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Tile Floor Cleaners That Should Be Avoided

Tiles, regardless of whether they are made from porcelain, ceramic, or stone, are very resistant to damage that could mar their surface appearance. However, they can become stained in certain conditions, and thus, regular cleaning is beneficial to keep them looking good.

Besides their durability, tiles are also easy to clean and maintain. This does not mean, however, that you can use any product at hand for cleaning your tiles. Choosing the wrong product can cause serious harm to the tiles, which may be very difficult or impossible to rectify.

If you’re not using professional floor cleaning services, you’re likely using common tile-cleaning solutions. That’s perfectly fine, as these products will help you polish your tiles without causing damage. However, if you use any of the tiles floor cleaner listed below, your tiles may suffer.

  • Bleach (Calcium Hypochlorite)
  • Colored Cleaners (that can be absorbed)
  • Oil or Wax-Based Cleaners
  • Acid-based Cleaners, like Vinegar
  • Ammonia-Based Cleaners
  • Abrasive Cleaners

Bleach (Calcium Hypochlorite)

Bleach on ceramic floor

While bleach is widely regarded as a go-to cleaner for dirty bathroom tile floors, it’s actually too corrosive for safe use. Despite its popularity, bleach can cause significant harm beyond mere cleaning.

Internet videos often show enthusiastic cleaning with bleach, making bathrooms sparkle. However, many of these videos and recommendations are misleading, turning bathrooms into problem areas needing repair. Bleach, if left too long on grout, can brighten and sometimes discolor it.

Moreover, bleach’s corrosive nature can erode the grout, affecting the subfloor beneath the tiles. This can lead to damaged floorboards and subfloors or even cause tiles to pop out. Such damage often incurs high repair costs or requires extensive manual labor.

Colored Cleaners (that can be absorbed)

Using absorbable colored cleaners can cause several problems. Firstly, the dyes in these cleaners can seep into the tiles, especially if they’re porous or light-colored, resulting in tough stains that spoil the tile’s appearance.

Moreover, chemical reactions between the cleaner’s components and the tile material can lead to surface damage, such as dullness or etching. These cleaners also tend to leave behind a residue that not only diminishes the tile’s appearance but also attracts more dirt, making regular cleaning more difficult.

Considering these risks, as well as potential health and environmental concerns related to harsh chemicals in these cleaners, it’s better to use clear or neutral cleaners designed specifically for tile care. These are less likely to cause damage and help preserve the tiles’ appearance and durability.

Oil or Wax-Based Cleaner

Oil or Wax-Based Cleaner on ceramic floor

Using oil or wax-based cleaners on your tile can be problematic. These cleaners tend to leave a slippery, greasy residue on your tile and grout lines, which can attract more dirt and make your floors harder to keep clean. Moreover, they can create a sticky mess that’s tough to remove from your tile floors and pose a slip hazard.

While these cleaners might promise an extra glossy finish, tile floors are usually optional since they often come with a natural glossy sealant. Using oil or wax-based cleaners in humid areas like bathrooms can be risky, increasing the chances of accidents due to slippery surfaces.

Acid-Based Cleaners

Vinegar cleaning ceramic floor

Using vinegar and acidic cleaners on tile floors can be just as harmful as using alkaline cleaners. While white vinegar is often considered a safe and natural cleaning option compared to many toxic household products, it can still be harsh on certain surfaces, including your tile floors.

The high acidity of vinegar can damage the sealant on your tile and grout, leaving them vulnerable to dirt buildup over time. With a pH level of 2, vinegar can dissolve the sealant, potentially harming your tile’s surface. If left on the tile for an extended period or if it erodes the sealant without detection, it can ruin the tile’s appearance, causing uneven color and finish.

Even though some types of tile, like ceramic, may be less affected by vinegar’s acidity compared to natural stone, you should still avoid using it on ceramic tile floors to protect the grout.

Ammonia-Based Cleaners

Ammonia-based cleaners, while effective at solving stains and dirt, can be harsh on the finish of your tile floors. When these cleaners sit on the tile’s surface or come into regular contact with it, they can strip away the glossy sheen, leaving the tiles looking dull and uninspiring (which is disappointing if you invested in high-quality, stunning tiles).

In addition to dulling the shine and finish, ammonia-based cleaners can also lead to inconsistent appearances among tiles, causing variations in color or sheen from one tile to the next.

Furthermore, it’s important to note that these cleaners should be avoided if you have pets, particularly cats. Ammonia is often associated with urine, and pets, especially cats, are attracted to its smell. Using ammonia-based cleaners on your tile floor may unintentionally encourage them to urinate in unwanted areas.

Abrasive Cleaners

Abrasive Cleaners ceramic floor

Abrasive cleaners, which contain small mineral particles, are effective at removing tough dirt and grime. However, their rough texture can harm the clear sealant finish on various types of tiles. These cleaners are coarse enough to scratch through the sealant and potentially damage the tile itself.

While it’s relatively easy to replace a simple sealant coat, replacing the tile can be costly, depending on the material. It’s best to use abrasive cleaners only as a last resort and sparingly.

To maintain the longevity and beauty of your tile floors, you’d better not use them as your regular tile cleaner. Although these abrasives are excellent at cleaning, they can also remove the sealant from your tile, weakening its adhesion to the floorboards and neighboring tiles.

As a result, your tiles can become more prone to shifting and breaking, widening the gaps between them and leading to the accumulation of more dirt and buildup.

To keep your tiles in excellent condition and extend their lifespan, care for them gently, despite their durability. Here are some recommended cleaning methods and products:

  • Use non-slip mats and rugs to protect your floor tiles. Frequent sweeping is essential to prevent dirt and grit buildup that can harm the surface. Place mats at entrances to prevent grit from being tracked onto the tiles.
  • Clean your tiled surfaces regularly using a mop and warm water only. Daily cleaning only takes a few minutes. Every two weeks, you can add a mild detergent with a neutral pH to the warm water. Ensure that the detergent is diluted, and rinse off all cleaning solutions with clean, warm water before they dry to avoid streaks.
  • For bathroom and shower areas, use a squeegee to remove excess water after each use. This practice helps prevent soap scum buildup.
squeegee on ceramic floor
  • If there are stubborn stains or soap scum that regular cleaning can’t remove, you can use a solution of ammonia. Mix about half a cup of ammonia with a gallon of water and apply it to the stained area only. Once the stain disappears, rinse off the chemical solution.
  • Avoid overusing harsh chemicals, as prolonged use can alter the color of your tiles, make them appear dull, and reduce their overall beauty. Excessive chemical use may also damage the grout and cement, causing the tiles to become loose.

Caring for your tiles is a simple task. When done correctly and consistently, it will ensure that your tiles remain attractive and functional for many years to come.

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