Ceramic tile is the most common type of kitchen and bathroom flooring. It is popularly used in used in home kitchens and bathrooms because unlike other materials, ceramic tiles do not absorb water and dirt. However, they can be hard to clean, particularly, the grout lines.
Maintaining Grout Lines
The most difficult part of ceramic tile cleanup is cleaning the grout lines. If they are poorly maintained, you will see the grout starting to crumble and this will cause further damage to the floor. Sealing the grout lines when installing the ceramic tiles is the best solution to make sure that grout stays in lasting, good condition.
Many retailers of home improvement products sell do-it-yourself grout sealants that make the task quick and easy. These sealants may or may not come with an application brush but you can easily purchase one in your local hardware store. Make sure to read the product label and follow the directions, which can differ especially regarding drying time.
Why Clean Grout Lines
Obviously, if the grout lines in your floors, walls or sinks are dirty then they would be very unpleasant to look at. Aside from this, all the grime and dirt sitting in the grout lines can eventually break down the grout and damage the tiled surfaces. Cracked tiles create safety hazards in your home.
It is also very important to check the grout lines in the bath areas, especially the shower area. If the grout in your bathroom tiles is not sealed, it can also lead to long-term damages such as mold and mildew growth. It would be fairly easy for mildew and mold to develop in bathrooms because of the regular water exposure and high level of humidity in this area. So make sure to spray the tiles clean after bathing to minimize mold and mildew formation and scrub the grout lines thoroughly.
Methods of Cleaning Grout
There are several methods to effectively clean grout lines and there are also numerous commercially-prepared grout cleaners in the market that you can use. The cleaning method that you should use will depend on whether the grout lines have been sealed or not. When it comes to choosing cleaners, it is best to stick with a homemade solution instead of products sold in the market if you will be cleaning unsealed grout lines. This is because commercial grout cleaners contain powerful bleaches and chemicals that will affect the color of the grout if it was not sealed properly. In addition, the residues from these products that are left on the surfaces are harmful to children as well as pets.
A homemade formula of vinegar, ammonia, baking soda and water is one of the best grout cleaning solutions you can ever use. Not only is this effective, it’s safe and costs less. You can also use a steam cleaner as another technique to clean grout lines.
For newly installed tiles, do not use grout cleaners because since the tiles are new the grout and sealer will still require some to cure. Just leave the grout untouched until it has cured properly. Even a mixture of water and mild cleaning solutions can weaken the grout lines so they become more prone to dirt, which causes crumbling. Ask your floor installation technician how long it would take for the grout to cure or when it would be safe for you to clean the floor. If you sealed the grout on your own, check the sealer for instructions about curing time.
Homemade Ceramic Tile Cleaner
As with grout cleaners, you can also prepare cleaning solutions at home for your ceramic tiles and all other ceramic surfaces. To make and use this solution, you will need: mild detergent, liquid bleach, sponge, spray bottle and a lint-free cloth.
First, mix 2 quarts of water with a 1/8 cup of mild detergent. Then, pour this solution into a plastic spray bottle and shake gently. Simply spray the cleaning solution over sinks, tubs, countertops and all other surfaces made of ceramic tiles. Rub off dirt and grime from the tiles using a clean sponge. Then use a dry lint-free cloth to wipe away the dirt.
How to Make Old Ceramic Tiles Sparkling Clean
When it comes to cleaning old ceramic tiles, the method requires some understanding about tiles, the difference between unglazed and glazed tiles and, of course, grout. To make the process easier for you, below are the basic steps and guidelines in cleaning old ceramic tiles.
For this task, you will need mats, a soft broom, small brush, mop or vacuum, and cloth or towel. For glazed tiles, use a glass and hard surface cleaning solution and for unglazed tiles, use an all-purpose soap-free household cleaner.
First, place step mats at passage ways leading to the tiled floors that you are about to clean. This will limit the dirt that will trail onto the tiles. In the kitchen, place mats or rugs on the floor area near the cooking and washing sections.
Next, sweep the ceramic tiles using a soft broom. Doing this regularly will prevent dirt buildup in the tiles. If necessary, use a vacuum but do not use the brush rod or roller brush. To remove the dirt in between the lines, use a small brush to brush them away. Use the same technique to clean floor corners, deep cracks and other areas that a broom or vacuum may find hard to reach.
In addition, make a habit of mopping old ceramic tiled floors once a week or every other week. If the tiles are already fragile, however, a good alternative to mopping would be simply wiping the floor with a damp cloth. Never use coarse sponge and steel wool pad to clean these old delicate tiles.
If you notice stains or liquid spills in between the ceramic tiles, clean the grout immediately. Some of the common stains come from inks, spilled beverages and cooking oil. Use the appropriate cleaning solutions mentioned above for the type of tile you have, which could be either glazed or unglazed.
If your ceramic tile floor is glazed, don’t forget to leave the windows in the room open when you are cleaning and especially if you are using a product with bleach. This is to let the moisture disperse. Once you are done with cleaning your ceramic tiles, mop up the dirt then use a dry towel or cloth to wipe the floor dry. Let the floor dry for a couple of hours.
How to Get the Shine Back on Your New Ceramic Tiles
One of the common problems with newly grouted ceramic tiles is they seem to appear hazy. The dull appearance of the tiles is a result of the grout drying on the tiles’ surface. This can be easily removed by wiping off the grout from the tiles while it is still wet.
However, in most cases, homeowners notice the lack of sheen and the haze in their tiles after the tile has been grouted. In this case, there’s no need to be alarmed. It’s not too late to bring back the glossy shine of your ceramic tiles. With the use of the proper cleaners and the willingness to do some physical labor, that is, scrubbing.
To start, prepare the following: half gallon of warm water, 1 teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap, white vinegar, muriatic acid or hydrochloric acid, spoon, large mixing bowl, nylon scrub brush, rag microfiber cloth.
First, pour the half gallon of water in a mixing bowl and stir in the liquid dishwashing soap. Then, dip the nylon brush in the mixture until it is soaking wet. Start scrubbing the ceramic tiles with the nylon brush, putting on as much pressure you can exert without breaking or scraping the tiles. If necessary, add more of the soap to the brush.
Keep on scrubbing for a good thirty minutes and then check the tiles. If you’ve successfully removed the haze, finish off using a damp cloth to wipe and rinse the tiles. Soak the cloth in warm water and wring out. On the other hand, if the haze is not completely gone, you would need to repeat the process this time using a stronger solution of water (one part) and white vinegar (three parts).
If the second attempt still doesn’t work to remove the haze, try once again using a more powerful solution made of water (eight parts) and muriatic acid (one part). It is very important to note that you should use this solution as the last resort. You may be tempted to use the mixture right away since it is effective but you run the risk of permanently staining the tiles. Which is why before you use this, even as a last option, make sure to test in on an extra ceramic tile or on a tile that’s out of sight.
After scrubbing the tiles with any of the solutions above, rinse carefully with a damp cloth. Lastly, leave the tiles to air dry or use a microfiber cloth to wipe them dry. You can prevent the tiles from hazing in the future by sealing them properly.
Some precautionary words to keep in mind: substitute cheesecloth for nylon brush if you have very tiny or delicate ceramic tiles. If you have to use muriatic acid, make sure to put on rubber gloves and safety goggles. Never add water to the acid, it should be always the other way around to make sure that acid will not splash up and burn your skin.