Avoid your tile and grout looking like this:
(A poorly maintained shower)
If you are reading this chances are you are experiencing the joy of a new tile or natural stone installation or maybe you just had cleaning and/or restoration done?
Regardless of whether it's new or used, if you want to maintain your tile and grout in tip top shape; here are some things to consider and some helpful tips.
The 5 most common trouble areas are:
1. Shower or tub surrounds
2. Around the bathroom sinks
3. Kitchen counters especially around the kitchen sink and stoves
4. Pool decks and outdoor patios
5. Heavy traffic areas such as entries and halls
Let's talk about showers first:
Goal-keep your shower looking like this:
Regardless if it's new or just been cleaned and restored the upkeep and correct maintenance and effort you apply will decide how the tile, grout or stone perform as well as how frequently you will be required professional cleaning maintenance.
Following we will try to educate and inform without boring you to tears...so let's get to it and break it down like "Young MC" (if you aren't aware of the song "busta moves" it's throwback from the 80's)
Let's start by regular cleaning and maintenance by area:
Showers: can be one of the most challenging environments to keep looking good due to constant high humidity, soaps, lack of ventilation, and well water.
Without proper maintenance it can begin to degrade in a matter of weeks.
Here are a few things we see routinely in showers:
Problem: Mineral Deposits-water and especially well water contains microscopic minerals in the water, when beads of water adhere to the sides of tile and the water evaporates it leaves behind mineral particles, over time these particles build up and will cloud your glass doors and obscure the shine on your tile. These mineral deposits are actually as hard as a rock. To remove these once they are formed can be very challenging. The goal is to keep them from forming in the first place.
Solution: Use a soft rubber squeegee after each shower to remove access water from walls and shower doors. You can also use a synthetic shammy cloth. The goal is to remove as much water off of the shower walls which will reduce mineral deposits from forming. There are some shower heads or water filters that can be installed in-line to the shower head that will filter and reduce some of the mineral deposits. Here is an example of a reputable manufacturer click.
Problem-Caulking-two common problems are cracking and mildew, many people think that once a shower is built, caulked and sealed that it's good for the life of the shower, unfortunately that is typically not the case. It periodically requires removal and replacement as it will dry out and split or mildew and turn dark black or reddish.
Solution-when caulking is new or replaced the best caulking to use is 100% silicone with a mildewcide, and although it is not perfect it has the best resistance for mildew growth. Prior to replacement of caulking mildew needs to be removed underneath the old caulking before new is applied. If old caulking is taken out and new put in without removing the mildew, rapid regrowth will occur. There are a number of specialty caulkings that are made for wet environments that contain mildewcides, such as Microban to help reduce mildew growth.
Problem-Soap Scum-soap scum or soap residue left after showering will build up and become near impossible to remove with normal cleaning. The residue from soap scum and body oils provide a yummy food source for bacteria and mildew to grow. If you see the orange or pinkish discoloration in your shower(s), it quite likely is coming from the bacteria growing on top of this soap scum. Soap scum can become like concrete and will adhere to shower curtains, walls, caulking and tubs when given the opportunity.
Solution-Showering without soap is the best solution, but not an option. The best soap to use are body washes which do not contain the parafin that bar soap contains. Switching to a liquid or gel body soap are the best options. On a side note, bar soaps are a big contributor to slow running shower drains.
Problem-Mildew and Bacteria are very common whether your shower is tile or glass. Mildew comes in several different colors; black, orange and red, the orange and red colors are often mistaken for rust stains. To learn more about the reason behind the color click here.
Solution-the best preventative for mildew growth, to keep moisture and humidity in the shower to a minimum. When possible use a squeegee to remove the additional water off walls and doors. Leave the shower door open to provide the most ventilation possible, not allowing the shower walls or floor to stay wet for a long period of time will dramatically reduce mildew growth and re occurrence.
Bath & Kitchen Counters
Problem- Kitchen grout lines are most commonly stained from food and drink spills, bathrooms counters are from make-up, toothpaste and colored face soaps, lotions, etc. We see a lot of calcium based counter tops in bathrooms such as limestone or marble, which can be etched, stained or damaged by acids. The acids can come from something as simple as orange or tomato juice or improper cleaning products.
Solution- If you are buying a new home, you may want to verify that the grout was sealed, it is not standard practice that it is done. If your grout was recently cleaned professionally, double check that the grout was in fact sealed (if it was HammondKnoll, it for sure was sealed). In addition it is important to use a daily cleaner with a sealer such as Revitalizer by Dupont Stonetech (Available at HammondKnoll) or a cleaner that leaves a sealer each time it is used. Note to self this cleaner is not a replacement for sealer and wears away quickly the grout will need to be re-sealed as recommended.
Problem- Grout stains that occur from daily use such as food, wine, coffee, make-up, toothpaste and oil. Acid can also cause etching and softening to grout such as using acid cleaners and acidic juices like orange or tomato juice. If you are using an over the counter tile cleaning product, be sure to read the label and ensure it does not contain acid.
Solution-Avoid over the counter bleaching agents especially to colored grouts-even the slightest off white grout will show bleach stains. Using a mixture of household ingredients, like a baking soda mixed with a little water for abrasion or a non harming product such as HammondKnoll’s Spot Off tile cleaner. Use a toothbrush or small soft brush apply the solution and scrub the stain. Rinse the grout with clear water, wipe dry, repeat as necessary. Note that the area scrubbed may need to be re-sealed. For a grout that is permanently stained there are options to either cut out the affected area of grout and replace it or re-dye those areas.
Problem-Slab or Natural Stone such as granite, limestone, concrete or marble are porous, you may think that they are resistant to oil and water like a pane of glass would be. However, stone tile and concrete counter tops are absorbent, so the oil stains can be deep down in the stone and difficult to get out.
Solution-a paste cream or poultice can be used to pull the oils and staining out of the stone and restore the appearance. Poultices need to be put on and left to dry completely 12-24 hours.
Pool Decks and Outdoor Stone
Problem-The Weather, especially here in the northwest-mildew and moss are most common as we have a lot of gray days. Tile & Stone can become very slippery even hazardous in areas that do not see the sunshine. The downfall of the weather is that it destroys the vibrancy and the appearance of outdoor aggregate tile and stone surfaces. We also see a lot of rust stains from iron furniture and outdoor planters that have been fertilized with iron, copper and other minerals.
Solution-Tile, grout and any outdoor natural stone should be sealed immediately after installation or cleaning and restoration with a professional heavy duty outdoor weatherproof sealer. There are many different sealers and coatings that can be used for outdoor surfaces. For those in-between professional cleanings use a broom and sweep frequently to remove debris and dirt off of the surface. Hose occasionally to remove substances and stains. Some light pressure washers can be used on surfaces, test an inconspicuous area before proceeding, ensuring no loss of grout, etching or chipping of natural stone occurs. Be cautious of high pressure washers which can easily damage concrete and tile surfaces, wearing them out much faster than normal. Making the surface rough more prone to collect dirt and mildew. A light sprinkling of baking soda over the affected areas periodically will slow the growth of moss and mildew, and as an added bonus is all natural and non harmful.
Problem-Mineral build up-this can be much more extreme than in showers. Proper balanced pool water has minerals that are actually added to the water. The water that is splashed leaves behind mineral deposits on the upper sides or pool decks causing discoloration.
Solution-this is one of the most challenging problems to keep from re-occurring as it is no fun to enjoy a pool or hot tub without the splashing. Using a stand up squeegee that can be found in most hardware stores will help remove the pool water off decks if used after days each use.
Problem-Grout-tiled pool decks get constant exposure from weather and elements as well as exposure to some swimming pool chemicals containing both alkaline and acids that can soften or even cause the grout to wash out of the grout joints around the tiles.
Solution-Not much you can do about the outside exposure, the best way to maintain it to keep it clean and re-seal it in the spring and fall. If the grout is in good shape, grout discoloration can be re-dyed.
Heavy Traffic Areas
Problem-Scratching and Abrasion Traffic from people and pets from outdoors to the inside bring debris, sand, grit and grease from the outside. These soils cause scratches and abrasion on tile surfaces which can be difficult to remove without physically re-polishing the surfaces.
Solution-use walk-off rugs or mats both on the out and inside of the door, using larger ones so that both feet use the walk off mats. Remove shoes prior to walking on the hard surfaces. Wipe off soiled pet paws prior to entry. Keep a micro-fiber cleaning mop such as this and periodically use it to remove excess sand and grit from the floor.
Rapping it up-in all of these cases having stones and grouts sealed is one of them most important things that can be done do to improve the appearance and performance of your hard-surface floor. We will be adding additional information regarding different sealers and coatings, please feel free to contact us if you have further questions.