Tree sap discolored this resilient floor causing yellow staining.

A few months ago, I covered the causes of bottom-up discoloration of resilient floor products. This month, I would like to examine the causes of topical discoloration to vinyl flooring products.

A resilient floor is subjected to contact with many household reagents and some of these can cause discoloration. Resilient manufacturers are engaged in a never-ending quest to formulate and manufacture a resilient floor that will not discolor. With each new breakthrough, they get a little closer to accomplishing that feat.

Causes of topical discoloration include:

Acids.They will turn the surfaces of some resilient materials milky and dull. One of the most common culprits is acetic acid, which is found in vinegar. If used regularly as a cleaner, the acid will etch and destroy the resilient product surface.

Asphalt Trafficking.With increased use of asphalt in place of concrete, it is tracked into homes and offices on a regular basis from the roadway onto shoe soles and then onto the floor covering. Hardwood, carpet and ceramic are all subject to asphalt discoloration. Another product is the driveway coatings that are applied to asphalt driveways as a recoating.  

Typically, asphalt discoloration is most prominent near the outside entrance to the affected area; its effects are less severe elsewhere. The trafficking will create a noticeable traffic lane and the discoloration will be heaviest on the high profile areas of the material.

Animal Secretions.Animals, especially those on medications or special diets, often secrete oils through their fur and urine. These oils can cause resilient flooring products to yellow.  

Burnsfrom cigarette or something extremely hot are very obvious because of the associated distortion and discoloration. These burns can wrinkle the wearlayer and/or crinkle the wear surface and rearrange it in a manner that will diffuse light erratically to create a dull appearance.

Carpet Trafficking (crocking).Two things contribute to the tracking of carpet dyes onto the resilient products’ surface. The first is the carpet fiber’s inability to hold the carpet dye without it transferring to shoes or bare feet. Test for dye transfer by rubbing a clean white cloth on the carpet. Dye that transfers onto the cloth indicates crocking.  

Often, the second contributor to dye transfer is a highly alkaline carpet maintenance product.  In both cases, the resilient discoloration will match the carpet’s color and will be heaviest in the transition area that leads from the carpet to the resilient floor.

Heat Degradationis caused by prolonged exposure to temperatures in excess of 125°F (51.6°C). It’s most commonly found around heat vents, where temperatures can exceed 130°F (54.4°C).  Heat degradation can also occur close to electrical motors in refrigerators, freezers and clothes washers.

Any amount of heat coupled with a small oil leak is a definite cause of discoloration. Even a household electrical extension cord, when conducting excess current, will heat up and create a line of discoloration on the floor. Finally, heat degradation can occur along a sliding glass door. The amount of heat generated by the sun magnifying through the glass can well exceed the 125°F mark.

Hot Spills.Boiling liquids of prepared foods high in acid content or hot liquids such as colored candle wax can cause discoloration when left on the surface of the floor for an extended period of time.

Household Reagents.Many household reagents can cause discoloration to resilient materials. Among these, if allowed to set on the material, are candle wax, detergents, grape juice, lawn fertilizers, mustard, shoe polish, permanent markers, wax crayons and wood stains.

Insecticides.Certain insecticides spilled or tracked on resilient materials can result in discoloration, especially if left on the material for a prolonged period of time.

Light Degradation.Some type of florescent lighting can lead to an overall yellowish discoloration of resilient materials. This phenomenon is identified by the lack of discoloration where there is no light shining on the material, especially under toe kicks, beneath mats and in closets.

Medications.Some types of medication can be secreted through the skin of humans to cause a discoloration (usually yellow) that’s concentrated where the affected person stands while barefoot. Topical skin treatments, either lotion or creams, can also cause discoloration.

Medical Supplies.Many over-the-counter medical supplies also cause discoloration. The most popular among these are iodine and iodine-based products.

Paintcan be tracked for a considerable distance. Usually found as a concrete surface treatment, paint – especially red – can be detected much the same way as asphalt tracking. The discoloration appears the same color as the paint.

Plumbing Pipe Compoundsused to fuse PVC pipe joints are similar in formulation to seam sealer. If these compounds come in contact with the resilient flooring surface, they are there to stay. Sometimes, they appear as a cream color; other times as purple or blue.

Printed Containers and Literatureand/or cartons allowed to lay on the surface of a resilient floor for a period of time – especially if wet – are a possible cause of discoloration.

Rubber Products(tires, furniture rests and shoes) contains sulfur, which can discolor some resilient floors. Tires and furniture rests will discolor the material if allowed on the surface too long. The same can be true of rubber-soled shoes when the floor is subjected to prolonged traffic. Another offender is the rubber feet on bathroom scales. These produce a yellow discoloration.

Rustcan be caused when metal comes in contact with a resilient floor. It may be possible to remove the rust, depending on how long the condition has existed.  In severe cases, the discoloration is permanent.

Solvent Attack and Solvent Spills.Solvent spills, especially on a dirty surface, will drive the contaminants into the material’s surface. Solvent can delaminate and distort wear surfaces (which can also be misconstrued as a discoloration). Close inspection is required to make that determination.

Sun Scorching.When the sun shines through a window at exactly the right angle, the window acts as a magnifying glass to burn and discolor the material from a yellowish-brown to black. Window coverings that block the sun’s rays are advised to prevent this.

Rubber-Backed Throw Rugs.The sulfur in certain types of throw rug backings, if left on the surface for a long time, will permanently turn a resilient floor yellow.  

Relax! Although it seems as if every piece of resilient material is prone to discoloration, the truth is manufacturers have done an excellent job of creating materials that are highly resistant to all of the items I have discussed here. Sure, resilient discoloration will remain a problem in the foreseeable future, but by properly educating sales staff, installers and consumers we can help prevent a lot of these problems.