Tile Maintenance: Stains 101

Photo: Holly Kuchera/Flickr

Ceramic and porcelain tiles are a popular choice for kitchen, bathroom, and patio floors, as many homeowners relish the ease of maintenance and customization options of these sturdy materials. Like every type of flooring material, however, ceramic and porcelain tiles have their downsides -- one downside is that they tend to stain easily. This can be a huge problem if spills and messes are not cleaned properly as they happen, but fortunately there are effective ways to get stains out of ceramic and porcelain -- thereby preserving the beauty and functionality of these classic materials.

While some homeowners may rush to use bleach in case of a spill or stain on the tile, bleach does not always work for deeply embedded stains and may damage your tile’s sealant. All-purpose household cleaners can be used -- but since porcelain and ceramic tile are usually sealed for protection against damage, some all-purpose cleaners can, like bleach, actually break down the sealant and are generally not recommended for use. If you must use an all-purpose cleaner to clean stained porcelain tile, do so with the utmost care; be sure to clean only a small area at a time to minimize any damage from the cleaner. Allowing the cleaner to dry on the tile may result in further stains, so it’s in your best interest to carefully clean the area with warm water and soap after you spray the cleaner and letting it set for just a few minutes.

Using a neutral cleaner -- one specifically formulated to get rid of tile stains -- is a good option, and carries none of the risks of using bleach or all-purpose cleaner to treat stains. Use a nonabrasive cloth to apply the cleaner to the affected area, then leave the cleaner on the floor according to the directions on the package. After enough time has passed, wipe the cleaner up with a clean nonabrasive cloth. The stain should be significantly reduced or gone altogether.

A third option is to perform an overall deep clean of your tile floor as part of stain care. First, combine ½  cup of white vinegar with one gallon of warm water in a large bucket, and mop the entire floor. After mopping, rinse the floor with another gallon of warm water. Now it’s time to spot-clean any stains; use scouring powder (available at any hardware store) and warm water to do so. Make a paste using an equal amount of warm water and scouring powder, then apply the paste to the stained area using a clean rag. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes, then use a small brush to clean the stain using the paste. Remove the paste with warm water and another clean rag. If the stain appears to persist, repeat the spot-cleaning process with water, scouring powder and the brush until it is excised.

It’s also worth remembering that when it comes to tile stains, prevention starts with some very basic care. Sweeping or vacuuming the tile every day to get rid of dust and debris will go a long way in preventing stain issues; a weekly mop with warm water will keep your ceramic or porcelain tiles both clean and looking great.

Anna Hill writes for Networx.com.

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