Hard surface consists of multiple types, ranging from concrete brick pavers, ceramic and porcelain tiles to natural stone. And each has it’s own characteristics and necessity for cleaning and maintenance on a regular basis.
Types of Hard Surfaces
Ceramic and Porcelain
The average residential home owner has over 50% of its flooring consisting of some type of tile and grout, and that typically will be a glazed porcelain or ceramic tile. These types of “man made” tiles are extremely popular based upon the toughness / longevity of the actual material makeup of the tile.
Both ceramic and porcelain have a glazed fired surface making them extremely hard and wear resistant under normal foot traffic. That being said, the necessity for proper maintenance and regular “professional” restorative cleaning, is vital to the overall aesthetics and longevity of the flooring.
Flooring in general, takes a beating due to the fact that high levels of soiling comes “inside” the dwelling from the outside environment. This normal “tracked in” soiling, which consists of dry particulates such as sand (silica) dust and dirt, as well as, other soils such as, asphalt oils and the typical oil, fat and grease from cooking and food prep, all contribute to the necessity for daily, interim and annual deep or restorative cleaning.
Most homeowners understand the necessity of normal cleaning methods, such as, regular vacuuming or sweeping to remove the dry particulates, immediate cleanup of spills, followed by regular damp mopping with a mild cleaner to remove the other soluble soils.
However, the “best practice” a homeowner can take in helping to manage these ongoing conditions, is to start off with a professional “deep restorative cleaning,” followed by the application of a “penetrating sealer” in the grout on a ceramic or porcelain tile, or apply the sealer to the entire floor, if it is a natural stone surface.
Keeping Grout Clean & Spot Free
The biggest frustration for homeowners is keeping the grout looking clean and spot free.
The reason this “darkening or blotchy” grout appearance occurs so quickly, is due to the grouts porosity or absorbency.
The most commonly used grout is a cement and sand base material that is extremely porous, which causes it to absorb all soils. And the grout gets darker and darker as the soil builds up, and even mopping the floor contributes to the darkening of the grout, as the mop water absorbs into the grout.
Also, if a homeowner does apply a grout sealer, often times it is after a general mopping or cleaning, which doesn’t remove all the soil from the grout, and as mentioned above, contributes to further soiling. And with the application of the sealer into the dirty grout, this will now created the unfortunate condition where the soil is now sealed / “trapped” in the grout.
The only solution for this ongoing “unsightly” issue is a thorough professional restoration of the tile and grout, followed immediately by the application of a penetrating grout sealer.
If the tile and grout has never been restoratively cleaned and sealed, then most likely it will require additional restorative cleaning methods which including specialty cleaning solutions designed specifically for ”grout brightening.”
Sealing the Grout
The sealing of the grout is the only way to make the porous grout “oil and water” resistant / non absorbent. The combination of these two restorative procedures (grout brightening & sealing) creates a “manageable”cleaning condition, by which water and oil based spills and soils will no longer absorb into the grout, keeping the soil “on top” of the grout where it can be easily removed.
The application of the penetrating grout sealer actually bonds with the silica in the grout improving the longevity of the grout. Sealing the grout is vital to maintaining the original grout color and integrity of the grout. If you restore the grout through the use of a “grout brightener, and then fail to “seal” the grout, the grout goes back to being a “sponge” / highly absorbent, allowing immediate re-soiling of the grout.
Here is an example of tile and grout restoration by Advantage Plus using a “grout brightener.”
The restoration from dark “black” (soiled) grout lines, to light “white” (clean) is why sealing the grout is so important in keeping the grout lines from absorbing the soils that turn it black.
Natural Stone Restoration
Natural stone is very popular for its “natural beauty,” uniqueness in colors, styles and ability to enrich any flooring area.
It can be left in its natural “unpolished / matte” appearance, or “polished” to varying reflectivity and “luster” to dramatically enhance the overall aesthetics of that environment. With that said, there are several aspects of natural stone that must be considered when either choosing it for an installation, or having it cleaned and restored / polished.
Natural Stone Characteristics
Here are several “characteristics” of natural stone that should be taken into consideration before choosing to install it, or before cleaning and restoring it.
All natural stone has varying hardness based upon the “Mohs” hardness scale, and certain types of natural stone are highly sensitive to acidic solutions such as, vinegar, fruit juices, wine and especially household cleaners such as “Windex” or toilet bowl cleaners.
The hardness of the stone must be taken into consideration when deciding what and where the stone is being used. Meaning, granite is 7-8 on the Mohs hardness scale where marble is 5-6 and slate is 3-4. The higher the number the “harder” the stone and thus the more “scratch” resistance it is.
That is why kitchen countertops are primarily made out of granite and not marble. Working with a knife on granite won’t scratch it because, a standard knife blade is 5.5 on the Mohs hardness scale.
Also, the stones acid sensitivity should be taken in consideration before installing or cleaning as well. Natural stone such as limestone, marble and the very popular travertine, are all “calcium carbonate” (lime) based stone and are highly acid sensitive. These types of calcium carbonate based stones can be easily “etched” by vinegar, fruit juices,wine and for sure most household cleaners
This is another reason why granite is used for kitchen countertops, as granite is “Non acid sensitive” because it has NO calcium carbonate in its mineral makeup. So fruit juices, wine and acid based household cleaners won’t etch the surface of granite.
Travertine is a very popular natural stone used for residential flooring, but when polished can show scratches from dogs nails, toys, dirt and sand if not properly maintained. That is why most people choose a “matte” or unpolished travertine for their floors, although it will still scratch, it isn’t as noticeable having little to no reflectivity.
However, if you don’t have these concerns such as dogs, or small children with toys, and have a good maintenance and cleaning program; then having polished travertine, marble or limestone floors add another level of exceptional beauty.
These characteristics must be taken into consideration when performing regular daily cleaning.
Cleaning Best Practices
Since natural stone can be scratched and is acid sensitive, the use of proper cleaning solutions and cleaning tools / equipment is essential.
Daily and weekly cleaning of stone floors should start with the removal of “dry particles” sand, dirt and dust, using a “soft bristle” broom, untreated dust mop or brush vacuum attachment. Removing the sand and dirt on a regular basis will prevent scratching from normal foot traffic.
Typically, depending on the amount of traffic, sweeping or vacuuming once to twice a week is sufficient to maintain the floor. The stone floor should also be “damp mopped” with a “mild or neutral” cleaner every 7-10 days depending on the amount of traffic and environment. Meaning, kitchens and bathrooms because of the “high use” usually will need to be maintained at a higher frequency.
Never use “vinegar” and water to mop your travertine, marble or limestone floors, as vinegar is acidic and will etch / dull the surface of the stone. Also, never use abrasive cleaners like “comet” that can scratch the surface, or steel wool, stiff brushes or abrasive scrubbing pads to clean with, as they can also scratch the surface of softer stones.
All natural stone must be sealed with a penetrating sealer to protect the stone from spills and normal soiling absorbing into the stone surface.
All stone has varying porosity from extremely porous like travertine, to very dense and far less porous like granite. If the stone is not sealed, it can easily become stained, especially in high use areas such as kitchens, entry ways and restrooms.
The penetrating sealer absorbs into the stone and makes it “oil and water” resistant / non absorbent, and will typically last 12-18 months depending on the traffic, or type of activity in the area. Kitchens and restroom are high use areas and thus sealers will typically last 12 months instead of 18 months.
Stain removal from natural stone can be very expensive and can even be permanent, the cost to seal and protect the stone is far less costly than paying for stain removal. Just as with ceramic and porcelain tile, natural stone should be restoratively cleaned and sealed on a regular basis, in order to keep it looking like new and to increase the overall longevity.
Therefore, proper pre-testing for scratch and acid sensitivity prior to any restorative cleaning, is vital in order to achieve a successful cleaning or polishing.
Below is an example of travertine restoration done by “Advantage Plus” (before and after) polished to a high reflectivity and luster from a “matte” / unpolished to a beautiful 1500 grit polish, bringing out the depth of color and luster.
Granite countertops are very popular in most upscale homes, and even though they are extremely durable, they require regular cleaning and maintenance. Water deposits, food and oily soils can easily build up, dulling the reflectivity and luster of the stone surface.
Daily cleaning should be done using a microfiber cloth and a “rine free”, “streak free” neutral cleaner. Never use standard dish soap of other household cleaners as they can contribute to the actual dulling of the surface. When the surface starts to loose its luster, the use of a “stone safe” soft scrub can be used to remove water spots and soil build up.
Typically when it reaches that point, a professional cleaning is recommended.
A professional cleaning and conditioning of the stone surface will bring back the reflectivity and luster to a high level. This is done by using electric buffers with specific cleaning pads, and the use of “stone safe nano scrubs” and neutral cleaners that have sealers built in. The final step is buffing the stone with a lambswool applicator using a “final step conditioner” .
This granite countertop was cleaned and conditioned by Advantage Plus using the above mentioned process.
This picture shows the the upper level of the countertop cleaned and conditioned, and the lower half showing a soil buildup and a dull reflectivity with no luster.
Examples of Polished Stone Surfaces
Here are examples of stone surfaces that Advantage Plus polished to add beauty and luster to a travertine flooring.
Travertine cleaned, polished and sealed to high reflectivity
Travertine cleaned polished and sealed
Travertine grout restoration, cleaning, polished and sealed
Travertine cleaning and polishing in custom “walk in shower”