Linda holds several years of career experience with home improvement projects, retail home decor, and home design.
Before You Start
Now that you’ve taken up all that old, worn carpet and replaced it with beautiful tile, you’re probably curious about its care and maintenance. If you want to extend the life of your tile floors and keep them looking like new you, need to know the basics of tile cleaning.
While cleaning tile isn’t necessarily rocket science, there are a few tricks to ensure your floors stay sparkling clean for years to come. These simple tips apply to most types of tile, including ceramic, porcelain, vinyl, linoleum, natural stone, or cork.
Believe it or not, some people don’t bother to sweep their tile floors. The results in granules of dirt sticking to the tiles like a magnet—especially textured tile like tumbled marble or slate. That layer of grit eventually etches into the tile, dulling the surface and making it difficult to keep clean.
Routine sweeping loosens and removes most of the dirt. An upright vacuum cleaner with a bare floor setting will also work, but over time it can scratch the tiles. If you must, use a canister vacuum with a brush floor attachment to avoid surface damage.
Tile floors should be regularly damp mopped using a mild cleaner, preferably one recommended by the manufacturer. If you’re not certain which cleaner to use, stick with water and a squirt of dishwashing liquid or a cup of white vinegar per gallon of water. Both are safe for use in homes with children or pets.
Preventing Soap Residue
Sometimes your tiles end up looking cloudy if you clean with dish detergent soap. Remove the haze with a liquid non-abrasive cleanser. If the film remains, try using a mild DIY cleaner made from diluted lemon juice. It will work on porcelain or ceramic tiles. Avoid using it on natural tiles that can damage the stone.
If your tile floors are heavily soiled, mopping probably won’t help much. For extremely dirty tile, use an oxygen bleach solution and apply with a scrub brush to remove embedded dirt and grease. After applying a cleaning solution, rinse thoroughly with clean water to prevent breaking down the tile's protective surface.
Tackle years of ground-in dirt and gunk by purchasing or renting a steam cleaner. If your floor is beyond DIY help, leave it to the professionals to get out stubborn stains and grime.
Dry the Tiles
Once you’ve mopped the tiles, it’s best not to let them air dry. It will likely create water spots, especially if your local water contains heavy mineral deposits. Immediately dry the tile floor with a clean, lint-free cloth or a cotton or microfiber mop.
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Don’t forget about the grout. Clean tiles are just no good unless the grout is also sparkling clean. When tile is originally installed, a protective grout sealer is applied. The sealer should be reapplied each year to prevent stains, dirt, and moisture from penetrating the grout’s porous surface.
To clean dirty grout lines, mix up a batch of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda or oxygen bleach and water in equal parts. Scrub stains and discoloration with a toothbrush and rinse. Allow the grout to dry completely and then apply a sealer.
Guide for Cleaning Different Types of Tiles
- Granite tiles: Just like granite, marble, and other natural stone tiles, it should be mopped with a pH-neutral cleanser. Harsh cleaners can discolor, cause streaking, and seep into the stone. Make sure granite tiles are sealed to prevent stains.
- Marble tiles: Polished marble requires routine maintenance to enhance its sheen. Avoid cleaners with a high pH level. Stay away from stiff bristles and scouring powder that will scratch the surface. Routinely buff polished marble to keep it shiny. Tumbled marble has a natural appearance that doesn't require polishing.
- Slate tiles: Use a mild detergent or stone cleaner. Acidic or alkaline ingredients will definitely etch into the slate. Rinse with clean water and wipe with a soft cloth to prevent spotting. If you find scratches in high-traffic areas, use a clean cloth and rub mineral oil into the abrasions to conceal abrasions.
- Linoleum tiles: Linoleum is still available and gives kitchens and bathrooms a retro look. Linoleum is quite different than vinyl tiles. Begin sweeping or using a vacuum cleaner to remove dust and dirt. Mop with a special linoleum cleaner or homemade mixtures of water and borax or vinegar, baking soda and water to remove stubborn grime. Every few months apply wax and buff to a shine.
- Cork tiles: Sweep and dust the floors and damp mop at least once a week. Wipe up spills immediately. Add a few drops of dish detergent or oil soap. Acid and base ingredients can damage its protective sealer. Excess water will saturate the cork causing the tiles to swell and warp. Use a damp sponge mop to clean the tiles.
- Vinyl tiles: Vinyl is easy to clean and lasts over time. Sweep up the dirt, use a damp microfiber mop with warm water, or a vinyl cleanser. Avoid vinegar, abrasives or scrub brushes that can mar the vinyl surface.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Linda Chechar
Start a Conversation!
Eman Abdallah Kamel from Egypt on April 27, 2019:
A very excellent and useful article. Thank you for the tips.
Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on April 24, 2019:
Dianna, it does take a bit of extreme scrubbing with baking soda but it does work.
Dianna Mendez on April 24, 2019:
I use the baking powder grout method you suggest here. it works, takes time but it works. Great tips!
Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on April 19, 2019:
Liz, it is just the right timing for spring cleaning. My next project is to swap out winter clothes for the warm weather wardrobe.
Liz Westwood from UK on April 19, 2019:
This is well timed for spring cleaning. Useful tips and great illustrations.