Natural stone tile has been used for centuries in and out of homes. No two pieces of stone tile are ever exactly the same, varying in color, texture, pattern, and mineral makeup. This is part of the nature and charm of the material, as is the fact that many types of stone tile are porous, meaning that they can absorb liquids and therefore stains more easily than other materials. Having natural stone tile in your home can mean that you need to be more diligent in your cleaning routines to help it look its best for the longest amount of time. Because different types of stone have different needs, however, you may find that you will need to vary your cleaning based on the type of stone tile you have.

General Stone Cleaning

Marble stone tiled bathroomRegardless of what type of stone tile you have in your home, there are some general tips that can help with everyday cleaning and care. Wipe up spills and sweep up grit as soon as they are seen to help prevent stains or scratches from developing. Use a pH neutral cleanser designed for stone tile every time you clean, and avoid cleaning products that contain acids, alkalines, or grit as these can all harm the surface of the stone. This also means avoiding things like the beater bar on your vacuum and rough scrubbing tools such as scouring pads, as these can all harm the softer surface particles of the stone, leaving marks behind and ruining the finish.
If your stone requires sealing, make sure you either reseal on a regular basis, or use a cleanser that can help reseal each time you clean. This can help maintain your stone’s appearance long term and help impede staining as well.

The Lemon and Water Test

Most types of natural stone are porous and some are extremely porous. Likewise, some types of natural stone contain higher amounts of minerals like calcite that are softer and more likely to react to acids than other materials. Therefore, whenever possible, it’s a good idea to conduct the lemon and water test on your stone tile before deciding on the best cleaning routine.

If you have a leftover piece of tile from your lot, you can use this. Otherwise, try to find a section of tile that is out of the way, such as inside a closet.Ideally, you want to use a piece of tile that has not been sealed, as sealing can impact the test results.

Place a small amount of water and a small amount of lemon juice on the tile, and observe for a few minutes. If the liquids are absorbed into the stone quickly, this is a very porous tile. If the liquids are absorbed slowly, it has an average porosity, while if they are not absorbed at all or very little, this stone will not require sealing. After about 10 minutes or so, wipe away the rest of the lemon juice and look at the tile. If you see a very obvious dull mark, the stone is highly reactive to acids. A slight dull mark, it’s moderately reactive to acids, and no dull mark means it’s impervious to acids. Only a few stones will pass both the water and lemon test, such as black granites made of gabbros, or a very dense igneous rock.

If you find that your tile is very porous or soft, you will need to seal it more often and with a sealer designed for very porous stones in order to help prevent staining. You’ll also have to take more care with wiping up spills quickly to avoid stains or etch marks.

Cleaning Soft and Porous Stone

A stunning shower with natural stone tilesIf your stone is very soft and porous, meaning that it absorbed water quickly and showed etching after the lemon juice, you will need to take extra care. This includes sealing it regularly with a sealer designed for porous stone. You may also need to use poultices on occasion to help remove deeper stains. Poultices may be liquid or absorbent powders that are designed to get into the pores of a stone and lift up the stain so it can be easier to clean away. Always make sure you choose a poultice designed for porous stone to avoid damage.

If you have a porous stone containing calcite that is honed or tumbled in texture, you can also choose to use a stone cleaner designed just for stones like marble, limestone, and travertine. These cleansers help leave behind a protective film on the stone that bonds with the calcite – because of the film they leave behind, however, they are not suitable for polished stone.

Cleaning Natural Cleft Slate Tile

Blended textures with natural stoneSlate tile can have a range of different surface textures, from smooth and polished to rough and natural cleft. Many slates can scratch and mark easily, but often rank as low to very low in porosity, meaning that they don’t stain as easily as some stones. Cleft slate can be dusty or flaky when first installed. This is normal, and may require additional sweeping or mopping over the first few months as it settles into its new home. After this, the cleft nature of the slate often means that it can require scrubbing to keep it clean. Use a soft-bristled brush with a natural stone cleanser as needed to remove surface dirt and stains.

Cleaning Polished Stone

Add beauty with natural stone flooringIf your natural stone has a high gloss polish to it, you may be tempted to wash it with products that will make it appear shiny. However, many products that can leave a temporary shine can also dull the stone long-term. Make sure you only use a stone cleaner that is pH neutral, and that is designed for polished stone – some stone cleansers are made for honed and textured stone and may dull the finish of a polished stone over time as well. Avoid using basic soaps and water, as these can leave residues or mineral build up on your polished stone that can dull its appearance over time as well.

Care for Your Stone the Right Way

Natural stone in mosaicWhen you treat your natural stone tile the right way, it can last for hundreds of years. Make sure you clean it properly each time to avoid stains or surface damage over its lifespan. If you need help selecting the right cleanser, stop into our Warehouse or ask your design consultant to add cleansers to your next stone tile order.