This customer from Edenbridge asked me to renovate their Terracotta Kitchen floor which has been ruined by a water leak from the dishwasher. The water had caused enormous amounts of damage throughout the lower floor and had resulted in the appearance of white efflorescence as it dried out. Unfortunately, the floor had previously been sealed with some sort of lacquer which the efflorescent salts couldn’t get past resulting in a build-up under the lacquer on many of the tiles.
To resolve, the lacquer needed to be stripped off, the floor cleaned and dried and then re-sealed with a breathable sealer that could cope with the efflorescence should it re-appear. I created a quote for the work which would take two days and emailed it over to the customer. They were relieved to have found someone who understood the problem and had a solution so accepted the quote and a date was agreed for the work to start.
Cleaning Dirty Terracotta Floor Tiles in Edenbridge
The first job was to remove the lacquer which I did with liberal amounts of Tile Doctor’s Remove and Go which is an alkaline coatings remover. A 50/50 dilution of product to water was applied and left to dwell for ten minutes. This was then agitated with a rotary floor buffer fitted with a silicon carbide brush and more water. The resultant slurry was then extracted with a wet vacuum.
Next was the hands and knees job of cleaning the wide grout lines that are typical feature of a Terracotta floor. I used a strong dilution of Tile Doctor Pro-Clean for this, again its left to soak in for ten minutes before being scrubbed in. This did the job of getting the grout clean and as I progressed the dirt was rinsed off and extracted again with the wet vacuum.
With the floor clean my attention turned to dealing with the efflorescence which was still present in the floor and would certainly re-appear as the floor dried. The solution is to counter the alkaline salts by giving the tiles an acid wash using Tile Doctor Acid Gel. The gel is applied to the floor and worked in with a black pad fitted to the rotary floor buffer. The gel is then rinsed off an extracted as before. As well as dealing with the efflorescence this product also neutralises the pH of the floor after the use of the alkaline cleaning products used earlier.
The floor was then mopped twice with just water and then dried as much as possible with the wet vacuum. The next step would be sealing so that’s all I could do on the first day so once done I left it to dry off.
Sealing a Terracotta Tiled Floor in Edenbridge
Terracotta is very porous, so instead of returning the next day to seal, as with many other stone types, I allowed an extra day. Applying sealer to a damp floor is not a good idea as the result can be patchy and inconsistent; with this in mind my first task of the day was to ensure the floor had dried sufficiently by taking several moisture readings with a damp meter.
The owner had already left for work that day but had given me a spare key, so I was able to let myself into the property. We had discussed sealing beforehand, and they had mentioned that they liked the appearance of the floor before the water leak and wanted a sealer that would give the same natural finish.
With this in mind, I sealed the Terracotta with Tile Doctor Ultra-Seal which is a modern impregnating sealer that is almost invisible and doesn’t change the appearance of the tile. Ultra-Seal is also breathable so any moisture and efflorescence still in the subfloor would be able to rise through the tile and evaporate at the surface without causing a problem.
Two liberal coats of sealer were applied to the Terracotta and Grout over a period of a few hours. I then hung around to ensure that I was satisfied with the dried finish and let myself out. The fresh sealer will protect the floor from dirt becoming ingrained in the tile keeping in on the surface where it can be easily mopped away.
For the regular cleaning of Terracotta tiled floors, I recommend the use of Tile Doctor Neutral Tile Cleaner which is an effective tile cleaner that is gentle enough not to compromise the newly applied sealant. Many household cleaning products are simply to strong for cleaning sealed floors and contain strong chemicals such as bleach that can break down a sealer.