Cleaning Ceramic Tile Floors

Cleaning ceramic tile floors can be a frustrating task because of the difference of the material that the glazed tile is made of and the unglazed grout. Ceramic tile floors are a great addition to the home, usually found in bathrooms, hallways, and kitchens. But like all floors they require periodic cleaning and cleaning a ceramic tile floor is not the same as cleaning a vinyl or wood floor. What makes it difficult is that the tile is glazed but the grout is unglazed mortar cement between the tiles that get stained or dirty much easier than the tile. Although the grout may have a sealer applied, it is still not as durable and resistant to stains and dirt as the ceramic tile. If the grout is dirty the entire floor looks dirty. So how do we clean it?

There are many household cleaning products available to do the job, however; none of them do a much better job than white vinegar and warm water. Vinegar is a mild mixture of tartaric and citric acids. It makes a great cleaning solvent when mixed with warm water. It rates just as well as the commercial cleaning products for cleaning floor grout and does not cost nearly as much. For grout cleaning, mix a 50/50 % mixture of white vinegar and warm water and apply it to the grout with a sponge. Let its set for a few minutes and scrub the grout using a tooth brush. A second application may be necessary if the grout is heavily stained. Use the sponge to sop up the residue and clean the floor with a mild detergent.

The same vinegar and water solution can be used to clean stains from the ceramic tile. Use a sponge to clean the entire floor and dry. Because vinegar is an acid it will remove any grout sealer that hasn’t worn off. After cleaning the grout reapply a grout sealer using a small paint brush. Apply two applications of sealer, let thoroughly dry between the applications. Grout sealer is available in most home improvement supply centers or a tile store.

To protect your hands I recommend that rubber gloves be worn when handling the vinegar solution and applying the grout sealer. It is not necessary to use an electric floor scrubber/polisher to clean a ceramic tile floor. Excessive use of scrubber/polisher may remove the glaze from the tile leaving it with a dull finish. I do not recommend using Clorox bleach to clean ceramic tile floors as it tends to yellow the tile and erode the grout.

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