Getting the best from your hard floor. – Tile floor cleaning and maintenance.
Stone and ceramic floors can look fantastic, but they do need to be cared for properly to get the best out of them. Glazed ceramic tiles (including quarry tiles) are easy to keep clean with a mop. If you can find a pattern repeat (usually in varying positions on the tile) then it’s almost certain that they are glazed ceramic. You can’t damage them by using the wrong product and they never need sealing. Soiling can build up in the grout lines, but this can be removed with a strong detergent and a rotary scrubbing brush, followed by a high pressure water rinsing. Ceramic tile floor cleaning is relatively simple compared to stone tiles.
Unglazed ceramics, including brick, terracotta and traditional East Anglian pamments, are also unlikely to be damaged by using the wrong cleaning product, because they are acid-resistant, but without an adequate seal they are all very porous, and can be permanently marked by every-day soiling or spills of coloured liquid or oil. If the floor darkens when wetted, or water soaks in when left, then it is definitely time to re seal. Always clean the floor very thoroughly before sealing.
Slate is also acid-resistant, and whilst less porous than unglazed ceramic, it should be sealed. Riven slate often shows a build-up of either soil or limescale along the riven pattern, which can be removed by scrubbing, and you can use a dilute acid to dissolve any limescale. Rinse well.
Sandstone (or flagstone) can be difficult to clean because it has such a rough surface, but it, too, is acid resistant. It does require sealing, but is not as vulnerable to spills as unglazed ceramic.
Travertine, limestone and marble are all acid sensitive and will be permanently etched if acidic cleaning products are used. There are many limestone & marble shower enclosures that have been damaged with just a single use or spill of commonly available cleaning products. This damage can usually be rectified, but it’s not a DIY job. Read the label carefully before using any product on these stones.
Travertine is essentially young, soft limestone with voids, or holes. It is usually supplied with the major voids filled, but the surface is pitted, and these pits do hold soil. Limestone varies in hardness, and the softer ones, including Travertine, are very porous and require a lot of sealing. Check the adequacy of the sealer by seeing if the floor darkens when wetted.
Harder limestone and marble will polish. Polishing means using progressively finer grades of diamond to close up the stone’s pores and harden the surface, bringing up a shine and making the floor more resistant to scratching. It does not mean applying a wax, which will always be softer than the stone, and be vulnerable to scratching and discolouring. If you have a floor capable of being polished, removing any wax or other sealer is the first step in getting the best out of the floor.
Penetrating sealers soak into the stone, and are therefore protected from wear, but don’t add any sheen. Topical sealers form a layer on the surface, and so can add sheen, but do wear. Always use a penetrating sealer on any porous stone, and, if the floor won’t polish, consider using a topical sealer after that if a sheen is required.