Porcelain and ceramic tiles make spaces look and function beautifully. They are also materials that are fairly easy to care for, making them popular for a variety of spaces. But just because something is easy to care for doesn’t mean that it will never stain or require cleaning. Some types of ceramic and porcelain tile may be easier to clean and care for than others, which can make it disconcerting for some homeowners when they install a new tile that may not have the exact needs as others they are familiar with. This guide will help break down the different cleaning requirements for different types of tile, ensuring that your tile will continue to look and function beautifully for years to come.

Basic Cleaning for Glazed Ceramic Tile

Most ceramic tiles regardless of style have one thing in common. They are all covered in a thin layer of glaze, which helps create a hard, usually smooth surface. This makes ceramic tile fairly easy to clean. The glaze prevents moisture from seeping into the tile body itself, so the tiles easily resist stains. For most glazed ceramic tiles, the true concern comes from the grout, or the material between the tiles, which helps protect their edges and further keeps moisture out of the wall or floor.

Many grouts are porous, which means that they will absorb moisture even if the tile doesn’t. This can lead to staining if the grout absorbs something that can discolor it. To help prevent this, consider using sealants, dark pigmented grouts, or stain-resistant grouts.

Ceramic tile that has a glossy glaze finish that has no cracks in it can be cleaned with your choice of cleanser, as well as a soft cloth, and water. If staining does occur in the grout, you can try using specific grout cleaners designed to pull stains to the surface, or consider grout “paints” to help cover the grout and seal out additional stains.

Ceramic tile with a matte finish that has no cracks can be cleaned in much the same way. Some matte finishes can be textured, so you may need to use a soft-bristled brush.

Specialty Care for Glazed Ceramic Tiles

Tiles that have cracks in the glaze, a condition known as crazing, which can affect any ceramic tile at any time, do need to be handled slightly differently. If there is a crack in the glaze, this can let moisture – and therefore stains – get to the clay body of the tile. To prevent this, seal the ceramic tiles regularly with an impregnating sealer. This will help impede any staining, but may not completely prevent it. Therefore, make sure you wipe up spills quickly to avoid stains getting into the tile.

The tiles themselves can still be cleaned the same way you would clean other ceramic tiles, just make sure to seal them at least once yearly – more in high use areas – and don’t let spills sit for too long.

Other precautions to take with ceramic tiles involve those that use metals in their glazes. This can be tiles with a true metal or metallic finish, or some very dark green glazes that use copper in them. These glazes react poorly with acids, which can damage the finish, so avoid using cleaners that contain ingredients like vinegar or lemon, which can react with the glaze. For the best results, consider using a cleanser that is pH neutral.

Basic Cleaning for Unglazed and Porcelain Tile

Porcelain is a subtype of ceramic tile, which is often – but not always – unglazed. Porcelain may have a color-through clay body, meaning that the color goes right through the tile. The tile itself may be matte, highly polished, or highly textured. Unglazed porcelain is generally stain-resistant, as it is non-porous. 

Most smooth matte and polished porcelain tiles don’t require any special care. While they are scratch resistant, it is recommended that you sweep the tile regularly, and don’t use a vacuum cleaner with a beater bar. Cleaning can be done soft cloth or mop, and your choice of cleanser. Like with glazed ceramic tiles, keep in mind that while the tile is stain resistant, the grout may not be, so take extra care to seal the grout and wipe up spills quickly to avoid stains.

Specialized Cleaning for Porcelain Tile

Porcelain tile is also available in some glazed finishes, as well as unglazed in some very highly textured tiles. These types of porcelain may need more care when cleaning and caring for them to make sure they continue looking their best.

Glazed porcelain is often just as easy to clean as the unglazed types. However, some glazes may contain metallic ingredients, which do require you to use a pH neutral cleanser to avoid damaging the surface. In addition, there are some glazed porcelains that have a slightly pitted surface, as well as a glaze that is very slick.

These tiles may benefit from a coating of an impregnating sealer, which can both help make the pitted areas a little easier to keep clean and make the surface of the tile less slick. For best results, always test this on a small section of tile to see how it performs.

Some unglazed porcelain tiles have very highly textured surfaces. These can be more difficult to keep clean than smoother tiles. The texture can help collect dirt and debris, while making it hard for a mop or some disposable cleaning aids to easily move over the surface. For these tiles, it’s recommended that you first sweep the tile to remove any loose dirt.

Next, mix hot water and a mild detergent together and mop the surface of the tiles liberally with the mixture. Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes to help loosen the dirt in the texture. Some scrubbing may be required at times, and a stiff-bristled brush can usually help remove any stubborn grime. Once the dirt has been loosened, mop the floor again with fresh water, then let dry. Keep in mind that textured porcelain may require more frequent scrubbing and mopping than other types of tile.

Keep Your Tile Beautiful

If you need specialty products for cleaning your tiles, be sure to visit our warehouse outlet in Southborough, where we not only have a range of instock tiles at low prices, we also carry a full line of tile care products. Stop in today to see the selection, or visit one of our showrooms to find the right porcelain or ceramic tile for your next project.