! That dirt you see is dirt that is SO imbedded into the indentations and crevices of the design that it is IMPOSSIBLE to get out. I have tried everything! Well, everything short of setting it on fire! :-)  THAT would probably take care of the problem!

I had long ago given up on ever getting that ground in dirt out. I just sweep and mop regularly (while daydreaming of my future hardwood floors) and TRY not to notice it too much.  Well that is IMPOSSIBLE as well.  It just drives me crazy!

If you have been reading my blog for awhile…you might remember this post from last month:

Homemade Carpet Stain Remover…NO Scrubbing Needed!

cleaning vinyl flooring
If you HAVEN’T read it before….QUICK….click on over there!  There is some GOOD info! :-)

I was so impressed by this technique…that it got me thinking about my kitchen floor. This couldn’t possibly work on vinyl flooring! Could it??????? hmmmmm. I couldn’t think of a good enough reason NOT to try it. (Except for the embarrassment of being caught sitting on the floor “ironing” my kitchen floor!)

So I did. And well, once again, the pictures speak for themselves!

cleaning vinyl flooring

Yes, believe it or not, I spent probably an hour or so IRONING MY FLOOR!  If that doesn’t scream NUT JOB….I don’t know what does. lol.  But despite the hubster and kids shaking their heads at “crazy mom” doin her “thing” again….it was *I* who had the LAST LAUGH! hahahahaha. I finally conquered the the IMPOSSIBLE dirt imbedded into my kitchen floors!

The pictures below kind of tell the tale of how I did it.  But I basically did exactly what I did in the previous post about getting stains out of carpet…although I soaked a towel in the ammonia mixture before I put it down on the dirty area. I didn’t bother with spraying.  Just make sure the towel is nice and wet. Then put your iron down on the towel and let the power of the ammonia and HOT steam do its MAGIC!

cleaning vinyl flooring

Try and keep the iron ON the towel and not on the vinyl. :-)
I had the iron set on its highest heat setting and ironing on top of just
one thickness of towel.  No burns, discoloration, nothing. Just clean!
cleaning vinyl flooring
This picture shows how the “dots” of ground in dirt are actually
stuck to the towel after going over it with the iron! (Kind of looks like pepper.)
At this point you can see there is still ground in dirt in the flooring…but the ammonia
mixture and the steam from the iron have softened it so much that all I
had to do was rub the rest of the dirt off with the rag.
cleaning vinyl flooring
I worked in sections as I went from left to right in front of both my
sink and my main island countertop area…the worst areas of the kitchen!
cleaning vinyl flooring
Here’s what it looked like as I made progress.
Left hand side, done…right hand side, not done.
cleaning vinyl flooring
A little more progress. It’s hard to believe the difference!
I’m not exactly sure how many people suffer from this ground in dirt dilemma…but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. If you have this problem and have given up (like I did)…I HIGHLY RECOMMEND trying this! Just be prepared for the incredulous looks and confused stares of those in your household who see you sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor with your steam iron! ;-)



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  1. Ginger says

    I'd love it if you could discover an easier way to remove old wallpaper from walls. Our walls were wallpapered by the original owner and they did NOT prime the drywall before putting up the wallpaper. This has made it a NIGHTMARE getting the wallpaper off and I've already had to pay someone to re-mud and sand the drywall in one room because removing the wallpaper damaged the drywall. I've tried everything thinkable, even a wallpaper steamer. HELP! I'm about to start tackling the wallpaper in yet another room.

    • Michelle says

      I live in a very very old 3 family home. This apartment was horrible wall papering in almost every room, the other rooms were horrible paneling. I could not move in with t like that. I loved the bones of the apartment. Great size, tons of closets but everything was old old old.. The landlord said I could do what ever I wanted but I had to pay for it. I struggled and tried everything to strip the walls and spent a fortune. One day I mentioned it to my dad who said to simply use apple cider vinegar. I found the trick to the vinegar was soaking the walls with it. I used a big sponge and really soaked the walls and then it had to sit for about 20 minutes. This made the paper fall off the walls. I wish I had taken pictures of the horrible time I had using the wall paper stripper and the fabric softener. Oh and make sure you score the paper because you really really want to get the paper wet

    • Kim Wright says

      I have found that Magic Erasers do the trick on my vinyl floors g r e a t. they also make the Magic Eraser mop and it would be a lot easier than spending an hour doing that. props on finding a trick to get rid of that though

      • Tiffany says

        I have also had success with the magic eraser on vinyl flooring. Not exactly fun to crawl around scrubbing…but it’s AMAZING when it’s done. I’ve tried using the swiffer with magic eraser “strip” and didn’t have near the same results. Oh well though, anything worth having (clean floors??) is worth working for, right??

  2. Anonymous says

    to Ginger—trying to remove wallpaper. I saw on a decorating/tip show once that you can take liquid fabric softener, wet a sponge or a wash cloth with it and rub it on the wallpaper. Do small sections at a time so the fabric softener doesn't dry and it is suppose to remove it. I have never tried it but a friend did and she said it worked like a charm. Something about the fabric softener softened the glue! Good luck.

  3. Sheila says

    A little late to the party here but just wanted to add something. The "ingredient" that is really doing the work is the ammonia. Back in the early '90s, my college roommate/best friend bought an old bungalow style house from its original owner — the lady was then in her 80's+ and I'm sure wasn't feeling up to cleaning much. The kitchen and bathroom had an ages old linoleum flooring with deep, vertical grooves. We tried commercial product available to get those grungy floors clean. My roomie's parents said to use ammonia on it (so cheap!) so we went to town. This floor was in BAD shape w/ caked in dirt over at least 20+ years. We took it in sections, doused areas in ammonia — with all the windows open, cuz it's nasty! — and let it set for 20 minutes or so. Then we'd come back with a stiff scrub brush and the dirt would come right out!!! It was SO easy! Ends up the linoleum was this super cool white/pink/green with flecks of gold in it. Yeah, dated, but it was really pretty once it was cleaned up and the sun shone in on it. I'm sure your general cleaning projects wouldn't be quite so tedious, but the ammonia is great stuff for breaking down oils, grease, dirt, etc. Just be sure to work in a well-ventilated area. If the solution has to sit for longer than 5-10 minutes, make sure any pets are out of the area. :-)

    • Kim says

      Just an FYI to all those using ammonia on your floors…it will eventually wear down and crack your vinyl flooring. Also…depending on what type you have it will remove the shine, so be careful on how much you use, and your shine may be gone. But clean is better than dirty, I agree…Armstrong sells a product to add shine back.

  4. Charlene says

    ha-ha! When I was a young thing living in off campus housing, our bathroom floor was this red brick lino style, with lots and lots of grooves holding lots and lots of dirt. I flooded portions of the floor with water, sprinkled in Comet, scrubbed, let it sit, then mopped it up. Worked like a charm, but I'm sure the Comet scratched up the floor some.

    I would be curious if I had a steam shark if pouring some ammonia on the floor then hitting it with steam might do the same as the iron. Probably better for knees…

    • Shannon says

      I was wondering the same thing! My apartment floor never looks clean because of all the little crevices the dirt goes into. I have a steam mop but it still doesn’t get the dirt out. Maybe using the ammonia with the shark steam mop it would work better.

  5. Catherine's not naturally crafty says

    Ginger – don't know if it's too late or not but, straight fabric softener wil usually take off any wall paper. Mine in the kitchen was the same way, applied to unprimed drywall!?! Honestly some tradespeople have no pride. Anyway, mop on the fabric softener, cheap is better, let soak and pull off. If the top layer is vinyl, it may come off first and then you can soak the paper layer underneath. Just keep at it patiently like peeling an onion and it will all come off. The wipe down the wall well, let dry and then prime the heck out of it before you paper or paint. Take your time and don't try to rush it you you may end up with drywall paper coming off. You can try one of the pricking tools but I didn't think they helped that much.

  6. Brenna says

    Oh. My. Goodness! I've been fighting the dirt in these awful laminate floors for 2 1/2 years. I tried this and the dirt is GONE. Unfortunately, I'm 9 months pregnant and the ammonia is too strong for me so I'm going to have to get someone else to finish my floors for me. But WOW! Thank you so much for this tip!

      • Athena says

        I used your tip for the Scrubbing bubbles…. I left it for 20 minutes then we used a scrubbie and it was a miracle! 10 years of ground in dirt was gone. It looks like we bought new floors. I can’t believe it was that simple!

  7. CeeJay says

    Great way to coax the dirt out of the crevices in the vinyl flooring.

    Ironically, some of these problems were caused by attempts to clean the floor. The new ‘wet pad’ type of floor mops are often the cause. The spots and drips on the floor are diluted by the wet mop and spread evenly over the entire floor. The dirt settles to the bottom of the floor texture, the water evaporates leaving a growing ‘puddle’ of dirt in each and every tiny depression. Mop every week and you soon have quite an accumulation of dirt in the floor texture. Traditional mops that were occasionally rinsed out in clean water didn’t tend to just “dilute and deposit”. I guess some new improved products are not truly a step forward.

    • says

      I always use a sponge mop & bucket and my kitchen floor (and bathroom to some extent) have dirt spots in the texture. I’m not crazy about using ammonia – I don’t want to asphyxiate my family or pets! Ammonia is pretty nasty. Maybe I’ll try the Scrubbing Bubbles suggestion above and keep the cats away.

  8. spiffygal says

    I spent the better part of my morning working this “magic” on the carpet in my basement. the areas around the stains are pristine, but the stains remain. maybe it’s because my carpet is so darn light? the only spot it worked on was the recent accident my dog had while we were away. I’m not sure what I could have done differently. the stains were mostly from drinks that have been spilled by the kids. little dots of this or that and then larger areas. Very sad :(

  9. Tonya Curry says

    I tried everything over the years for the ground in dirt on vinyl flooring. Just a week ago it was some horrible smelling stuff that I’m pretty sure I lost many brain cells too and boiling water. Countless times of mopping and rinsing to an mehhhh result. I tried the scrubbing bubbles tip mentioned somewhere up above and all I can say is WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE!!!!!!!!!! I didnt even have to scrub, I’m really working hard to contain myself from calling everyone I know to come see my shiny WHITE floors.

  10. Jessica Duplin says

    scrubbing bubbles shower spray stuff? I have a dreadful old kitchen floor that no matter what i do ,it looks awful and scabby.there are a few scrubbing bubbles products out there, which one works best? anyone got any advice on what works best for old dog pee stains that wont come out of carpet? i need help there too. thanks for the tips ladies. Great to know we are all in this together!!

  11. says

    Ladies- Ive found that the Mr. Erase cleaning pads work AWESOME cleaning the dirt out of crevasses in my vinyl flooring. Just dip it in water, squeeze out the extra water and rub on the spots on the floor. Ive actually gone around the edges of the kitchen and everything came up!! They’re wonderful. I use them on ceramic tile, spots on walls, the handles on the refridgerators and stoves. Try it!!!

  12. Susan says

    I have an old linenolium floor that had lost some of its shine. I put liquid floor wax on it trying to revive it. Now the wax has yellowed and I cannot get it off. Any suggestions.

  13. Julie says

    Susan, open the windows, get some ammonia and dilute it with a little water and pour it on the floor. Let it sit awhile and it will loosen up all the layers of dirt and wax. You might have to use a plastic scraper or a stiff brush in some spots, especially corners. It smells AWFUL but does the trick.

  14. Angela Norman says

    Well I tried out the iron and ammonia/water on my 40 year old dingy kitchen floor. I have tried for 18 years to get that floor to look good . . . to no avail. I though I’d just get a new one when the dog passed away, but with college expenses that is not going to happen. Thanks, Jillee for the great article. It worked like a charm and I have a new floor, well almost.

  15. Jenna says

    We had vinyl floors in our last house, and I used to scrub them with comet and a scrub brush which was great at getting out all the gunk, then I put down 3-4 layers of floor finish or wax. I did that about every 6 months, and in between they were a breeze to keep clean. The finish would fill in all those tiny holes so the dirt couldn’t settle there. SO much better!

  16. Mama T says

    This is how much I love your blog. I remember reading this article about a week after my husband and I put down new tile in my old rental place. We just moved into a new apartment, and the previous tenants did not take care of the kitchen floor at all. Thankfully, it’s a relatively small floor. I spent 30 minutes searching for this post, because I knew you had posted a quick way to get ground in dirt out. I tried the miracle cleaner first, then tried just straight ammonia and let it sit then scrubbed. It’s still there, so this is my next attempt. Thanks for the tip Jillee!!

  17. Karen McBride says

    I tried the amonia and steam iron idea and it totally worked. Thankfully I only have a small bathroom floor. It is a light colour and I am so happy that this tip worked – it has been bothering me for months that I could not get the dirt out of the grooves. The only problem is I am still smelling the amonia in my head :)
    Thanks for the tip – it is amazing.

  18. Billy says

    I have the EXACT same flooring … I saw this tip on pinterest and had to peek at the blog rather than just pin. I can’t wait to try this. I clean the bathroom and it still looks dirty… I hope this works for me too.

  19. KAREN P says


    • Jen says

      Hi Karen! I’m sorry I don’t have an answer for your question. I too am having the same problem removing the awful yellow coloring left on my kitchen floor from my rubber backed rugs!! I was just wondering if by chance you happened to try the ammonia solution with the iron? Did you find anything that would get rid of or even lighten these terrible stains? I’m just so frustrated and am running out of energy from trying a lemon juice and baking soda mixture and leaving it set only to find that I’ll probably have to do it over and over without any change!! I would be ever so grateful if you have any helpful tips you could share if you’ve found the miracle cure! Thank you for your time :)

  20. Patti says

    I own a cleaning service and we use Dawn dish detergent and the hottest water the floor can handle. We long handle scrub brush the floor adding the solution as we go ( 1 gallon really hot water /1 cup of regular dawn). We let this sit for 30 minutes and check a small area to see how we’re progressing. If all is coming up we then come back with a small shop vac and suck it all up. To remove any residue left over and any dirt we may have left behind we give a good vinegar scrub/rinse and vacuum once more. We have always used 1 cup white vinegar to gallon hot water until I found my new favorite cleaner, orange peel vinegar.
    Jillee you have made my life so much easier with this awesome recipe. I specialize in allergy and asthma services so I could never use the ammonia in my clients homes. I do make all my own soap and cleaning formulas with dawn being the only commercial product I use. The OPV is the bomb as my kids would say and I love,love,love this stuff. It inexpensive, works better than anything I have found commercially and it’s cruelty free/pet safe which is required by most of my clients. So glad to have found you! If I lived closer I’d give your home a complimentary clean!

    • Jen says

      Hi Patty! Just wondering since you own a cleaning service, would you be able to give me any advice on removing dark yellow coloring left on my kitchen linoleum from the rubber backing of my rugs which has been a problem for the past 4 yrs.? I would be ever so grateful if you could help me solve this seemingly impossible task! LOL Thank you for your time. :)

  21. Linda says

    One thing to be aware of if you use the ammonia straight or any product with ammonia in it, it will be to your dogs the same odor as if another animal urinated there. So in short if you want don’t want your dogs to think its okay to pee on the floor don’t use ammonia or products with ammonia in them to clean the floor.

  22. Sara says

    My problem is not QUITE the same as it seems everyone else’s is, but close… I have a 12 year old linoleum floor (can’t TELL you how much I wish I had gotten tile!!!) and the dirt is not embedded INTO it… It is ON TOP… I have hated this floor for probably the last 7 years, because it NEVER COMES CLEAN. Magic eraser works to SOME extent, but still will not get all of it off (and I thought it worked on EVERYTHING!) But no matter WHAT I have done, it still looks dirty on top. I just bought a shark steam mop SO HOPING that I would be amazed with the results, but again, no. You can’t even tell when I DO clean it, it is so bad. I think that years ago while I was cleaning it with something I probably shouldn’t have like comet, I stripped away the top protective layer, the one that makes it easy to clean. Now I wish that I had the same problem as everyone else here so that at least I would have a chance to maybe get it clean…. Anyone have any suggestions about THIS????? Please!!!!!

  23. Lizzie says

    Wow! This is the best solution ever. I just finished half of the downstairs bathroom and my husband could not believe the difference. It is like we have a new floor covering in the half I cleaned. Will take photos and post. Thank you.

  24. Alice says

    Did this with 1/2 vinegar, half water, nearly boiling water.

    It worked really well. With the vinegar solution, I had to use a simple toilet brush to loosen the softened crud… but it easily dissolved it.

    I had tried everything I could find to try, and nothing worked. That included pouring boiling cleaning solutions on the floor and immediately scrubbing it with an electric floor scrubber and then letting the hot solution sit for 20 minutes, then scrubbing, letting the hot solution soak overnight and then scrubbing…. you name it. Nothing worked.

    I had decided the floor would have to be replaced.

    I bought ammonia in case the vinegar didn’t work, but it did. Sometimes it seemed it might not work.

    When that happened, I just ironed the vinegar/water soaked cloth again.

    It’s amazing!

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!

  25. Alice says

    I tried the hot vinegar water and iron and towels. Amazing! It worked where nothing had before.

    Still, it was a fair amount of work. And often needed more than one “ironing” to dissolve the dirt.

    So I tried the “Scrubbing bubbles” product.

    Amazing! Spray it on, wait a minute or so, then lightly scrub with a toilet brush! BAM!

  26. Alice says

    Sorry…. my computer submitted my comment before I was finished writing it.

    Basically: Scrubbing Bubbles product works like magic!

    Spray it on, wait a minute, then scrub with a toilet brush. Like magic, the floor is clean!

    No noticeable fumes, no iron, the cloth only to wipe the floor dry.


    Thank you so very much!

  27. Alice says

    sorry to post again… but with the scrubbing bubbles product, I was able to use just wiping with a cloth after waiting a minute on a 2 x 3 foot area. No need to use brush. Incredibly totally clean and bright! No more crud in the crevices!

    I am 70 years old and cannot kneel. Used pushing a cloth with my foot, then stepping onto a fresh cloth to walk without slipping on the floor. It just wiped clean!


  28. Alice says

    Hi! :)

    Has anyone tried using the scrubbing bubbles product on a carpet?

    I live in an apartment and so hesitate to try it.

    But it was SO GREAT at dissolving the crud that would not come out of or off of my vinyl floor, I’m thinking it might be wonderful on carpet, then using my carpet scrubber to get it up with clean hot water in the machine.

    If I can find a place to try it (the walk in closet?) I’ll let everyone know the results.

    This is a wonderful website jillee! Thanks!

  29. Ruth says

    I used Awesome bought from the Dollar Tree to clean my floor that had dirt ground in. I just sprayed the floor with full strength Awesome and all the dirt came off. It was amazing. No scrubbing needed.

  30. Kit says

    I just did this on our 12 year old vinyl floor and it looks brand new! It took a little experimenting with the right amount of ammonia but once I got it so that I could breathe AND clean at the same time, it was smooth sailing! Thanks again for the great household tips.

  31. Jen says

    I’ve had dark yellow stains on my linoleum floor in the kitchen for the past few years from my rugs. I just kept putting the rugs down to cover the stains because the idea of letting the sunlight eventually get rid of the stains is next to impossible, it doesn’t come anywhere near my kitchen floor as I live in a first floor apt without kitchen windows. I’ve tried the lemon juice with baking soda mixture, but it seems as if I’m just wasting my time and energy. These stains have been set in for at least 4 yrs now. My question for you is would this ammonia, water, and iron do the trick? Please let me know if you have any solution I could try. Thank you for your great tips, I will make sure to use this on all the stains that were in the carpets previously before I moved in here!!

  32. Anna says

    As a ph.d student, I have had a long “career” of living in housing that is affordable for a student! Invariably, there always seems to be cheap linoleum flooring in these place! I have always found that previous tenants, current roommates and even the owners were not as concerned with cleanliness as I was/ am! My go-to trick that always works is straight bleach! I pour it directly on the floors, leave it for a while, mop it up with water (on my hands & knees)….works incredibly well!

    I agree with some of the previous posters, these long-handled cleaning tools just spread the dirt around and grind it in. Poor functionality and tool…

  33. Marta says

    I have always sprayed a little windex /ammonia based solution along the baseboards or the areas of the floor BEFORE mopping. You can also just use really hot water. No soap. Just plain HOT water. I have also mixed a half and half bleach and water solution for grooved or linoleum patterned floors. You can either spray it or put it in the mop bucket and just don’t squeeze out the water from the mop. Let the water “re-hydrate” the dirt. Mop as usual. You might be surprised how much cleaner things smell using hot water by itself.

  34. Judy says

    I also like using ammonia to clean my floors. Last year, my dental hygenist recommended the steam mop. I got one and so enjoy use of it. Every once in awhie, I’ll put a little ammonia, maybe a couple of tablespoons worth, in with the water in the resvoir. That seems to really help more! But even before I had the shark mop, I’d use some ammonia in the bucket of suds and a mop.

  35. JR says

    I’ve been doing some research into cleaning my 18 year old vinyl flooring on Pinterest. When I was freshening my hair color, some dropped onto my bathroom floor. I cleaned it up about ten minutes later, and now I have this embarrassing CLEAN spot! Because of this blog, I now know that it was the ammonia that probably did the trick. Now I hope to surprise my husband with the rest of the vinyl floors! I too have struggled with those pesky little vinyl pits…. I will first try vinegar and HOT water. Then the iron, and if that doesn’t work I will resort to the ammonia. I have read that using ammonia too much can cause the flooring to become brittle and crack. I guess that would be one way to get the ok for new flooring…Just be careful everybody!

  36. Marie says

    I just did my kitchen floor with this “iron/ammonia” method and it worked like a charm. My floor has seen better days, but due to limited funds, I know that we have to live with it another year and now I don’t feel so bad. Prior to this, I would soak and scrub brush and my wrists and hands would hurt so bad. This method made it a breeze – yes, it does take some time, but it is not difficult. I am wondering if there is a steamer out there that would work as well if you added ammonia to it?

  37. Barbara says

    Tried the steam iron but used windex instead of ammonia and it work with no scrubbing either !
    I’ve wanted to replace my old floor because I could not get those indents cleaned. This was wonderful. I am so happy to have a floor that looks like new again. Thank you.

  38. Patricia says

    I have been tackling my kitchen an hour or so at a time using this technique. It works wonders. My floor has a texture plus decorative grooves so I do need to use an old toothbrush to lift the dirt up, I am so excited though at the results. My question is how do I keep it from getting bad again? I bought some mop and glo to use when I’m finished and am hoping that helps to repel some of the dirt. Has yours stayed clean?
    Thanks for this tip!

  39. says

    Thank you sooooo much! I actually have that exact flooring in our bathrooms, the only difference is our diamonds are black. Just like you I’d all but given up while dreaming of new flooring! Thank you for all your wonderful advice!


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