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Spring Cleaning Day 5: Sparkling Kitchen Floors

A sunny kitchen with gray stone floors and oak cabinents.
Blue Lemon Photo/Shutterstock

Just like the rest of the things in your kitchen—counters, fridge, and all—your kitchen floors see their fair share of heavy-duty use. Let’s close out the first Spring Cleaning Challenge week by making them shine.

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So far this week we’ve tackled cleaning your kitchen sink along with your walls, backsplash, and cabinets. We also decluttered and cleaned your counters, and returned your fridge to a showroom state of sparkle.

We haven’t done the floors yet and, frankly, after all the dust and grime we’ve been kicking around higher up in the kitchen over the last week, it’s time to take care of them!

How to Clean Your Kitchen Floors

All the floors in your home get dirty with use, but the kitchen is one of the few rooms that see such traffic plus splashes of spaghetti sauce, drips of honey, and other staining-sticky things. Fortunately, a kitchen floor covered in carpet is a rare thing and it’s pretty easy to get your floor super clean with only a few essentials.

What You’ll Need

When it comes to cleaning a hard floor there are some basic must-have tools and a few optional ones that make life much easier.

O-Cedar EasyWring Mop & Bucket

The world is filled with mops, buckets, and combo packages thereof, but the O-Cedar microfiber mop with wringer bucket is an all-around fantastic pick.

You could clean a large kitchen floor with nothing stiff brush and a wet rag but branching out beyond that makes shorter and more efficient work of the task.

If your kitchen floor doesn’t have grout you can, naturally, skip getting the grout cleaner and sealer—though if you want to be prepared in advance, we will be using those tools when we get to the bathrooms later in the cleaning challenge.

Dyson V7 Cord-Free Stick Vacuum

A cord-free vacuum is a perfect kitchen dust and pet hair buster you can keep close at hand.

If you’re in the market for a vacuum, we can’t say enough good things about keeping a Dyson stick vacuum near our kitchen. We keep ours plugged in and charging on its wall-mounted charging base right inside the door of our pantry off the kitchen. It’s always there and ready for quick touchups and nabbing pet fur.

Before we dive into the cleaning, you might have noticed we didn’t recommend a name-brand floor cleaner. If you already have one and swear by it, great, we’re not going to try and talk you out of it. But if you don’t have any strong opinions about floor cleaners, we’re going to encourage you to just stick with warm water, vinegar, and a bit of dish soap. (The only exception to this would be if you’re mopping marble, granite, or other natural stone floors—in that case, skip the vinegar, as it can etch and cloud natural stone finishes.)

It’s all we’ve used to clean our hard-surface floors of all kinds for years—for both wood floors and tile floors alike—and it works well. It’s gentle enough for everything and still cuts through the grime.

One thing we will recommend, though, even if you love the cleaner you use: Avoid cleaners that claim to shine or add a “glow” to your floors. Almost universally they do this with additives that leave a layer behind on your floors. They may look shinier at that moment in time, but the layer buildup eventually dulls your floors and makes them harder to clean.

How to Clean Your Kitchen Floor Effectively

There are three stages to cleaning your floor if you have tilework, and two stages if you have any other flooring (linoleum, laminate, hardwood, etc.) The last stage for tile floor owners—cleaning the grout and sealing—is a hassle, we’ll admit, but thankfully it’s a once-every-few-years job.

Regardless of what kind of floor you have though, everyone is on the hook for the following steps.

  1. Start by dry cleaning your floors using either a broom and dustpan or a vacuum cleaner. It’s important to get all loose debris (dust, sand, small stones, and grit tracked into the house, pet fur, and so on) off the floor. At best, failure to do so will just lead to your mop bucket getting filled with crud almost immediately. At worst, you’ll drag grit around your floors with the mop head and scuff them up.
  2. Once you’ve removed the loose debris, fill your bucket with warm water. Add around a half cup of white vinegar per gallon along with a few drops of dish soap.
  3. Before you start mopping the floor, get down on the floor with your detail brush and inspect the places where your flooring meets other surfaces, as well as where the feet of your appliances sit. These are prime grime collection points and it’s unlikely plain mopping will get them clean. Use your brush, dipped in the cleaning solution in your bucket, to scrub at any dirt you find.
  4. Detail scrubbing done, dampen your mop in the bucket and wring it out until it is damp but not dripping. Mop the floor, working from one corner of the kitchen to the other, and avoid any standing water—especially if you have wood or laminate plank flooring.
  5. Dump the mop water and rinse the mop head. Refresh the water in the bucket with warm clean water. Repeat the pattern you just made across the floor to pick up any stray dirt and to remove any residue from the floor.
  6. Use an old towel or two, or a few rags, to dry the floor, if you don’t want to wait for it to dry (or have kids who are sure to come tearing through any moment and take a spill).

How to Clean and Seal Your Grout

A beautiful kitchen with ceramic tiles and dark green cabinets.
The floor shows clear signs of stained grout and is in need of some deep cleaning. pics721/Shutterstock

At this point, you have a clean floor, but it might not feel super clean because your grout looks gnarly. If you feel bad about your gnarly grout, don’t feel too awful. Look at the lovely photo above of a luxury kitchen. Even in this well-used kitchen in a high-end home, the grout is clearly discolored and unevenly colored because of staining over time. See! Even people with Dowton Abbey kitchens need to clean and reseal their grout.

While cleaning your grout is a chore, it’s thankfully not a chore you have to do every week. Consider the steps that follow (and the copious amount of elbow grease) to be a sort of spring cleaning penance you only have to do every few years.

Clean-Eez Grout-Eez Grout Cleaner

Get your ceramic or porcelain tile grout as clean as the day it was laid with this fast-acting cleaner.

Grout is a cement mixture and, as such, is porous and quick to absorb dirt and stains (not unlike the untreated floor of a garage). Scrubbing it clean is a great start, but if you don’t do something to stop the little pores in the grout from filling back in with grime, it’ll look gross again in no time. Let’s get it clean and seal it up.

Before we proceed it’s important to note: While grout is universally some sort of cement mixture, what the grout lies between will dictate what kind of grout cleaner you should use. Our favorite brand, Grout-Eez, is only recommended for ceramic and porcelain tiles. If you’re cleaning grout between marble, granite, or other natural stone tiles, we recommend a natural-stone-safe option like Granite Gold Grout Cleaner.

Whatever cleaners and sealers you use, wear gloves for all of the following steps to protect your hands.

  1. Start with the floor as clean as possible. Lucky for us, we just mopped it.
  2. Apply the grout cleaner along the grout lines. The brand we recommend, Clean-Eez Grout-Eez comes in a bottle with a small flip-top squirt nozzle. With other liquid cleaners, consider using a cheap condiment bottle for a more precise application.
  3. Leave the grout cleaner to stand for 5-10 minutes. (If your grout is so dirty you’re not entirely sure what color the grout originally was, leave it on for the full 10 minutes.)
  4. Wearing gloves, agitate the grout cleaner firmly with your stiff grout cleaning brush. There’s no risk of you harming the grout or tiles (they’re much harder than the brush and firmly adhered), so brush as aggressively as you like. You want to loosen any oils or crud that is blocking the pores of the grout so the cleaner soaks in even deeper.
  5. Counterintuitively, let the grout cleaner dry in place after your session of serious scrubbing. You want maximum time-on-surface for the cleaner to really break apart the oil and grime soaked deep into the pores.
  6. Once the grout is dry, mop over it the same solution we used above—a gallon of warm water, a half cup of vinegar, and a few drops of dish soap. Focus, especially, on running the mop along the grout lines. Pass over it once more with fresh clean warm water. We want the grout to be as squeaky clean and stripped of all grime and residual cleaner as possible.
  7. Again, once the grout is dry, apply the grout sealer using a rag or old paintbrush. Depending on your style of tiles, you might wish to simply follow the grout lines or—in the case of slate or highly textured ceramic tiles—you might wish to wash the entire tile with the sealer to keep oil and such from staining the tile between deep cleanings.
  8. Let the sealer stand and penetrate the grout for 5 minutes.
  9. Use a clean cloth to wipe up any excess sealer. Leave the grout to fully dry.
  10. After 24 hours, conduct a water test by sprinkling water on the grout in various places around your kitchen. If the water beads or sits on the grout without soaking down into it, the first round of sealing was sufficient. If not, return to step 7 above and apply a second coating of sealer.

Make no doubt about it, scrubbing grout is a bear. But the payoff is that it should stay clean, sealed, and stain-free for years after all that hard work.

You did it! We’re at the end of week 1, our whirlwind cleaning tour of the kitchen. We’ll admit, it’s tempting here to give you some spring cleaning homework to do over the weekend—but one of our goals in structuring the Spring Cleaning Challenge this way was so that your weekends would be free after doing double-duty all week after work cleaning your home.

So maybe tomorrow instead of digging into another cleaning task, take some time to enjoy having a cup of coffee or tea in your sparkling kitchen instead.

And, of course, don’t forget to tune in next week where we continue the spring cleaning tour with a stop in the humble bedroom. Want a nudge delivered right to your inbox? You know what to do, sign up here.

Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Editor in Chief of LifeSavvy. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at LifeSavvy, Review Geek, How-To Geek, and Lifehacker. Read Full Bio »
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