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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.

  • Dave

    And most importantly..........stay away from bleach! Bleach is a nasty and dangerous substance that can burn your lungs and skin. It damages cement based grout. It's bad for the environment and, if mixed with ammonia, will surely kill you. So many people take this stuff for granted and fail to realize just how dangerous it is.

  • Sue

    Great tip Http:// I have always had a hard time cleaning tile this should make it much easier.

  • Tess

    I use bleach on a lot of things but I prefer to use something less "smelly"! Http://

  • Jeanie

    I use bleach It's great It cleans and disenfects My mother always used it too Maybe that is why we never got sick

  • Judy

    Pressure washers of at least 2500 psi work great on tile floors.

  • jrg

    Bon Ami is also great for cleaning your car windshield of wax and road oil. GM use to recommend it in their new car manuals.

    Also, take some "non sanded" grout, color to match existing, apply thin coat to walls/floor let dry and remove with soft cloth. Polishes tile and fills cracks. Next apply sealer, this really helps keep tile clean.

  • Teresa

    I like these tips and plan to incoporate them into my cleaning routine!
    I just got laid off from my job, so I am a full-time housewife now. I would love to try these and have my bathroom and kitchen spick and span.
    These seem to be problem areas for me anyway.

  • marilyn

    I can't believe that you have to be taught by an aol article how to clean. How dense can you people be???

  • DANA


  • nellie

    I would try using baking soda. It cleans remarkably well, especially grease and it
    doesn't scratch and leaves a nice shine. Also eliminates odors.

  • Jeanie

    Try toothpaste

    scrub it on using a NON abasive type scrub sponge ( the ones with the white plastic netting around it)
    Wipe off with dry papertowel,then wipe again with damp papertowel , then again with dry papertowel til shiny

    It's also great for getting off burnt on stains on your stainless steel pots AND i use it to shine my silver!!

  • Marti

    Dana, after years of fighting my black glass top stove, I have used about everything you could think of. It streaked and left grease marks all over it. My friend recommended Sprayway glass cleaner - it is fabulous! Not only for the glass stove top, but windows, mirrors just shine! You can find it at K-Mart, Target, Home Dept, Raley's, Safeway, Costco, Cost Plus World Market.


    Dana,,,,,,, Your Manuel that came with your stove,, should have a Suggested Product,,

    I get mine at the Grocery Store!

    Good Luck! I will NEVER Have another Smooth Top Stove!

  • Bonbon

    WD-40 Seriously, it works on a lot of stuff, especially grease on stoves. Search for a list of things it cleans, you'll be amazed.

  • scott bickett

    you mean to tell me that you people are actually getting anything out of this lame piece? sheesh no wonder im getting rid of AOL!

  • Jeanie


    No, as usual, no real info in these articles They headline them as if they have some GREAT solution too

  • Jenny

    A friend recommends grapefruit and baking soda. Cut the grapefruit in half and sprinkle some baking soda on it. Go over the tiles and rinse. If needed, add a bit more baking soda. They used one-half grapefruit for a tub and tiles, and the other half for a shower enclosure. In their words, "It was so quick, and everything's sparkly!"

  • rb

    They tell you to use vinegar and water and then say only to use non-acidic cleaners
    Hey guess what vinegar is acidic

  • 18 Comments / 1 Pages

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