The installation of ceramic and porcelain tile will provide the end-user with a beautiful finish which will be both long lasting and easily maintained. The key to this longevity is to use the appropriate cleaning products immediately after installation, which is oftentimes completed by the tile installer as well as the on-going maintenance provided by the owner.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) provides guidance to the installer on the proper products and methods that may be utilized in the initial cleaning, if required. ANSI A108.02 section 4.5 Cleaning, lists the following:

4.5.1 See appropriate grout specification and/or manufacturer’s recommendation for cleaning of tile after grouting.

4.5.2 Upon completion of setting and grouting, clean tile.

4.5.3 Acid or acid cleaners shall not be used to clean glazed tile.

4.5.4 When applicable, acid cleaning of unglazed tile shall not be done before 10 days after grouting. Tile and grout shall be soaked with water before cleaning. In the absence of recommendation from the grout manufacturer and/or tile manufacturer, acid cleaning may be done with a saturated solution of sulfamic acid in room-temperature water (approximately 1 lb. of sulfamic acid crystals to five gallons of water).

All metal and enamel surfaces shall be protected with grease or petroleum jelly, or other protective coating, to be removed after cleaning. Tile and grout shall be thoroughly flushed with water after acid cleaning. CAUTION: Hydrochloric acid is not recommended. (Hydrochloric acid is also known as muriatic acid)

Before washing any surface with an acid, always read and follow the grout, tile and acid manufacturer’s recommendations exactly as stated while also wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

After washing a tile surface with an acid or acid cleaner, rinsing it with clean water will not remove the acid residue. It is best to neutralize the acid by mixing water with baking soda, garden lime or household ammonia. Scrub the surface with a brush or broom and allow this solution to dwell on the surface for about ten minutes before rinsing several times with clear water. To be certain the acid is effectively neutralized, use a pH test strip to obtain a level of about 7. 

Additionally, the completion of the tile installation many times will yield opportunities to guide the end-user to the best maintenance products available to preserve that brand new look. Since cement-based grouts can be adversely affected by acids or acid-based cleaners, the selection of a routine cleaner is extremely critical to longevity and should be pH neutral. There is a wide selection of cleaners available from tile distributors, box stores or grocery stores which will work well but use caution since some of them may be acid-based. For the best and safest results, research the manufacturer’s website for details prior to use. Even innocent-appearing household products such as vinegar, fruit juices and carbonated beverages, which are all acids, may be detrimental to the grout and possibly the tile.

Using the right products for the job and following the written instructions will deliver excellent results. Think about it before the tile and grout are permanently damaged.