Slate flooring can be a beautiful and dramatic element that can lend power, grace and beauty to your interior or exterior spaces. While it is as hard as rock, being a mountain born material, it does still require some maintenance in order to prevent damage and stains, and keep it looking its best over the years. At the same time there are several variations of these tiles, each of which will have specific characteristics that needed to be tended to for proper maintenance.
Slate Tile Variations
- Natural Cleft: This refers to rough, rugged, dimensional tiles that have textural features found within their surface. Most flooring grade options will be gauged, which eliminates the extreme peaks and rises which can restrict it from a comfortable stepping feel. However there can be a vast amount of variation between the level of clefting found in different strains. The advantage to this option is that these floors will tend to hide scratches, scuffs, and damage much better than with other versions. However it is impossible to buff clefted tiles in order to repair their surface when necessary.
- Honed: Regular clefted slate is often put through a grinding process that creates a flat, even surface that is more comfortable to walk on bare footed then its more dimensional counterparts. However this can remove some of the more dramatic colors that are available in these materials. At the same time it makes it much easier to see dirt, dust, scratches, and other blemishes that clefted pieces might otherwise hide.
- Polished: There are only a few types of slate that can be honed to such a degree that they actually take on a polish. These will glisten with a shimmering sheen. However they are also the most delicate and volatile slate tiles available, and will easily show dirt, scratches, blemishes and stains when they occur. The advantage of that is that it makes it easier to keep them fully disinfected, as unwanted agents won’t have anywhere to hide.
- Solid Colored: Slate comes in a variety of colors, and multicolored patterns. When only a single hue is present, it often exists in gradient shadows, with different hints of the same theme playing out across its face. This can create a more uniform look, and will make it easier to identify dirt and debris that might need to be wiped away.
- Multi Colored: Many slate tiles are available with a multitude of colors which can exist in unique and distinct patterns that are one of a kind in every single piece. These products are great for hiding stains, as the rainbow of hues will distract the eye from any discoloration that shouldn’t necessarily be there, making them fairly easy to care for in volatile environments such as kitchens and bathrooms.
Basic Slate Floor Cleaning
- Dirt and Debris: The most important thing you can do to maintain a slate floor over time is to keep it free of loose dirt and debris. These small particles can act like grits of sandpaper, wearing down the protective sealer and causing tiny scratches in the tiles every time a foot walks across the surface of the space.
- Broom: If you opt to sweep your slate floors then make use of a soft bristle tool that will not scratch the surface below, causing more damage than it relieves.
- Vacuum: This isn’t always the most effective method for cleaning dirt from a slate floor, but it can be useful if done on a regular basis. Just make sure that you have a soft nose attachment that will not scratch the surface as you work.
- Mops: Only employ non oil based mops when cleaning a slate tile installation. Dry swiffer style products can be particularly effective at getting rid of hazy dust and dirt that may accumulate. If you wet mop the floor, wring the strands dry before each application, and do not allow large puddles of water to form in any area.
- Caution: NEVER make use of acidic or abrasive cleaning products when mopping a slate floor clean. The acid will cause a chemical reaction in the stone, while more powerful agents can strip the seal, and eat at the integrity of the material. Your best bet will be to mix a few drops of dish soap into a bucket of water, and stir thoroughly.
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The Importance Of Sealing Slate Floors
Natural slate is porous, and will naturally soak up water and liquid staining agents. These can cause dimensional discolorations in the material, and can lead to the degradation of the mortar bed, underlayment, and subfloor below. In order to prevent this the floors need to be sealed on a regular basis.
There are two types of sealant that should be used on a slate floor. A below surface penetrating sealer will seep down into the material, clogging the pores so that unwanted agents cannot get in. Then a barrier sealer can be applied to create a clear coating over the surface in order to add extra protection to the installation.
It is recommended that a slate floor be sealed during installation, before the grout is applied, and then again immediately after. This should be reapplied every 6-12 months depending on use. Less frequent sealing will lead to a more aged, weathered look, and can result in stains over time.
Advanced Slate Floor Tile Cleaning Methods
While you can damp mop a slate floor, you should avoid immersing these surfaces in water as the liquid can penetrate down through grout lines and cracks in the installation to cause damage to the underlayment and subfloor, and weaken the mortar bed holding everything in place. Instead wring the mop out thoroughly and apply your cleansing solution in a light, even coat. If necessary use a clean towel to spot dry any areas where puddles form.
- Rubbing Alcohol: This can be an excellent, natural disinfectant for slate flooring. Mix one half cup in with a quart of water, and then apply it using a sponge or mop. In the case of hard, set in stains, this can be scrubbed with a towel or cloth to remove them.
- Hydrogen peroxide: This substance is close enough to having a neutral pH balance that it won’t cause a chemical reaction when it comes in contact with slate tile. Mix a few drops into a quart of water and then apply it with a mop or sponge. This is particularly good for getting stains out of the surface of individual pieces.
- Essential Oils: There are a number of fragrant essential oils which can be mixed in with other cleansing solutions to give them a refreshing scent. They do not have much stain removal or disinfection power, but they are able to fill an environment with a light airy feel. Just avoid using more than a drop or two per quart of water mix.