How to Clean Tile Floors
| Fact Checked By: Ashley De Zeeuw
Published: March 9, 2020 | Updated: October 30, 2020
If you have tile flooring in your home, you know how durable and beautiful it is. To maintain that beauty, it’s important to know how to clean tile floors the right way.
Fortunately, since most ceramic and porcelain tile is finished with a durable and impenetrable surface glaze, the flooring is incredibly forgiving and cleaning tile floors is pretty easy. Water, dirt, liquids, and germs all come up easily since they cannot be absorbed into the dense tile.
Still, there are some tips you should follow to make your life easier and to help you tackle any pesky messes that stop you in your tracks. This guide will give you the scoop on the top tile cleaners and accessories, the best way to clean tile, and even tell you how often you should be cleaning your tile floors.
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Best Tile Floor Cleaners
Even if you clean tile on a regular basis, if you don’t use the right tools and materials, your floor still might not be looking its best. Even worse, you could actually damage or make your floor look dirty if you’re not working with the right products. Get the best recommendations here:
Tile Cleaning Tools
- Broom and dustpan
- Upright vacuum
- Chamois mop
- Microfiber cloth
- Steam mop (optional)
|💡 Tip: Be thoughtful about the mop you use. Some options are better than others.
Tile Cleaner Options
- All-purpose household cleaner
- Dish soap
- Bleach (oxygen or chlorine)
- Warm water
- Tile and grout cleaner
|💡 Tip: If all-purpose solutions concern you, the good news is you do not need to use a bunch of harsh chemicals to clean tile. There are definitely popular alternative cleaning methods that you can use that aren’t hard to come by.|
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Best Way to Clean Tile Floors
Before you get started, you should always test a cleaning product on a small section of tile in an inconspicuous area. This will prevent damage and discoloration with your flooring.
While different types of tile can require different considerations when cleaning, the basic method is always the same. Here it is!
- Clear loose dust and dirt: Sweep with a broom and dustpan, or use a vacuum with a soft-bristled brush attachment
- Use a cleaning solution: Dilute your tile cleaner in warm water, if applicable. The ideal cleaning solution will depend on the type of flooring. Check with the flooring manufacturer to confirm if a cleaning solution is compatible with your flooring.
- Mop the tile: Make sure to use a chamois mop for the best results. Dip the mop in the water and squeeze out excess; the mop should be damp but not dripping wet. Be thorough, so you don’t miss any stubborn stains.
- Refresh the water bucket: You can’t clean tile with dirty water! Regularly dump older water that’s starting to look cloudy, and swap out for clean water.
- Dry the tile: Use a clean cloth, preferably microfiber, to dry the floor immediately after washing. This will prevent water spots.
- Remove any soap residue: The goal is to have a nice, shiny floor after mopping, but life happens! If you notice residue or a cloudy haze after washing, you can take care of it with a quick spray and wipe of an all-purpose cleaner. Make sure the cleaner is non-abrasive and compatible with your floor. Then, once again dry the tile with a clean microfiber cloth.
- Clean the grout: As a final touch, get rid of any grime still hiding in the grout lines. We’ve got a whole section on grout cleaning tips below.
|💡 Tip: Some people find it helpful to wash and dry tile floors one section at a time. This gives you more time to clean and dry without rushing to get the whole floor finished before it dries.|
Now that we’ve got the basics down, it’s time to think about your specific type of flooring. Do you have ceramic tile, porcelain tile, or natural stone tile? Each type is a little bit different and may require a specific product or tool to get the job done.
Discover the tile cleaning methods for each type below.
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How to Clean Ceramic Tile
There are two different ways to clean ceramic tile, depending on if it’s glazed or not.
- Glazed ceramic tile: Use a low VOC household cleaner that won’t damage tile grout when you use it. When washing tile around showers or bathtubs, it’s safe to use a cleaner that removes soap scum and water deposits. Never use harsh chemicals with acids or ammonia, and they can damage the tile or the grout.
- Unglazed ceramic tile: Always choose a concentrated pH-neutral cleaning product for unglazed ceramic surfaces. Make sure it’s also compatible with the grout as well.
How to Clean Porcelain Tile
Porcelain tile can also come in glazed or unglazed versions, which will have different cleaning requirements.
- Glazed porcelain tile: You can clean glazed tile with warm water and a multipurpose cleaner. Make sure any cleaning product you choose is acid-free and ammonia-free, as those materials can damage the tile surface or the grout.
- Unglazed porcelain tile: Just like with ceramic tile, be sure to use a concentrated pH-neutral cleaner. Make sure it’s also compatible with the grout.
How to Clean Natural Stone or Marble Tile
Unlike glazed porcelain and ceramic, natural stone tile is porous. Because of this, you need to clean it differently.
- Never use an acidic cleaner: Avoid any products that contain lemon, vinegar, or other acids. Acidic cleaners cause discoloration in natural stone.
- Avoid scratches: It’s crucial that any brushes or brooms you use have soft bristles. Never use anything with hard or metal bristles. Otherwise, you risk scratching the surface.
- Use a specialized store-bought stone cleaner: When in doubt, look for a cleaner that’s specifically made for natural stone.
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How to Clean Tile Grout
You can’t just pay attention to your tile and leave your grout alone! The most important strategy to keep clean grout lines is to make sure your grout is properly sealed. Grout sealant is your first line of defense against dirt. Still, it’s not the be-all, end-all of grout cleaning wisdom.
When you break out the cleaning supplies, a gradual approach is the best way to get your grout sparkly clean. Start with a mild cleaner and ramp up to more caustic products if any dirt or staining remains. Always test a new cleaning solution in an isolated area to make sure it doesn’t damage your flooring. Plus, of course, you need to check the flooring manufacturer’s instructions to ensure you’re not endangering the beauty of your floor.
Try these tips to get your floor looking good as new. They’re ranked from least to most aggressive, so gradually work your way down the list.
- Use dish soap: Combine hot water and dish soap to create a mild cleaning solution. Scrubbing with the soap mixture should wash away dirt and grime without a problem.
- Create a baking soda paste: Mix water and baking soda into a paste, and apply it to the grout lines. Let the paste sit overnight and scrub it away in the morning using a soft-bristled brush like a toothbrush.
- Use a dedicated store-bought grout cleaner: If you’re just not sure where to start, try a commercial grout cleaner. It takes the guesswork out of the cleaning process and is certain to take care of soap scum, oils, and mildew stains.
- Steam clean: If you have a steamer handy, carefully try applying steam to the grout lines. The heat and moisture might be able to loosen up ground-in dirt, and it will eliminate any mold or germs in the porous surface. However, you should do this very rarely, as continued steam could lead to damage.
But what about sealing grout? That’s still incredibly important.
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How to Seal Grout
You should reseal grout every year as the protective layer wears down. To figure out when the seal needs to be refreshed, sprinkle some water over the grout and check if the water beads up on the surface. If it does, the seal is still good. However, if water soaks into the grout, it’s time to reseal again.
To seal grout, first, choose the sealant and applicator that best fit your needs. Then gradually apply the sealer, making sure you thoroughly cover the entire grout surface. Wipe away excess sealer from tiles before it dries to keep a neat appearance.
Finally, let the sealant dry, adding a second coating if suggested by the manufacturer. It will take about 48 hours to cure before you can test the quality by sprinkling water over the surface.
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How Often Should You Clean Tile Floors?
It helps to develop a routine and frequency for cleaning your floor, so there’s no excessive buildup of dust and dirt. Follow this schedule for consistently squeaky-clean floor tiles.
Once a Week
- Sweep all tile floors: Lots of grit can dull the surface of your tile, so you need to “dry clean” a.k.a. sweep or vacuum the tile at least once a week, or whenever you notice dirt on the floor. For vacuums, make sure to use a soft-bristled attachment.
- Mop bathroom tile: To maintain a hygienic bathroom floor, you should “wet clean,” a.k.a. mop once a week.
Every Other Week
- Mop all other tile floors: A living room or kitchen floor won’t get as messy as quickly as a bathroom floor, so you can dial down the mopping routine to once every other week.
Every Two-Three Months
- Spot clean grout: For a polished look, take care of any spots or stains in the grout every few months. When people see that even your grout is clean, they’ll know you’ve really got your life together!
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Tile Cleaning FAQ
What is the best tile cleaner for ceramic floors?
A mixture of soap and warm water is often the best cleaning solution for ceramic tile. That’s because it’s not an acidic solution, so it won’t cause any damage to your tile flooring. There are also specialized pH-neutral tile cleaning products to take away the guesswork when choosing the right tile cleaner.
How often should you clean tile floors?
You should sweep or vacuum tile flooring at least once a week, or whenever you notice dust or dirt on the surface. Bathroom tile floors should be mopped every week to ensure cleanliness, while you only need to mop every other week if you have tile in other areas of the home. Tile grout should also be cleaned at least every few months.
What is the best way to clean a tile floor?
To clean a tile floor, start by sweeping or vacuuming away dirt and dust. Then mop the surface using a mixture of soap and water or a specialized tile cleaning solution. You should sweep at least once a week, mop every other week, and clean tile grout at least every few months.
Does vinegar damage porcelain tile?
Because vinegar is acidic, it can potentially damage the surface of natural stone tile flooring, but not necessarily ceramic or porcelain tile. Check with your flooring manufacturer to be certain. Instead of vinegar, you can always use a soap and water mixture, or a pH-neutral, store-bought tile cleaning solution. Before cleaning, test the vinegar in an inconspicuous spot to make sure it doesn’t damage the tile surface.
Can you clean tile with bleach?
Household bleach cleaners like oxygen powder bleach or chlorine bleach can sometimes be used to clean porcelain and ceramic tiles, but should not be used on natural stone. To make sure you can clean your tile with bleach, check the flooring manufacturer’s instructions. Before cleaning, test the bleach in an inconspicuous spot to make sure it doesn’t damage the tile surface.