The Best Way to Clean Porcelain Tile Floors

By
Jeneva Aaron
Jeneva is the founder and CEO of thehousewire.com where she provides honest and objective reviews on home and cleaning products. She is a cleaning enthusiast. She got inspired to build her own cleaning blog when she realized how cleaning can make an impact on our lives and how a cleaner home can affect a person's mood.
Learn more about The Housewire’s Editorial Process
Updated April 13, 2022

Does it take a while to clean a pile of tile? Not this way!

Does it take a while to clean a pile of tile? Not this way!

How to clean porcelain tile

Did you stain your tile? Do you struggle to clean your porcelain tiles without streaks? Do you want to prevent damage to the floor by applying a sealant coating?

Porcelain tile is very durable, but there are a few tips and tricks to keep your floors looking new. Whether you have textured, glazed, or unglazed tile, a little bit of care and maintenance will keep your floors shining.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the best way to clean porcelain floors, with both water and cleaning solutions. When you’re done, your whole house will sparkle.

How Often To Clean Porcelain Tile Floors

Frequently! The US Tile Association says you should vacuum, sweep, and mop often to clean porcelain tile floors.

For areas with lots of activity, it’s a good idea to use a broom or vacuum daily. This is especially true if you have children or pets.

If there’s not as much foot traffic in that area, you can clean once a week.

You don’t need to wet mop as frequently as you sweep or vacuum. Just mop as often as needed to keep the floors looking clean.

Once a week is usually sufficient for mopping high-traffic areas. And you probably only need to mop once a month in low-traffic ones.

But if you have children and pets, you may have to mop more frequently.

Gather All Your Supplies

You need just a few items to polish your tile surface.

* : soft bristle broom with natural fibers, or a dry mop.
** :or a mop with several changeable heads.
*** :or scrub machine (but no steel wool).
If you have unglazed porcelain tiles, you’ll also want a sealant, such as this Miracle Sealant. For applying the sealant, you’ll want two additional sponges as well.

Instructions

Before You Begin

Here are a few things to keep in mind before you start scrubbing.

Choose the Right Cleaner for Porcelain Tiles

This is one of the most important steps, so make sure you read the product label thoroughly.
There are lots of products made specifically for tile and grout, so it’s a good idea to check those out first.

In general, look for ones with a neutral pH level (7), since those are better to clean porcelain tile. For example, this Stanley Steemer cleaning solution has a neutral pH, like plain water.

You could even use a simple dish soap, like this one.

For more suggestions, the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) has a list of companies that make products specifically for tile (1).

But if you want to remove stains or grease that won’t come off, you might need to use an alkaline cleaner on your porcelain tile floor.

For example, Spic and Span and Mr. Clean are alkaline cleaners that will be a little tougher on your floors.

If you have colored grout, generally stick to a neutral cleaning solution. Some alkaline cleaners are safe to use, but not all, so check the label.

What To Avoid

Regardless of grout color, you should always avoid acidic cleaners. This includes both commercial cleaners and household vinegar.

Acidic cleaners can actually corrode your grout. Grout is alkaline, so the acid in the cleaning solution reacts with it and dissolves the top layer of the cement.

This process can make the grout lines look cleaner, but manufacturers say to avoid this because of the corrosion over the long term. So stay away from homemade vinegar and water solution.

Professional cleaners may use acidic cleaning products on your floors, but they’ll only do that when they remove or replace the grout.

You should also avoid products that are highly alkaline, like ammonia or bleach.

These products won’t hurt your tile if you only use them occasionally, and they won’t corrode the grout. But over time they can remove sealant and discolor your grout.

If you really want to use bleach on your porcelain tile floor you can make a solution with plain water. The CDC suggests diluting a cup of bleach in 5 gallons of water (2).

And just like bleach, baking soda is alkaline and abrasive for your grout. If you want to use it, make sure to rinse it thoroughly. And use it only on a few occasions.

The last products to avoid are any cleaning solutions that are wax cleaners or oil based detergents.

How to Clean Unpolished or Unglazed Porcelain Tile Floors

It’s not hard to clean unpolished porcelain tile, but there are a few tips and tricks.

Unglazed porcelain tiles are made the same way as glazed ones. However, they are missing the final glazing step.

For glazed porcelain, manufacturers spread liquid glass over the surface of the clay tiles when they are fired. This seals the tiles and protects them from staining.

In a sense, unglazed porcelain is “unfinished” and therefore susceptible to staining. Because of this, it’s a good idea to put a sealant on your unglazed tiles at least once a year after you clean them.

1. Sweep or Vacuum

The first thing to do when cleaning porcelain tile floors is to remove loose dirt. That way, your wash water won’t get dirty as quickly, and you won’t create mud that could stain your floor.

A vacuum works well for this step, but you can also sweep. If you choose sweeping, we recommend that you use a dry mop instead of a broom because the mop will be softer on your floor.

2. Clean and Scrub the Floor

For the next step, use clean water to wipe the floor.

For light stains, just water can do the trick! If your floor is clean after using water, you don’t need to bother with a chemical cleaning solution.

However, if you do need to deep-clean, choose a neutral commercial cleaner that is made for grout and tile. And read the label to see how you should dilute it.

You can also make your own cleaner from dish soap. Simply stir ¼ teaspoon of liquid dish soap into a cup of warm water.

Once you’ve chosen your cleaner, use a sponge or mop to spread the cleaning solution over the porcelain tiles.

If you use a mop for this step, use a flat model rather than a sponge mop. This will prevent dirty water from going into the grout lines.

When you have covered the entire tile surface, let the cleaner sit for a few minutes. You can also scrub the porcelain tiles and the grout while you’re waiting.

For removing stubborn stains, a scrub brush or pad is particularly useful.

1. Rinse and Dry

When you’ve finished scrubbing, it’s time to rinse! Make sure you don’t skip this step because you don’t want to leave cleaner residue on your porcelain tiles.

Rinsing helps prevent streaks and dull floors. If you leave residue on the tiles, it can attract dirt and make your floors look drab.

A simple mop, bucket, and water work perfectly for this step. Just wipe down your floor with clean water to ensure you remove all of the cleaning solution.

If you have a wet-dry vacuum, you can also use it to remove the dirty water from the tiles.

Once you’ve finished rinsing, use a clean towel or cloth to dry the porcelain tiles. You can also let your floors air dry.

If you walk on your porcelain tile before it’s dry, you can leave footprints and streaks.

1. Apply a Sealant

You also need the floors to be completely dry before you can add a sealant. This will sometimes take at least 24 hours.

If the porcelain tile is not absolutely dry, the sealant won’t work properly.

When the tiles are completely dry, you can add your sealant. Make sure you follow all of the instructions on the label for preparation and application.

One way to apply a sealant is the “wipe-on/ wipe-off” method. To do this, you’ll need 2 sponges in addition to your sealant.

First, dip the sponge in the sealant and spread the product across your tile. Don’t be afraid to be generous.

Next, wait at least 20 minutes for the product to dry. To remove the excess, rub the sealant gently with a damp sponge.

Make sure that there is no dust, lint, or debris on the damp sponge so that you’ll have a clean application.

Then, repeat these steps at least four times.

Finally, let the porcelain tile dry. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying time because you don’t want to walk on the floor before the sealant is completely dry.

How to Clean Glazed or Polished Porcelain Tile Floors

As we explained above, polished porcelain tile has an extra layer of protection that unglazed porcelain tile doesn’t. The addition of liquid glass in the glazing process protects the base clay layer from staining.

This makes your cleaning job easier! And, you won’t have to put sealant on your porcelain tile floors.

1. Remove Debris From the Floor

Just as with unglazed floors, you need to sweep or vacuum before you can clean porcelain tiles. This will remove all the loose dirt and keep your washing water cleaner.

And as we said before, it’s better to use a dry mop than a broom. The mop will help protect the tile from daily wear.

However, a vacuum cleaner or a broom will also work. If you choose this latter option, go for a soft bristle broom with natural fibers.

1. Mop the Floor

For regular cleanings, you can simply mop the floor with plain water because it will remove most of the dirt. You usually don’t need chemicals.

Choose a flat mop or hand sponge and wash your porcelain tile. It’s better to use a flat mop than a sponge mop because you’re less likely to push dirty water into the grout.

If you want to deep-clean, you can use a chemical cleaning solution on your glazed porcelain tiles. But it’s a good idea to use a cleaning solution that is approved by the Tile Council of North America (TCNA).

You can also use a regular commercial cleaner specifically formulated for grout and tile that has a neutral pH, or you can even use dish soap! Just remember to avoid oil based detergents and wax cleaners.

And if your floors are really dirty, you can use a slightly alkaline cleaner. However, make sure that it’s mild enough for your floors.

Once you’ve chosen your cleaner, dilute it according to the instructions. If you’d rather use dish soap, you can add ¼ teaspoon of the liquid soap to 1 cup of warm water.

Spread the water solution on your glazed tile and let it sit for 5 minutes. You can also use a scrub brush or pad to get the stains off.

3. Rinse Thoroughly and Let Dry

When you’ve removed all the stains, rinse off the dirty cleaning solution. Just use a mop and clean water to remove any residue the cleaner may have left behind on your glazed porcelain tiles.

If you have a wet-dry vacuum, you can use that to remove the dirty cleaning solution as well.

Once everything is rinsed, dry your floor. If you’re tired, you can let the clean porcelain tiles air dry.

But for a better shine and fewer streaks, wipe the porcelain tile dry with a clean cloth or dry dust mop.

How to Clean Textured Porcelain Tiles

Textured tiles are a little different from flat glazed or unglazed tiles. Because of the uneven surface, there are lots of little pockets on this porcelain tile where dirt can settle.

This means the cleaning process is a little bit different. If you just use a wet mop, you’ll clean the high points of the surface, but not the low ones.

To get clean porcelain tile of this type, you need to get all the dust and debris out of the crevices and dips with a few extra steps.

1. Sweep or Vacuum Loose Dirt and Dust From the Floor

As with other flooring types, the first step is removing loose dirt. You can use a broom or a vacuum for this.

If you choose a broom, make sure you choose one with soft bristles because you’ll need to sweep strongly to remove all the dirt. You don’t want to scratch your floors!

As you sweep, you need to work in two directions. First, work in the direction of the tile, and then sweep your porcelain floor again, diagonal to the first direction.

This will help you remove dust stuck in the tile crevices. You can also vacuum up the dust if you’d prefer.

2. Scrub the Surface

To get tough stains out, use a mop or sponge to spread your preferred cleaning solution on the floor. This time, a sponge mop is preferred because of it ability to clean uneven surfaces.

Wait for five to ten minutes for the product to start working on the grime.

On this type of tile, you can remove more stains with a scrub brush or machine than you can with a cloth. So use one of those to scrub away the dirt.

As you scrub, use the same diagonal cleaning method you used for sweeping.

3. Rinse and Dry

When you’ve finished scrubbing, rinse the cleaning solution off your porcelain floor. For this, you can use a wet-dry vacuum or a clean towel or cloth.

It’s really important to rinse the tile floor thoroughly so that the dirty cleaning solution doesn’t stay in the low points of the floor.

Once it’s rinsed, let the floor dry. You can either air dry the floor, or dry it with a clean cloth.

For fewer water spots and more shine, use a cloth.


Related Topics


Related Reading