Ceramic Spot Cleaning Guidelines

Spot Cleaning Guidelines for Ceramic Tile

Following six basic guidelines will limit the potential damage to your ceramic.


First Guideline:  Timing.

Tend to debris, stains, and spills as quickly as possible.  Debris grind the surface and stains set harder with time.


Second Guideline:  Dry Debris.

Use a dry method of sweeping or vacuuming for dry debris (e.g., dirt, sand, ash, toner, or powder).  An early application of moisture on dry particulate may make the problem worse.


Third Guideline:  Liquids.

Blot or wet-vacuum liquids to avoid spreading the problem.  Only after you have extracted as much as possible by blotting or vacuuming should you potentially introduce a water or a liquid cleaner; otherwise, an early application of moisture may expand the problem wider.


Fourth Guideline:  Technique.

Use a (1) white, clean, absorbent towel or (2) a plastic nozzle on your vacuum.  The surface of some ceramics can become permanently scratched by using steel wool, a rough scouring pad, or a metal vacuum attachment.


Fifth Guideline:  Cleaning Agents.

Use a cleaning agent that is as mild as possible to ensure that your ceramic is not ruined by the cleaning agent.  Start with only tap water (which is almost a neutral 7.0 on the pH scale).  If water alone is insufficient, try a diluted, mild, alkaline cleaner (pH 7 to pH 10).  Consider Windex® Original or Glass Plus®.  Carefully follow the instructions if you use an over-the-counter tile cleaner.  Apply the cleaning agent to a white cloth. Then, use the cloth to remove the stain.


Sixth Guideline and Last Step:  Rinse.

When finished, leave the floor free of cleaner residue and as dry as possible by rinsing and again blotting with a dry towel.

NOTE:  It is likely that aggressive cleaning will remove a previously applied polish, wax, or topical finish (if present) and will require that the area be coated.

Remove Petroleum Byproducts

Use a glass cleaner, such as Windex® (pH 10.7) or Glass Plus® (pH 10.5), to remove petroleum-based problems or isolated, shoe scuff marks.  Petroleum byproducts include some inks, paints, markers, crayons, cosmetics, lipstick, lotion, sunscreen, furniture and shoe polish, lubricant, oil, grease, asphalt, and tar.  If glass cleaner does not work, use a clear solvent, like rubbing or isopropyl alcohol, mineral spirits, lighter fluid, or acetone (as found in fingernail polish).  Again, apply the solvent to a towel.  Then, use the towel on your ceramic tile.

CAUTION:  Solvent liquids are flammable.  A solvent can carry a stain deeper into an absorbent tile or the grout if allowed to absorb.

Remove Gum or Wax

First, use ice to harden the candle wax or gum.  Then, use the edge of a wooden, plastic, or Teflon spatula or a credit card to scrape off the gum or wax.  If hardening the gum or wax does not work, use warm water and liquid handsoap to remove the wax or gum.  Another alternative is to soften or emulsify the gum or wax using a cooking oil (coconut, olive, canola, or vegetable oil), an oily food (e.g., peanut butter or mayonnaise), or petroleum jelly (e.g., Vaseline®).  If you use an oil, use a mild detergent or Windex® or Glass Plus® to remove the oil residue.  Wax or gum can also be removed with a solvent, such as WD-40, adhesive remover, mineral spirits, or a citrus cleaner.  Do not allow your cleaning product to seep into the joints.

CAUTION:  Do not use oil-related products on absorbent tiles or grout lines.

Products with Risk

Although, most ceramic tiles (especially porcelain tiles) are hard to stain, the grout between the tiles is usually less resistant.  Some ceramics and grouts are vulnerable to janitorial chemicals and industrial products, including strong acids or alkalines, bleaching agents, acne medicine, food or hair dyes, solvents, pesticides, petroleum byproducts, and more.  Lime, calcium, and rust removal cleaners, such as Lime-A-Way® (pH 1), containing sulfamic acid and warn against use on colored grout.  Likewise, the same threat exists against porus ceramics (e.g., terra-cotta or Mexican saltillo tiles).


Read:  How to Maintain Commercial Ceramic Tile for general maintenance instructions. Read:  How to Maintain Residential Ceramic Tile for general maintenance instructions.