Terracotta Tile Cleaning

Improving the Shine on a Terracotta Tiled Kitchen Floor in Whimple

I was contacted by a homeowner from the small village of Whimple, (Nine miles East of Exeter), about the sealer on their Terracotta kitchen tiles. The floor had only recently been cleaned and sealed by another company but the sealer left the floor looking dull and matte and she wanted a high sheen finish.

Terracotta Tiled Kitchen Floor Before Renovation Whimple

Dissatisfied with the results I was asked to strip back the Terracotta tiles again and reapply a suitable seal which would finish the tiles in a high sheen. Tile Doctor have a range of sealers for all types of floors and finish and from the brief I knew that Tile Doctor Seal and Go would be idea for this floor, it leaves a lovely sheen finish and being a water-based product, it doesn’t leave a smell as it dries.

Cleaning a Terracotta Tiled Kitchen Floor

Work started by removing the kickboards and protecting up around any skirting to protect from water ingress. Once done a strong dilution of Tile Doctor Remove & Go was sprayed onto the Terracotta tiles and left to soak in for a good 15 minutes to give it time to emulsify and break down the seal which their previous contractor had applied.

The floor was then scrubbed using a rotary machine fitted with a stiff nylon scrubbing head. This action removed the sealer into the cleaning solution and where I was able to extract from the floor using a wet vacuum. Once removed I ran a water test over the tiles to check the sealer was gone and repeated the exercise where required until I was satisfied all the sealer was gone. This is important as the new sealer may not be compatible with the original which could result in discolouration and potentially peeling off the tile later.

Remove and Go is an alkaline product so to neutralise the ph level of the floor after stripping and to further clean the tiled I gave the floor an acid wash using diluted Grout Clean-up. After a quick scrub the excess product was removed and the floor given several rinses with water, this was followed with the wet vacuum to remove as much moisture from the tiles as possible and thereby reduce the drying time.

Sealing a Terracotta Tiled Kitchen Floor

The floor was left to dry out overnight and after checking moisture levels the following day I was pleased to see it had dried and was now ready to accept a fresh sealer. Before applying Seal & Go however I decided to apply a base coat of an impregnating sealer called Colour Grow which as its name suggests will enhance the natural colour in the Terracotta.

After an hour, the Colour Grow had dried and I began building up coats of acrylic seal ‘Seal & Go’. Terracotta is quite a porous material and the floor took six coats of Seal & Go before I had achieved the right level of sheen desired by the customer.

On the customers return home they were thrilled to see the new finish was exactly what they wanted and have now set up an annual maintenance plan with me to keep the sealer topped up and floor looking the way they like it.

Terracotta Tiled Kitchen Floor After Renovation Whimple

For day-to-day cleaning I recommended Tile Doctor Neutral Tile Cleaner which is a pH neutral tile cleaning product and recommended for sealed Terracotta. It’s a mild cleaning product that won’t strip the tiles of the newly applied sealer like many strong household cleaners can. It comes in a concentrate form so a small amount goes along way.


Professional Restoration of a Terracotta Tiled Kitchen Floor in Devon

Deep Cleaning Dirty Terracotta Tiled Kitchen Floor in Moretonhampstead

Earlier this year I was called to the Dartmoor town of Moretonhampstead in order to take a look at a large Terracotta tiled kitchen/dining room which the owners had ‘lived with’ for over a decade but were finding it harder and harder to keep clean. Upon arrival, I could see that any sealer that had been used previously was well beyond its best and the floor was holding in the dirt and grime because of how porous unsealed terracotta is.

Terracotta Tiled Kitchen Floor Before Cleaning Moretonhampstead

I conducted a test on a small area of the floor which not only helped me to identify the most suitable product to clean the floor with but also to show the customer how much of an impact a professional clean and seal of a floor is likely to have. The first product I tried was Tile Doctor Pro-Clean which although cleaned the tiles very well I could tell was going to be a problem when it came to rinsing because the floor was absorbing it almost as quickly as I was able to put it down! My solution came in the form of Tile Doctor Oxy-Gel which is a very similar product to Pro-Clean and is a very powerful stripper/degreaser but has the added benefit of being in gel form, so it sits on the tiles rather than becomes absorbed into them. It is also a very good option for riven stone, uneven tiles or undulating floors because unlike a liquid it will not run off the high spots.

The clients were thrilled with the test area and couldn’t believe how much lighter the tiles were and as soon as I sent them my quote they booked me in at my next availability.

Deep Cleaning Terracotta Tiles

When I returned to the property my first task was to protect the woodwork from splashing by dressing the skirting boards and kitchen plinths in a blue plastic covering. I then set to work applying Oxy-Gel to the tiles and allowing it to dwell for about five minutes before scrubbing it in with a stiff bristled brush fitted to a rotary buffer.

The scrubbing action released the dirt form the Terracotta and I was then able to extract it from the floor using a wet vacuum. I worked methodically in small areas at a time and when the whole floor was done it was given a thorough rinse to remove any trace of cleaning products from the floor. I also checked the floor carefully and spot treated any stubborn staining and used the wet vacuum to get the floor as dry as possible before leaving for the day.

Terracotta Tiled Kitchen Floor Before Sealing Moretonhampstead

Sealing Terracotta Tiles

After I was satisfied that the tiles were all clean I then needed to wait for the floor to dry before I could seal. As I mentioned these tiles were very porous and so took longer than usual to dry out but once the moisture levels were at an acceptable level I returned to finish the job.

Once terracotta has been stripped it can reveal historic damage such as acid stains or from inappropriate cleaning products which look like lighter patches on the tiles. Upon my return I spent a while improving any areas like this by using diamond encrusted burnishing pads to resurface the tiles. In general, it is not recommended on terracotta because you lose the natural texture of the tiles and create a smooth finish but in this instance the customer decided that this was preferable to the stains remaining visible.

After both the customer and I were happy with the condition of the tiles I began to seal the floor with Tile Doctor Seal and Go, an acrylic based sealer which would give the tiles a slightly glazed or freshly mopped appearance. Because of the porosity of this particular batch of terracotta tile it took eleven coats before the floor was fully sealed!

The customer was very happy, and the tiles lit the room up, transforming it.

Terracotta Tiled Kitchen Floor After Cleaning and Sealing Moretonhampstead

Professional Renovation of a Dirty Terracotta Tiled Floor in Devon

Terracotta Tiled Floor Transformed with a Deep Clean and Seal in Lympstone

Terracotta, terra cotta or terra-cotta meaning baked earth is a clay based tile which can be glazed or unglazed and were traditionally hand-made. Because of the material used to produce the tiles they are very porous and the firing process creates a lot of variation of colour not just between each tile but within each individual tile. The two main types of terracotta tile are Spanish and Mexican, or Saltillo, and have different colour variations and characteristics but are essentially treated in the same way. There are even some manufacturers that offer paw prints in tiles, although they cost extra!

Of course, Terracotta is also commonly used as a material for tiled floors due to the warming and homely characteristics of the stone, associated with old country living. Indeed, a Terracotta tiled floor can be an asset to any home, but only if it is routinely maintained.

I recently visited a property in Lympstone, a small picturesque harbour village in East Devon in the area of Woodbury, to tend to a lovely Terracotta tiled floor that had been installed in an open-plan kitchen/diner. The tiles had gotten very dirty over its fifteen-year life and the current owners were struggling to clean it and had spent a long time scrubbing the floor with very little reward.

Once on-site I conducted a small test clean on the floor which was very successful and gave the customers confidence in going forward. Happy to give me the work we agreed a date and I came back a few weeks later.

Terracotta Tiled Floor in Lympstone Before Cleaning

Deep Cleaning Terracotta Tiles

Because of the undulation and texture in the tiles, the floor was treated using Tile Doctor’s Oxy-Gel, a powerful and fast-acting alkaline stripper/degreaser which is ideal for use on vertical surface and uneven tiles such as terracotta because the gel doesn’t run off the higher areas and pool in the lower areas. The product also has a short dwell time which enabled the entire floor to be cleaned in a day.

The Oxy Gel was scrubbed into the tile and grout with the aid of a stiff bristled monster brush fitter to rotary scrubbing machine. Once the cleaning process had been completed, I extracted the dirty cleaning solution using a wet vacuum and then re-treated any stubborn areas.

Following the cleaning the whole floor was given a thorough rinse to remove any trace of cleaning product. This required a lot more water and brushing than usual because of the tiles acting more like a sponge because they weren’t sealed. Again, a wet vacuum was used to extract the water and get the floor as dry as possible.

Sealing Terracotta Tiles

Because Terracotta is a very porous tile I left the floor for five days to ensure it would be dry enough when I returned to seal it. Tiles need to be dry before sealing as any excess moisture and damp issues can upset the performance of the sealer.

I tested the floor for dampness on my return and found it had dried well and was ready to be sealed. This allowed me to proceed with sealing the tiles using Tile Doctor Seal and Go, which is an acrylic, topical sealer. It provides a both a stain resistant surface seal and a durable low-sheen satin finish.

Being the product is water-based there no smell is given off by the sealer as it dries, and since the Terracotta is very porous I ended up using nine coats of sealer which is not uncommon on this type of tile. Once fully sealed the floor will not absorb water and so is easier to clean and much more resistant to staining.

Terracotta Tiled Floor in Lympstone After Cleaning
As you can see from the above photo, the condition of the floor was massively improved. What was a very dull and stained Terracotta floor is now colourful and clean. Certainly, the customer was really pleased with the outcome and left the following feedback:

“Stuart was punctual to the minute and thoroughly friendly and professional at all times.
We are very pleased with the floor and highly recommend him. Ryan S.”

Professional Cleaning and Sealing of a Dirty Terracotta Tiled Floor in Devon


Devon Tile Doctor

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