Tile floors made of ceramic and porcelain can last a lifetime—if you take care of them properly. The same is true of floors made of natural stone or manufactured stone, such as quarry tile or concrete pavers. Vinyl tile floors have a shorter lifespan, but here, too, proper maintenance—especially cleaning—will extend the floor's lifespan.
Compared to some other types of flooring, keeping tile clean is a fairly low-maintenance task. For most tiles, cleaning with warm water, a bit of soap or cleaning product, and a chamois mop or rag will keep them shining for years. The following steps and information will guide you through the cleaning process for porcelain and ceramic tile, along with tips on how to care for tile floors made of other materials.
What Are Ceramic and Porcelain Tiles?
Tiles are commonly made from ceramic or porcelain, which are similar materials made from natural earthen clays that are molded, glazed with a surface treatment, and fired in kilns to harden them. Porcelain tiles use finer clays than standard ceramics and are hardened at higher temperatures, giving them a greater imperviousness to water. Porcelain is sometimes considered a more luxurious building material, though it is often difficult to tell the difference between porcelain and high-end ceramic tile. Porcelain tile is now available in styles that are remarkably successful at mimicking other materials, such as natural stone or even wood. Because porcelain is a harder material than standard ceramics, it is somewhat more difficult for DIYers to cut and install.
How Often to Clean Tile Floors
A tile floor should be "dry cleaned," or swept or vacuumed, at least twice a week to get rid of the gritty debris that can dull the finish of the tile floor. Wet clean, or mop, the tile floor in the kitchen every two weeks and in the bathroom once a week. Spot-clean the grout once every two to three months.
Click Play to Learn How to Clean Tile Floors
Equipment / Tools
- Broom and dustpan or vacuum
- Rag or chamois mop
- Dry cloth
- All-purpose cleaner or dish soap
- Warm water
How to Clean Ceramic or Porcelain Tile Floors
The most common types of tile flooring, ceramic and porcelain are a cinch to maintain, though it's often hard to see the buildup of grime under your feet. To clean ceramic or porcelain tiles, use nearly any type of cleaner, whether it's all-purpose, dish soap, or simple white vinegar—ceramic and porcelain tiles don't scratch or lose their shine easily.
Sweep or Vacuum the Tile
Make sure you get into the corners, where dirt tends to pile up. A microfiber duster picks up dust and hair easily.
Combine the Cleaner With Warm Water
Dip a rag or chamois mop—not a sponge mop—into the solution. Squeeze out the excess water so that it's damp and not soaking.
Run the Mop Over the Floor in Even, Gentle Strokes
Follow a pattern as you move through the room, so there's not an inch of the floor that gets missed.
Change the Water Regularly
As you rinse out the mop or rag, the water will naturally get cloudier. Dump the dirty water and refill regularly to avoid leaving a hazy film of grime on the tile. If you finish up and notice that haze, create a mixture of white vinegar and hot water and run a damp rag over the film to get rid of it.
Clean the Grout
Spray the grout with a cleaner made specifically for grout, or mix up a bleach solution (using gloves, so you don't get bleach on your bare hands). Let it sit for a few minutes, and then rinse it off.
Dry the Floor With a Clean Cloth
If your tile is prone to forming water spots, dry it with a clean cloth immediately after mopping.
How to Clean Marble and Other Natural Stone Tile Floors
Marble, slate, or granite tile floors can be cleaned in nearly the same manner as porcelain and ceramic tiles, but with a few caveats:
- Use a soft-bristled broom when sweeping natural stone tile floors, as they scratch much more easily than ceramic and porcelain.
- Make sure that you're using the right type of cleaner for the floor: Slate and marble tiles can't handle anything acidic, such as vinegar, while granite tile needs a pH-neutral, mild detergent to avoid discoloration.
How to Clean Terra Cotta Tile Floors
Terra cotta is similar to ceramic tile, as it is also made from natural earthen clays shaped into tiles and fires until they are hard. But unlike ceramic and porcelain tiles, terra cotta is fired at a relatively low temperature and does not have a surface glazing, so the resulting tiles are quite porous. Therefore, they can be quite susceptible to staining unless they are sealed. Keep these tips in mind when cleaning terra cotta tile floors:
- Vacuum, then damp-mop the floor weekly with mild soap and water.
- Stains can be removed with a mixture of oxalic acid and water. Rinse after stain removal by damp mopping with a soft cloth.
- Never use acidic cleaners, such as ammonia or vinegar, as these can damage or discolor the tiles.
- Avoid using stiff brushes, especially wire brushes. Terra cotta tiles are relatively soft and can be easily scratched.
- Yearly sealing with a water-based sealant will protect your floors against stains and make routine cleaning easier.
How to Clean Quarry Tile Floors
Quarry tile is best viewed as an engineered form of terra cotta, consisting of natural clay blended with pulverized natural stone, which is then molded and fired at a temperature sufficient to create surfaces that are somewhat harder and more impervious to water than terra cotta tiles. Follow these tips for cleaning quarry tiles:
- Weekly cleaning requires just soap and water. Rinse after cleaning to remove soapy residue.
- Occasional deep cleaning is best done with a brush and a stripping cleanser, such as Klenz-All.
- Even though quarry tile is more stain resistant than terra cotta, periodic sealing with a product designed for quarry tile is recommended. Sealing will also prevent grout lines from absorbing water and stains.
How to Clean Concrete Paver Floors
Flooring tiles made from ordinary cement-based concrete are a relatively recent development in residential flooring but are growing in popularity, thanks to the low cost and expanding range of colors and styles. Cleaning them is a relatively easy matter:
- General cleaning is best done by sweeping or vacuuming, followed by damp mopping with water mixed with a gentle non-acidic cleaning solution. It's best to moisten the tiles before beginning to scrub. A flexible nylon brush makes a good scrubbing tool.
- A specialized concrete cleaner and scrub brush will usually take care of penetrating stains.
- Do NOT use wire brushes, acidic cleansers, or bleach to clean concrete pavers.
- After scrubbing with detergent solution, rinse by damp mopping with clear water.
As with other stone floor tiles, concrete pavers should be periodically sealed. Use a high-quality concrete sealer, and apply it after the floor has been thoroughly cleaned and is completely dry.
How to Clean Vinyl or Linoleum Tile Floors
Vinyl and linoleum floors are inexpensive alternatives to pricier stone or ceramic tiles, but the upkeep is just as important. Although a steam mop seems like an easy shortcut, vinyl and linoleum aren't made to withstand the extreme heat and moisture.
- Vinyl: After sweeping, mop with a manufacturer-recommended cleaning solution or a mixture of water and vinegar. Don't use abrasive cleaners, which can scratch the flooring.
- Linoleum: After sweeping, clean with a solution that's meant for linoleum flooring or a mixture of borax and water. Every three to six months, apply a coat of wax and buff to maintain the floor's shine.
How to Clean Stains From Tile Grout
Grout, especially if it's light in color, stains easily. If you can't get rid of the stain with regular cleaning, combine baking soda and water to make a paste. Apply it to the stain and let it sit for a few hours—or even overnight—and then scrub out the stain with a nylon brush (or, in a pinch, an unused toothbrush).
Some might recommend using a steam cleaner to get rid of grout stains; however, it could damage the grout if steamed regularly for the long term. To avoid any risk, stick to a baking soda paste and, when clean, apply a silicone-based sealer to protect the grout.
Will vinegar damage ceramic tile?
Vinegar is mildly acidic and is safe to clean ceramic or porcelain tiles. However, keep it away from terra cotta, marble, and granite, which are best cleaned using a neutral pH tile cleaner.
Do you rinse a floor after mopping?
You generally do not have to rinse your ceramic, porcelain, or vinyl floor after mopping. For best results, after you dip your mop in warm cleaning fluid and mop a section, after each section, rinse your mop clean. Keeping your mop clean reduces spreading dirty water over your floors. However, some stone tiles do require damp mopping after cleaning with a detergent solution.
Can you use Swiffer Wet on ceramic tiles?
Swiffer Wet Cloths are designed for use on most floor surfaces, including vinyl. porcelain, and ceramic tiles.