How to clean old floor tiles

Purely by the nature of flooring, regular cleaning and maintenance will be needed and should you have antique or old tile floors, advice and tips on how to clean old floor tiles for the best results without damaging the tiles is essential. Where you once had some vibrant colours, dirt and dust may have made them look a bit faded and more antiquated then you would like. Time to clean them. But before you break out the bleach and the scrubbing brush, you should know how to properly clean antique tiles. Doing so will help to preserve the look and feel of the room, maximise the longevity of the floor and minimise the risk of damage to the tile.

So, here is how to clean old floor tiles

Step One: A simple sweep

Using a soft broom, ideally one which does not have harsh bristles which could scrape, scratch or damage the tiles, do a simple sweep of the whole room. Remember that when you are sweeping you will need to pay attention to any areas where there is grout. You do not want to apply too much pressure in these areas, especially if it has been a while since you re-grouted the floor (maximum recommended time to re-grout is 10 -15 years or when you start to see air holes/ cracks appearing). If you have extremely delicate antique floor tiles, forgo the broom and only use a dust mop, as it is less prone to cause damage to the tiles.

Step Two: Warm water and a cloth

What you do not want to do when cleaning old floor tiles is to oversaturate the tiles with a deluge of water. Vintage encaustic tiles are somewhat porous so there is the potential for the tiles to absorb cleaner and solvents. Therefore, you will want to reduce the amount of water used on the floor by wiping the tiles down with a warm rag. Do not scrub the tile as this could cause damage to the structure of the tile.

Step Three: Applying Tile and Grout Cleaner

Before starting this step, it’s advisable to have a sample tile or sample space that has been tested with the cleaner. Some cleaners are more abrasive and acidic in nature. As tiles can have various levels of tolerances to some cleaning fluids which contain chemicals it is recommended that you use a cloth to clean an area that will not be too noticeable first. Should there be no adverse effects from the cleaning, proceed to clean the remainder of the floor. Use a spray bottle when applying cleaner to avoid over saturation of the antiqued tiles. Once you have applied the tile and grout cleaner, rinse the tile with warm water.

Step Four: Diluted Bleach

Bleach should really be avoided only be used in extreme instances where there is a foreign substance on the old tiles as it can cause damage to the tiles. It should not be the first thing used on antique tile, as the probability for fading of the colors, damage, and misuse is rather high. It is strongly recommended that you dilute any bleach to a 1-part bleach 9 parts water solution. As with the tile and grout cleaner, it’s always best to test a tile prior to cleaning the entire floor. Because you are working with a strong chemical, ventilation is a necessity. Yet, this could also pose a problem in areas where there is high pollen or debris. If possible, use an interior fan to circulate air and open a window or door to allow for fresh air to circulate.

Step Five: Drying

There are a few ways in which you can dry the floor. First, you could use a dry non-abrasive cloth to hand dry the tile. This is the preferred method as it will ensure that you do not have any free-standing water or solvents on the tile. The second method is to use a fan alongside a dehumidifier to dry the tile. If using a dehumidifier, you should place the device on a worktop or shelf, avoiding contact with the floor. It is not recommended that you leave an antique tile floor to air dry. Because of the sponge-like qualities of some older tiles, leaving the tiles to air dry could cause those tiles to absorb the water rather than the room alleviating the area of water. This in turn could lead to cracking of the grout or tile.

Step Six: Prevention

Once your old floor tiles are cleaned, you may wish to add a clear coating to the tile to increase the longevity of the tiles. Clear floor enamel may be used in some instances. Depending upon the type of antique tile floor, you may also be able to add clear wax to the flooring. If you are unsure as to what type of preventative coating is applicable to your antique tile floor simply give us a call prior to doing any work on your floor.

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