Proper cleaning and maintenance is an important component to sustain the life of your tile and/ or natural stone. Because tile and natural stone have different cleaning requirements, I am going to break them down separately.
photo credit: Mohawk Flooring
Basic maintenance for Ceramic, Porcelain and Glass Tiles:
Regular sweeping or vacuuming to remove dust or debris is critical, especially in high traffic areas like mud rooms and entry ways. Good quality entry and exit mats/ rugs are a good idea and will help protect your floor from premature wear. Its also a good idea to have mats/ rugs at heavy pivot locations, such as in front of your kitchen sink or stove.
Cleaning with a damp mop once per week using a cleaner specified for use with tile, following the cleaner manufacturers instructions. Preferably a non-oil, non-animal fat, and non-soap based cleaner, these components may cause problems due to residues left behind in the cleaning process, which can trap in dirt. Routine cleaners should never contain acids, vinegar, chlorines or ammonia, as these chemicals can damage and discolor the grout and/ or the surface of the tile. The cleaning products available will vary depending on the application, amount of traffic and the use. The product chosen should also be compatible with cleaning the grout joints at the same time.
For glass tiles: For routine cleaning, use any non-abrasive cleaning compound recommended for either glass or tile and follow the same guidelines as above.
photo credit: Ceramic Tile Works
Basic Maintenance for Natural Stone Tiles:
Natural stone has a delicate chemical composition and may interact strangely with cleaning solutions that are not specifically formulated for use with them. They are also more porous by nature and require a different maintenance program than traditional ceramic tile. For this reason, many of the cleaners acceptable for use on ceramic tile can stain, damage or dull stone.
Dirt and dust can scratch the surface of stone, therefore, stone floors should be vacuumed or dust mopped frequently. The same basic maintenance structure as above should be applied but a neutral pH cleaner specific to the stone type should be used. The cleaner should not contain acid or bleach- even a light solution of vinegar and water will etch and eventually damage the stone. A neutral pH cleaner that will not affect existing sealer or coating is recommended.
Protecting your stone is important and a sealer is recommended. There are 2 types- penetrating and color enhancing.
- Penetrating/impregnating stone sealers have no-sheen and provide a natural look and can be water-based or solvent-based.
- Stone enhancer sealers are a no-sheen/ low- sheen, penetrating/impregnating sealer formulated to darken and enrich the natural color and beauty of the stone. They can also rejuvenate and improve the appearance of worn and weathered stone.
Note that if the sealer is applied after the stone is installed they will also darken the color of grout joints. Most quality sealers of this type are rated to protect the stone for several years but you will need to check the manufacturers recommendations that are listed on the bottle.
Most tile installations use a cement type grout. Its a good idea to seal this type of grout after installation to prevent staining and should be sealed with a penetrating/impregnating grout sealer (often called grout sealers and is a different product than the natural stone sealer). Follow the instructions on the bottle on how to apply it, typically you brush it on just the grout joints. The sealer should not change the natural color of the grout, but will prevent the penetration of moisture, simplify maintenance, and help prevent staining or discoloration. Grout can be sealed approximately 30 days after installation. You may need to reapply the sealer on an annual basis depending on the sealer quality, traffic patterns, and maintenance routine.
Grout needs to be cleaned periodically to remove any surface build-up. When heavy duty grout cleaning is required, you will need to use a professional strength tile and grout cleaner that is capable of removing grease, soap scum, body oil, mildew stains, algae, and synthetic or acrylic waxes from the grout joints. Be sure your use a product that contains non-polluting chemicals and has low VOC levels. This type of product can be purchased from most home improvement centers.