How to Maintain Stone Tile

Residential Stone Tile Maintenance


General Instructions

  • Maintenance Required.  Growing technology has enhanced the durability of flooring products immensely. Yet, our fast-paced world still renders a lot of wear on our floors from spills to the family pet or foot traffic. Regular maintenance and preventative measures can significantly prolong the new look of your important investment.
  • Supremacy of Manufacturer.  The following information is the accumulation of many years of experience, the guidelines of regulatory flooring agencies, and the instructions provided by the leading manufacturers of flooring products. The manufacturer of your flooring product may have unique guidelines that should be given seniority over the general advice given by Wolfe Flooring.
  • Documents and Samples.  Retain the sales receipt and any product description from the purchase of the goods. If possible, document the manufacturer’s name and the manufacturer’s full product description, including color. Furthermore, retain a sample of the stone for comparisons. For insurance purposes, it is prudent to safely store a photograph of your new product.
  • Not Initial Care.  The following guidelines are for regular maintenance, not initial care. Most likely, the initial care that your flooring needs is different than regular maintenance. Generally, new flooring products need about 12 to 72 hours after the installation before they are ready for furniture, regular foot traffic, or cleaning of the grout lines, etc. while the setting material cures.
  • Generic Intent.  These instructions are for normal stone tile in common environments. Techniques, products, etc. change and some situations are very unique; thus, Wolfe Flooring assumes no liability for omissions, errors, or outcomes. These instructions may not apply to special situations (e.g., historic stone floors). You’re welcome to call us for a specific professional address of your situation. Please exercise general caution implementing any of the following guidelines.
  • Education.  Read the manufacturer’s instructions. Print these instructions as needed.
  • Extra Materials & Storing.  Retain extra ston and grout for the possibility of future repairs. Keep your extra materials (a.k.a., attic stock) in a dry place. Humidity can damage setting materials and grouts. Store your tile on a flat surface. Do not stack more than five boxes high. Do not store your stone in a place subject to freezing temperatures.
  • Entrances.  Keep the outside entrance areas (e.g., sidewalk, porches, driveway) free of sand and debris. Non-staining walk-off mats (avoid rubber mats) and budget-friendly entry rugs are strongly recommended at your home’s entryways (both inside and outside) to catch most of the soiling. Use mats at the entrances to a kitchen. The mass majority of the soil and grit that will fall into the room will do so in the first six feet of the entrances. Transitional mats should be cleaned recurrently; otherwise, the mats will accelerate the soiling.  Read a blog article on an overall strategy.
  • Rugs and Underlayments.  Area rugs are very helpful in places of high activity (e.g., in front of the kitchen sink) and at pivot-points (e.g., a hallway intersection) to avoid the apparent traffic patterns. Never allow moisture to become trapped under your rug. Use non-slip underlayments under rugs to prevent possible dye transfer and to prevent the rug from sliding or “walking.” Small rugs are especially prone to slip on smooth stone. The grip that is provided by a non-slip underlayment can prevent a nasty fall. Underlayment also benefits by absorbing a portion of the impact of each footstep, which means that underlayment helps the rug experience less crushing.
  • Sweep or Vacuum.  Sweep or dust-mop your stone flooring once per day or every few days. You can also use a vacuum cleaner without a beater bar. Sand and grit are among the greatest enemies against your stone's sheen and will act as abrasives to scratch and dull the finish.
  • Mop.  Sweep the dry particulate before mopping. Damp-mop your stone tile floor with water. Residential properties may have to damp-mop once or twice per week. Hot water will clean better than cold water, but water alone will suffice in most cases. Cleaners will degrade your sealer. Do not use vinegar, scouring powders, oil-based cleaners, acid-based cleaners, soapy cleaners, tub cleaners, ceramic tile cleaners, or bathroom cleaners. Acid can dull or etch the surface of stone floors. Be very careful when using any over-the-counter stone cleaner to confirm that the cleaner is for the particular type of stone that you own. Test the product in an inconspicuous area. If you use a cleaning product, be careful to remove any residue. Replace your mop water frequently to avoid an unsightly residue. Dirty mop water will settle into and discolor your grout lines and into the surface of some stone floors. Remember that stone is naturally porous to varying degrees depending upon the type of stone.
  • Soiling, Stains, Spills, and More.  See our Stone Spot Cleaning Guidelines.
  • Keep Dry.  Keep your stone floor dry, unless the tile is intended for a designated wet space (e.g., poolside patio). (Stone tile in a designated wet area should have a higher friction coefficient [i.e., more surface grip].) Wet stone presents the risk for (1) slipping and (2) mold or mildew. Be especially mindful of walk-off moisture or drips when weather conditions outside are wet or snowy. For safety, immediately dry-mop or use towels to wipe the floor dry. Fans will accelerate drying. Warm air is more effective than cold air to dry up moisture.
  • Mechanical Cleaning.  Have your stone and grout mechanically cleaned when mopping does not remove discoloration. (Stone and grout next to the walls will typically retain an original color for your comparison.) The average residential stone tile needs to be mechanically cleaned about once every two to three years. Homes with small children may need mechanical cleaning about once per year. You may elect to pressure clean or scrub your stone floor. Unfilled, naturally cleft, split face, or textured surfaces are more suitably pressure cleaned with water only or cleaned with a long-bristle brush. A pad will not adequately contour to surface irregularities. If you elect to use pressure cleaning, the water pressure should be carefully regulated (likely between 800 to 1,000 PSI). Some stones are softer than ceramic, and excessive pressure may remove grout or loose filler or damage the stone. Scrubbing the floor can be done (in a small area) with a sponge, with a deck scrub brush with soft bristles, or with a rotary machine. For mechanical scrubbing, use a cotton bonnet pad or a 3M™ General Purpose Floor Brush 53 with 1-inch, 22-gauge nylon bristles or a brush with equal or less abrasiveness. (NOTE: The General Purpose Floor Brush 53 is not intended for polished or honed marble or other soft stones.) Combine the pad or brush with a low-speed rotary machine (spinning at about 175 to 300 RPM). Use a stone soap or a neutral cleaner of 7 pH (e.g., Ivory Liquid Dish Detergent [7.4 pH]) with warm water for accumulated dirt or oily residues. (Higher temperatures are more effective at breaking down oils and soiling.) Work in small sections (100 to 200 SF). Do not leave a residue of cleaner on your stone flooring. Rinse the floor with clean, cold water. Then, again, dry-mop the excess moisture. Dried water spots on a polished surface will be unsightly. The floor may become dull (1) if left with a residue, (2) if scrubbed with an abrasive brush or pad, or (3) if exposed to an acid cleaner, a high alkaline cleaner, or a solvent or corrosive agent. The final step, if needed, is to reseal the stone with the appropriate sealer.
  • Spray-buff.  Topical sealers are applied by a spray-buff method. A topical sealer can alter the surface's grip and appearance. A topical sealer may or may not be the best choice for your flooring. (Read the section Sealers, Finishes, Enhancers, and Hardeners to understand more.)
  • Restoration.  After accumulated wear by scratching and etching, the limited benefits of cleaning and sealing are insufficient to restore the luster. Your stone may need to be restored by polishing. As with sealing, you need to know your (1) type of stone (e.g., granite, marble, etc.) and (2) type of finishing texture (i.e., rough, honed, or polished). Stones vary by porosity, mineral composition, and hardness. A rough finishing texture is not designed for honing or polishing. Assuming that your stone is eligible for honing or polishing, purchase a honing cream or a polishing cream for your siliceous stone (e.g., granite, quartzite, slate, or soapstone) or your calcareous stone (e.g., marble, travertine, limestone, or onyx). Remember that honing powders or compounds are not engineered to created the highly specular reflective surface of a polishing compound. Also, understand that a marble polish is not engineered to polish granite. Start by protecting baseboards and surrounding surfaces. Thoroughly sweep, clean, and remove any old wax, sealer, or finish coatings. (See Mechanical Cleaning instructions.) The manufacturer of the honing compound or the polishing compound should specify the pad type and machine type. Generally, expect to use a 3M™ Natural Blend White Pad 3300 or 3M™ Natural Blend Tan Pad 3500 combined with a rotary machine spinning at about 175 to 300 RPM. The compound instructions will direct you to use a dry-polish or wet-polish method. Work in 3-foot by 3-foot sections, and overlap sections to achieve an even finish. Use a timer to govern our consistency. More time polishing is required for (1) a harder stone (e.g., granite or quartzite), (2) a surface with more scratches or etching, or (3) a higher reflective polish. (NOTE: The higher the specular reflection, the more readily the surface will show scratches.) Use a mop or wet-dry vacuum to rinse and remove slurry residue. Polish dry with a new cotton bonnet pad. If your stone is severely damaged, professional resurfacing may be required.
  • Sealers, Finishes, Enhancers, and Hardeners.  Grouts and stones, porous to various degrees, can absorb stains just as they absorb moisture. Coffee, oil, and a host of other products can create permanent stains. Stone is also vulnerable to etching by acids or discolorations by strong alkalines and solvents. When the stone is new or has been professionally cleaned, apply an appropriate sealer to protect against stains and etching. In brief, sealers are classified as penetrating or topical. Generally, penetrating sealers provide better performance at a higher cost than topical sealers. Topical sealers are formulated using wax, polymer, or acrylic. Penetrating sealers are commonly water-based or solvent-based. One-step sealers are available from no-sheen (i.e., natural) to high-sheen finishes. Enhancers (to darken and enrich color) and hardeners (to add finish durability) are also available. Select a product that is suitable for your stone's porosity, sealing history, and interior or exterior application. Multiple applications of the sealer may be required for full protection. (NOTE: Stone on the floor may need a different sealer than stone on the counter.)
  • Mold.  Kill mold or mildew with Lysol Disinfectant Spray (10.8 - 11.8 pH) or Clorox Bleach (~11.9 pH). If you use bleach, create a mixture of bleach and water (1:15 ratio or 4 ounces of bleach for 60 ounces of water). Rinse the bleach residue off when you’re finished. Warm, dark, and humid environments accelerate mold. So, suppress the growth of mildew by keeping the area cold, well lit, and dry. You may want to consider using a squeegee or towel to dry the surface quickly and using a fan to circulate the air.   CAUTION:  Some over-the-counter mold removers will damage your stone.
  • Repairs.  Tend to repairs immediately to limit exposure and to keep repair expenses as low as possible. Place a caution sign on or near a damaged area if a tripping hazard develops. Place painters’ blue tape or a mat over a transition or flooring that is loose. Retain a piece of grout if the grout breaks free for color matching. Stone with a chip or a crack needs to be repaired with filler or by tile replacement. Cracks that run in a general line often indicate a slab crack. A travertine repair kit might be used to resolve the problem if the stone is travertine and the crack or chip is small.
  • Furniture Placement.  Relocate furniture occasionally to distribute traffic patterns.
  • Furniture Legs.  Stone tile can tolerate a limited amount of pressure per square inch (PSI). Prevent chips, cracks, and shattering due to heavy weight concentrated upon the legs of furniture by using casters with a flat undersurface made of wood or hard plastic. A caster should be no less than 4 inches in diameter, depending upon the weight of the object. A wide caster will disperse the weight of the furniture better than a narrow caster. Avoid heavy furniture with ball-type casters which concentrate the PSI. Use felt or Teflon pad protectors on the bottom of furniture that is moved frequently. Change your furniture pads periodically. Metal tabs on the bottom of furniture can scratch some stone tiles.
  • Chair Mats.  Chair pads are required under desk chairs with metal bottoms to preserve appearance. Chair pads may be required under roller casters to enable a chair to smoothly roll over the grout lines. The width and depth of the grout lines combined with the smoothness of the stone’s surface determines the thickness and rigidity needed in the chair mat. Stone tile with a smooth surface needs a mat of 110 mils (0.11″) thickness. Stone tile with an irregular surface needs a mat of 170 mil (0.17″) thickness. Purchase a mat with a felt or smooth bottom (i.e., no cleats). Add a thin underlayment under the chair mat if the mat will not remain stationary, if the mat is too noisy, or the stone has an irregular texture. Do not permit sand to remain under a mat.
  • Moving Furniture and Heavy Equipment.  Sliding or dragging furniture or equipment over your stone may scratch or chip the surface. This advice is especially important if your tile has a high-gloss surface or the grout lines are deep. Rolling a heavy load (i.e., a load that exceeds the PSI weight limit) over your stone may crack or shatter your tile. Appliances and pianos present risks. At a minimum, use 1/4-inch hardboard runways.  See our expanded guide, How to Protect Flooring, to learn more.  The Plywood and Masonite section and the Moving Tools section are most applicable.
  • General Renovations, Painting, or Major Events.  If you will be renovating, painting, moving in or out, etc., then read our guide, How to Protect Flooring.
  • Pets.  As with humans, pets can track in dirt, mud, etc., so attempt to keep your pet's paws clean. Keep your pet's nails trimmed so that its nails do not scratch the surface of your stone flooring. Finally, address urine and other accidents as quickly as possible. The type of stone and how your stone was sealed will determine the stone's vulnerability to urine. Assume that your stone is very vulnerable unless known otherwise. The grout lines are commonly vulnerable and will absorb urine. First, clean with a dry towel, mop, or sponge. Then, wipe multiple times with a towel dampened by cold water. Wipe your floor dry once more.
  • Plants.  Do not set a potted plant directly on your stone flooring. Excess moisture migrating from the plant may ruin the floor. Place a waterproof tray underneath.
  • Temperature.  A steady temperature is best for all flooring products. Maintain temperatures between 65°F and 85°F to avoid substantial contraction or expansion. Stone possesses a high tolerance for heat. Stone is subject to cracking if the tile freezes. Cold temperatures will make the stone contract. Hot temperatures will make the tile expand. Regular fluctuations between the stone, the setting material, and the substrate can cause the stone to release from the substrate.
  • Heat.  If you have a radiant floor heating system, be cautious to not exceed the limit established by your manufacturer. Do not make rapid changes in temperature, which can cause a bonding failure or cause tiles to crack.
  • Sunlight.  Deflect direct sunlight away from stone to prevent discoloration if your stone has a topical sealer.
  • HVAC.  Change the filters in your air conditioning system regularly to minimize pollen and other airborne particulate.
Read:  Spot Cleaning Guidelines.