How to Clean Tile Floors

published Nov 7, 2020
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Choosing a flooring type isn’t just about aesthetic and cost. Sure, you want your floors to look amazing, but it’s also important to think about functionality. What you’ll do in the room, whether you have pets or little kids who will scratch the floors, and how much effort you’re willing to put into cleaning and care should all be major factors in your flooring decision. 

No matter what variables are at play, consider tile. Of all the flooring types, tile is one of the most durable and low maintenance—meaning, it can work well for a bunch of scenarios. It’s basically scratch-proof (ideal for kids and pets), it’s water-resistant (perfect for a bathroom, entryway, or kitchen), and it’s generally very easy to clean. That’s right: As difficult as tile may be to install, and as costly as it can be compared to other flooring types, it’s absolutely not a hassle to clean. Since tile is non-porous, you’ll be able to clean it with just about anything you have around the house (with the exception of one important caveat, below). 

Is it about time to clean your flooring (and, while you’re at it, the grout)? Here’s how to clean tile floors, step by step—and everything you need to keep in mind along the way for sparkly, long-lasting flooring.

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Things to Know Before You Start

First, identify exactly what type of tile you’re working with, since not all tile is created equal. Natural stone tiles, like marble or granite, require different types of care than your standard ceramic options. While it’s generally OK to use commercial floor cleaners on ceramic, never use acidic chemicals on granite or marble floors. (And remember, vinegar is acidic!) Instead, use a mild, pH-neutral cleaner that won’t streak or discolor the stone, or damage the protective coating.

How to Clean a Tile Floor, Step by Step 

If your tile is looking grimy, you’re a few simple steps away from like-new floors. Here’s how to get there: 

1. Sweep or vacuum debris from the floor

Sweep and/or vacuum the floor first to remove loose debris and dirt.

2. Mix a cleaning solution

In a bucket, mix a cleaning solution. Georgia Dixon and Angela Bell, Grove Guides at Grove Collaborative suggest a DIY solution of equal parts water and white vinegar, plus a bit of tea tree oil. (Vinegar is acidic, though, so skip it if you have granite or marble tile. Reach for a pH-neutral cleaner designed for natural stone instead.) If you have particularly stained tile, you can also use any trusted commercial cleaner, like Pine-Sol. Just make sure to change the water frequently if you’re cleaning a large area to avoid spreading dirty water around your tile. 

3. Apply the mixture.

Use a cleaning cloth or chamois-type mop to apply the mixture, spreading around until your section of tile is visibly wet.

4. Dry the floors.

With a clean, lint-free cloth, dry your tile immediately after washing, working in small sections. Use your foot or a broom handle to slide the cloth over the floor (it’s easier on your knees). Wash and dry one section of the floor at a time.

How to Clean Tile Grout, Step by Step

Now that you’ve conquered the tiles themselves, it’s time to take care of the grout lines, which requires a bit more detail work. Here’s how to clean tile grout: 

1. Make a cleaning paste.

In a small bowl, mix ½ cup baking soda with ¼ cup hydrogen peroxide. 

2. Apply the mixture.

Apply the cleaning mixture to your grout. Bell recommends letting it sit for at least a half hour before scrubbing. 

3. Clean the grout.

Use a scrub brush to clean the grout until any visible discoloration lifts. Dixon says an old toothbrush can stand in, but it won’t hold up as well because the bristles are much softer than a traditional cleaning brush.

4. Clean up excess.

Wipe away any excess cleaner from the grout with a rag. 

5. Rinse and dry.

With clean water, rinse your tile grout. Then dry up any excess moisture with an old towel or rag. Easy as that!

How to Keep Tile and Grout Clean

Maintenance is a big part of making the tile-cleaning process easier and less time-consuming. Here are a few basic tips for keeping your tile and grout clean:

  • Wipe up spills as soon as they happen, using a cloth or cotton swab to thoroughly clean the grout around the affected tiles.
  • Use an area rug for high traffic areas (look for rugs or mats that are easy to clean or  launder).
  • If you have tile in a moisture-prone area, be sure to remove any bath mats or area rugs and hang to dry daily to prevent mold from growing on the grout.
  • Keep freshened up in between moppings with a spray or squirt floor cleaner and a microfiber mop.

Does Lemon Clean Grout? 

Yes! Since it’s highly acidic, lemon juice can be an effective way to lift stains and discoloration in tile grout. Just apply straight lemon juice to the affected area, allow it to sit for 10 to 15 minutes, and wipe clean. 

Does Toothpaste Clean Grout? 

Also yes. Just make sure to use white, non-gel toothpaste. Dab a bit on, spread it around and scrub with an old toothbrush or cleaning brush, then rinse thoroughly with soap and water.