Your project is complete. Every tile is in place, the installation was done on time and under budget, to the exact specifications. Even the project manager is beaming.
But don’t break out the cameras yet to add this masterpiece to your portfolio. The owners are calling because their sparkling new tile has turned dull in just days. They say it’s “grout haze:” the silent enemy that can ruin any beautiful tile surface, which doesn’t discriminate against color, material or size. It can strike any floor or wall — from porcelain to natural stone. Some grout haze problems result in the worst scenario of all, “picture framing.”
Grout haze occurs when residue from the grout installation dries on the surface of the grout and tiles. It looks like a white powder, seen in glossy patches, dull smears or streaks.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”
A little precaution before a crisis occurs is preferable to much fixing up afterward. While almost all tiles will form grout haze, it is important to identify tiles that are susceptible to grout hazing and take important steps to ensure a successful installation. Textured, porous stone, including travertine, marble and slate, as well as textured ceramic and porcelain tiles, are some of the main recipients of “the haze.”
After identifying any potential issues with the tile itself, consider next other situations that can cause excessive hazing — unsealed, acid-sensitive stone tiles, polished porcelain tiles, quarry tiles, grouting light-colored tile with dark grout, and the use of an epoxy grout.
Many manufacturers recommend the application of a “grout release,” a protective film over a tiled surface, which prevents grout haze from adhering to the tile. The grout release washes off alongside the grout haze during the washing process of grouting, leaving the original tile finish.
Sealing tiles before an installation is just as important to prevent haze. Many types of porcelain or ceramic tile do not need to be sealed, but there are exceptions to this rule. Check with the tile manufacturer. Stone, quarry and polished porcelain tile are porous and absorbent, so they’ll tend to absorb grout with its dyes, cement and additives. Make sure to seal these surfaces to avoid issues.
“The first 48 hours”
In medicine, they call it the “critical hour.” In criminal investigations, they call it “the first 48 hours.” Ask any detective and they will tell you if they don’t have a lead, suspect or an arrest within the first 48 hours of a committed crime, their chances of solving the case are cut in half. Such is the case with grout haze removal; wait too long and the outcome can be unfavorable or the process becomes long and tedious, to say the least.
There are many different ways to remove grout haze and the method you choose really depends on all of the factors such as the grout type (cement or epoxy), tile type and how long since the tile was installed.
The residue is best removed immediately after the tile installation, but not until the grout has cured. So how long might that take? Again, this will depend on your grout type.
Floor grout, in general, usually dries completely after 24 hours, although humidity and other factors can extend this drying time to 48+ hours.
Grout haze can sometimes be simply buffed out with a dry towel or cheesecloth, if done immediately within the first 48 hours. Do not use too much water to clean the grout haze off and do not clean it too soon or you can possibly pull the grout out of the joints.
Fila Solutions offers an immediate cleaner for fresh cement or epoxy grout used with porcelain, ceramic, glass mosaic and quarry tile, including large-format sizes. Effective enough for cement grout with additives, the Instant Remover eliminates residue during installation even before it has cured.
Once again, keep in mind the material of your tile. This will also influence what type of cleaner you can use. Smooth ceramic and porcelain tiles can be exposed to acidic cleaners, but acid-sensitive stones — marble, travertine and limestone — should not. This makes haze removal a bit more difficult, but not impossible. Acid-sensitive, porous stones should always be treated with a grout release or natural-look penetrating sealer prior to grouting.
Grout haze remover is widely available through many manufacturers. It comes in different formulas for cement-based grouts and non-cement-based grouts. Cement grouts are the standard type used in most household applications and include both sanded and unsanded grout. Non-cement grouts include epoxy, urethane and premixed grouts, as well as other specialty formulations. Contact the grout manufacturer if you have any questions about what type of cleaner would be best. The rule of thumb is: Cementitious grouts should be cleaned with an acidic grout haze remover, while epoxy, urethane and premixed grouts should be cleaned with an alkaline grout residue remover. Acid-sensitive stones should only be cleaned with a neutral cleaner or an alkaline cleaner if they are unpolished.
Clearing up the cloudiness of a newly installed tile installation is not always simple, but can be easily addressed when you’ve chosen prevention over intervention.