How to Clean Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tile floors are popular not only for their appearance but also for their ease of maintenance. But like anything, they're not completely maintenance-free. A little regular upkeep and cleaning will keep them looking as new as the day they were installed.

Knowing how to clean ceramic tile is key. Fresh water is often enough for glazed ceramic tiles. But for heavier cleaning, head to your grocery or hardware store to find a product that is recommended for ceramic tile and tile floors.

What to Avoid
There are more don'ts than do's when cleaning ceramic tile.

  • Don't use anything abrasive which can scratch the finish.
  • Don't use anything acidic which can etch the finish and discolor the tile.
  • Don't use bleach or ammonia as it may discolor the grout.
  • Don't use oil-based cleaners as they will leave a milky film on glazed tile.

How to Avoid the Need for Heavy Cleaning
There are a few steps you can take to make cleaning easier and less frequent:

  • Clean-up after any spills as soon as possible to avoid the possibility of staining.
  • Spot-clean as needed with a damp sponge.
  • Keep door mats outside to avoid tracking in dirt, sand or fine gravel that may scratch your ceramic tile.
  • Sweep often to keep the tile clean of anything that can scratch. Vacuuming can remove dirt from grout lines and deep crevices in textured tile that a broom can't reach.
  • Put pads under any table or chair legs to avoid scratching when furniture is moved.
  • Areas exposed to water should be caulked on a regular basis to avoid leakage which will damage the underlying surface over time.
  • Seal your grout after installation, then periodically over time. Read the label and follow the grout manufacturer's recommendations.

How to Clean Heavily Soiled Tile
Restoring heavily soiled ceramic tile floors can take a little more effort. You'll need the following items:

  • A soft-bristle broom.
  • A vacuum cleaner. Either a canister model or an upright with a hose attachment.
  • Two buckets. One for cleaning solution and one for clean rinse water.
  • A sponge-mop.
  • A small brush.
  • Any store-bought grout cleaner or grout color restorer.
  • Some old towels.

Sweep thoroughly, then vacuum with special attention to the grout, the edges of the room and any deep crevices if you're cleaning textured tile.

Mop the floor with fresh water, using the second water bucket to rinse and wring the dirty sponge. For difficult greasy dirt, a few drops of vinegar in a gallon of warm water will act as a degreaser.

Mopping a tile floor can trap the dirty water in the grout lines, discoloring the grout. If this is the case, you may need to spot-clean the grout with a brush and grout cleaner. An old toothbrush or fingernail brush is ideal.

After mopping, buff the tiles clean with dry towels. This will avoid staining from water spots and will pick up any dirt left behind. Spot clean any difficult spots or dirty grout as needed.

Showers and Tubs
Shower and tub enclosures can present a few extra challenges from hard water stains, soap scum or mildew. The same basic rules apply; avoid abrasive or acidic products that may scratch or discolor the tile. Look for mold-and-mildew or lime stain removers at your grocery store. Most household cleaners in combination with a little elbow grease should also work.

For mildew, add a few drops of bleach to a gallon of clean water. For lime and hard water stains, add a few drops of vinegar to a gallon of water. Dark stains resulting from body oils mixed with soap scum can be soaked with laundry detergent for a few hours before scrubbing with a household cleaner.

Once you have your ceramic tile floors and walls looking like new again, some minimal common-sense upkeep as described here will avoid the need for any heavy cleaning for a long time.

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