Tile is one of the most durable, sanitary, and safe materials for adding beauty and function to indoor and outdoor areas. Tiles endure the toughest conditions, making them a popular choice for floors and walls that must withstand heavy use. Although tiles are generally easy to clean, different types of tiles require different cleaning methods to maintain their appearance and functionality. These easy-to-follow steps include best practices and tips—including environmentally friendly options for keeping your tiles clean, green, and pristine.
Step 1: What Type of Tile Are You Cleaning?
When planning your cleaning strategy, the first critical step is to determine the type of tile you’re dealing with; for example, porcelain, stone, glass, or other.
Perhaps you’re a homeowner who installed tiled floors to reduce your family’s allergy symptoms. Or maybe you have a professional setting, such as a medical facility that uses tile to maintain sanitary and anti-bacterial conditions, or an office with a high-traffic reception area. No matter where tile is used in your living or work place, it’s important to know what type of tile you have and its material components, so you can choose the safest, most effective cleaning method. Here’s a quick primer:
A Typology of Tiles
Ceramic and Porcelain: These durable materials are impervious to most cleaning agents, making them ideal for high-traffic areas.
Natural Stone: Travertine, marble, stone, and slate add a touch of luxury to a space, but their porous nature demands gentler cleaning solutions.
Glass: Glass tiles require streak-free and scratch-free cleaning methods to maintain their brilliance.
Metal: Tiles with a metallic finish add a unique decorative touch, but their susceptibility to scratches and spotting necessitates specific cleaning approaches.
TIP: Uncertain about what type of material your tile is made from? Check the Tile Material section of our website.
Step 2: Use the Appropriate Tile Cleaner
If possible, consult the manufacturer’s care instructions for your specific tile and grout. It’s always best to follow any manufacturer-provided guidelines to clean and safeguard your tile.
The way a tiled space is used is another important consideration, since the frequency and type of use can help determine your cleaning method. For example, a busy restaurant owner may need to approach heavily stained, discolored tile by employing a professional grout cleaning service for deep restoration, followed by a regular routine of vinegar-water mopping to maintain a bright appearance. Elsewhere, a homeowner with a lightly used, etched marble bathroom floor might apply a marble polishing compound to buff out minor scratches and restore the stone’s luster.
What are the appropriate cleaning solutions for each tile type? Here are some pro tips to help you achieve great results. Remember: Always test the cleaning solution on an inconspicuous area of tile before applying it to the entire surface.
Ceramic and Porcelain: A vinegar-and-water solution or a mild dish soap diluted in water can tackle everyday grime. For tougher stains, a paste made from water and baking soda or a commercial grout cleaner can be applied with caution.
Natural Stone: It is essential to use stone-specific cleaners formulated for pH neutrality to avoid etching or dulling the surface of marble, travertine, stone, or slate. Steer clear of acidic cleaners, including vinegar, and abrasive scrubbers! These can damage the surface and appearance of stone tiles.
Glass: A vinegar-water solution or standard glass cleaner will leave your glass tiles sparkling. Avoid harsh chemicals that can create streaks or hazing.
Metallic: A gentle dish soap and water combination is usually sufficient. For metal tiles with a special finish, consult the manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations.
The Eco-Friendly Approach
Harsh cleaning chemicals often leave behind an unsettling ecological footprint. A new wave of sustainable solutions are available for cleaning tile, empowering consumers to achieve great results without compromising the planet. In many cases, you can reduce or eliminate entirely the use of chemical cocktails. Many eco-friendly options exist for cleaning tile, including the following:
Baking Soda: This gentle but powerful cleaner tackles surface grime and mild stains. Mix baking soda with water to form a paste, apply to the tile, and scrub gently with a sponge or microfiber cloth. Rinse thoroughly and enjoy the sparkling results!
White Vinegar: The mild acid in vinegar cuts through mineral deposits and soap scum. Dilute white vinegar with water (1:1 ratio) and spray on the tile. Let it sit for a few minutes, then scrub and rinse. Warning: Do not use vinegar on natural stone or marble tiles, as the acidity can damage and dull the surface.
Castile Soap: This plant-based powerhouse is a natural degreaser. Mix a few drops in warm water and use it to mop floors or clean walls. Bonus: Castile soap is gentle on hands and surfaces, making it ideal for sensitive areas.
Essential Oils: Tea tree oil and lavender oil contain natural antibacterial properties, perfect for tackling bathroom and kitchen tiles, while leaving a pleasant scent. Add a few drops of essential oil to your cleaning solution for a refreshing and hygienic touch.
As an added consideration, switching to a baking soda-vinegar cleaning routine, for example, not only can reduce environmental impact, but you’ll also save money on cleaning supplies.
TIP – Microfiber Magic: Did you know that switching to microfiber mops and water for floor cleaning can reduce chemical use, and improve air quality? Invest in reusable cleaning cloths and microfiber mops to minimize waste and maximize cleaning power.
Interested in eco-friendly tiles? Learn more in John Merola’s Tile Sustainability guide.
Step 3: Preventative Measures
A little preparation and prevention can go a long way in maintaining the cleanliness and surface appearance of your tile. Preventative measures are an often-overlooked tile care strategy; here are some easy ways to keep your tile cleaner and safer.
- Lay down area rugs in high-traffic zones to significantly reduce dirt and grime buildup on tile floors.
- Regularly wipe up spills and sweep debris to prevent them from seeping into the grout and staining tiles.
- After wet-mopping, use a squeegee to remove excess water and prevent streaking, especially on glass tiles.
- Ventilation is key! Ensure proper ventilation in bathrooms and kitchens to prevent moisture buildup, which can lead to mold and mildew growth.
Tiles offer a truly remarkable range of benefits. They are hypoallergenic, antimicrobial, and anti-bacterial. Tiles are fire-proof, water-proof, slip-resistant, and ultra-durable. And tile is a wonderfully versatile design medium that allows you to express your style with creativity in any room or outdoor space. With regular cleaning, preventive measures, and a touch of professional expertise, you can maintain the beauty and functionality of your tiled surfaces for decades to come. By understanding what type of tile you have and its unique characteristics, you can ensure that it’s cleaned safely and effectively for any home of work space.
Good Housekeeping: https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/
Better Homes and Gardens: https://www.bhg.com/
Bob Vila: https://www.bobvila.com/