Q. How do we remove finish build-up in the low spots and the molded grout lines of a sculptured pattern vinyl linoleum flooring?
A. Actually, vinyl and linoleum are two vastly different products, so the first thing you must establish is which one you are dealing with. The World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) states that “Vinyl will melt if a lighted match or cigarette lands on it, linoleum can’t.” They should know the facts, so try a test on a piece somewhere out of the way.
Vinyl sheeting will withstand heavy stripping with a high alkaline stripper better than linoleum, so you do need to test. Avoid the abrasive pad, hot water, high alkaline approach on linoleum.
Most likely the low spots contain a double buildup of floor finish. Whenever heavy coats are applied, the finish tends to settle into the low spots and embossed grout lines. So, instead of planning to strip 4 coats, you may need to gear your process to strip out 8 coats. This would include mixing the stripper at maximum strength (unless the flooring is linoleum), applying it extra heavy, allowing the full dwell-time (usually 15-20 minutes) and then using a high-productivity build up removal pad.
In addition, be prepared for several stripping operations and extra razor blade scraping. You can also “heel” the machine over the low spots (at the 3 o’clock position) as long as the floor is extra wet, but be careful on seams and use a mild pad if you are on linoleum. Consider using a scrub brush that will reach down into the depressions.
Avoid any wet sanding with a mesh sanding disk, which voids any warranty and may not be able to get down into the grooves. If, after the rinse, no discoloration shows, you may be able to apply the finish without a complete strip-out. Let us hope that two or three attempts will do the job.
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