How to clean and maintain your tile surfaces.


Your tile surfaces should last a long time — as long as you complete the proper maintenance steps. 

There are plenty of ways to keep your tile floors, counters, backsplash and other areas looking great for many years. This guide will cover tile maintenance advice, including how to clean natural stone, maintain ceramic tile and keep your grout looking new. Before attempting any of these tips, check your manufacturer’s guide or owner’s manual for maintenance instructions. 

Natural stone tile maintenance tips.

With its timeless look, natural stone tile adds warmth and character to a room. However, natural stone has its own set of considerations for cleaning and maintenance. Here are some tips to help you maintain it.

Choose a mild cleaning product, detergent or stone soap.

That natural stone family includes stones like slate, limestone, granite and polished marble. These stones might be tough, but using a standard cleaning agent could damage their surfaces. Many common cleaning agents are too acidic and could actually strip the sealant coating off the tiles. 

To avoid this, you should choose a pH-neutral cleaning product or a product recommended in your owner’s manual. Make sure the product you choose won’t damage your tile’s sealing or coating.

Because the potential for damaging stone tile makes this a fairly risky task, it’s recommended you hire a professional to clean large swaths of natural stone flooring, counters, backsplashes or walls. 

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Use a dust mop and soft cloths.

Tools with stiff bristles can damage your natural stone’s surface by scuffing it and stripping the layer of sealant that's protecting it from the elements. Instead, use a dry dust mop on natural stone tile floors, or a soft cloth or soft-bristled brush on countertops, backsplashes and walls. 

If there’s a lot of dirt that won’t come off, apply more cleaner and give it several minutes to soak in and break it down. Once it’s had a chance to soften the loose dirt, you should be able to remove it with a warm water rinse. 

A professional will have the proper types of cleaning tools for every type of stone. When in doubt, hire it out

Seal your tile counters, floors and other surfaces.

Stone is naturally porous, meaning it can be vulnerable to penetration by water, oil and other staining agents, particularly in high-use areas like countertops and entryways. 

Did you recently install tile in your home? Consider hiring a professional who can seal it. Adding tile (especially natural stone tile) to your home isn’t exactly cheap, so you’ll want to protect your investment. If it’s been a while since you sealed your tile, it may be time to get your natural stone flooring or countertops resealed — just check your manufacturer's guide or ask a professional near you. And make sure your tile sealing professional knows what type of sealant was previously used. 

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Porcelain and ceramic tile maintenance tips.

Ceramic and porcelain tile are popular and more cost-friendly choices for high-traffic sites like mudrooms, bathrooms and kitchens. While considered low-maintenance, porcelain and ceramic tile also have their own quirks you should keep in mind when cleaning and maintaining them.

Know your tile’s texture.

According to Cleaning & Maintenance Management, it’s important to understand which porcelain tile texture you’re working with. The possibilities include:

  • Matte
  • Textured
  • Polished

The most low-maintenance option is polished tile with a large format — this means there will be more tile and less grout, which is one of the more maintenance-intensive parts of the project. Textured tiles require a bit more cleaning, but they give the surface more character and are less slippery to walk on. Finally, matte tile often requires the most upkeep because its unpolished surface is prone to collecting loose dirt. 

Pro tip: If you have polished ceramic tile floors that will receive foot traffic soon after cleaning, make sure to dry the surface with a clean cloth or dry mop instead of letting it air-dry to avoid slips.

Sweep, mop and vacuum regularly.

If you want to make the deep cleaning job easier for the professional, preventive maintenance is key. Ceramic and porcelain tiles may be quite robust, but they’re still prone to scratching if small chunks of debris get dragged across their surfaces. For this reason, using a soft-bristle broom, vacuum or dust mop regularly is an important cleaning routine to establish. 

When cleaning wall tiles and backsplashes, use a soft cloth with warm and mild soap to keep it free of debris.

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Don’t wait — clean up spills when they happen.

While ceramic and porcelain tiles are fairly impervious to stains, grout is not. Clean up spilled wine or tracked-in mud to avoid stains.

Simply wipe away the spill with a damp cloth and a spritz of dishwashing detergent. Make sure the tile grout is clean, too. 

Get your grout sealed once or twice per year.

Grout is the weak link when it comes to keeping water out. That’s why many experts say it’s important to have a professional seal your grout once or twice each year. This protects the grout from absorbing water and allowing penetration to the underside of the tiles. It also gives your ceramic tile floors a more uniform waterproof surface.

Whether you’re thinking about sealing your grout or tile, always check your manufacturer’s guide first. It likely has instructions on how often you should be resealing.

Find out: How much does grout cleaning cost?

Basic maintenance tips for tile grout.

Grout is an essential part of any tile floor, backsplash or countertop, but it can be tricky to keep it in tip-top shape. Here’s how to keep your grout looking great.

Clean it regularly with an alkaline cleaner.

Although tiles are fairly sensitive to the stiffness of bristles, grout can handle a stiffer brush such as a grout brush or toothbrush. The Tile Council of North America recommends you use an alkaline cleaner and a nylon scrub pad. Keep your grout clean by regularly using the solution and tools. 

If your grout is extremely dirty, needs to be resealed or is showing signs of needing repairs, it’s time to contact a professional. A professional grout and tile cleaner will restore your grout to like-new condition using the proper cleaning products. 

Replace cracked, missing or peeling grout.

If you’re wondering whether it’s time to regrout completely, examine its condition. Properly sealed grout should last a long time. But if you notice the grout is cracking, falling out or staying stained despite consistent cleaning, it’s probably time to replace it and hire a pro to regrout it

Here are a few other signs it may be time to regrout your bathroom or floor tiles:

  • Your tiles are loose.
  • The grout is discolored.
  • There’s mold or mildew.
  • It’s been 15-20 years since regrouting.
  • You want your tiles to have a fresh, clean look.

However, don’t use regrouting as an easy fix for bigger issues. For example, if your tiles have severe water damage, you might need to replace or repair them.

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Make sure the area is clean when resealing grout.

When you hire a professional to reseal your grout, make the job easier by having the room clean and free of dust and debris. The surface will need to be lint-free and spotless to properly accept the sealant.

Mistakes to avoid when cleaning tile and grout.

Volumes could be written on proper tile care, but it’s important to know some of the most common mistakes homeowners make. Here are some of the most notable tile cleaning don’ts:

  1. Don’t use harsh chemicals.
  2. Don’t wait too long to clean up stains.
  3. Don’t over-scrub.
  4. Don’t neglect regular cleaning.
  5. Don’t drag heavy objects over your tile without protection.
  6. Don’t wait too long to hire a contractor for repairs.

When is it time to contact a professional?

In some cases, hiring a professional is the best and most efficient way to fix, clean and maintain your tile — and to protect your investment. Here are some signs it’s time to hire a pro:

  • Dirty, stained grout
  • A damp, musty smell
  • Leaks or warped flooring
  • Gaps or cracks in grout or caulking
  • Dull tile surfaces
  • Damage or chipped tile floors or counters
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Hire tile cleaning and maintenance pros on Thumbtack.

Hiring a tile and grout professional is simple. Enter your zip code on Thumbtack to find highly rated professionals near you, including:

By making sure the job is done right, you’ll avoid costly repairs down the road — all while enjoying the look of clean, beautiful tiles in your home.

Additional sources used: The Spruce, Bob Villa, Marble Institute of America, Hunker, Flooring Inc.

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