Things You'll Need
Canister vacuum cleaner
Mop and bucket
Cleanser designed for quarry tile
White vinegar and water
Quarry tile is an unglazed terra cotta tile made of natural clay, giving it a somewhat rustic appearance. It is available in most earth tones but its most common color is a red that's similar to bricks' color range. This tile has been a favorite in commercial applications such as kitchens, bathrooms and rooms subject to heavy traffic or interior/exterior use. The main features of this tile are its low cost and durability. Like any flooring material, it can get dirty, especially in high-traffic areas. Luckily, cleaning it is not difficult.
Clean your quarry tile thoroughly with a canister vacuum cleaner. Do not use a vacuum with a beater bar as this may drag grit across the tiles, causing scratches to the sealer or wax.
Mop your floor with a cleanser. Consider using an enzyme-based, antibacterial cleanser such as EnziBrite or AquaMix, particularly if your quarry tile is in the kitchen as these types of cleansers cut grease and eliminate odors.
Rinse your mopped floor to remove cleanser residue. It is often a good idea to use soft or distilled water if your tap water has high mineral content since you don't want to leave deposits on your tiles.
Wipe your floor dry with towels. This is a useful step to determine if your tile has haze or if it is becoming discolored. (Wax can become yellowed as it ages.)
If your tile floor looks like it has a film on it, add white vinegar to clear water and re-mop your floor. This should remove any haze. Dry the tile again.
Because quarry tile is unglazed, it needs to be maintained with sealers and wax. Use a commercial terrazzo or slate sealer and apply at least three coats. Apply an acrylic floor finish (at least two coats). Use a lamb's wool pad and a floor-polishing machine to apply a paste wax. Buff the floor once the wax dries. Periodically strip the wax off, clean the floor thoroughly and reapply the finishes. Stripping machines can be rented for this process. Dirt can be trapped under wax so be sure the entire floor is very clean before waxing. Use a synthetic scouring pad for stubborn spots and use a heavy-duty cleansing agent if you need to use a stronger product on stains.
Quarry tile is vulnerable to staining and, like brick, it can be broken if heavy objects are dropped on it. Tile that has been neglected for a long time may require a professional cleaner to return the tile to its best appearance. Some cleansers are better for indoor applications, so read your labels carefully.
F.R.R. Mallory has been published since 1996, writing books, short stories, articles and essays. She has worked as an architect, restored cars, designed clothing, renovated homes and makes crafts. She is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley with bachelor's degrees in psychology and English. Her fiction short story "Black Ice" recently won a National Space Society contest.