Whatever their type, whether porcelain, ceramic or stone, tiles are extremely durable and resistant to damage that can spoil their appearance. They can nevertheless, in certain circumstances, become stained and will benefit from regular cleaning to keep them looking good.
As well as being durable, tiles are also easy to clean and maintain. This doesn’t mean, however, that you can use anything that comes to hand to clean your tiles. Choosing the wrong product can cause serious harm to the tiles that may be difficult or impossible to rectify.
Avoiding Damage to your Tiles
To care for the tiles properly, always avoid:
harsh chemicals, such as bleach and acid, including lemon and vinegar, for routine cleaning; these can cause damage to the tiles and grout if used regularly and are also health hazards as well as posing danger to other property near the tiles
coloured cleaners that may be absorbed by the tiles, especially if unglazed, and may alter their colour
wax-based cleaners that may cause the tiles to become slippery and, if a build-up is allowed to occur, will result in yellow stains that are unsightly and can absorb dirt
abrasive materials such as steel wool and scouring powder or pads that can scratch the tiles and ruin their finish.
Porcelain tiles tend to be harder, more resilient and more stain-resistant than ceramic tiles. They are one of the easiest types of tile to maintain but their surface can eventually be eroded by the regular use of corrosive chemicals such as ammonia, bleach or acids that can also damage the grout and loosen the tiles.
Natural stone tiles are particularly elegant and good looking but their beauty can be damaged by the regular use of abrasive cleaners. These include bleach and ammonia, which must never be mixed, as well as all acidic products.
Recommended Cleaning Methods and Products
The best way to prolong the life of your tiles is to look after them properly and treat them gently, despite their durability and practicality. Protect floor tiles with non-slip mats and rugs, and sweep them frequently to avoid a build-up of dirt and grit that can damage the surface. Mats at entrances will particularly help to avoid grit being walked onto the tiles.
Clean tiled surfaces regularly with a mop and warm water only, possibly daily since it only takes a few minutes. Every two weeks or so, add a mild detergent, one that is pH neutral, to the warm water. Any detergent used should be low concentration and all cleaning solutions should be rinsed off with clean, warm water before they are dry to avoid smears.
For bathrooms and shower areas, remove excess water with a squeegee after every use. This will help to prevent the build-up of soap scum.
If you do get a build-up of soap scum or any stubborn stains that can’t be removed by normal cleaning, you may need to use a solution of ammonia to remedy the problem. In these cases, add about half a cup of ammonia to a gallon of water and apply to the area of the stain only. Once the stain is gone, rinse off the chemical solution.
Over-aggressive and prolonged use of chemicals can change the colour of your tiles, make them dull and reduce their overall beauty. You may also damage the grout and cement so the tiles become loose.
Caring for your tiles isn’t a difficult or time-consuming job. But, done properly and regularly, it will ensure your tiles look good and serve their purpose for many years.