It’s hard to generalize when it comes to wall and floor tile care since different tiles have different finishes applied. In fact, some tiles have no finish applied – they are totally natural. A general rule of thumb, however, is to baby your tiles a little. By that I mean to never use anything on your tiles that you wouldn’t use on your own skin. There is one exception to that, and that is steam. Most tiles will cope happily with a home steam cleaner.
When selecting a cleaning product, steer clear of anything that has ‘scrubbing’ power, even those described as ‘soft scrub’. Crushed volcanic stone is often one of the ingredients, and that can act as a fine sandpaper on your tiles, slowly stripping away any finish that has been applied. For the same reason, steer clear of acidic products, and that includes home-made products such as vinegar.
You should also pay special attention to any spills – never leave them to sit for too long, especially liquids containing acids. This includes vinegar, many fruit juices, softdrinks and wines. Natural stone tiles such as granite, marble, travertine and slate are generally sensitive to acidic substances, so the quicker you can clean away any spills, the less effect they will have on your tiles.
Benchtops in kitchens and bathrooms generally have a tough sealant applied, however, you should still try to avoid storing some products directly on these surfaces. Spills can sit for hours if not days before being noticed and cleaned up – this can leave permanent stains. It’s a simple process to store products on trays in these areas.
Never ever use steel wool or similar products on natural stone tiles – you may as well hit the tiles with your belt sander. You’ll get the same result – badly scratched tiles. Steel wool is worse in some ways. Any splinters of steel that break off will sit and slowly rust, causing further damage to your tiles.
Enough of negatives – one of the wonderful features of natural stone tile is the ease with which you can keep them clean. Regular sweeping and an occasional mop with warm water (with a little dishwashing detergent added) is all that is really required. Want a more sterile finish – add a few drops of tea-tree oil. It’s a natural disinfectant. If you are concerned about how to keep your wall and floor tiles clean, talk to a tile expert when purchasing your tiles.