How to Deep Clean Tile Floors: 6 Simple Steps

How to deep clean tile floors_image

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Tile floors are ideal for kitchens, bathrooms, and heavy-traffic areas because they’re durable and low-maintenance. The best part—they’re incredibly easy to clean.

Sweeping and mopping your tile floors regularly will get you 90% of the way there. 

But, every so often, when the grout lines start to discolor, and the original shine begins to fade, they need a deep cleaning.

So, what’s the easiest way to deep clean tile floors?

Here’s a preview of the necessary steps (I dive into the details in a minute):

  1. Step 1: Remove loose dirt and dust with a soft-bristle broom and a canister vacuum.
  2. Step 2: Identify the type of tile floor you have in your home. The tile material will dictate the solutions and tools you can use in the following steps. 
  3. Step 3: Clean the grout lines. Due to grout’s porous nature, it absorbs dirt and becomes nasty and discolored if you neglect it.
  4. Step 4: Remove stubborn stains. Stains from paint, oil, wax, ink, and pet mess require special treatment before mopping.
  5. Step 5: Mop the floor. Avoid sponge mops because they redistribute the dirt to the tile and grout. Steamers work well on ceramic and porcelain tiles, but they can ruin stone.
  6. Step 6: Dry the floor. To avoid water spots, streaks, and cracked grout, actively dry the floor.

Although the process is not complicated, there are details about each step that you need to know to get the best results possible.

Let’s get right into it!

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Step 1: Remove Loose Dirt and Dust

This first step is simple but no less important. It’s what sanding and primer are to a freshly painted wall—a great foundation.

There are two steps to removing dirt and dust from your tile floors: sweeping and vacuuming.

Sweep the entire area with a soft bristle broom. Soft-bristled brooms have flexible broom fibers that are gentle on tile surfaces. Even though most tile is tough, refrain from using straw brooms, or any other broom with stiff, coarse bristles.

You can use an angle or push broom, or one designed for smooth surfaces. I also recommend using a plastic dustpan as opposed to metal to avoid scratching the tile.

Plastic dust pan and soft bristle brush

After a thorough sweeping, follow up with a vacuum to capture any additional dirt or dust.

Canister vacuums are often the best choice for this job because they have special attachments for tile and other types of hard floors.

Plus, they often have smaller attachments that allow you to clean corners and other hard-to-reach areas.

Canister vacuum small attachment for tile floors

Avoid using an upright vacuum unless it is specifically designed to handle tile floors. Why? Because the beater bar (cylinder-shaped bar on most upright models) usually has coarse bristles that could cause damage to your floor.

If you don’t have a canister vacuum already, I highly recommend the Dyson Ball Multi-Floor. It’s a little pricey (see the current price on Amazon), but it’s super powerful and versatile; it works wonders on tile, hardwood, and carpet.

Here’s a look at my Dyson, which I’ve been enjoying for years.

Dyson Big Ball Multi Floor Canister Vacuum on a Tile Floor
Dyson Big Ball Multi Floor Canister Vacuum (see on Amazon)

If you already have an upright or canister vacuum at home, check to ensure it is designed for use on tile floors before use. If you can’t find the product information, you can usually get from the manufacturer’s website or by calling their customer service line.

Step 2: Identify the Type of Tile

Knowing the type of tile you have will help you choose the appropriate cleaning products and techniques.

A good, multi-purpose cleaner for tile floors is Bona Stone, Tile & Laminate Floor Cleaner (see on Amazon).

Bona Tile Cleaner

It’s formulated to handle tiles made from stone, terrazzo, sealed porous marble, laminate, luxury vinyl (LVT), ceramic, quarry, and Mexican Saltillo.

It’s also convenient because you can just spray it on the tile and mop it up without using a bucket, measuring or mixing.

Below, I’ve listed a few common types of tile floors and special considerations for each:

Ceramic

Ceramic tiles are made from natural ingredients such as clay and sand. They can be glazed (shiny, protective coating) or unglazed (matte finish).

For glazed ceramic tiles, add a mild detergent, such as Dawn, Palmolive, Ivory, or eco-friendly dish soap, to warm water.

For unglazed ceramic tiles, you can use the same mixture of mild soap and warm water, but also add a teaspoon of white or cleaning vinegar. The vinegar will help remove soapy residue from unglazed tiles that would more readily be repelled by glazed tiles.

Porcelain

Porcelain tiles also come in glazed and unglazed styles. Soap is not necessary for either style. You can clean unglazed tiles with a solution of white or cleaning vinegar and warm water.

Slate

You can wash slate tile floors with warm water and mild detergent. Avoid using anything acidic such as vinegar or lemon.

Limestone, Granite, and Marble

Don’t use acidic elements such as vinegar or any type of chemical on limestone, granite, or marble tiles. Choose hot water and a spray product designed for these types of floors.

You’ll want a streak-free mild cleaner that is pH-neutral and won’t discolor your tiles such as Granite Gold (see on Amazon) or Weiman Granite Cleaner and Polish (see on Amazon).

Glass

If you have glass tile floors, you can use an all-purpose cleaner such as Spic and Span All-Purpose Spray & Glass Cleaner (see on Amazon) and then use a clean, lint-free cloth to buff away streaks. You can also use white or cleaning vinegar and warm water.

Homemade Cleaning Solutions

To recap, you can use homemade solutions that contain white or cleaning vinegar on ceramic, porcelain, or glass tiles. When using vinegar, remember that a little goes a long way. A good ratio is ½ cup of vinegar to one gallon of warm water.

If you wish to use bleach, you must use it on a non-porous tile such as glazed ceramic, vinyl, or linoleum. You can add ¾ cup of bleach to one gallon of water. Never use one stone or marble because it will seep below the surface a ruin your tile.

And remember, if you aren’t sure about a product, homemade or commercial, always test a small area that is out of sight first.

Step 3: Clean Grout Lines

Grout is extremely porous. It absorbs everything. It’s a magnet for grease, grime, and dirt.

Dirty grout lines

Sometimes grout gets dirty because it has never been sealed, or the sealant has gradually worn out. Whatever the reason, you can use a few simple techniques for getting it clean.

First, you’ll need a stiff-bristled, handheld brush like this one on Amazon. Look for one that preferably has nylon bristles. Be gentle when scrubbing, too much force can damage your grout.

Cleaning grout is a job that requires you to get on the floor, so make sure you are as comfortable as possible. It might be worth spending a few dollars on a thick knee pad, especially if you have a lot of tile flooring in your home.

Here are several techniques for cleaning grout recommended by Bob Vila, a trusted authority on home improvement.

These techniques are in order from mildest to strongest, so you might want to start mild to see if it cleans your grout and then ramp it up based on the results:

  • Water: Spray warm water on the grout and scrub gently with a stiff-bristle brush or firm toothbrush just wide enough for the grout lines. Rinse with clean, warm water. This technique should be suitable for all types of tile.
  • Vinegar and water: Add equal parts of white or cleaning vinegar and warm water to a spray bottle. Concentrate the spray on the grout line, let it sit for five minutes, and then scrub. Rinse thoroughly with clean, warm water. Never use vinegar near stone tile such as slate, granite, marble, soapstone, or limestone.
  • Baking soda paste and vinegar: Make a paste with baking soda and water and cover the grout lines. Then spray with a solution of half water and half vinegar. Once it stops foaming, scrub and rinse with warm, clean water. Never use vinegar near stone tile such as slate, granite, marble, soapstone, or limestone.
  • Hydrogen peroxide: You can apply this directly on the grout or make a paste with baking soda. This technique should be suitable for all types of tile.
  • Oxygen bleach: You can make a paste with water and oxygen bleach, such as OxiClean or sodium percarbonate, and apply it to the grout lines. Let it sit for 15 minutes and then scrub for tough stains and then rinse with clean, warm water. This technique is suitable for all types of tile.

You can also use a grout cleaning product specifically designed for your floor type. In general, look for one that is neutral (pH of 7) and does not use harsh chemicals. Also, stay away from products that use dyes as they may change the color of your grout.

If your back and knees are hurting after this step, keep these preventative tips in mind.

  • Avoid using sponge mops when cleaning your tile. The sponge can absorb dirty water and help push dirt deep into the grout. Instead, use a lint-free cleaning cloth or flat mop.
  • As you are mopping, change out dirty water often.
  • Reseal your grout as needed (learn how).

Step 4: Remove Stubborn Stains

If you have a stubborn stain on your tile from paint, oil, wax, or even waste from your pets, attend to it as soon as possible for the best chance at removal.

Sometimes an all-purpose cleaner will do the trick, but depending on the type of tile, you must be careful.

One wonder-working cleaner is hydrogen peroxide, which plays well with all types of tile. It’s worth trying if you have a stain from coffee, tea, juice, ink, magic marker, or foods like beets or pomegranates. After cleaning the surface of the stained tile, simply blot (don’t wipe) the stain with hydrogen peroxide and a lint-free cloth.

If you have an oil-based stain from foods or paints, try flushing it with club soda and rinsing with water, first. You may also try a liquid cleanser with bleach, ammonia, mineral spirits, or acetone. Never mix bleach and ammonia, as it creates a lethal gas. Choose one or the other, use a gentle blotting technique, and flush with clean water.

For an iron or rust stain, use a poultice. A poultice is a paste made with an absorbent, white material such as baking soda, or diatomaceous earth, and a liquid cleaning agent. When mixed to form a paste, the cleaning agent will draw the stain into the white substance. You can also use white cotton or gauze. Sometimes a poultice needs 24 hours to be effective.

For small paint stains, you can use lacquer thinner to weaken it and scrape it off gently with a razor. For more significant stains, you’ll likely need a heavy-duty paint thinner or stripper. Protect your hands, eyes, nose, and mouth when working with such chemicals. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and test a small area first to see how it will affect the tile.

In some cases, especially when it comes to rust, you may need to call a professional. Some stains are tough to eliminate with DIY methods.

Note: If you have a stain that you can remove yourself, get help from local pros on HomeAdvisor.com. All you have to do is enter your location, describe your issue, and you’ll receive several no-obligation quotes.

Step 5: Mop the Floor

Believe it or not, the type of mop matters.

Avoid sponge mops because they absorb dirty water and redistribute it to the tile and grout.

Instead, select a microfiber, chamois-style mop, flat mop, rag, or even using a soft, lint-free cloth on your hands and knees for best results.

I highly recommend the Bona Spray Mop (see on Amazon), which allows you to store and sprays the cleaning solution as you go.

Mopping Technique

If you’re using warm water and mild soap or a special cleaning solution (based on the type of tile) in a bucket, be sure to change out the water frequently. Pushing dirty water around defeats the purpose and will make your tile appear cloudy.

If you’re using a spray cleaner (like Bona), do not over-wet the floor. Clean and spray your floor by sections and rinse with warm water, if needed.

If you see a haze or film on your tiles after mopping, you may need to flush with water again or use an all-purpose cleaner safe for your type of flooring.

As you mop, use a gentle back and forth motion. You can start in one corner and work backward to the other side of the room to avoid walking on a freshly mopped area. You can also wear disposable booties on your shoes to prevent tracking dirt as you clean.

Using a Steamer to Deep Clean Tile Floors

You can use a steam cleaner to deep clean tile floors, but there are a few things to consider:

  • How sturdy is your grout? If your grout is not sealed, has a weak seal or is crumbling, pass on a steam cleaning to avoid further damage. If your grout is in good shape, you can use a steam cleaner with a nozzle for targeting grout like this one on Amazon.
  • What type of tile floor do you have? If you have laminate tile, leave the steamer alone. It can cause the tiles to bubble and warp because of the moisture. If you have stone tile, take it easy with the steam because its porous nature may cause it to retain moisture. If you have glazed ceramic or porcelain tile, a steamer is a great choice.

The bottom line—you don’t need to use a steamer to get good results, but if you have heavily soiled floors, your grout is in good shape, and your tile isn’t made of stone, steaming can be a good option.

Step 6: Dry the Floor

Once you’ve finished mopping or wiping down your floor, you’ll want to take measures to dry it.

Allowing it to air dry on its own could cause water spots and streaks. Also, the grout will absorb sitting water, causing it to expand and crack over time.

Immediately after washing, use a lint-free cloth to dry and buff the floor. You can use your foot to slide the cloth over the tiles, using a back and forth or circular motion until your entire floor is dry.

Frequency: How Often Should You Deep Clean Tile Floors?

Setting a cleaning schedule and following it will keep your floors fresh and make the once-in-awhile deep cleaning much more manageable. If you stay on track and apply these steps, your floors will look like new for many years.

Here is a basic plan for maintaining your tile floors:

  • Every Day: Sweep your tile floors at the end of each day (ok, every few days) with an angle broom with soft bristles.
  • Every Week: Vacuum your tile floors to capture any debris you missed with daily sweeping. Be sure to use a vacuum that is safe for your tile. Mop the tile in your bathroom to cut down on germs.
  • Every Two Weeks: Mop the tile in your kitchen, hallways, mudroom, or any other high-traffic area.
  • Every Month: Deep clean the tile and grout. If needed, steam clean your glazed porcelain or ceramic tile.
  • Every Year: Check your grout to see if it needs resealing.

Helpful Resource: If you’re looking for tools to manage your household responsibilities, you’ll LOVE our House Cleaning Checklist. It outlines every cleaning task, room-by-room, that you should complete on a weekly, monthly, and annual basis. The best part; it’s completely free, and you can edit the Excel version to customize it for your unique household.

Final Thoughts

The idea of deep cleaning your tile floors might seem daunting, but it’s really not difficult at all.

All you have to do is follow a handful of key practices.

Know Your Tile: Each type of tile requires special attention. Find out exactly what your tile is made of so you can avoid products or cleaning techniques that will cause damage.

Don’t Use Abrasive Tools or Products: Use soft bristle brooms for daily sweeping and stiff bristle, nylon brushes for scrubbing grout. Never use steel wool or any other kind of rough material to clean your tile, and avoid harsh chemical formulas.

Be Gentle: When scrubbing grout, attending to stains, or even mopping, use a gentle hand. Despite its durability, tile is not indestructible. 

Steam When Necessary: If you have glazed ceramic or porcelain tile, steam cleaning is a great option, but not so much with unglazed or stone tiles. Avoid steam cleaning if your grout is not sealed or loose, as it may further degrade the stability of the surrounding tiles.

Clean Up Stains Right Away: Attack stains before they set in. The longer you wait, the more difficult they will be to clean. 

Use the Right Mop: Avoid using sponge mops as they tend to push around dirt and drive it deep into grout lines. Choose a chamois-style mop or a microfiber, rag, or flat mop for best results.

Change Your Water: If you are using a bucket of warm water and mild detergent or cleanser, change the water when it gets dirty.

Dry Floors After Mopping: Don’t allow water to pool or sit. It will cause water stains and streaks. It can also seep down into unsealed grouts and cause moisture issues such as mold. Use a dry, lint-free cloth or dry and buff the floors.

Follow a Cleaning Schedule: Take steps daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly to keep your floors looking their best. A little maintenance here and there goes a long way in the long run.

Do you know of any better methods for deep cleaning tile floors? Have you tried any products that work well? Share your experiences and pass on your tips and tricks in the comments below.

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