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Removing Transit Wax from Porcelain

Given the number of questions I have received recently, about ‘how to get the wax off porcelain tiles’, I thought I would write a brief article on the subject. Many porcelain tiles these days come with a transit wax; a coating that is intended to offer some protection to the tiles whilst they are in the boxes, during transit (they can scratch each other as they are stacked so closely.)

This wax though can be a problem, as I have covered elsewhere in the blog. It can sometimes help to prevent grout staining but, in my experience, it does not always do this successfully. Moreover, it is NOT a sealer and if the porcelain is one that does need sealing, then this wax will need removing.

Should you remove the wax before or after grouting? – This is a common question and a recent poll amongst Tilers showed that the consensus is ‘before’ but you can do a quick test; put some grout on one of the tiles, preferably a spare one, and leave it to dry, then clean it off – look to see if the wax helped or not. In general (certainly here in the UK) we tend to take it off – In fact it might be useful to detail the procedure like so:

1. Lay tiles

2. Remove wax

3. Seal

4. Grout

5. Seal again.

Why seal again? – Well, it makes sure that you have done a through job of sealing the tiles and not missed anything, but perhaps more importantly, it also seals the grout, and the grout, I would argue, will be significantly more in need of sealing than the tiles (just make sure to leave the grout a day or two to fully dry AND more importantly, CURE).

So, how do we remove the wax? – Well that can depend on the wax; some waxes respond better to alkaline cleaners while others need a solvent-type stripper. However the vast majority can be removed using a safe abrasive product designed for the job, such as Microscrub. I have outlined the process we use below:

1. Pre wet the floor/tile

2. Shake the bottle of Microscrub well, to remix the contents as they may settle

3. Apply the Microscrub to the tiles and agitate using a white nylon scrub pad (hard enough to do the job, without damaging the tiles)

4. This can be done by hand, or with a rotary machine

5. Check your progress by pulling the slurry back with a squeegee, scrub some more if not the wax is not yet fully removed.

6. Pick up the slurry, for best results use a wet-vac, but a mop and bucket will do.

7. Now add fresh water and rinse well, take special care to rinse the slurry from the joints, agitate again if you like

8. Pick up the rinse water with a wet-vac

9. Optionally, dry the floor with a towel

ALWAYS TEST FIRST ON AN INCONSPICUOUS AREA TO DETERMINE RESULTS.

 

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

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  1. Wirral Tilers | Sep 8, 2010 | Reply

    Good article

  2. Marti | Mar 26, 2013 | Reply

    I’m not sure if transit wax is my problem but my new tile seems dull and I am searching for answers. On the day the tile was laid, the tile setters left while it was wet and as it dried, it became hazy. The next day, I started cleaning each tile with vinegar and water and it cleared the haze. Later that day the tile setters came back and cleaned the entire floor with something and while it cleared the haze, now they are dull. I know it’s not cleaner buildup as I haven’t used a cleaner on it yet. Before spending $$ on a wax remover, is there any way I can tell for sure if there is transit wax on it?

    btw, is this your article also: http://www.diystoneonline.com/index.php/news/view/21.html

  3. Ian Taylor | Mar 28, 2013 | Reply

    Hi Marti,

    OK, Sounds like you were well on the way to removing any film of grout haze that was left, did you get a chance to allow the tile to fully dry out after your treatment? (before the tile setters returned) – In other words are you 100% sure you managed to clear the haze, as often it looks fine while wet, but as it dries out it comes back, showing that the problem has either not been fixed or, not completely fixed.

    Same goes for the tile setter’s treatment, did it look good while wet but then dry out to look dull? – Is the dullness you are seeing, different to the way it looked before cleaning the haze?

    I am finding it hard to understand if they looked good after your treatment, then somehow were made to look worse?

    My gut feeling is that is if you had a transit wax, then there would not be that much left after the treatments you describe.

    One unknown is what the tile setters used so I can only make assumptions:

    You used watered-down vinegar – so acetic acid, and while I don’t recommend vinegar – it will certainly have helped to break down any fine, cement-based films (from grout) on the surface and being watered down would have done limited if any, damage to the grout joint. If the product that the tile setters used had similar results then I must assume they used some form of proprietary acid based cleaner.

    It is possible that they used an acid cleaner that was too strong, or they used an acceptable acid, but at too high a concentration, or did not rinse it sufficiently etc. If this is the case, then the acid cleaner can clean the tile, but bring more cement out of the grout joint, and deposit this back on the tile, when it dries you are back to a dull surface again – however this would look similar to way they looked with the haze in the first place.

    It could be that having removed the haze, and any wax, you are now looking at the actual surface of the cleaned tile, and that there is an issue with the polishing.

    Or it could also be that the tile setters used some kind of solvent stripper and that has had a partial affect on some remaining transit wax, or some form of factory applied sealer that may be on the tiles that you were not aware of. If you partially attack a wax or sealer, sometimes instead of removing it 100%, what happens is that it goes hazy or semi-opaque.

    I am not being very conclusive here, there is too much I don’t know. One thing you can try is to take some old fashioned nail varnish remover, the clear type with acetone in it, and rub a little over one of the dull parts. See if anything comes off, does it make the tile clear again? – if so it is indicating that there is ‘something’ on the tile (or in the surface) that needs removing, this may be done with acetone, or better with a proprietary solvent stripper (so you are just using the nail varnish remover as an indicator that a solvent will do something).

    You may also find that a standard high alkaline cleaner may remove it – worth a try at least.

    If it is not a ‘chemical’ problem (wax/polymer from grout, factory sealer etc) then it might be a tile finish issue – as mentioned before, such as poor quality polishing – if this were the case then I would be contacting the tile supplier and asking them to visit.

    So, try the acetone, but if you could send me a picture or two it might help a little more, also can you ask the tile setters what product they used?

    Hope this is of some help

    And, yes that certainly looks like an old article of mine that has been lifted (without permission) by the site you mention – this is happening a lot unfortunately, thanks for letting me know

    Ian

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