Cleaning and Sealing Tiles
Although regular cleaning will keep your ceramic tile in good condition, some surfaces, especially in kitchens and family rooms, may require stain removal.
When you need to remove a stain, start with the techniques outlined in the chart below right. If these solutions don’t work, ask a tile supplier for a commercial stain-removal agent made for your tile. Stubborn stains often can be removed with a cleaning agent mixed with baking soda, plaster of Paris, or refined clay. Deodorant-free cat litter works well. Mix the ingredients into a wet paste and apply it to the stain. Tape a plastic bag over the paste and let it sit for a couple of days. Then brush off the paste and rinse.
Unglazed tile usually requires a sealer, and even presealed tile may need periodic stripping and resealing.
Penetrating sealers soak into the tile bisque and preserve the natural color of the tile. Topical sealers lie on the surface of the tile and may lighten or darken the tile colors or change its sheen. Topical sealers wear off and can require yearly reapplication. When tiles look dull it could be time to strip and reseal them.
About 45 minutes to vacuum and damp mop a 15×20-foot kitchen, 90 minutes to strip it, about the same time to seal it
Stripping: scrub brush and mop or scrubbing machine, vacuum Sealing: vacuum, applicator, buffer
Vacuum and clean surface
Materials Stripper, sponge, sealer, bucket, rags, wax if needed
Safety First: Floor care products can be toxic
Many strippers and sealers are solvent-base and highly caustic. Even water-base products contain harmful chemicals.
All floor care products are potentially dangerous — observe the manufacturer’s safety precautions.
Wear rubber gloves, old long-sleeve clothing, pants, and eye protection. Wear a respirator to avoid breathing toxic fumes and put a fan in the window to provide adequate ventilation. Perform tile maintenance tasks when children are out of the house.
To remove old sealer flow stripper on surface with a sponge or mop in an area that you can clean before the liquid dries (about 25 square feet). Scrub the area with a brush or with a floor-scrubbing machine. Do not let the stripper dry on the surface.
Remove residue with a sponge or rags. Some water-base strippers allow removal with a wet-dry vacuum. Rinse with clean water and wipe dry.
On newly tiled floors wait 48 hours before sealing. On existing floors vacuum the surface thoroughly to keep dirt and dust from becoming embedded in the new sealer.
Clean the tile with a commercial tile cleaning product following the manufacturer’s directions. Rinse with clear water.
Apply sealer with a sponge applicator, paint pad, brush, or mop, as required by the manufacturer.
Do not let sealer puddle or run on walls. Some sealers can’t be overlapped. Some may require wiping with a clean rag. Allow time to dry between coats. Apply one or two additional coats.
Working with waxes
Many unglazed tile surfaces lend themselves to waxed finishes. Some waxes contain pigments that enhance the color of the tile.
To properly renew a waxed floor, strip the old wax and wash the surface thoroughly with a mild detergent. Rinse with clear water and let it dry completely. Wax the surface in successive thin coats with the applicator recommended by the manufacturer. Allow each coat to dry and buff in between. Repeated thin coats leave a brighter shine than one thick coat; they also reduce wax buildup.
A dull shine doesn’t necessarily call for rewaxing. Clean the floor with a soap-free cleaner and buff with a cloth or rented machine. When using a buffer start in the middle of the floor with the brush level. Tilt the handle up or down slightly to move it from side to side. Don’t push the machine. Buff across the surface.