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How To Clean And Prevent Footprints On Vinyl Plank Flooring

How To Clean And Prevent Footprints On Vinyl Plank Flooring

Knowing how to clean and prevent footprints on vinyl plank flooring is crucial for keeping a clean home.

The most important way to clean and prevent footprints on vinyl plank flooring is to properly clean it, and keep it well maintained. Never use cleaners that are oil-based, since they will leave behind a residue that will cause the footprints to show up.

In this article we will dive into all the factors that can cause footprints on vinyl plank flooring, as well as what you can do to prevent them and clean them up properly.

What is Vinyl Plank Flooring?

Vinyl plank flooring is designed to look like real wood but is not. This special type of flooring consists of layers. Instead of using a thin layer of flexible vinyl, vinyl plank flooring is made of a thicker material, which gives it many advantages.

The material is fabricated in long planks and uses a modified tongue-and-groove connection system. The planks snap together, often called click-lock.

Vinyl plank flooring is constructed to be fairly waterproof with several layers. The top layer features a coating that is designed to prevent scratches, dents and scuffs. Another layer is a clear film that is intended to protect against ripping and tearing.

Even if you are conscientious and meticulous when it comes to keeping your floors clean, vinyl plank flooring may still show footprints simply because of the way it is constructed.

The way vinyl plank flooring is manufactured makes it tricky to keep it clean and prevent footprints from showing up.

The flooring is intended to be somewhat waterproof. So, its very nature is to repel water as well as any liquid cleanser that is sprayed or poured on top of it.

Causes for Footprints on Flooring

The smudges left from footprints on vinyl flooring may come as a surprise.

While most people who have vinyl plank flooring installed expect there to be more dust and debris that is visible compared to what they saw with carpeting where it sunk into the fibers, many are shocked to discover that even after sweeping or even mopping, the floors still look dirty.

Three of the most common causes of footprint smudges left on vinyl plank flooring include:

  1. Pets tracking in mud or moisture
  2. Walking across the floor in bare feet
  3. Using the wrong cleaner

While the first two issues are what make the footprints show up on the floor, it is really often the cleaner that is at the root of the problem.

The Type of Cleaner is the Problem

The specific type of cleaner you use often causes the floor to look smudged and dirty. Most floor cleaners contain far too many oils and wax that tend to leave a residue behind when a pet or family member walks on the floor.

Many commercial cleaners leave a film on top of the floor that causes the flooring to look smudged and become scuffed. As time goes on, the entire surface begins to wear out, and it will look even more streaked.

Prevent Footprint Streaks on Vinyl Plank Floors

The only way to completely prevent footprint streaking on floors is to never use them. Since this is impractical, some may opt to have family members and visitors wear slippers. However, many find this to be a hassle.

Homeowners are often told to make sure they clean the vinyl plank flooring regularly. However, this can cause many to feel overly obsessed with cleaning.

Ideally, if you keep the floors clean as a daily habit, you should only need to deep clean them about once a week, or less depending on foot traffic.

Cleaners That Work on Vinyl Plank Flooring

When you use the right cleaner for your floors, the flooring should look brand spanking new for quite a while without needing to nervously watch out for footprints constantly.

Finding a cleaner that works on vinyl plank flooring can be tricky. Some recommend one specific commercial brand, while others insist that the recommended product actually ruined their floors.

First, check with the floor’s manufacturer to see what is recommended for your specific vinyl plank flooring.

Ideally, a cleaner for vinyl floors should be a gentle and natural solution or specifically designed for vinyl flooring.

Use a cleaner that:

  • Contains a pH neutral formula
  • Doe not contain too many oils or leave the floor looking glossy
  • Does not leave a residue
  • Does not cause a buildup
  • Does not contain any wax
  • Does not cause the floor to become slippery
  • Does not leave a film
  • Does not discolor the floor
  • Does not make the floor look dull
  • Does not leave a hazy or cloudy floor after use
  • Does not leave streaks
  • Gentle enough to use daily
  • Dries quickly

Additional aspects to consider in selecting the best cleaner for your vinyl plank flooring includes using one that has a pleasant aroma but won’t damage the floor, finding one that is non-toxic, and cost-effective. If you use vinegar, know how to use it properly.

Pleasant Aroma

Some people prefer to find a cleaner that is easy to use and also has a pleasant aroma that isn’t too strong for sensitive family members or guests.


Also, especially if you have children or pets, find a cleaner that is non-toxic.


Finding a cleaner that is cost-effective is a great perk as well. You’ve already invested in the flooring. There is no need to spend a fortune trying to clean it.

Proper Use of Vinegar

Many find that vinegar is their best bet. However, be aware that if you use vinegar improperly on a vinyl floor, it could cause more problems or even potentially ruin the floor.

To use vinegar properly for cleaning footprints off of vinyl plant flooring, mix one gallon of water with a cup of distilled white vinegar and mop the floor. If you find the initial strong vinegar smell to be unpleasant, rest assured that the initial strong, sometimes overwhelming smell fades once the floor is dry.

How to Clean Footprints on Vinyl Plank Flooring

Follow this helpful step-by-step guide to cleaning footprints off of your vinyl floors.

Dry Clean

Start with dry cleaning. If the footprint smudges don’t have grease or oil in them, a basic dry cleaning should wipe them away.

Mop with Distilled Water

Sweep the floor with a dry or a wet mop.

Wipe the spots using a wet mop using warm, distilled water so that you don’t leave mineral deposits behind. The warm water removes the grease and oil better than cold water would. Making sure the water is also distilled will keep mineral deposits that are naturally found in water from marring the floor.

Using Vinegar

Clean with a mild vinegar solution. Mix 50 to 60ml, 1.5 to 2 oz., of vinegar with 3 liters, about 3.17 quarts, of distilled water in a spray bottle. Shake the bottle filled with the solution vigorously. Spray the vinegar and water solution on the footprints and smudges on the floor.

Saline Water Mix

Another cleaning method involves using a saline water mix. Mix saline water with distilled water in a 50:50 solution. Use a mopping pad, and dab it gently. When done, make sure you dry the floor thoroughly using a clean microfiber cloth.

Dry Thoroughly

After you have cleaned, make sure to dry mop or use a microfiber cloth to leave the floor thoroughly dry.

Final Thoughts

While you want your floors to look clean and nice at all times, it shouldn’t turn into a worrying obsession. Preventing the smudges from footprints happening in the first place is a good first defense. But, you should never feel as though you and your guests are a slave to your floors.

Chances are, the footprint smudges are still going to happen. So, know how to properly clean your vinyl plank floors to keep them looking fresh and clean, free of footprint smudges by following these helpful tips.