Whether it's soap scum, lime deposits, and mildew veiling your bathroom tiles in a dull film, cooking fumes making a tile backsplash dirty and dingy, or foot traffic marring a tile floor, one thing's for certain: dirty ceramic tiles can add a blah factor to any room.
But don't just bust out the abrasives when you see your tile start to lose its shine. Much like that pair of dark-wash jeans, you have to clean ceramic tiles carefully, or you can ruin the finish and leave permanent scratches. Here's how to care for tiles on your floors, counters, and walls on a regular basis -- and whenever those pesky mildew and lime deposits reappear (and they always will).
Removing mildew, lime deposits, and soap scum
Because bathroom surfaces -- particularly showers -- are exposed to water, soaps, and body oils, you need to clean the tile once a week to prevent a buildup of soap scum.CLR
is a great solution for removing mildew from ceramic tiles. Use a sponge soaked in a homemade 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water to scrub and rinse away lime -- and even rust -- deposits. Check in with your contractor or tile retailer for any special instructions on cleaning your tile-- or test a spare tile (or an inconspicuous spot) if you're unsure about the tile's origin. To test whether the white vinegar-water solution will etch tile, apply the solution to a small area with an eye dropper and let it sit overnight, says domestic diva Cheryl Mendelson in her book Home Comforts
Cleaning tile floors
Regularly sweeping or vacuuming tile floors is the best way to keep their glaze in good shape. Dirt and sand particles get ground into tile with foot traffic, which wears on ceramic tile. So you also want to wash your tile floors weekly -- you can give them a quick steam clean
to keep them shiny.
Cleaning tile counters and backsplashes
Because tile countertops and backsplashes in the kitchen are exposed to the greases produced by cooking, these can be toughest to clean. A 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water, followed by a scrubbing with baking soda and a rag or a scrub brush, should remove most of the buildup. For icky, sticky stains, use Goo Gone
. Let it sit for a few minutes and the sticky spot should wipe away easily. If the tile surfaces aren't exposed to water or grease, dusting the tiles weekly will do.
Still feel the need to bring in the heavies? Many people think the tougher the better when it comes to choosing cleaners for their tile. Not true. Using an abrasive cleaner can actually damage your tiles. You want to look for a near-neutral, non-acidic, low-abrasive cleaner for washing tile. Some decorative tiles are especially delicate. Experts agree that powered scouring cleaners (like Comet and Ajax) will do the job but will also dull glazed tiles. Stick with mild scouring powders, like Bon Ami
, or a low-abrasive liquid cleaner, like Method's Le Scrub Bathroom Cleaner
or Earth Friendly Products Creamy Cleanser.
And remember, it's always easier to prevent
mildew and lime deposits from forming than remove them from tile, so regularly using a squeegee
on tile post-shower to help save you time cleaning down the road.