Do Homemade Floor Cleaners Really Work?

Some surfaces tested with DIY floor cleaner recipeAll images in this article: Lisa Kaplan Gordon for HouseLogic

It’s easy to make your own floor cleaners, but not all will take out tough stains. We put DIY floor cleaners to the test. Here’s what we found.

Truth be told, hot water with a little dish detergent will clean day-to-day dirt from any flooring. But stains are more difficult to vanish and really test the mettle of DIY floor cleaners.

So, I took samples of floor materials — vinyl, ceramic tile, laminate, and finished hardwood — and tried to remove Sharpie (permanent marker) marks with different DIY cleaners I made.

Here’s what I learned.

Basic, All-Purpose Cleaner

White vinegar and washing soda pack a one-two punch that knocks out dirt. I combined them with dish soap and water to form a popular, all-purpose cleaner.

Ingredients for DIY floor cleanerImage: Lisa Kaplan Gordon for HouseLogic

Here’s the recipe:

¼ cup white vinegar
¼ cup washing soda
1 tablespoon liquid dish soap
2 gallons hot tap water

This is the control solution that I compared all other DIY solutions to.

Vinyl

Vinyl is a popular kitchen flooring, so I marked it with a black Sharpie and compared the all-purpose control solution (A) to isopropyl alcohol (B). I placed a little of each cleaner on a clean cloth and made 20 swipes on each stain.

Here’s the before picture.

DIY vinyl floor cleaner before testImage: Lisa Kaplan Gordon for HouseLogic

Here’s after.

DIY vinyl floor cleaner after testImage: Lisa Kaplan Gordon for HouseLogic

The all-purpose control was a bust. But the alcohol virtually eliminated the stain in five swipes.

I then wanted to see if diluted alcohol (C) — one part alcohol; one part water — would be as effective. It wasn’t.

Ingredients for DIY floor cleaner test with alcoholImage: Lisa Kaplan Gordon for HouseLogic

Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tile is a popular flooring for kitchens and bathrooms. I compared the all-purpose control solution to a dab of toothpaste, which is known as a household polish and cleaner.

For this test, I used a circle made with a Sharpie marker.

Before ceramic tile cleaner testImage: Lisa Kaplan Gordon for HouseLogic

Here’s what happened.

Ceramic tile floor cleaner DIY test afterImage: Lisa Kaplan Gordon for HouseLogic

The all-purpose solution took out the Sharpie circle, while the toothpaste only lightened it.

Laminate


I marked up some laminate flooring samples and pitted the control solution against a sprinkle of Borax on a sponge. Borax is a laundry detergent that, because it’s abrasive, takes out other household stains, too.

Before DIY floor test for laminate cleanerImage: Lisa Kaplan Gordon for HouseLogic

The test was a bust. Neither the all-purpose control solution nor the Borax removed the stains on laminate.

Laminate floor cleaner DIY testImage: Lisa Kaplan Gordon for HouseLogic

Undeterred, I tried the alcohol and toothpaste — just for kicks.

DIY floor cleaner test with toothpasteImage: Lisa Kaplan Gordon for HouseLogic

Here’s what happened.

After DIY floor cleaner test with toothpasteImage: Lisa Kaplan Gordon for HouseLogic

That alcohol is a great stain remover on floors and took out the stain. The toothpaste lightened it.

Wood Floors

Just about anything will clean dirt off wood floors. But removing Sharpie is a challenge, so I rounded up the usual cleaning suspects — the all-purpose control solution, straight white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide (which has many household uses), and alcohol — and gave them a chance to prove themselves.

Before wood DIY floor cleaner testImage: Lisa Kaplan Gordon for HouseLogic

Here are the results.

The all-purpose control solution (A) removed most — but not all of — the stain.

The vinegar (B) did nothing.

After DIY floor cleaning test with wood and vinegarImage: Lisa Kaplan Gordon for HouseLogic

The hydrogen peroxide (C) was a bust.

The alcohol (D) removed the stain, but left a haze. To remove the haze, I put a dab of olive oil on a cloth and rubbed. And the wood looked good as new.

After DIY floor cleaner test with wood and alcoholImage: Lisa Kaplan Gordon for HouseLogic

I would use alcohol judiciously on wood floors, because it can remove some finishes, such as wax and shellac. So only use in a worst-case scenario, and be prepared to beef up the finish after.

Bottom Line

DIY cleaning solutions are an effective alternative to commercial cleaners. Some work better than others on different types of flooring. But stains on every type of floor surrender to some type of make-it-yourself cleaner.