Good Questions: How Do I Clean Old Linoleum

Los Angeles

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Dear Apartment Therapy,
I'm in the process of moving to a new apartment. The whole place had beautiful wood flooring except for the bedroom. I got the OK from the building super to tear out the ugly stained berber flooring and replace it with some lovely wood floors or maybe those tiles from FLOR. I was hoping to find wood floors underneath that I could re- finish, but instead I found a weird but pleasant surprise...

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I never thought I would say this, but it has really cool linoleum flooring (cool+linoleum = oxymoron...but anyhow). It had glue all over it, which I've tried my best to clean away, but it is still slightly yellowed with age and has some paint splatters. My boyfriend thinks I'm crazy to even attempt cleaning it up, but I really like the pattern!!! Please help. Is there anything I can buy that will make it look as good as the day it was installed in the 50's/60's? Thanks! Sara

Congrats, we're envious of your cool archeological discovery! You have good reason to want to keep that atomic-age linoleum design...we would too and are happy that you're looking to keep it rather than have it removed.

From what we've researched, what you cwant to note when cleaning linoleum is to avoid cleaning with hot water and alkaline based cleaners (so avoid Mr. Clean and other ammonia based cleaners), both which eventually turn the surface yellow. The yellow tinge is likely years of chemical reaction to previous cleaning with standard cleaners and warm or hot water, affecting the top coat sealant. The only way to bring back yellowed linoleum is to use a mixture of chlorine bleach with water, letting it set for 30-45 minutes. For mildly yellowed surface this might work; more aged and damaged linoleum may require the use of a dry powder with bleach like Ajax to completely remove the aged and yellowed sealant. Rinse after scouring with cool water and then use a mixture of 1 part vinegar with one gallon of water to neutralize the bleach; this process may need to be repeated several times. And to be safe, try doing this in an inconspicuous corner to see if the cleaning aids in brightening your linoleum before treating the whole surface.

After you're all finished, do yourself a favour and protect that newly cleaned surface with a permanent sealer to prevent further yellowing.

[Linoleum cleaning tips from Do It Yourself]