How to Clean Tile Floors

Tile flooring, whether it's ceramic, porcelain, slate or travertine, adds an elegant, clean appearance to any environment. Unlike carpeting that looks fresh after a good vacuuming, tile floors and the connecting grout require a specific cleaning routine consisting of several steps to keep them looking new. Knowing what the tiled are made of tells you how to maintain them.

Basic Tile Maintenance

All flooring needs dust or damp mopping on a regular basis, which you can do with either with a broom or a vacuum. Built-up dirt and grit can work its way through the surface of the tile and cause abrasions.

Glazed Tile

The shiny glaze on your tile is the result of firing the clay or porcelain with a liquid glass coating at a high temperature. This gives the tile a protective layer and makes it easy to clean. A damp mop and an all-purpose, non-oil-based cleanser work for the tile and grout. Stains can be removed using a multi-purpose cleaner. Grout should be cleaned when it starts to turn color. Make a paste of baking soda and water; leave it on the grout for several minutes; and then wipe it off to restore the grout color.

Unglazed Tile

A pH-neutral tile cleanser is best for unglazed tiles; grease, oils and normal spills come up quickly with a mop or cloth. Be sure all the cleanser is removed from the tile before it dries. The liquid should be clear and free of color to avoid the color being absorbed by the porous tile.

Vintage tiles were not glazed. Their sheen may be due to wear, but be cautious with any cleansing solutions. Warm water is the best cleanser, and a non-soap based cleaner is recommended, if needed.

Slate Flooring

Dust-mopping or sweeping a slate floor is the number one maintenance routine for protecting its surface. Dirt, sand and grit scratch the surface of the slate, causing permanent damage if the slate is not sealed. Work the mop in one direction only and remove it with a dustpan. Wet mop a slate floor weekly, and dry mop as the need arises. Remove stains with equal parts warm water and hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle. Let it sit on the stain for up to 10 minutes, and then scrub it with a soft-bristled brush. Hydrogen peroxide and baking soda blended into a paste works on a stubborn stain. Be sure you remove all solutions completely using warm water and a dry towel.

Cleaning Travertine

Travertine is a porous stone. Test to see if your travertine has been sealed. If a puddle of water remains without being absorbed after a few minutes, the surface has been sealed. This determines your cleaning routine, whether the stone is honed or polished. Dry mop the surface regularly and wet mop with hot water weekly. A specialized stone cleaner can be used, but a regular washing should keep the travertine clean.

Jann Seal

Jann Seal

Jann Seal is published in magazines throughout the country and is noted for her design and decor articles and celebrity *in-home* interviews. An English degree from the University of Maryland and extensive travels and relocations to other countries have added to her decorating insight.