Caring for your Ceramic Tile & Stone
Cleaning glazed ceramic tile as is commonly used in new home construction is, generally, easier than most other flooring surfaces. These products may be routinely cleaned with an all-purpose household or commercial cleaner. Whichever cleaner you choose, be sure that it is compatible with the grout installed with your floor. Most cleaners are multipurpose but your needs may vary based on your tile application and use. You may choose to look for products specifically formulated to remove soap scum or hard water deposits in your shower while using another product for cleaning the tile in your kitchen.
Regardless of the cleaner chosen, the basics of cleaning your tile remain the same. The entire area should be cleaned and scrubbed with the cleaning solution with a cotton mop or cloth, sponge or non-metallic brush. Once cleaned, the entire area should be rinsed with clean water to remove any remaining residue. As with the other surfaces in your home, you should sweep or vacuum to remove dust and other loose debris prior to cleaning. Use caution when choosing a cleaner as those containing acids or ammonia can damage the tile itself or the surrounding grout.
Unglazed tile will require a slightly different method of cleaning which should be performed with concentrated tile cleaners that have a neutral pH for safe regular use. The products, available at most home centers, are better suited for removing grease, oils and other normal spills from unglazed products. As with glazed ceramics, you should choose products compatible with cleaning the grout joints at the same time.
Anyone who has watched a home improvement show on TV of late or shopped at a local tile retailer, knows that glass tile is one of the fastest growing segments of the tile segment. Typically in kitchens and as decorative accents, these products are extremely easy to maintain with any non-abrasive cleaner recommended for glass or tile.
Grout is, very simply, the material used to fill the spaces between individual tiles and comes in a rainbow of different colors. While color is very important to the overall look of the installation, it has little effect on the functionality of the grout.
The purpose of grout is only to fill the joints between tile and becomes an integral component of the finished installation. It is worth noting that neither sealing your grout nor using a 100% Epoxy Grout will guarantee against discoloration or staining of your grout. Grout should be cleaned periodically to remove surface buildup and reduce staining. Routine cleaning of the grout surface may be accomplished with most concentrated household or commercial cleaners. When you need to get really “serious” about cleaning your grout, you will need to use a professional strength cleaner capable of removing grease, soap scum, mildew stains and even algae. These types of products can be purchased at most Home Centers or at your local professional floor covering dealer.
There may come a time over the life of your floor that the grout can no longer be cleaned or has been stained to the point that it is no longer presentable. You may return the grout to its original color, or any other color for that matter, with the use of a grout stain. Grout stains are an epoxy based product and are specifically designed to penetrate the surface of the grout and seal the surface with a permanent color. Once a grout has been stained, there is no need to seal it further. Prior to staining, be sure to clean the grout joints thoroughly to remove any dirt or oils that may be present using a professional strength cleaner available at your local Home Center or Flooring Retailer.
Natural stone products have very distinctive qualities that can differ greatly from the man-made products available today. The very qualities that make it unique are the same ones that should be considered when choosing stone for a particular application. To ensure that your natural stone products will stand the test of time in terms of look and function, proper maintenance will be crucial. These products are very porous and require a maintenance program that differs from ceramic tile.
First and foremost, be aware that many of the cleaners designed for use with ceramic tile, can stain or otherwise damage stone. Natural stones should always be cleaned with “neutral cleaners” – even a light vinegar and water solution will etch and eventually damage natural stone. Simply stated, stone cleaners should never contain bleach or acid.
You should only use cleaners that are specifically designed for cleaning stone. These cleaners contain no acid and are pH neutral. Typically, you will mix a cleaner with water (always follow manufacturer’s instructions) and apply with a sponge or mop. On vertical surfaces such as backsplashes or shower surrounds, or on countertops or vanities, a spray bottle can be used to apply the solution. Regardless of the area being cleaned, allow the cleaner to sit per manufacturer instructions (usually 3 to 5 minutes) and agitate the area with an approved mop or soft bristled brush. Mop up the surface and buff dry.
Once your stone has been cleaned, you can apply a wax specifically formulated for the purpose to enhance the beauty and luster of polished stone. Although these products are not designed to restore the original shine, they will help in protecting the original finish. Each of the products referenced above may be purchased from most home centers or your local professional flooring dealer.