CALL US 1300 265 678

Cleaning Advice

Thank you for choosing ColorTile. Whether you have purchased floor tiles, wall tiles, ceramic tiles or another product from our bathroom, kitchen or outdoor range, we would like to offer you guidelines to help you make the most of your investment.

You may also download this information as a PDF

Basic Rules and Recommendations
  1. Whatever method is chosen, remember the three golden rules of cleaning:
    Rule A: Try a small inconspicuous area first.
    Rule B: Rinse off well with clean water afterwards.
    Rule C: Avoid using highly concentrated cleaning products for prolonged periods of time.
  2. The sooner the cleaning is carried out, the easier the stain can be removed.
  3. Protect the floor if decorating, construction or overhead work is taking place.
  4. Locations which are permanently wet (e.g. swimming pools, showers etc.) may attract a build up of body fat, oils, soap residue, hard water deposits and in humid conditions organic growth (algae). To remove this, a more acidic cleaning agent used regularly is preferable because alkaline cleaners can react with body fats to make surfaces slippery. A plastic scouring pad is the most useful device for this type of cleaning. Before using these products, get professional written advice from the chemical manufacturer as to the suitability, application and frequency of use of their product on fully vitrified porcelain tiles.
  5. Powder cleaners should not be used as undissolved particles may remain and develop a haze distracting from the natural beauty of the tiles.
  6. Steel wool pads should not be used as they leave steel particles, which may later rust leaving brown stains.
  7. One source of problems with unglazed tiles comes from regular cleaning using an alkaline detergent with a pH greater than 9, which have a high concentration of sodium or potassium hydroxide. These should not be used unless the residue can be neutralised and thoroughly rinsed away with clean water, as this reaction can cause a glossy and potentially slippery surface.
  8. The pH of the material is the measure of acidity or alkalinity. It is a logarithmic scale with pH 7 as the neutral point. Below pH 7, the material becomes progressively more acidic, and above pH 7 more alkaline (i.e. pH 8 is 10 x more alkaline than pH 7).
  9. The regular use of detergents and other cleaning agents which are excessively acidic or alkaline, and contain an excess of sodium or potassium hydroxide can cause irreversible damage to the tile surface. It is important to note that acidity is less damaging than alkalinity. All products used must be recommended by the chemical manufacturer.
  10. Degreasing agents containing wax, sodium, silicate or other additives which leave a sticky deposit on the floor, and thus retain dirt on the surface, must also be avoided. Like any material, tiles tend to become slippery when wet. We recommend that care be taken to keep the surface dry.
  11. The Australian Standard for tiles which are suitable for use in wet areas of commercial amenities must meet the coefficient of friction test of at least R10.
  12. Please always refer to the chemical manufacturer’s instructions when using any cleaning agent. If you need more information about the use of cleaning products and the manufacturing agents in your state, please contact the Technical Services Department of the chemical manufacturer.
  13. Detergents build up with prolonged use and if not properly rinsed will hold in dirt, making the tiles slippery and dirty.
  14. Signage must be adequately displayed when cleaning tiles to warn the public or other users of the area that the tiles are wet, and care should be taken. Before using these products, get professional written advice from the chemical manufacturer as to the suitability, application and frequency of use of the product on fully vitrified porcelain tiles.
Cleaning after Installation

Initial cleaning after the tiles have been laid and grouted is essential; they must be thoroughly cleaned of all cement and grout residues, silicone leaching and soils after a few days with a neutral cleaning solution. An acidic cleaning solution should not be used until the flooring itself and the joints have completely cured, usually 7 to 10 days after installation.

  1. Operate in 10m2 sections to ensure greater control over the finished result.
  2. Sweep floor to remove all loose debris.
  3. Saturate the grout joints with water.
  4. Dilute phosphoric acid cleaner with warm to hot water, according to chemical manufacturer’s instructions and apply solution to the floor to be cleaned. Allow solution to work on the tiles for 5-6 minutes to break down excess grout, dirt and grease on the tile surface.

    Do not allow the solution to dry – add more water if necessary.

  5. Scrub tiles with a brush or mechanical scrubbing machine (ensure the suction facility is switched off) to lift the dirt.
  6. Remove dirt with a wet vacuum cleaner or scrubbing machine (suction facility switched on).
  7. Re pass again with cleaning solution if necessary.
  8. Finally, before allowing the area to dry, rinse thoroughly several times, with cold clean water, agitating with the scrubbing brush or with the scrubbing machine (ensure the suction facility is switched off) to ensure complete removal before using a wet-vac to remove excess water from the surface.

    NOTE: If the surface is inadequately rinsed or dried before rinsing, an off white deposit or precipitate may be left on the tile which will become more difficult to remove than the original deposit.

  9. Dilute cleaning detergent in warm water according to the chemical manufacturer’s instructions for high concentrations, and then apply the solution using a mechanical scrubbing machine (ensure the suction facility is switched off) or manually with a heavy scrubbing brush. The water/detergent mixture must be allowed to remain on the floor for sufficient time (5-15 minutes) to allow it to penetrate and emulsify the dirt. It is important that the cleaning detergent is completely removed by a final rinsing with clean water. Remove excess water from the surface with a wet-vac or mechanical scrubbing machine (ensure the drying facility is switched on) as it is the rinsing process that removes the dirt.

  10. Repeat procedure (9) weekly or as required to prevent soil build up on the tiles.
  11. Dilute cleaning detergent in warm water according to chemical manufacturer’s instructions for lower concentration, and apply the solution using a mechanical scrubbing machine or manually with a clean mop and bucket. It is important that the cleaning detergent is completely removed either by a final rinsing with clean water or by the squeegee vacuum action of a mechanical cleaner.
  12. Spillage of oil, fat or material likely to stain or cause a slipping hazard should be removed immediately by using detergent and hot water, followed by rinsing with clean water.
Cleaning Products

1. Phosphoric acid cleaner

This is a phosphoric based acid cleaner containing detergent properties for the removal of excess grout and cement smears. It is usually used diluted with water in a ration of 1 part acid to 10 parts water for final clean up of excess grout from tiles.

NOTE: Acid cleaner must be handled with care and protective clothing and goggles must be worn. Read safety instructions before opening and applying.

2. Sodium bicarbonate

A 5-10% solution may be used to neutralise the acids used in grout removal. After reacting, the materials should be washed off with copious amount of water.

3. Cleaning detergents

These vary depending upon the application, as follows:

3.1 Post phosphoric acid cleaner
To clean up after phosphoric acid, the most suitable treatment is a neutral to slightly alkaline cleanser pH 7 to 9, designed to neutralise the phosphoric acid and maintain tiles in a clean condition.

3.2 Daily cleaning
For daily cleaning, a detergent with a pH in the range of 7-9 should be used.

3.3 Heavy cleaning
For heavy cleaning, an organic acid cleaner with no mineral acid content and a pH of 2, or an alkaline cleaner with a pH of up to 11 may be used. This is provided its sodium or potassium hydroxide content is no more than 0.01% in the liquid used.

3.4 Heavy duty scrubbing
For heavy duty scrubbing of small areas, higher alkaline cleaners up to pH 13.5 may be used provided the sodium or potassium hydroxide content is less than 2% in the concentrate, and is diluted to at least 100:1 with water. Note however that this should be removed from the surface with copious quantities of water. This should not be used in routine daily maintenance as residual cleaner will attack the tile surface and cause the grout to blacken.

Before using these products (1, 2 & 3) get professional written advice from the chemical manufacturer as to the suitability, application and frequency of use of their product on fully vitrified porcelain tiles.

4. Water

Clean water is the big secret in cleaning; it should be used to flush all detergents and acids when cleaning.

4.1 Manual cleaning
Mop and bucket. Nylon or natural bristle scrubber.

4.2 Mechanical cleaning
Large areas of plain or textured surface tiles are most readily cleaned with rotary cylindrical or reversing mechanical scrubbing machines. The scrubbing machine speed ideally should be 150 to 250 rpm. Brushes should be selected so that they effectively clean the tiles but do not damage the tile surface in any way. Scrubbing machines should be provided with a suction drying facility.

4.3 High velocity water jets
High velocity water jets are sometimes available for general use and/or for removal of stubborn dirt. These will not damage the tiles, but may erode the grout in the joints if used regularly. Check with the equipment manufacturer before using. If oil or grease is present, use the jet with warm or hot water and with neutral detergent.

Glazed Tiles

When cleaning glazed tiles, a damp cloth is usually all it takes to bring back the gloss of the tiles. A routine clean with window cleaner may remove moderate stains and a stronger solution in necessary for heavily soiled surfaces. A mild solution of hot water and all purpose liquid cleaner or a soapless detergent is excellent for cleaning walls, floors and counter tops.

When cleaning it is important to remember:

Do not use powder based cleaners that may scratch the surface.

Do not use soap to clean, as it leaves a film which can dull the gloss of glazed tiles and also encourages the growth of bacteria and mould in damp areas.

All cleaning solution must be thoroughly removed from the tiles by rinsing with clean water.

To clean grouting, a plastic bristle brush is recommended. Steel wool pads should not be used as they leave steel particles, which may later rust leaving brown stains.

Due to the constant use of shower areas, tiles surfaces need a different cleaning procedure to remove the hard water deposits, soap scum and body oils that build up.

To avoid extra heavy cleaning, weekly cleaning is advised to maintain the level of hygiene and to remove dirt before it builds up into hard deposits. Routine build up can be removed with most all purpose cleaners, while hard water deposits can be eliminated by a solution of white vinegar and water. A plastic scouring pad is most useful for this kind of cleaning.

As shower recesses are damp by nature, bacteria and mould can develop when there is little ventilation. This can be removed by spraying or wiping with a chlorine bleach such as White King. This should be allowed to stand for 5 minutes and rinsed with clean-water. Caution should be taken when using bleach and it should never be mixed with ammonia.

Maintenance of Public Areas

Small areas

Small public areas such as lobbies and corridors can be easily cleaned by mopping daily with warm water and an all-purpose liquid cleaner that is either neutral or mildly alkaline, i.e. pH 7-9.

Large areas

Large public areas such as shopping centres, malls and auditoriums may be cleaned with self propelled scrubbing machines using the following suggestions:

1. For daily cleaning, a detergent with a pH of 7-9 should be used.

2. For heavy cleaning, an organic acid cleaner with a pH of around 2, and containing no mineral acids, should be used. Alternatively an alkaline cleaner with a pH of up to 11 may be used, provided its sodium or potassium hydroxide content is less than 0.01% when diluted. Both should be diluted with water as recommended by the chemical manufacturer. The cleaner should be liberally applied and quickly removed from the floor by squeegee and suction as recommended by the chemical manufacturer.

3. For heavy duty scrubbing of small areas, higher alkaline cleaners up to pH 13.5 may be used provided the sodium or potassium hydroxide content is less than 2% in the concentrate and is diluted to at least 100:1 with water. The solution should then be removed from the surface with copious quantities of water. This method should not be used daily as residual cleaner will attack the tile surface and cause the grout to blacken.

Before using these products (1, 2 & 3) get professional written advice from the chemical manufacturer as to the suitability, application and frequency of use of their product on fully vitrified porcelain tiles.

Natural Stone

Natural Stone Products should not be cleaned with acid or acid based industrial cleaners. It is recommended that you seek professional written advice from the chemical manufacturer as to the suitability, application and frequency of use of their product on Natural Stone.

It is recommended that Natural Stone products are sealed. ColorTile recommends that you seek professional advice on pre sealing and sealing aspects of Natural Stone.

Polished Tiles

When cleaning polished tiles it is recommended to sweep or vacuum the floor of all loose dirt, sand and other foreign materials prior to cleaning.

Mop the floor with a mild cleaning solution and water, using 50% less detergent concentrate than you would use on an unpolished floor.

Use a damp mop with clean water to remove any cleaning solution, then dry the floor thoroughly with a soft cloth or buffing pad to increase the shine and prevent water spots.

Tile Care
GroupStain typeRecommendation
Oil & greaseVegetable, Mineral, PetroleumAlkaline based detergent
Wax, RubberScrape off, then use solvent Turpentine followed by an alkaline based detergent
Lipstick, Shoe polishAlkaline based detergent
Paint (oil based), InkSolvent such as Turpentine or Thinner
MortarAcidic based detergent
Rust stainsDiluted hydrochloric acid or acidic based detergent
MarkerFelt penThinner
Methylene blueAlkaline based detergent
CrayonScrape off, then use solvent Turpentine followed by alkaline based detergent
Tile groutCementDiluted Hydrochloride acid
Latex or polymerSolvent such as Turpentine or Thinner
EpoxyScraper to scrape it off
Unpolished, Matte and Honed Tiles

When cleaning unpolished, matte or honed tiles, it is recommended to sweep or vacuum the floor of all loose dirt, sand and other foreign materials prior to cleaning. If there are contaminants on the surface of the tile that are difficult to remove, it is important to firstly identify the specific spill or contaminant, as different surface contaminants require different cleaning methods and chemicals. The general recommendations are:

saturate the floor with a mild cleaning solution and water, and allow it to stand for 5 – 10 minutes. Do not allow the cleaning solution to dry, and add more water if necessary. It may be best to complete small areas at a time.

Remove the dirty cleaning solution, rinse the surface with clean, clear water and buff with a dry mop or towel.

For contaminants that are difficult to remove, scrub the floor with a floor machine equipped with a nylon pad or bristle brush and cleaning solution. For residential applications and small areas, a hand brush or nylon pad can be used. Remove the dirty cleaning solution and rinse the surface with clean, clear water.

Powder cleaners should not be used as undissolved particles might remain and distract from the natural beauty of unglazed or terracotta tiles.