Natural stone floor tiles can be a stunning accent in your home, though they do need proper maintenance in order to look their finest. Although we’ve covered how to clean and care for a stone countertop, it may (or may not!) surprise you that taking care of a stone floor is a little different. So, how should you get down and dirty? Let’s find out!
First things first: what’s so special about taking care of floor tile? Although the stone may be exactly the same as the one used on your countertop or vanity top, the floor gets hit with a lot more dirt, grime, dust, sand, and other goodies we track into the house on our feet. These particles can be large and course, which can easily scratch natural stones like marble and limestone. Even vigorous sweeping can scrape particles across the stone and cause scratches, so you have to be careful — especially if your tiles are polished to a mirror shine.
The first step in cleaning is to get rid of the grime by using a vacuum cleaner that can go over hard floors. This will suck up the dirt and the sand, rather than push it around and cause scratches. If you have to use a broom, try not to use one with particularly hard, stiff bristles, as these can cause scratches as well. You should get in the habit of cleaning your floors like this at least once a week, if not every 2-3 days. Otherwise, dirt and grime can get lodged into the stone and may require professional treatment to remove.
The second step is mopping, which must be done carefully. Stone is naturally porous and prone to staining both by water and acids. So, you want to make sure that your mop is damp, not soaking wet, and you’ll want to avoid any harsh cleaners as well as bleach. Wait, didn’t we say you could use these cleaners on patio stones? Yes, but that’s only because outdoor stone tiles and pavers are designed to be much more rugged and can handle a more intensive cleaner. Indoor tiles are smoother and have a more refined finish, much like a stone countertop. They will more readily absorb and be harmed by acids or other abrasive cleaners, which can ruin the finish and weaken the tile, potentially leading to cracks or more extensive breakage. That’s a fix you don’t want to deal with!
As you mop with fresh, clean water, make sure you’re not leaving any puddles on the floor—there should only be a light film of moisture on the top of the tiles. Make sure that you also change out the water frequently as well, as the water will likely get dirtier the more you work. There’s no sense in cleaning if you’re just spreading dirty water around!
The next step is to apply stone cleaner, which you can find in stone supply shops or large home improvement stores. The best way to go about this is to load the cleaner into a spray bottle and lightly mist onto the tiles. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s exact instructions, though you’ll likely need to let the cleaner sit on the tiles for a few minutes before cleaning it away with more fresh, clean water.
The last step is to dry the stones and unfortunately, air drying won’t cut it here! This allows too much time for the porous stones to absorb water or the cleaner, which will likely cause stains that are difficult to remove without sanding down the tile or removing it entirely. Instead, you’re going to need some good old-fashioned elbow grease. Using soft paper towels, blot the tiles dry, and you’re good to go!
In addition to cleaning the tiles themselves, it’s also a good habit to check the grout and caulking every few months to look for damage. Any cracks in the material can cause water to seep under the tiles, which can cause mold and water damage the sub flooring. Keep extra caulk and ground on hand to patch up any worn areas, which should only take a few moments to fix.
You’ll also need to re-seal your floor tiles about one per year or so with a penetrating sealer. This helps protect the finish and reduces the porosity of the stone, which especially important if your stone tiles are installed in high-traffic areas like the kitchen or bathroom. In these cases, you might want to re-seal your tiles every 6-8 months to keep them in tip-top shape.
Finally, if your stone tiles have extensive grease damage or embedded dirt, you’ll want to call in the professionals for an intensive cleaning. They’ll have access to more heavy-duty cleaners and cleaning tools than you can likely find yourself, and they’ll be able to do the job without damaging the stone itself. So, if the cleaning job looks particularly tough, leave it to the professionals.
In addition to cleaning your stone tiles regularly, it’s a good idea to put mats both indoors and outdoors for people to while their feet on. Better yet, encourage your guests to remove their shoes when they enter your home to prevent scratches and tracking dirt and grime into the house. Finally, it’s inevitable that you’ll have a tile break or crack over the years. In that case, it’s a good idea to have an extra box of tiles in storage, so you can easily replace one that’s broken without having to worry about matching the other tiles.
Cleaning your natural stone floor tiles isn’t hard, though it can be a bit labor-intensive. Thankfully, you shouldn’t have to give your floors a deep cleaning like this every week, though it’s good to get in the habit of doing it ever few months, with lighter cleanings in between. Got a great tip for cleaning stone? Let us know in the comments!