There can be a variety of tile applications and types of tile in a home and each one may entail a different method of cleaning. A few simple steps can ensure that these finishes will look like new for years.
Initial Cleaning After Installation
Once the tile work is complete, it is time for a quick clean-up. If there are some streaks or a slight film left from the grouting process, it has to be either buffed off with dry towels or washed with water only. After installing baseboards, doors, appliances, fixtures and such, it may also be that there is some construction dirt left on the new surfaces. Sweep and/or vacuum and wash with water.
*In the unfortunate case of stubborn cement grout residue, a mild acid-based cleaning product should be used, but only after the grout has had an initial curing period of three days. Epoxy grout film is completely different. An epoxy grout film must be removed by lightly scrubbing with a white nylon pad with soap and warm water and rinsing with a sponge and clean water within 24 hours of installation. If epoxy grout residue is left on the surfaces for days then chemical detergents that are designed to remove epoxy grout haze must be used to correct the issue. In any case, thorough rinsing with clean water is essential to ensure that there isn't another film from the cleaning process left to dry onto the surfaces.
If these residues are left on the tiles they will attract dirt and stains easily. It is very important to assure that any film or haze is removed before furnishing the room.
To maintain a tile floor, sweeping is an exercise that is often overlooked. It is important to sweep a tile floor regularly. Loose dirt, dust and grit can get spread across the floor by traffic and end up adhering to the tile and grout. Regular sweeping loosens and eliminates most of this dirt. It's also a good practice before washing a floor so that the excess dirt doesn't get mixed into the water. Furthermore, it reduces wear, especially on more abrasion-prone surfaces such as polished porcelain and stone tiles. Besides a broom, a dust mop or vacuum can also be efficient. Keeping a mat inside or outside an entrance will minimize the chances of sand and dirt being tracked in and scratching the finish and soiling the grout.
When food or a liquid is spilled, wipe it up immediately and follow it up with a rinse with a wet sponge or blot the excess liquid with a dry cloth and clean the area with a pH-neutral cleaner and rinse it.
For regular maintenance on ceramic and stone floors, always choose a neutral cleaner formulated for tile and grout and is non-polluting and low in VOC's. Apply cleaning solution with a sponge or mop and let stand for 3 to 5 minutes, lightly agitate and rinse or wipe off the cleaned area. Rinsing with clean water is a good practice when using any cleaning solution, especially on floors. Even though some tile cleaners will state, "free-rinsing" or "streak-free", there is a chance that a layer of the cleaning solution and diluted dirt can build up on the tiles. Avoid making the soap and water solution too rich. This can lead to build-up of soap residue which can attract dirt and make it difficult to keep the surfaces looking like new.
Once in a while a quick restoration of the floor may be in order, perhaps annually; it depends on the type of usage and traffic. This is the time to get in all the corners and junctions that are often missed by regular cleaning efforts. This task involves scrubbing the tiles and grout with a soft bristle deck brush, a nylon scrub pad or a mop, using the same pH-neutral cleaner or a more aggressive product (avoid acidic cleaners on stone tiles). A longer dwell time is necessary for the surfactants in the cleaner to loosen and suspend the dirt. Again, rinsing thoroughly will prevent a residue. Additionally, buffing the floor with dry towels further assures that the surface is absolutely free of a film.
Certain types of tile floors require that furniture has protective pads on the legs in order to prevent scratches. Similarly, preventative measures should be taken when moving heavy items across the floor such as refrigerators and pianos.
Shower And Bath Areas
Wet areas such as showers and tub surrounds are easily maintained by a quick wash with a pH-neutral cleaner and water. Wipe cleaned areas with dry towels for best results. Avoid acidic and alkaline cleaners unless an intensive deep cleaning is required (do not use acid-based cleaners on most stone surfaces). An annual restoration is recommended for showers and baths that are used daily. It consists of scrubbing and rinsing using the same neutral cleaner but with particular attention to details such as joints, junctions, fixtures, etc.
Glass tile manufacturers recommend the use of mild soap and water to maintain the tile and grout such as a pH-neutral tile and stone cleaner. Avoid using ammonia based glass cleaners as they can discolour grout.
In most cases, stone surfaces are sealed with a penetrating/impregnating sealer. This product is not sticky, non-film-forming, is vapour permeable and is easy to wipe on and wipe off. It is formulated to penetrate beyond the surface and repel oils and stains. Most cement-based grouts benefit from an application of a natural-look impregnator. There is no need to use a fine artist's brush to paint the joints carefully. It is easy to do; simply apply liberally with a cheap 1" or 2" brush and let absorb for a couple of minutes. Since it is not sticky and the impregnator quickly absorbs into the grout joints, it is okay if the impregnator is on the tile surface. Buff the tiles with dry towels; do not let the sealer stay on the tile.
In order to prevent affecting the sealer or impregnator that is used on stone surfaces and grout, always use a pH-neutral cleaner for routine maintenance. When it is time to apply sealer or impregnator again, always clean the surfaces thoroughly, rinse and dry.
Grout that has been stained and discoloured to an extent that it cannot be restored is a perfect candidate for "grout colourant" or "grout stain". This product is designed to paint the grout and seal it at the same time and is available in a few colours. Once it is cured, it is a very tough finish, uniform in colour and easy to maintain.
When buying a pre-owned house in which the tile-work hasn't been properly maintained, a deep cleaning is necessary. It may require more aggressive products. Do not experiment with industrial cleaners and acids. Even porcelain tiles can be damaged by certain chemicals and methods. Stone tiles and grout are even more susceptible to chemicals such as muriatic acid. Use only products that are designed for tile and stone surfaces. For a stubborn oil-based stain on a Bianco Carrara vanity countertop, for instance, a poultice powder can be mixed and applied to remove the stain.
For more specific cleaning advice, please see the Miracle Sealants Stain Removal Guide.