How to Clean Porcelain and Ceramic Tile So It Shines

a guide on how to make tile shine

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​Tile is a common and beautiful choice in homes all around the world. Used as as both flooring and for bathrooms, tile is highly durable and cleans up nicely. Over time, though, tile can begin to loose its shine. We walk through the steps on how to make tile shine again. 

​Know Your Tile

Before cleaning, you need to know the differences between different types of tile.

The most common two types of tile are porcelain or ceramic. While they may lookthe same, they require different treatments to keep them looking clean and new.

If you laid the tile yourself, then it will easy for you to know. Otherwise, spend a little time to figure it out - it will be worth it in the long run.

Ceramic Tile

Both ceramic and porcelain tile are made of clay that is hardened in an oven.

Generally speaking, the largest difference between the two boils down to how resistant to water the hardened clay is.

Porcelain tile is far more resistant to water than ceramic tile, and thus considered a bit nicer (and more expensive).

Ceramic tile looks great in your house, especially when it’s laid down for the first time. Ceramic tile is not used outdoors because it absorbs too much water. So, if you're curious about what your outdoor tile is, chances are it isn't ceramic.  

​Over time, ceramic tile can become dull rather than keep its shiny appearance. For ceramic tile in the bathroom, shower, or bathtub, it can actually happen very quickly. 

In most cases, this is mainly due to the excessive buildup of tile cleaning solutions you may have used to clean it in the past few months or even years. However, with regular cleanings, you can rebuff your tile back to its clean and shiny appearance.

Porcelain Tile

Porcelain tile is made of slightly denser clay and does not need a layer of glaze to protect it from damage, like ceramic needs. ​

Porcelain tile can be laid indoors or outdoors because of its low water absorption rate, and makes for a really gorgeous finished product. 

Porcelain tile is harder to cut and more expensive to purchase. However, with proper care, it can last for a really long time.

keep your tiles clean with this guide
a guide on how to make tile shine

Tile Grades

Another thing to understand before cleaning is to understand tile grades. Tile manufactures created tile grades based on how it fairs against potential breakage and scratches on the surface.

Understanding tile grades can help you choose the right tile in your home, and also help you make it shine continuously.

You may already have an idea of your tile grade. Usually the higher the grade, the more it will cost. On average, grade three tile is most common for use on walls, floors, and countertops.

How to ​Make Dull Tile Shine With No Wax

Follow our guide below on how to make tile shine naturally, and how to keep it from becoming a dirty, dull surface in your home. No wax needed!

​1. ​Sweep and Vacuum

​Start by sweeping and vacuuming your tile. Both sweeping and vacuuming is important - together they will remove the dirt and debris that has built up on your floor.

​Its usually easiest to incorporate the cleaning with other household chores. You can lightly sweep your tile floors, and then vacuum over them afterwards. Your vacuum's brush roller is fine to use on tile flooring and won't scratch it.

​Tile is not stone or concrete - it is porous clay that has been hardened, but is still susceptible to damage. ​Loose dirt can get ground into tile. scratching and damaging it permanently.

Sweeping and then vacuuming pulls all this damaging dirt off of the tile. This way your tile will be ready for cleaning. 

Next its time to start a deeper clean of the tile so that they will shine.

Outdoor patio setup on tile flooring

2. ​​​Mix Your Cleaner

When deep cleaning your tile floor,​ you'll want to break out the mop. Make sure you performed the light cleaning first, so that you get all of the dirt up before introducing liquid.

​You'll use different methods and different cleanings agents, depending on what type of tile you have.

  • For ceramic tile, you don't want to use a lot of liquid, as it absorbs it quickly. Use a light cleaning agent, such as dishwashing detergent, mixed with hot water. Mop your tile (or scrub your wall tile), being careful not to have too much of the liquid on your tile at any one time.
  • With porcelain tile, you can use a little bit stronger of a cleaning agent, such as white vinegar. Create a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar and use to clean. You don't need to be quite as conscious of having the liquid on the floor, as porcelain's water absorption rate is so much lower. 

3. Mop or Spray Your Tile

​With your cleaning mixture created, its time to start the cleaning. You can use either a mop or a spray bottle.

A mop works better if you're cleaning large areas. Or, you could use the solution in a spray bottle, which works great for spot cleaning. Once you've determined the right solution, follow these steps:

  1. Spray the solution on your tile and use a microfiber mop to spread the solution. Keep spraying on your tile until you get your entire tile floor.
  2. Use a mop to spread the solution around your tile floor and buff it with a microfiber cloth. Repeat this process until your entire tile floor looks shiny new.
  3. Try to use a stringy mop rather than a sponge mop. Sponge mops will push the liquid around, while string mops spread the liquid throughout. This will protect and preserve your grout from getting too wet, while also cleaning your tile a lot better. 
  4. Rinse your floors with cool water, making sure to change the water as frequently as necessary
  5. Let your floors air dry before using them. If possible, avoid using fans to speed up the drying process. The fan will push dirt and dust onto the wet tiles, and it will stick while drying. This defeats the purpose of your cleaning!

​4. Clean the Grout

​If you have tile in your house, grout could end up being your biggest enemy. This is because grout has large pores and soaks up liquids.

The more it ages, even the best grout for your shower and walls​ will look old and dirty from those liquids. This ends up making your tile look dingy as well.

To clean grout as best as possible, follow t​​hese steps:

  1. ​Mix water and three percent hydrogen peroxide in a medium-sized spray bottle.
  2. Next, spray this solution on your grout and let it sit for 30 minutes.
  3. You can scrub your grout with an old toothbrush. Scrub your grout with hot water, and if that doesn't work, use a mixture of vinegar and baking soda.

You might have to do this several times to get it clean. Once clean, you can make it a lot easier the next time by routinely spraying the grout with a water/vinegar solution.

Related: How to Grout Tile

Elegant bathroom setup with tiled backsplash

​​Natural Tile Cleaning Solutions

There are a variety of different natural tile cleaners available to you, each with different properties and effects. Here are the top options for your tile floors:

Vinegar

Simple, over-the-counter vinegar mixed with water is a powerful and natural cleaning agent. Both a disinfectant and deodorizer, vinegar works so well because it is highly acidic. The acid can work wonders on a variety of buildups and stains, and works great on tile. 

Because of its high acidity, we recommend using this on stronger, ceramic and marble floors only. Avoid using it on porcelain, opting instead for a milder dishwashing detergent.

Mix vinegar with water in equal parts, and then spray it onto the tile with a spray bottle.

​A note on using vinegar to clean tile floors: There is a bit of debate about whether to use vinegar on tile floors, and whether it is safe for your floors.

IF your tile floor has a sealant in the tile, then it is probably better to use a lighter cleaning agent, like dishwashing detergent. Over time, the vinegar can wear away at the sealant

However, most ceramic tile floors don't have much of a sealant, and it is fine to use vinegar in small quantities. Vinegar is a cleaning agent, and not a shining agent. Clean with vinegar, and then ​make sure to rinse with hot water to get the shine back.

Vinegar and Baking Soda

An even more powerful combination is vinegar and baking soda mixed together. Combining these two natural at-home solutions create a chemical reaction that can cut through virtually anything. You'll notice the reaction right away as the mixture fizzes and bubbles.

For tile flooring, mix vinegar, baking soda, and water in equal parts, and then mop it over the floor. For tougher areas, scrub the mixture into the tile. Rinse the floors with water when done.

Ammonia

Ammonia is a great cleaning agent to use when your tile has developed some discoloration. The properties of ammonia allow it to bring dull, weathered tile back to life.

Ammonia is also great at cutting through grease in particular. If you have grease on your tile floor, using ammonia is perfect.

Similar to the baking soda and vinegar application, you'll want to mix the solution and mop it onto your floor. For this solution, use 1/4 cup of ammonia for every gallon of water.

Vinegar, Rubbing Alcohol, and Dish Soap

Dish soap is a great cleaning agent for porcelain floors because it isn't very powerful and won't damage them. When you need a little more punch, you can add some vinegar and rubbing alcohol.

Mix 1/4 cup of vinegar and 1/4 cup of rubbing alcohol into 1 gallon water, and then add 1 teaspoon of dish soap. Mix together and mop or spray onto the floor.

Be careful scrubbing this solution too much, as the dish soap can cause a lot of suds. This isn't a bad thing, but will just require a couple of rinses.

Vinegar, Ammonia, and Borax

In some ways, this solution combines the best parts of the vinegar and the ammonia. You'll cut through deep buildup while also adding shine back to your tile flooring.

The borax works as a powerful disinfectant, and also helps to tie the vinegar and ammonia together into a complete cleaning solution.

You'll want to opt for 1/4 cup of vinegar, 1/4 cup of ammonia, and only 1/8 cup of borax for every gallon of water. Mop the solution onto the floors, and scrub where necessary. Rinse the floors with water when done.

Other Tile Cleaning Considerations

Here are a few other things to consider for keeping your tile clean and shiny.

Don't Buff or Polish Your Tile Floors

While it might be tempting, its best not to polish or buff your tile floors. Your ceramic or porcelain floors have already been glazed by their manufacturer. If you polish or buff them, you risk hurting what the manufacturer has already placed on it. 

Its the same concept as if you had painted your tile. You don't want to ruin the finish on the tile that has already been added.

No Acid Based Cleaner

Cleaning agents like bleach, ammonia, or any acid based cleaner can be very damaging for your tile floor. Again, your ceramic or porcelain tile is hardened clay that is porous, and acid can work its way into the tile and deteriorate it.

Avoid Hard Bristles and Steel Wool

Hard bristle brushes can scratch your tile, ruining its appearance and making it more susceptible to long term damage.

In a similar fashion, steel wool can have the same effect. However, steel wool can also leave damaging bits of steel in your tile, which can rust down the road.

Long Term Tile Cleaning Tips

The more frequent you are able to sweep and vacuum, the better your tile will look over the long haul. One of the best ways to keep tile shining is to clean it regularly. ​

Lightly cleaning your tile several times per week is actually the best case, but once per week will suffice.

You'll also want to factor time in to do a deep clean of your tile every month if possible. If you have a busy schedule, don't let this slide more than a few months at a time.

​Long Term Scuff and Mark Prevention

Marks and scuffs can prevent your tile from shining as much as you want it to. These scuffs come from dirt and debris being routinely tracked over your tile. Not only does it dull its appearance, but it causes scratching. 

While you can always clean and buff out these scuffs, here are a few tips to reduce the marks that can happen to your tile:

  1. One way to prevent this from happening is placing floor mats around doors and entrances in your home. It will limit dirt from landing on your tile as the dirt will stick to the mat instead.
  2. Consider limiting how often you wear shoes on your tile. While annoying and a bit inconvenient, it will extend the life of your tile and keep it shiny. 

It can be tough to put mats down on top of your beautiful tile, and can seem a little counter intuitive. However, for high traffic areas, it is a good idea. You can always roll the mats up for parties and events. 

Conclusion

Cleaning tile is never a fun job, but it has to get done to ​keep your floor shiny and clean. Not regularly cleaning your tile can lead to a damaged countertop, wall, or floor, depending on where you installed tile in your home and how much grime build-up it has.

Hopefully, with the help of this guide, you will learn how to shine ceramic tile and porcelain tile. 

Remember, it’s important to stick to a regular cleaning schedule, and it’s more than just your tile you need to clean. You need to clean your grout as well. Good luck and happy cleaning!