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How to Clean Tile Floors

Often installed in frequently used rooms like foyers, kitchens, and bathrooms, tile floors can take a tremendous amount of your household’s daily traffic. Read on to learn the best methods and products for cleaning tile floors.

Tile Floor, Brookline Reveal Anthony Tieuli

Tailor your cleaning method and products used to the type of tile you have and how frequently it needs to be cleaned.

Best Ways to Clean Tile Floors

Step 1: Remove debris from the tiles

First, use a soft-bristled brush, dust mop, or vacuum to remove dirt, dust, and other loose items from the tile floor before applying any water or cleaner. This ensures that any scrubbing you may need to do later (even with a soft sponge) doesn’t scratch your tile.

Step 2: Check your tile material

Floor tiles come in over a dozen types—ceramic, natural stone, cement and quarry tile, to name just a few.

Porous natural stone tiles, like limestone, marble, and travertine, should have been sealed to help protect them against staining.

Others, like ceramic and porcelain, resist moisture and don’t require sealants. Quarry tile can stain easily if it’s unglazed, making it a poor choice on stove backsplashes, but its natural earth tones allow it to easily mask the occasional spill on the kitchen floor or in a mudroom.

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the kind of tile you have, you’re ready to move on to the next step.

Step 3: Determine the cleaning agent best suited for your tile and the nature of marks it sustains

Not all cleaners are ideal for every kind of tile or stain. For example:

  • Generally, you should not use anything acidic to clean cement tiles, including vinegar-based solutions; and use products labeled “safe for stone” on marble, travertine, limestone, and other natural stone tiles, taking care to avoid products containing bleach. To clean ceramic and porcelain tiles, you can typically use vinegar-based cleaners, if you choose. But to prevent damage to any kind of tile, check manufacturers’ instructions first.
  • Consult your tile manufacturer for stain-specific cleaning guidance. Pasta sauce spills may require a different cleaning method and/or product from, say, grease splatters.
  • Warm water and a sponge can be effective on tracked-in dirt and ordinary food spills. The next level up from just water and a sponge should be warm water and a small amount of soap, like liquid dish soap.
  • If that doesn’t do the trick, you can try a pH-neutral floor cleaner, but be careful to read the label. Manufacturers should indicate the types of flooring the cleaner is designed for, and the dilution ratios needed. Many floor cleaners come in concentrated solutions, and need to be added to a gallon or two of water.

Step 4: Choose a sponge or mop appropriate for your tile type

Delicate tiles like natural stone, metals, and cement should not be cleaned with anything abrasive, as they are easily scratched.

To clean durable porcelain or ceramic tile, you can use a more robust scrubber if needed. If you want a deep clean, try a steam mop on your tiles. (Check out our favorite steam mops on the market.)

Step 5: Clean regularly, including the grout

Clean tile flooring weekly and avoid letting stains sit. Every month or two, do a deep dive that includes cleaning the grout.

Grout can be tricky to take care of, and you should use a grout cleaner that’s up to the task. You can also clean grout with a homemade cleaner.