The Tile and Stone Blog

Tile and Stone Maintenance

Month: April 2008 (page 1 of 3)

What Is The Best Sealer To Seal My Porcelain Floor Tiles?

What is the best sealer to seal my porcelain floor tiles is one of the most frequently asked questions I hear. The answer can depend on the finish of the porcelain; for example, it could be a standard, smooth finish, it could be slightly textured (like a faux slate) or heavily textured, perhaps for anti-slip purposes. However, by far the most common question I receive is in relation to ‘polished’ porcelain.

There are still some high-quality porcelain tiles out there that do not require sealing. If you are lucky enough to have one of those then you are not going to need to do too much to keep it clean and looking good. Unfortunately, more and more of the porcelain sold here is of a somewhat more unpredictable quality, at least in terms of porosity and susceptibility to sub-surface staining. If you suspect that your porcelain might need sealing there are couple of ways you can check:

1. Do a water drop test – put some water on the tile and leave it for about 20 minutes then wipe off. If there is any darkening of the surface, showing that some water has penetrated the tile, then it will benefit from being sealed.
2. You can do the same thing with oils (warm engine oil off your car’s dipstick, cooking oil etc)
3. Or, for the ultimate test, use a highly penetrative chemical like a solvent; a permanent ink marker pen is perfect – needles to say, do this test on a spare off-cut, not on your floor!

Having determined that your porcelain needs sealing, which sealer should you use? First of all, the ‘type’ of sealer you will need is known as an ‘impregnating sealer’, as the name implies, it is a sealer that penetrates the tile and lies just below the surface, acting like a safety net to contain contaminants and keep them at the surface until they can be cleaned.

There are many impregnators out there and the old adage of “you get what you pay for” is certainly applicable here. Next question is what is best, solvent-based or water-based? Well this is one of the very few situations nowadays where I would still favour a solvent based one, not because water based is not up to the job, quite the contrary,  some modern water-based sealers can out-perform the best solvents, but simply because porcelain has a very dense surface and a solvent-based impregnator will penetrate it more easily.

So, having decided that a solvent based sealer is required, ideally we are looking for a high performance one that is as kind to the user and the environment as a solvent sealer can be, so check the labels, there are some better products available these days with less pungent odours than in days gone by. However make sure work with plenty of ventilation..

What if I want to use a water-based sealer? – No problem, you can, go for a premium water based sealer; just adapt the application a little: allow a liberal quantity of the sealer to dwell on the surface for a little longer. Then rub in the sealer with absorbent cotton or paper towels, leaving the surface of the tiles dry and free of sealer residue as per normal.

Is there anyway of darkening the porcelain? – This question sometimes arises, in particular with polished black porcelain. In some cases, solvent-based impregnators do darken the tile, but only marginally. There are some enhancing sealer s that can do a very good job, provided they can get into the porcelain, I have had some success with Enhance ‘N’ Seal on black polished porcelain, making a slightly greyed-out looking tile pure black. It won’t work on every tile, so you will need to be prepared to test, and it is expensive, but you will not need much of it as it goes such a long way.

I will come back to this topic later and discuss how to pre-seal a textured porcelain to aid the grouting process.

Copyright Ian Taylor and The Tile and Stone, 2013. See copyright notice above.

Visitor’s Question – How Do I Remove Splash Marks From Black Granite?

Michelle asks: “I had black granite floor tiles put down in my bathroom recently and they were sealed after they were put down but i have just noticed several splash marks that will not wash off. The only cause I can think of is that when my husband was painting he washed brushes out in the sink and this splashed onto floor. Could this have caused it and can they be restored or will I need to replace the damaged tiles.”

Here’s our response:

Without knowing the precise nature of the splashes it is difficult to advise, but any impregnating sealer will be beneath the surface of the stone, so it will not stop splashes from getting onto the surface and a fraction of a millimetre into the surface itself.  In fact the sealer will hold a splash at the surface longer than it would be there if it were not sealed, allowing the water to evaporate and leave behind what ever was dissolved ion the water (e.g traces of paint). It could equally be hard water deposits from plain old water, or if your husband used a spirit/solvent based paint brush cleaner then it could have got deeper, through the sealer.

I would first try a basic high alkaline cleaner like Xtreme Clean with the addition of some Microscrub to help it get into the surface. If is it is hard water deposits, then a slightly acidic cleaner like Phosphoric Acid Cleaner may be required. Hope this helps

Copyright Ian Taylor and The Tile and Stone, 2013. See copyright notice above.

Microscrub – The Swiss Army Knife of Tile and Stone Cleaners!

Every now and again, something comes along which changes the way we think. I have chosen to profile such a product this month: Microscrub. To understand the real benefits of MicroScrub I must first explain the conventional approach to cleaning stone and tiles. Normally, we first have to understand the nature of the contaminant we are cleaning and then select an appropriate cleaner. Usually, for example, if we have grease, oil or general grime, we would want to use an alkaline cleaner. For mineral deposits, or grout residue, we would typically opt for an acid-based cleaner. The problem is that, firstly, it is not always a good idea to resort to strong chemicals, whichever side of neutral on the PH scale they are, and secondly, we would want to make sure that we do not expose acid sensitive stones to acidic cleaners – so we must also know a bit about the chemistry of the stone we are trying to clean. If we are trying to break down some other problem deposit or surface stain, such as rubber marks, or trying to remove surface coatings, we might even have to resort to a solvent of some kind.

So, in order to cope with all eventualities, we need an alkaline, an acid and a solvent in our tool kit, and we have to know how and when to use them. This is why Microscrub is such a great product; it can deal with mild to moderate cases of all of the above – so with just one product we can solve a number of problems and issues.

So what is it and how does it work? Microscrub is basically a cream abrasive cleaner, but there is more to it than that of course. There are 3 components to the product:

1. A mild cleaning solution (only slightly alkaline, so not a strong chemical)

2. A grinding powder derived from calcite ( the mineral in limestone – so it won’t scratch marble, limestone or other softer stones)

3. And last but not least, the nano-technology.

As a mild cleaner in its own right, Microscrub will breakdown mild surface soiling such as general grime and dirt, but, it is the calcite-derived abrasive that will do most of the hard work. For example one problem area that we touched on above is how to ‘safely’ remove a grout haze off a polished marble? – Well although problem might suggest an acidic cleaner, we cannot use one as it will destroy the surface of the marble. Microscrub will safely abrade the residue off with no ill effect on the marble’s surface. In the same way there are many surface contaminants that can be safely and effectively removed from most stone surfaces, for example, hard-water deposits or soap-scum in shower areas – think of Microscrub as an ‘exfoliating cream’ for stone.

Just the cream abrasive element alone makes Microscrub a great product but it is the nano-technology that really makes this product so unique and versatile. There is a lot of hype around the term ‘nano’ at the moment, so what is the nano-technology actually doing in Microscrub? Well it is quite simple actually, all it does is reduce the surface tension of the cleaner so it can more easily penetrate the small pores and micro pores of the surface you are trying to clean, this makes the cleaner much more effective as it does not just ‘flow over’ the smaller pores and leave the dirt untouched.

Microscrub can be used to safely and effectively tackle a number of problems such as:

* Removal of coatings and waxes

* Deep cleaning

* Removal of cement based or even fine epoxy based grout residues

* Removal of lime-scale and soap-scum deposits

* Removal of some metal marks from porcelain

Of course there will always be a need for the traditional approach, where the soiling is so ingrained or the contamination so heavy that Microscrub alone would not be sufficient. However, Microscrub can be added to other cleaners as a booster, adding the abrasive and nano, surface-tension-busting effects to really turbo-charge the cleaner. And that’s not all, every day I find new uses for it, I even cleaned my UPVC window sills with it, so if you are going to put one product into your cleaning kit this spring, make sure it is Microscrub – the Swiss Army Knife of Tile and Stone Cleaners.

Copyright Ian Taylor and The Tile and Stone, 2013. See copyright notice above.

Let’s Talk About Slate and Slate Floors

Slate is a natural stone becoming increasingly popular. So, what is it exactly? Well, in geological terms it is fine-grained, foliated, homogeneous, metamorphic rock. How is it  derived? Well, in short from original shale type sedimentary rocks made up of volcanic ash or clay through low grade regional metamorphism. Most people know it as grey in colour from the many thousands of roofs it is used on across the world. However, slate can come in varieties of colour even that derived from the same source location. For example, slate coming from North Wales can come in numerous shades of grey from very rich, deep and dark to that a lot paler in colour. It can also come in shades of cyan or green.

So, what is slate used for? Well, commonly it is used in roofing as roofing slates or something commonly called shingles in North America. One of the advantages of slate as a natural stone is that it has 2 lines of breakability – grain and cleavage – and this makes it very easy to split into thin roofing slates.

Very fine slate can also be used as whetstone to sharpen and hone knives. Historically, and especially during the 18th and 19th centuries it was also used as a material for blackboards in schools and also as individual writing slates. Slate is also a good electrical insulator and is fireproof and so was used in early part of the 20th century as a component in large electrical motors. Slate also possesses thermal stability and is still used as the base in snooker and billiard tables.

Today, slate is becoming increasingly popular for both interior and exterior flooring. Generally, slate tiles are fitted and set on mortar and then the tiles are grouted along the edges. A variety of sealers should be used on the slate tiles to improve durability, appearance, enhance stain resistance, reduce efflorescence, and increase or lessen surface smoothness of the tiles. We will talk more about this soon.

Copyright Ian Taylor and The Tile and Stone, 2013. See copyright notice above.
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