How to Refinish Old Mexican Tile Floors

Mexican tile floors are beautiful when installed and sealed correctly. The tiles are made from terra-cotta, generally hand-made in Saltillo Mexico from raw clay. These tiles can be refinished and restored but they have to be handled with care. You can do this yourself by following the steps outlined here.

Mexican Floor Tiles

Step 1

DEGREASE THE TILE FLOOR FIRST: The first thing to do in order to refinish Mexican floor tiles is to simply try and clean them to see how bad the finish is. I recommend that you clean the tiles with a degreasing cleaner and a green scrub pad. This is the first and easiest step to take to see how well your tiles finish and sealer is holding up. You will need to get on your hands and knees and scrub the entire floor, so use gardening knee pads to reduce stress on your knees.

Step 2

CLEAN THE GROUT: After you have cleaned your Mexican tile floors with the degreaser, you need to clean the tile grout around the tiles. Dirty grout can vastly affect the appearance of your tiles, so we want to also restore the clean appearance of your grout. Take a sponge and soak all of the grout around your tiles with enough water to leave them moist, but without leaving large pools of water. Sprinkle baking soda over the wet grout and let this sit for about 30 minutes or so. Mop up the baking soda with a wet mop.

Next mix up a solution of vinegar and water that is 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water in a bowl. Use a brass tipped cleaning brush or grout scrub brush available at your home supply center, and scrub the tile with this solution. After you have completed scrubbing all of the grout with this solution, rinse your floor with a wet mop.

Aldon Lifeguard

ASSESS THE FINISH: If you still feel like your finish looks terrible, the surface color of your tiles is too yellow, or dull, and you can not see a shine to the tile, it is time to refinish them. You can still try to enhance the appearance of the tiles before stripping and refinishing by trying a product called Alson Lifeguard. This product will protect existing sealers and also enhances the appearance of the tiles. Try this first in a test area, and if you still do not like the results, then move on to the next stepl

Step 4

STRIP THE SEALER: Stripping will only remove the sealed surface layer, and since this is Mexican Tile, we want to use a gently stripper. You can try to use Acetone to strip off the sealer or you can also try Aldon Insta-Clean. Both of these are gentler strippers than commercially sold strippers and they both should not affect the surface color of the Mexican tile. I highly recommned that you do a couple test tiles first to check for the results. Mop the stripper onto the tiles, keep the tiles wet for a few minutes, and watch for the sealer to blister and dry up into flakes and powder. This can then be scrubbed off with a soft chemical resistant brush. You want to scrub off the blistered sealer while still wet but swollen and blistered. Make sure you have lots of ventillation, and I would recommend wearing a repirator that can handle organic vapors.

TIP: If you want to completely change the color of your tiles, you have to do it at this point. Please read my write up here for how to change the color of the tile:

Floor Rotary Buffer

BUFF THE FLOOR: Rent a commercial rotary floor buffer and buff the entire floor with a soft buffing cloth to remove any access checmicals or residue. Mop the floor with clean water after buffing.

Step 6

CLEAN THE FLOOR: You want to clean the entire tile floor with clean water and a mop. Do not use any soap or chemicals to clean the floor as we want to avoid residue build up on the tiles. You want to remove all the dust and any particles on the tiles. Allow to dry for 24 hours. You can also use a commercial carpet/floor dryer to speed up the process.

Step 7


Now, it is time to reseal the floor. There are a few products that commonly are used to reseal Mexican floor tiles. They are Aqua Mix products, Glaze'n Seal Products, or Charlotte Mexican Paver Sealer. Follow the directions provided with the sealer you choose to apply. You will hear a difference of opinion about choosing a penetrating sealer at this point, but the tiles are porous so most sealers will penetrate the tiles, and you can save money by choosing the sealer that will work best for you. It is important to note that you do want a strong, durable sealer to keep your floors protected and looking great, or you will be repeating this process sooner than you think! If you have a high-traffic area, avoid using a high-sheen sealer because it will wear out faster, and look terrible! Allow the sealer to dry as directed or at least 24 hours before polishing.

Step 8

POLISH THE FLOOR: After you reseal the floor, it is time to polish it. I recommend that that you use 4-5 coats or floor polish to really protect your tiles and your sealer. Follow the direction provided with the sealer you choose.

Step 9

KEEP THE FLOORS CLEAN: To keep yoru newly refinished floors clean, use a solution of white vinegar and warm water. I have heard that borax and water also work well, but I prefer the white vinegar solution. Use a microfiber mop to clean the tiles.

Step 10