How to Clean Tile Floors

a shake spilled on a tile floor

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Tile floors are durable and perfect for areas where water is frequently used like bathrooms, laundry rooms, kitchens, or mudrooms. Whether the tile is vinyl, ceramic, or stone, cleaning it correctly will help the floor look better and last longer.

How Often to Clean Tile Floors

Your cleaning schedule for tile floors will depend on how much traffic passes through the rooms. Of course, spills from food or other products should be cleaned up immediately.

For most of us, the floors should be swept or vacuumed daily. This will remove the grit that scratches the floor and helps prevent hair and dust build-up in corners and grout lines. Floors should be mopped at least weekly to prevent grime build-up.

What You Need to Clean Vinyl Tile Floors

Almost all new vinyl tile floors are no-wax flooring. Applying wax or using a cleaner that is a "mop and shine" will dull the finish.

Supplies

Tools

  • Broom, dry dust mop, or vacuum
  • Sponge
  • Old cloth
  • Wet mop
  • Two buckets

Instructions

  1. Sweep Then Mop

    Always take the time to sweep or vacuum away loose dirt before you mop. If you don't, you'll just be swishing that grime all over the floor.

  2. Tackle Tough Stains

    Treat hard-to-remove stains before you mop.

    • Lipstick, crayons, paint, and ink: Use a sponge to apply some rubbing alcohol to the stain. Let it sit for five minutes and then wipe away with a clean sponge.
    • Scuff marks: Spritz some WD-40 on a cloth and rub away the scuff.
    • Dried-on food spills: Make a paste of baking soda and water. Apply the paste to the dried-on mess and rub with a damp towel.
  3. Prepare Cleaning and Rinse Solutions

    If you are using a commercial cleaner, follow the instructions on the bottle for the correct amount of product to use in your mop bucket. It is best to use hot water to help cut through any greasy stains and sticky messes.

    Put some plain warm or cool water in a second bucket for rinsing out the mop. Mopping the entire floor with a dirty mop will leave soil behind.

    Tip

    Make Your Own Vinyl Floor Cleaner

    There are plenty of commercial floor cleaners available for vinyl tile, but you can make your own by mixing one cup of vinegar per gallon of hot water in a bucket. The vinegar’s acidity removes dirt without leaving a soapy film. For extra cleaning power, add a few drops of liquid dishwashing soap to the water and vinegar mixture.


    If you add the dishwashing liquid, mop first with the soapy mixture and then mop a second time with a water and vinegar mixture to remove any soap residue. 

  4. Don't Flood the Floor

    Each time you dip your mop into the cleaning solution or rinse bucket, give it a good squeeze to remove most of the water. Vinyl tile does not like to be drenched. Excess water can settle in its seams and cause the edges to curl.

  5. Correct a Waxing Mistake

If the floor is dull after using a waxy cleaner, mix a one-to-one solution of household ammonia and water. Make sure the room is well-ventilated. Apply the solution to a small section of the floor with a mop and let it sit for 10 minutes. Scrub away the waxy cleaner with a soft-bristled brush and rinse the area with plain water. Repeat until the entire floor is shiny again.

How to Clean Ceramic and Natural Stone Tile Floors

Even more durable than vinyl tile is ceramic and natural stone tile floors. Most are scratch-resistant, spills wipe away easily, and they come in designer options that will fit any decor. The one added cleaning issue for these floors is the grout that is used to fill the gaps between the tiles.

What You Need

Supplies

  • For ceramic tile floors: Commercial all-purpose cleaner or dishwashing liquid
  • For natural stone tile floors: Non-acidic, alkaline-based cleaner
  • Baking soda, hydrogen peroxide or oxygen-based bleach powder

Tools

  • Broom, dry dust mop or vacuum
  • Wet mop
  • Stiff-bristled brush
  • Two buckets

Instructions

  1. Get Rid of the Loose Dirt

    Always begin by sweeping, vacuuming, or dry dust mopping the floor to remove grit and loose dirt.

  2. Clean Stained Grout

    If the grout has not been sealed, it is going to attract some dirt that won't come off with regular mopping. There are several products that will remove soil, whiten, and brighten grout. Apply one of these cleaners at a time and scrub the grout lines with a stiff-bristled brush. Finish by mopping the floors as usual.

    • Baking soda and water: Make a paste of baking soda and water. Apply the paste to the grout lines with a toothbrush or your finger. Use a stiff-bristled brush to scrub away the soil.
    • Hydrogen peroxide: Use an eye-dropper to apply hydrogen peroxide to the grout lines. Let it work for at least ten minutes and then scrub the grout.
    • Oxygen-based bleach: Make a paste of oxygen-based bleach powder and water. Spread along the grout lines and let it work for ten to fifteen minutes and then scrub to lift the soil.

    Warning

    Avoid the use of chlorine bleach on grout because long-term use can cause the grout to erode and break down.

  3. Wet Mop

    Using the appropriate cleaner for your type of tile floor, follow the package directions on how to mix with water. Remember, using less cleaner is usually a good choice; excess product on the floor leaves it feeling sticky and that attracts even more soil.

  4. Rinse the Floor

After mopping with the cleaning solution, rinse the mop well and use plain water to rinse away any soapy residue that may be left. Allow to air dry.