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 vanquish and really test the mettle of DIY floor cleaners.
To begin my test, I created a popular, all-purpose cleaner. White vinegar and washing soda pack a one-two punch that knocks out dirt. Then I mixed them with dish soap and water to form an everyday cleaner.
Here’s that basic recipe:
How to Make Homemade Floor Cleaner
- 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. I then 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 using the basic recipe as a base.
Here’s what I found:
Vinyl Floor Cleaners: Homemade vs. Alcohol
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.
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.
Ceramic Tile Floor Cleaners: Homemade vs. Toothpaste
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.
Here's what happened.
The all-purpose solution took out the Sharpie circle, while the toothpaste only lightened it.
Laminate Floor Cleaners: Homemade vs. Borax, Alcohol, Toothpaste
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.
The test was a bust. Neither the all-purpose control solution nor the Borax removed the stains on laminate.
Undeterred, I tried the alcohol and toothpaste -- just for kicks.
Here's what happened.
That alcohol is a great stain remover on floors and took out the stain. The toothpaste lightened it.
Wood Floor Cleaners: Homemade vs. Vinegar, Peroxide, Alcohol
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.
Here are the results.
The basic homemade floor cleaner recipe (A) removed most -- but not all of -- the stain.
The vinegar (B) did nothing.
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.
I would use alcohol judiciously on wood floors, because it can remove some finishes, such as wax and shellac. So use it only in a worst-case scenario and prepare to beef up the finish afterward.
Homemade Floor Cleaners Work
Homemade floor cleaner recipes 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.