A few years back I was renovating the house and decided to install tile floors in the kitchen and bathrooms, because these get wet occasionally and regularly, respectively. Whereas, the rest of the house, including the bedrooms, living rooms and the study hall have hardwood floors.
Tile floors are durable and comparatively easy to clean. However, unless you clean them periodically, the tiles become dull and a layer of dirt gets embedded in the grout. The trick is to clean tile floors at regular intervals to ensure that you don’t have to put in very big efforts after long gaps.
The basic tile cleaning process is quite straightforward, but you also need to take into consideration cleaning the grout as well as ensuring that the tiles look bright and shiny. One lesson that I’ve learnt is that while it’s fine to select light coloured tiles for the kitchen, it’s best to go with a slightly darker shade for the bathrooms. However, ultimately, that’s a personal choice.
Deal with Spills Right Away
As soon as you notice a spill on tile floors, clean it immediately. More than the tiles themselves, it’s the grout that gets affected by spilt liquid. It soaks into the grout and makes it look really ugly. Plus, sugary liquids such as soft drinks or juices leave behind a sticky residue, which further attracts dirt. Before using any chemical product to clean a section of the tile floor, where something had been spilt, check the care manual to make sure that there won’t be any discolouration or degradation of the tiles. You can also test it on a small part of a tile in the corner of the room that isn’t visible.
The Fundamentals of Cleaning Tile Floors
You need to vacuum tile floors every day to remove any dirt or debris that may have accumulated on the floor. This is especially true for the kitchen, where dirt and debris often sit in wet patches for long periods. Also, small parts of food items fall on the floor in the kitchen, which needs to be cleaned up. If you have tile floors in other sections of the house, then the same holds true for them as well. If vacuuming the bathroom proves to be challenging due to the space crunch, you can use a microfibre broom instead.
Follow up by Mopping the Floor
Right after vacuuming the floor, mop the floor with lukewarm water. Make sure to change the water if it gets too murky, as the dust/dirt mixed water can leave ugly splotches on the tiles. Some people mix a drop or two of liquid soap in the water while mopping, but I wouldn’t recommend that. If you do use the soap, then make sure that you don’t leave behind any soapy residue. This residue can be quite sticky and is a dirt magnet.
Dry the Floor after Mopping
Don’t let the floor air dry, this results in water spots appearing on the tiles. You can test this with a ceramic plate. Wash it and then leave on the kitchen counter to air dry. You will find water spots on it later. Once you’re done mopping, use a dry mop to wipe the floor and dry it. Besides preventing water spots, it also ensures that water doesn’t accumulate in the grout.
How to Maintain the Sparkle
The basic cleaning process will ensure that the tiles remain clean and the grout stays fresh, but in order to ensure that the tiles retain their original sparkle, you will have to put in a little more effort.
Vinegar and Warm Water
The vinegar and warm water solution is a tried and tested method for removing stains off of tiles and making them sparkle. It’s especially effective in removing cooking stains on tiled kitchen walls, besides tile floors.
Mix one small teacup of white vinegar in a standard bucket full of warm water (about 10 litres of water). You can adjust the ratio depending on the size of the bucket. After you’re done mopping the floor with this solution, rinse the floor with fresh cold water. In case you add any form of detergent or liquid soap to the cold water, then ensure that the soapy residue is removed as well. Finally, use a clean dry cloth or a dry mop to wipe the floor and completely dry it.
This is another readily available product at home that can be used to remove stains off of tiles and restore its shine. You need to mix a few teaspoons of baking soda in warm water and make a paste out of it. Apply this paste on the tiles and the grout. Let it rest for about 10-15 minutes, then soak a clean cloth or a dry mop in warm water and wash the area.
Use an old toothbrush and toothpaste to scrub off any grime or stain. This is a great option for bathroom tiles or wall tiles, but not for floors as it takes up a lot of time. Lemon juice is another ingredient that can be used for similar effects.
What you need to keep in mind is that there are several types of tiles available in the market and each one is slightly different from the other. The cleaning process and products mentioned above are all usable for most types of tiles, though there might be some exceptions.
So, check the care manual provided by the manufacturer. Ceramic tiles are quite hardy and easy to clean and maintain. However, slate tiles, marble tiles and granite tiles need to cleaned with mild products. Hence, acidic substances like lemon or vinegar shouldn’t be used to clean slate, marble and granite tiles. The same holds true for chemical products such as ammonia and bleach. In the case of marble tiles, you also need to be careful of scratches, which can really spoil the look. So avoid using anything with hard bristles or steel wool. Specific cleaning products are available for slate and marble tiles and that’s what you should use. These are expensive tiles and you don’t want to spend extra to get a tile replaced.