How To Clean A Saltillo Tile Floor

Saltillo Tile Cleaning Tips

By Troy Cantini

Saltillo tiles are extremely soft and porous making them extremely difficult to clean and maintain.  Saltillo tiles often have topical sealers applied to them which also makes them more difficult to clean. The condition of the sealer is in many cases the key to how clean the saltillo tiles will look after cleaning them. Regardless of whether a topical sealer has been applied an alkaline cleaner is best suited for cleaning saltillo tiles.

before and after cleaning a saltillo tile floor

Before cleaning Saltillo tiles you should try to determine if there has been a topical sealer applied to the tiles.  You can usually look at the surface of the tiles and grout lines and see if a clear glossy sealer has been applied. Also if water beads on the surface of the tiles then there has probably been a topical sealer applied. If there has been a topical sealer applied you will be basically cleaning the surface of the topical sealer. If you see that the alkaline cleaner is not effectively cleaning the topical sealer then you may be required to strip the sealer off the saltillo tiles.

You should mix the alkaline cleaning solution with hot water and pour it directly on the Saltillo tile floor. You should allow the alkaline cleaner to dwell on the tiles for about 15 minutes to loosen up the dirt and grime. You should not allow the alkaline cleaning solution to dry on the Saltillo tiles so you will need to continually apply the cleaner to the tile floor while the Saltillo tiles are being cleaned. If the Saltillo tiles have never been sealed then they will soak up lots of cleaning solution so keep adding cleaning solution as needed to keep the tiles saturated for the 15 minute dwell time.

cleaning saltillo tiles with alkaline cleaner

You should scrub the Saltillo tiles and grout with an aggressive scrub pad or scrub brush while the alkaline cleaner is breaking down the dirt and grime.  Aggressive scrub pads and aggressive scrub brushes can be used on Saltillo without scratching the tiles. After you have scrubbed away all of the dirt and grime then you should thoroughly rinse the tiles and grout to remove all traces of the cleaning solution. A mop and bucket of hot water works well for rinsing a Saltillo tile floor. A shop vac can also be used to extract the dirty cleaning solution off of the Saltillo tiles and grout.

If you see that the tiles are clean but the grout still looks stained then an acidic cleaner can be used to remove the difficult to remove stains in the grout lines.  You can pour an acidic tile cleaning solution directly on the tiles and grout and you should see a fizz effect as the acidic cleaner reacts with the grout. An aggressive scrub pad can then be used to scrub the grout lines to restore the grout lines to like new condition.

clean looking saltillo tile floor

Cleaning Saltillo tiles that have been sealed with a topical sealer is typically more difficult than cleaning unsealed Saltillo.  When cleaning sealed Saltillo tiles you are in effect cleaning the surface of the topical sealer. If you allow a strong alkaline cleaner to dwell on the surface of the tiles for too long you can start to break down and mar the look of the topical sealer.

For this reason you should thoroughly dilute the alkaline cleaner and gently scrub the sealed tiles with a soft scrub pad.  A soft scrub pad should be used so that you do not scratch the surface of the topical sealer. You want to only slightly soften the topical sealer so that the embedded dirt and grime can be removed without marring the finish of topical sealer.

After cleaning the sealed tiles then thoroughly rinse the tiles so that the softened up topical sealer can re-harden and look clean and new again.  In many cases the topical sealer will have embedded dirt and grime in it that can not be removed with a normal cleaning procedure. An acidic cleaner will do nothing to further clean sealed Saltillo tiles with embedded dirt and grime in them. In these cases the topical sealer has to be stripped and removed for the tiles to look clean and new again.

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