Ceramic tiles are among the toughest, most durable floor or wall coverings you can buy. In the kitchen, they are used both as floor coverings and as splashbacks. In the bathroom, they make ideal floor and wall coverings. As durable as ceramic tiles are, they do require regular maintenance in order to keep them looking their best and to ensure that they continue to protect the surfaces they are laid on from damage.
Maintaining Ceramic Tiles on Dry Surfaces
Maintenance of ceramic tiles on predominantly dry surfaces is relatively easy. Ceramic tiles are highly scratch and stain resistant, but not entirely so. By regularly sweeping the floor, you can help avoid scratches that small pebbles or sand can create. Make it a habit for you and your family to always wipe the soles of their shoes on a mat before entering the house.
Thoroughly wipe up any spills using plain warm water. While they are not likely to stain your ceramic tiles, they may stain the grouting between the tiles and if they are left to sit for too long, may stain the tiles themselves. Plain water is the ideal cleaner because it leaves no residue if you dry the surface of the tiles thoroughly after cleaning. If you leave it wet, there may be some unsightly mineral residue after the water dries, but this can be easily removed by spot cleaning.
If you find some stains resist cleaning with water alone, you can use a mild acidic solution, such as white vinegar. Use it highly diluted and then rinse with plain water and dry. Because many food stains are acidic in nature, you can try using a mild alkaline solution. Common detergents will do the trick, but use them sparingly, rinse with plain water and dry thoroughly.
Most commercial cleaners leave a residue, so plain water is recommended even when you do your regular mopping of the floor. Bleach and other harsh chemicals can eat into the sealant of the tiles and grout, greatly reducing their longevity, so avoid using them. A little "elbow grease" is a much better "solution" than a chemical solution, even if it is highly diluted.
For persistent marks on ceramic tiles, such as crayon marks, grease or dried food droppings, you can use a scraper. Scrape gently and use a plastic scraper if possible, to avoid scratching the tiles. For cleaning the grout between the tiles, an old toothbrush is ideal.
Be sure and clean up any grease residue on the backsplash behind your cooktop immediately. It is much easier to remove if you do it promptly and will ensure that your splashback always looks as good as new.
Maintaining Ceramic Tiles in the Bathroom
Your biggest ceramic tile maintenance jobs will be in the bathroom. A build-up of soap scum is unavoidable. Fortunately it is easy to keep this to a minimum if you habitually wipe down the ceramic tiles with a damp, clean sponge. Periodically dry the tiles thoroughly and then wipe them vigorously with a dry, mildly abrasive cloth. If the tiles have been allowed to dry thoroughly, you will find that you can easily remove the soap scum this way. You can try a more abrasive material, but test it first to make sure it doesn't scratch the surface of the tiles.
Because soap is alkaline and vinegar is acidic, white vinegar diluted in plain water is great for cleaning bathroom tiles. You can even use it straight, but be sure the area is well ventilated.
The tile grouting in any wet area requires regular maintenance in order to prevent water seeping through to the surface on which the tiles were laid and damaging it. The easiest way to maintain grouting is to re-grout whenever you see cracks or other signs of wear appear. With a little practice, this can be quickly and easily done. You will, however, need to let the grout set for a couple of days before you use the shower again.
Regular light maintenance is the key to keeping your tiles looking like new and preventing damage from occurring. As the old saying goes: "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
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