Cleaning Floor Tile
Cleaning ceramic tile floors is easier than cleaning hardwood floors, but it can still be a challenge.
To clean the actual tiles, you can usually get away with just a damp mop from time to time.
When it comes to cleaning your floors, you want to save the harshest chemicals as a last resort.
Here’s a list of ceramic tile options from most gentle to most harsh:
- Dust Mop or Broom
- Clean Water on a Damp Mop
- Cup Rubbing Alcohol in 2 Gallons of Water
- General Household Cleaners (Lysol, etc) Diluted in Water
- Only for Stubborn Stains or Serious Sanitizing: Full Strength Household Cleaner OR a Weak Bleach Solution
How To Clean Ceramic Floor Tile
Any time you use a chemical, you should mop again with clean water.
The ceramic tiles themselves are simple to clean. The problem, of course, is the grout!
The grout between tiles absorbs all of the dirt, spills, and stains that slide off the tiles. When your grout is dirty or discolored, it doesn’t matter how clean your tiles are; your floor will have a dirty appearance.
The Right Mop
The most important thing is to have the right tools for the job. If your tiles are higher than the grout, you will need a mop that can get into the grout. Sponge mops will not work well.
Wet Swiffer and comparable disposable cloth mops are wonderful things, but they won’t reach into your grout. In fact, sponge mops and disposable cloth mops will usually make your grout look worse.
You will be pushing your dirty mop water and whatever you cleaned off the tiles into the grout. Your best bet is to get a mop that has cloth strips or a cotton mop with the coiled yarns.
The Right Cleaner
If your grout is fairly dirty, you’ll need a stronger solution than you use on the tiles. Follow the directions on your cleaner for “heavy duty cleaning.”
Lysol and similar cleaners can be used almost full strength for thorough cleaning of the grout. Mix just enough hot or warm water to dilute the color a shade or two. Remember that when you use such strong solutions, you will need to go over it again with plain water.
Yes, it’s a pain, but once you do a very thorough cleaning, future cleanings will be easier. OxiClean and similar cleaners work really well on grout, but be sure that you don’t use too strong of a solution or you will leave little crusty white messes clinging to the grout.
For me, it’s easier to make a spray bottle solution to spray directly onto the grout. I use a bucket of clean, warm water to wring out and clean the mop in between.
Sealing Grout will make Cleaning Tile Floors Easier
The best long term solution to keeping grout clean is to seal the grout.
It’s really fairly easy to do – the hard part is preparing your grout to be sealed.
Types of Grout Sealers
If you want to tackle this project, buy the sealer first. You can get the sealer either online (usually cheaper) or at a home improvement store.
The quickest product is a bottle of silicone grout sealer that you apply only to the grout. If the ceramic tile in your home is porous and unfinished and you want it to look shiny and be easier to clean, you should consider an all-over tile finisher and sealer.
These are usually mixes that you apply to the entire floor. You can get different types that will enhance and highlight both the tiles and the grout, or you can get a clear finish.
Preparation for Grout Sealing
This is the hard part. If the grout looks dingy, this is probably going to be a “hands and knees” scrubbing job.
To get the best results, you should use a strong bleach solution (2 cups to a gallon of water), and you’ll probably need an old toothbrush.
I’ve used a Clorox bleach pen for small grout lines, but a toothbrush is usually easier and does a more complete job. Make sure you clean the entire floor before you begin.
Once you’ve thoroughly cleaned the grout with the strong bleach solution, you’ll need to either mop or use a cloth and go over it with clean water before you seal the floor. The grout should be completely dry before you seal it.
Sealing your grout can be time consuming, depending on how much flooring you have, but you can complete the job from start to finish in a weekend. Prepare the grout on Saturday and seal the grout on Sunday. I would recommend doing only one room at a time if you can’t enlist the help of friends or family. You’ll definitely notice that cleaning your ceramic tile floors will be a lot simpler in the future!