What to Know Before Spring Cleaning Your Stone Tile Floors
If you have stone floors in your home, you may be tempted to give them a deep clean to help restore their appearance after a winter of salt, sand, and snow being tracked indoors. Stone floors are beautiful and long lasting, but they need to be cleaned and treated properly to keep them looking their best. These tips will help you learn how to care for and clean your stone tile floors properly, so you can enjoy their appearance and beauty for years to come.
The Needs of Stone Floors
Whether your stone floors are marble, granite, limestone, travertine, or slate, they all have one thing in common – stone floors are made from natural material. This means that the stone is quarried from the earth, and only cut, shaped, and finished by man.
Your stone floor can have varying levels of different minerals and porosity – sometimes within one type of stone. And while some stones may require more care than others, very porous stones like certain types of limestone need more care than some very dense types of granite for example. There are some basic steps you can do to make sure that your stone tile floors stay looking great for the longest amount of time.
What May Impact Your Stone?
While each type of stone floor may have a few variables that may make it more susceptible to one thing or another, it’s best to stay mindful of the various things that can cause harm to your floor. By staying aware of these issues, you can help stop any potential damage before it starts, and you’ll know how best to care for and clean your floors this spring – and in the future.
Moisture and Porosity
Most stones are porous, which means they can absorb moisture. While this isn’t necessarily a problem on its own, the moisture the stones absorb may contain things that can harm your floor. For example, if over the winter your boots track in salt that was used to melt ice, moisture containing that salt can be absorbed into your tile. The salt may lift some particles of the stone, causing the surface to flake. This is called spalling, and it can’t be reversed, so it’s best to prevent excess moisture from getting to your floor. Other impurities in moisture or water may stain your stone, while acidic and highly alkaline compounds in moisture may etch your stone. Etching is the removal of the weaker, softer particles on top of the stone, and it may leave a dull mark behind, particularly on polished stone floors.
To help prevent this, make sure you seal your stones at least once yearly – twice yearly if your floor is very porous or if it’s used in a wet area like a shower. Silicone-based impregnating sealers, like Miracle Sealants 511, fill the pores in the stone’s surface, so the stone is less likely to absorb moisture. Moisture and spills sit on the surface instead, where they are easier to wipe away. Keep in mind, though, that sealers can’t prevent everything, so make sure you set down mats near the front door and wipe up spills and moisture as soon as you see them, and consider squeegeeing your bathroom shower tiles to help remove excess moisture after each use.
Scratching and Etching
Spills and moisture left on your floor are not the only potential sources of etching and surface damage. The wrong cleaning products, materials, and methods can also cause scratches and etching on your stone. This may be less visible if your floor is honed – has a matte finish – or if your floor is tumbled, naturally cleft, or antiqued, but the damage may still show.
Therefore, whenever you wash your floor, make sure you do it with a pH neutral cleanser. Acidic or highly alkaline cleansers, including things like vinegar, ammonia, bleach, and citric acid, can all etch your stone.
In addition, grit on the floor may also cause scratches and etching over time. Therefore, if you vacuum your stone floor, do so without the beater bar, as this could scratch the surface. Sweep up sand and debris regularly, and use soft, lint-free cloths whenever you wipe the stone. Avoid scrubbing pads and abrasive cleansers and materials on your floor. If you have a deep stain that you’re trying to reach, consider using a poultice instead. Do not use things like Mr. Clean Magic Erasers on the stone, as these can also harm the finish.
Poultices are designed to help pull stains to the surface where they can be wiped away. Choose a poultice that is designed both for stone, and for the type of stain to see the best results.
Most stone floors will have grout between the tiles. Grout is there to protect the edges of the tiles from damage, and to help make the floor water resistant, so moisture doesn’t get beneath the tiles. Grout is porous as well, and like the stone, can absorb moisture and impurities that can cause it to discolor.
To care for your grout, in many ways, you want to treat it like stone tile. Seal it regularly to help prevent staining.
Unfortunately, most grout stain removers can harm stone. Baking soda, vinegar, bleach, and hydrogen peroxide are all recommended grout cleaners, but even highly diluted, they can dull stone tile over time. It’s difficult to keep the cleaner only on the grout, without touching and harming the stone. Use a pH neutral cleanser or an all-purpose stone and tile cleanser on your grout as well. While not as effective at dissolving stains, these cleansers won’t harm your floor long term. Regular sealing can help keep your grout from staining and make it easier to get surface stains up over time.
When and How Often to Clean Your Stone Floors
Spring cleaning isn’t the only time you’ll be cleaning and caring for your stone floors. Make sure that you wipe up spills and moisture whenever you see them. Sweep regularly to rid the floor of grit that could scratch the surface.
Mop weekly with a soft cloth and a pH neutral cleanser to help keep your floor in the best possible condition. A well-sealed floor will bead water up off its surface like a waxed car; watch for this and when you notice the water no longer beading, reseal your floor to help prevent moisture damage.
Use poultices only for deep seated stains and only for as long as necessary to remove the stain; overuse of a poultice may harm the floor over time.
Start Your Floors Off Right
No matter how new or old your stone floor, make sure you care for it properly each and every time you clean. Doing so will help ensure that it continues looking great for many years to come. If you’re in need for stone-friendly cleansers, sealers, and other products, ask your design consultant to add them to your order, stop into our warehouse in Southborough to pick it up, or call our warehouse and we’ll be happy to ship it to you. Take care of your stone floors and appreciate their beauty for a lifetime.
One Design Center Place Suite 204 Boston, MA 02210