Nontoxic ways to keep linoleum floors clean

February 12, 2010

EarthTalk is a Q&A column from E/The Environmental Magazine Dear EarthTalk: I have a new linoleum floor, which I chose partly for its eco-friendliness. How do I clean and maintain it without using harsh or toxic chemicals? -- A.J. Maimbourg, via e-mail Whether you chose linoleum flooring for its no fuss functionality, the soft feel underfoot, its distinctive look, or its green attributes, you definitely want to take care of your investment in an eco-friendly way for the sake of maintaining it for as long as possible while protecting the indoor air quality in your home. Real linoleum—as distinct from synthetic versions or vinyl—is made from all-natural materials, including wood flour, rosins, ground limestone, powdered cork, pigments, jute and linseed oil. As such it is one of the greenest flooring options out there today. The website reports that old linoleum—including scraps and remnants from the production process—can be recycled to create new sheets of the stuff. And given that it is made from natural materials, linoleum is practically carbon neutral, and the energy created by incinerating it at the end of its useful life is almost equal to the energy needed to create new linoleum. Given how green linoleum is, cleaning it with harsh synthetic chemicals and maintaining it with polymer-based waxes just wouldn’t be right. Luckily there are alternative ways to help keep your linoleum floor looking good for decades without compromising the environment or shortening your own life span in the process. Melissa Breyer of the green lifestyle website recommends sweeping, dust-mopping or vacuuming your linoleum floor frequently in order to cut down on the amount of abrasive dirt around that can build up and mar the finish. As for actual cleaning, she says to use a damp mop with a mild all natural liquid dish soap and warm water. Adding a half cup or so of vinegar to the rinse water will increase shine if that's the look you’re going for. To get rid of scuff marks, Breyer suggests dipping a sponge in jojoba oil and rubbing lightly before wiping up completely. Pencil erasers can also work wonders on linoleum scuff marks. As for what to avoid, Breyer says to stay away from solvent-based products which can soften and damage linoleum. Typical floor cleaning solutions will leave a sticky residue behind, so sticking with something like Ivory Liquid dish soap is the best bet. Also, the best way to deal with tough stains is not by scouring; instead make a paste of baking powder and gently wipe with a wet rag until the stain fades away. In terms of wax, there are several greener varieties now available. Livos' BILO is a paste wax designed for wood, cork, tile and—you guessed it—linoleum. It is derived from beeswax and linseed oil and produces a semi-gloss finish after buffing. Like all Livos products, BILO is made from organic ingredients and is 100 percent biodegradable and safe for humans, animals, air, water and soil. For those willing to commit to periodic occasional maintenance, linoleum flooring should last decades if not longer. And given its relative low-cost and ease of installation, some consider linoleum the “green flooring for the masses.” GOT AN ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTION? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; submit it here or via email. Read past columns here and check out the recent book Earthtalk: Expert Answers to Everyday Questions about the Environment Friend us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter. More from The Daily Green Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc
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DuroDesign: a green cork flooring supplier

December 23, 2008

In a previous gwg article, we discussed the 10 must knows regarding cork flooring.  Now to find suppliers near our readers.  Within a week of emailing DuroDesign, I received cork samples and information.  In fact, they sent me samples in each of their six collections and 54 colors.

When the samples were opened, my husband and I poured over the options and were immediately impressed with DuroDesign’s cork line.  Recently, we’ve decided to use cork throughout our future home, except the great room, (unless I convince him to use an area rug).  We found it difficult to choose a favorite, so it appears we will have a few different schemes going throughout our home.

One of the reasons we would choose DuroDesign is because their cork tiles and uniclick panels are pre-finished with water-based polyurethane sealants.  Just because it is a cork floor, doesn’t mean it is necessarily green.  DuroDesign’s water-based finish assures that the cork floor is still green.  When you order their product, the price includes enough water-base polyurethane for 4 additional coats (the stain lasts approximately 4 years), as well as Read more

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10 things you must know about CORK FLOORING & informative cork sites

October 20, 2008

If you’re looking to buy or install cork flooring, this article is a comprehensive guide to the top ten must knows of cork flooring, and it will also provide you with 20 informative sites on cork.

10 things you must know about cork flooring:
1.      Cork flooring is made from the Bark that is harvested from the Cork Tree (Quercus Suber), the only tree able to regenerate after the harvest.  The bark can be re-harvested every 9-10 years without damaging the tree.  Regulated forests within the Mediterranean, mainly in Spain & Portugal, are the producers for the cork industry.
2.      Whether you use cork as your subfloor or main floor covering, if properly sealed/finished, the flooring will not rot, mold or mildew, for in its natural state, it is impermeable to liquid and gases.  Water-based seal/finishing such as urethane are recommended.  Because it does not release toxic gases on combustion, it is fire resistant.
3.      Cork is a wonderful insulator.  It is resistant to temperatures, so go ahead, take off your shoes and walk barefoot.  You won’t find the same cold experience as with most tile flooring.
4.      Just as the wine stoppers made from cork are light, your cork flooring will have this same amazing property.
5.      Cork has ‘give’.  It will bounce back as you move across the floor.  Cork is a wonderful alternative to ceramic tile if you have bad knees, joints, back, etc. 
6.      Similarly, cork has ‘memory,’ and will return to its previous form if a heavy object asserts pressure.
7.      Cork is extremely durable.  It will not collect dust, and in its natural state, it is fire resistant.  (Read up on your sealants/finishing making sure you are satisfied).
8.      Thanks to the absorbent value in cork you will find the sound in your home amazingly contained.
9.      Though it’s always a good idea to have a professional install flooring, cork floors are known to be simple to install and the perfect project for the DIY (do it yourself) crowd.

10.  The easy maintenance is another benefit of cork flooring.  It will not collect dust, and is therefore, hypo-allergenic.  It is an insect repellant, and anti-microbial, making it a great choice for your kitchen, bathrooms, and children’s play areas.

20 sites that are cork informative:

Jelinek Cork Group – A great history of cork and its uses, as well as a large list of cork products in addition to cork flooring.

Simply Cork /flooring – The one stop source for articles about buying & installing cork flooring.

CorkDirect – Has an About Cork section that offers a visual guide to the cork manufacturing process. – Tutorial on cork, its benefits, background, and construction information. 

BuildDirect – Site that offers quality building materials for less and publishes articles helping you make your decisions regarding cork flooring. 

AmCork – A great site for sample cork colors, patterns, and a wonderful photo gallery that offers many cork design ideas. 

WECork – Company with a long list of cork flooring installations, even high traffic areas.

iFLOOR– Purchasing information for DIY installers.

floorbiz – Information on the different choices in cork floor style (plank, laminate), as well as a good site for background cork information.

Natural Cork – Floating floor systems, as well as laminate cork flooring.

CorkStore – Buy cork rolls & sheets, wall coverings, fabric, closures, etc.

Green Building Center – Learn why they supply Expanko and Vida Cork.

Expanko – Glueless and floating cork floor systems.

Environmental Home Center – Learn how to install your own cork floor planks/tiles.

Sustainable Industries – Article exposing cork myths and giving more detailed information on cork flooring.

Global Sources – Suppliers and manufacturing resource list.

Flooring Area – News Articles on cork flooring.

Flooring – Online Guide to flooring, including cork floors, articles and tips.

Apartment Therapy – Article on protecting your cork flooring.

Wood Floor GuideCork flooring reviews.

Team Wicanders – this blog includes all kinds of innovative uses for cork besides flooring.  Some of the uses include furniture, home decor, purses, cottages (made of cork), and prefab building blocks for homes. 

(The photo was taken at Balance Massage & Wellness Center, located just outside of Park City, UT.  The Owner Marty, made ‘green’ choices when renovating the old home.  Balance is a wonderful example of green remodeling.)


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