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Tile Care Tips

Ceramic tiles are inorganic, non-metallic materials that have been subjected to heat treatment to harden for long lasting use. Ceramic tile is made out of clay that contains a large amount of silicates. Tile used in the home is set in a plaster like substance called grout.

Tile may be purchased glazed or unglazed. Glazed tile will be much easier to keep clean. Be sure and seal the mortar between tiles. Regularly vacuum the floors and occasionally damp mop floors with plain water to remove soil. Sometimes for heavier soil you might need to use a mild detergent solution. When using mild detergent solution, be sure and rinse the floors well, and wipe them dry for a better shine.

The best and easiest way to clean a ceramic tile floor is to scrub it with an electric floor washer or polisher scrubber. The thorough cleaning action will brighten the tile for a new look. Use a solution of 1/4 cup low-sudsing detergent, or 1-2 tablespoons of either washing soda or tri sodium phosphate or commercial floor cleaning powder in 1 gallon water. Be sure and rise the floors thoroughly when you finish and get up all cleaning material.

Sometimes further treatment will be needed, particularly for the grout. You can apply a solution of water and chlorine bleach (liquid or powdered). Let it stand for 20 minutes or so, then mop the floor, rinse thoroughly and wipe dry. Then wax the floor for protection and easier care.

If the tiles have been sealed there still may be white or gray dust track over both that surface and into carpeted floor areas. The whitish dust will be from the grout used in laying the floor. You may use muriatic acid to clean up floor surfaces. (Dilute the muriatic acid, 1 part acid to 10 parts water.) The floor must be flushed thoroughly with water after clean up or the muriatic acid will continue to leach lime from the grout causing more whitish dust. Most tile installers today use a commercial product that is easier to wash off, but also more expensive.

Glazed tile should be treated like porcelain enamel because it will be easy to scratch: Avoid using harsh abrasive powders which will scratch the finish. Occasional bleaching will clean grout. There are a number of aerosol bathroom cleaners that are effective to clean tile. Be sure and follow directions on container.

To seal tile floors, place folded towels next to carpet areas adjoining tiled areas to absorb water. Using a scrub brush or large sponge and detergent, scrub the floor surface and rinse with clear water. Be sure any dirty wash water is completely removed from crevices. Be sure to allow the floor to dry thoroughly before walking on it.

You can purchase a tile and grout sealer at most home and garden center or builders hardware stores. It is a clear solution so it does not change the color of the tile or of the grout, but it will give some gloss to the surface. Paint the sealer on the dry tile or grout, being sure to cover all crevices and cracks. Let it dry and apply a second coat. Thereafter, apply one coat about every year to maintain the seal. The sealer prevents dust from grout being tracked around the house, and makes cleaning very easy with a damp mop. Some home owners prefer to use a wax instead of a sealer. You can experiment with a sample tile or on a spot on the floor that is in an inconspicuous corner. Some waxes leave a streaky finish.

Dingy grout between tiles can be brightened by scrubbing with hot suds, then apply a diluted solution of chlorine bleach. Repeat procedure, keeping tile wet 5 minutes.

Regular cleaning can be done with detergent and water, and rinsed; or commercial household cleaners or bathroom cleaners used according to label directions. Do not use scouring powders or other abrasives which can scratch the finish.

Special cleaning may be needed for ceramic tile in bathrooms if there is a buildup of: soap scum, a rough white coating, or mildew.

Remove soap scum by sponging with a mixture of 1/2 cup packaged water softener, plus 2 tablespoons rotten stone plus 1 cup hot water; or use a solution of 1-2 tablespoons tri sodium phosphate in 1 gallon hot water. Be sure and rinse.

Remove mildew by cleaning with a dilute solution of chlorine bleach in water, following label directions on bleach. Once again, it is very important to rinse. Some homeowners prefer to use a mildew retardant household spray.

The rough white coating is a buildup of mineral from hard water (like you get in a teakettle). Dissolve it with a commercial tile cleaner and wipe off.

Occasionally a dark varnish like stain may build up in a tile shower that has not been cleaned regularly. It is a build-up of body oils and soap scum and very hard to remove. Cover the spot with full-strength liquid laundry detergent and let stand for a couple of hours. Then sponge with water. If it still doesn’t all come off, leave detergent on longer and scrub with a brush. Don’t use on porcelain enamel tubs or fiberglass or plastic surfaces as it may damage them.