4 tips for cleaning ceramic tile

Stained grout and tile surfaces can be worrisome, but if you choose the right cleaners and clean about once a week, your floor will practically take care of itself. Here are four tips.

4 tips for cleaning ceramic tile

Sweep or vacuum, then mop

  • Depending on how much you use the room and how much dust and grit the floor collects, the only regular cleaning a ceramic floor needs is an occasional sweeping or vacuuming. If you vacuum, avoid using a beater bar (the rotating brush).
  • Once a week, after sweeping or vacuuming, damp-mop using an alkaline floor cleaner.
  • No matter what your mother or the advertising council tells you, do not clean your ceramic tile floors with oil- or wax-based cleaners. These cleaning products will leave a greasy or waxy film on the grout, which will just collect more dirt.

Get dirty

  • When dirt builds up on grout, it's time to bring out a scrub brush and a little elbow grease. First, try cleaning the grout with a scrub brush and an alkaline cleaner. If that doesn't work, mix a cup of bleach with a half-gallon of water. Make sure the area is well ventilated — open the doors and windows and turn on any exhaust fans — and put on a pair of rubber gloves.
  • Scrub the dirty areas with a nylon scrub brush, and let the solution soak. Rinse twice with clean water, and wipe the area dry with a clean cloth.

Save the grout

  • As much as we love vinegar for cleaning, it's not good to use on grout. Vinegar and other acids, like muriatic acid, are often recommended for cleaning dirty grout. And they do work. The problem is they work because they dissolve the grout.
  • Stick to alkaline cleaners or bleach to clean grout.You'll be glad you did.
  • Grout sealer keeps water and dirt from penetrating and staining grout, saving you a lot of work and possibly damage to the underlying structure. If the tile is glazed, you don't need to seal it, and you should be careful not to get the sealer on the tile surface. If the tile isn't glazed, use a combination grout-tile sealer to seal the tile at the same time as you seal the grout.
  • With some matte-finished ceramic floor tiles, it's hard to tell if they are glazed or not. To find out, just sprinkle a few drops of water on a tile. If the surface darkens after a few minutes, the tile needs to be sealed.

Know the difference

  • What looks like a grout line between the floor and tub is actually a gap filled with caulk to keep water from seeping into the subfloor. If the caulk starts to look ragged, pry it out with a screwdriver and apply a caulk recommended for bathroom use.
  • To get an ultra-neat seam, run strips of masking tape on either side of the seam and use an ice cube to smooth the caulk. The ice cube's slippery surface glides quickly over the caulk. Then carefully remove the masking tape.
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