How to Strip Vinyl Floors

Today’s vinyl floor finishes have extended the time between stripping and recoating, but when a floor becomes dull and scratched and cleaning and buffing does not restore the gloss, it is time to strip off the old floor finish and put down new fresh coats.

To do the job properly with the least amount of effort, the stripper should be high in quality, but not necessarily high in price.

  1. Mix floor finish stripper according to the manufacturer’s directions. Either butyl or ammoniated stripper will work on vinyl, but ammoniated strippers tend to work faster. Because of the odor, you may prefer butyl-based strippers. The hotter the water used in the stripper solution, the faster the stripper will work.

  2. Spread the stripper onto the vinyl floor, using a cotton mop. Spread the stripper evenly over the entire floor and allow it to work for at least 15 minutes. Do not allow any of the stripper to dry on the floor.

  3. Remove the center hole from a black stripping pad and attach the pad to the clutch plate of a 175-rpm floor buffer. The stripping pad must be centered on the clutch plate because an improperly placed pad will cause the floor machine to bounce and become difficult to control.

  4. Work the buffer in a side-to-side motion. It is best to work in sections that are 4 feet wide and 8 feet long. The unstripped floor should be behind you so you will be backing up as you work.

  5. Vacuum the slurry created by the buffer and the stripping solution from the floor, using a wet/dry vacuum. Start the vacuuming where you started laying the stripping solution so that the solution stays wet before vacuuming.

  6. Strip the old finish from the corners and edges where the buffer can’t reach, using the center hole piece that came from the black stripping pad.

  7. Apply hot water to the floor as a rinse before laying down new finish, using a clean cotton mop.

  8. Tip

    Stripping is more efficient with a two-person crew; one person applies the solution while the second person operates the buffer. The first person can then come back and begin vacuuming while the buffer operator continues to strip the floor. Use fresh stripping solution to clean the canister from the wet/dry vacuum and the mop bucket. Throw away cotton mops that have had stripping solution on them.


    Wear protective gloves when using the stripping pad’s center hole because of the high alkalinity of the stripping solution.

    The slurry caused by the stripping solution reacting with the floor finish becomes slippery, so it is best to wear stripping booties over shoes.

    Check with local environmental authorities to find out the local laws concerning disposal of the slurry.