Ceramic tile is a clay-based product widely used in residential construction as a flooring and countertop material. Ceramic tiles are produced using red or white clay that is fired in a kiln. A liquid glass topcoat produces a shiny surface. Porcelain tile is produced using porcelain dust, creating a dense product that is impervious to water and resists wear and tear from high traffic. Porcelain tile most often has a dull, matte finish, but there are methods to add a bit of shine to the surface.
Glazed Vs. Unglazed
Two basic styles of ceramic tile are used: glazed and unglazed. The primary portion of the tile, called bisque, will have an additional coating applied if the intended use requires it. The glaze is a liquid glass that is baked onto the bisque and aids in creating texture and increasing the color options. This glaze will also provide added stain as well as scratch and fire resistance; color is added using minerals, including zinc, copper and mercury. Glazed tiles are easier to clean and more slip resistant than their unglazed counterparts. Solid bisque tiles are one color throughout and are less likely to show scratches and wear than glazed tiles.
Applying wax to a tile floor will give the surface a nice shine and make maintenance easier. Traditionally, the process was time consuming and difficult and even made maintaining the tiles more difficult, but new formula waxes have eliminated some of these problems. The floor must be thoroughly cleaned before any wax is applied, the cleaner should be appropriate for the tile and grout, and any residue must be removed with a mop and clean water. Some waxes require buffing while others don't; non-buff waxes are less time consuming, but buffing waxes will have long-lasting effects. If a waxy buildup is present, which often happens over time, a simple solution of laundry detergent, ammonia and water will take care of the problem.
An enhancing sealant will give a wet look to the surface of the tile. An added bonus with sealers is the protection they provide from dirt, oil and staining to tile and grout. Each product will have a different lifespan and must be applied according to manufacturer's instructions. Most are water based and are appropriate for shower enclosures, floors and countertops, and will withstand high traffic wear and tear. These products will dry clear and require occasional resealing depending on the manufacturer.
Unglazed porcelain tile can be polished in the same manner as other stones. The process is one better left to a professional stone restoration service. The restoration process is fairly difficult and requires specialized tools to accomplish properly. If the tile has a glaze over the top, polishing is not effective, and other methods will probably not be necessary as the glaze should have a naturally shiny look.