How To

How To: Clean a Stained Vinyl Floor, Address Damaged Wood Under Shingles

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Q: We have a white vinyl floor in the bathroom that always looks stained. I've tried every type of cleaner, but I can't get it as clean as it used to be. My wife wants to change the floor. It is good quality, and we would be more than happy to keep it if I could just find a cleaner that restores the original look.

Washington

A: Vinyl flooring sometimes looks grimy because it's coated with over-spray from air freshener. Or you could be seeing residue from all the different cleaners you've tried. Oil-based soaps can leave the surface slightly sticky, which attracts dirt, and some no-rinse cleaners leave behind small amounts of dirt. Over time, these can build up, particularly in the recesses of a textured surface.

Whatever the cause, a simple solution of ammonia and water might get the floor back to what it was. Javier Mercado, a technical services representative for Congoleum, recommends using a half-cup of ammonia mixed with one gallon of water. Kelly Pitts, who has a similar job with Tarkett, suggested an even stronger solution of half ammonia and half water. You might want to test different concentrations in a small, inconspicuous area, especially if the flooring is highly glossy, in case it etches the finish slightly. If the sheen changed, that might bug you as much as the dingy color does now.

Assuming your test shows that it's safe to proceed, open windows or set up a portable fan. Switching on the exhaust fan is also a good idea because ammonia has a noxious odor. Put on rubber gloves. Mop or sponge on a little of the cleaning solution and let it sit on the floor for three or four minutes. Then scrub with a sponge mop or a soft-bristle brush. Wipe away the residue. Rinse thoroughly with clear water. When the floor dries, it should look clean. If it isn't as shiny as you want, apply one or two coats of a cross-linked acrylic floor polish. Then, for follow-up care, switch to a mild cleaner, because ammonia strips off polish.

Q: I have a porch roof with half-inch plywood underlayment below asphalt shingles. A leak from a gutter has discolored part of the plywood, which appears to be moldy or just rotten. I have fixed the leak. What, if anything, should I do about the bad section of plywood?

Washington

A: Most roofing companies give free estimates, so arranging for one is the simplest way to investigate the situation. Or you can check for rot the same way home inspectors typically do: Poke the wood with a screwdriver or ice pick. Rotted wood is soft, so if the tip goes in more than about one-sixteenth of an inch, you may have more than a cosmetic problem.

If the plywood is rotten, it might cost $400 to $500 to have a 4-by-8-foot section of the roof and its underlayment replaced, says Chris Boyd of Samuel C. Boyd Inc., a roofing company in Hyattsville.

If there is no rot, you might be able to remove the mildew stain by washing the area with warm, soapy water. If that doesn't work, use soapy water plus a half tablespoon of trisodium phosphate or four tablespoons of borax (a laundry powder). Or resort to a little bleach in water, but because you'll be working overhead, be sure to protect your eyes, skin and hair. If the color still looks unsightly once the wood dries, there's always paint or solid-color stain. Use an exterior formula labeled as mildew-resistant.

Jeanne Huber

Is there something in your home that's clogged, cracked, broken or bedeviling? We'd like to help. Send your questions to Jeanne Huber at home@washpost.com. Please put "How To" in the subject line and tell us where you live.


© 2009 The Washington Post Company