How to clean Victorian tiles
If you wish to clean Victorian floor tiles and are unsure which products to use, please read on!
When cleaning your Victorian tiles it is important to accept which of the contaminations can be ‘cleaned’ from the tiles. But also, which marks or discolouration may now be part of the history or character of the floor!
When cleaning Victorian tiles you will encounter general dirt, grime, and oily residues. There may be previous coatings, gripper board adhesives and imprints from rubber-backed carpet underlays. Efflorescence salting may be present, or appear after cleaning.
The information within this article is related to cleaning Victorian geometric tiles, Victorian encaustic tiles and Victorian quarry tiles.
There is also a link at the foot of the page to our associated guides about sealing Victorian tiles and restoring/repairing Victorian tiles. Links to specific products mentioned in this guide are highlighted in blue.
How to deep clean Victorian tiled floors
The best way to deep clean Victorian tiled floors is with Floorseal Intensive Tile Cleaner. The cleaning solution can be used diluted from 1:10 (with clean water) to being applied neat.
Adapt the dilution rate to suit the level of contamination on-site – 1:4 is a good place to start.
Floorseal Intensive Tile Cleaner will remove dirt, grime, oily residues, water-based paints, and some old water-based acrylic coatings. Apply with a mop and allow to dwell on the surface for up to 15 minutes, the longer the dwell time the better. Always keep the solution wet by adding more product/water. Agitate with a mop or stiff brush for the best results.
Rinse the product off the surface with clean water. Please neutralise the floor after use, lots of rinsing with clean water will be required to achieve this. You could also add a small amount of acidic solution to your rinse water (50ml approximately to 5 litres of water). See below:-
Removing efflorescence or grout/cement hazing from Victorian tiles
Light cement films or general grout haze removal can be carried out with Floorseal Cement & Grout Haze Remover. This product can be applied diluted at 1:5 (with clean water) to being applied neat. Always test for suitability/dilution rate and do not apply to any surrounding acid-sensitive surfaces such as limestone.
Floorseal Cement & Grout Haze Remover will react with efflorescence salting, cement-based grout, general cement residues & lime staining. You can also use Floorseal Cement & Grout Haze Remover as a neutralising agent for Intensive Tile Cleaner in small amounts – approximately 50ml diluted into 5 litres of clean water.
Apply the product and agitate – rinse away the residues with clean water. Allowing the product to dwell on the surface for 5-10 minutes can be beneficial (do not allow the remover to dry out during agitation). Often the reaction takes place very quickly, you will see the product ‘bloom’ as it encounters efflorescence or cement-based grout films. Always rinse the treated surface after use with clean water.
Removing sealers from Victorian tiles
The removal of old sealers is beyond the scope of this article but as a short introduction please take note of the following information.
Old water-based acrylic topical sealers (a sealer which creates a sheen) can be removed by applying Floorseal Intensive Tile Cleaner. You will need long dwell times and lots of agitation.
This process is not easy, and reapplication of the product may be required several times. This removal process will only work on water-based acrylic sealers, you must test in a small area to assess the suitability of this product for the removal of acrylics.
Solvent-based acrylics require solvent based stripping agents. You would probably need a professional cleaning/renovation company to assist you.
The removal of old topical shiny sealers is not easy! Expect to spend a significant amount of time removing them. The only exception is wax which is not usually present on Victorian tiled floors. Wax can also be removed with Floorseal Intensive Tile Cleaner.
The old coatings which are most problematic are solvent-based acrylics and polyurethane varnish. Polyurethane is not normally applied to Victorian tiled floors.
If an impregnating sealer has been used in the past (also known as subsurface sealers or penetrating sealers) a deep clean with Intensive Tile Cleaner usually breaks the surface tension created by their use.
Further information related to cleaning Victorian tiles
Often paint splashes are encountered around the edges of Victorian tiled floors. A long soaking with water and Intensive Tile Cleaner will emulsify these. A sharp scraper is also useful for the removal of general paint splatter or just a hard scrub with a stiff brush.
Old rubber-backed underlays occasionally leave a waffle effect on the tiles. Often this imprint will just wash off, but imprinting can be permanent – although this is not usual.
Something you may notice when cleaning old Victorian tiles is that they can appear to have lost colour. This may be apparent before cleaning and certainly after cleaning. The tiles can look a little washed out and pastel-coloured. Black tiles may develop a grey/blue hue, other tiles may appear to be generally faded.
The tiles have not lost colour they are just very clean and worn. This faded effect can be addressed by sealing the tiles – after lots of drying time.
Speckling on the face of the tiles can be apparent, which may be dirt, if it is dirt the speckling will disappear during cleaning. Some speckling is historic and related to the construction of the tile, in which case it is now just part of the floor.
White tiles are known to contain lead which, over time, oxidises leading to black speckles. The yellow and buff coloured tiles sometimes also display speckling.
Buff or yellow-coloured tiles may also become patchy after cleaning, there are a few explanations for this but ultimately it may happen, or it may not. Patchiness is not reversible when it occurs to yellow or buff coloured tiles.
Removing rust marks from Victorian tiles
Floorseal Rust Remover for Stone will remove localised rust marks. The cleaner is to be applied and agitated with a stiff brush. Do not allow the product to dry on the surface. Always rinse off quickly (within minutes) and always ensure the product is kept wet whilst it works. Please note that deep-set rust marks may be permanent.
How much drying time is required after cleaning Victorian tiles?
Before you seal your tiles, you should allow them to dry. Victorian tiles can take many days to fully dry. At least 5 days of drying time is recommended, be prepared to wait longer in the colder winter months.
Victorian tiles can display efflorescence after cleaning which is just a salt. You can lightly wash over the floor with Floorseal Cement & Grout Haze Remover. Or particularly if the salting returns, it can be preferable to just brush/vacuum the salt away.
We can summarise the products that you should use to clean your Victorian tiled floors:
Floorseal Intensive Tile Cleaner – used for deep cleaning the tiles. The solution will remove general dirt, grime, oily residues, paints and removes some water-based acrylic sealers.
Floorseal Cement & Grout Haze Remover – used for the removal of efflorescence salting, cement, lime, cement-based grouts.
Floorseal Rust Remover for Stone – used for the removal of rust and tannin marks from wood.
Be prepared for Victorian tiles to have some speckling and patchiness before or after cleaning. Sealing the tiles is known to slightly deepen the colour, a slight sheen also helps to address patchiness & a faded effect.
Please note: Your Victorian tiles will be soft and have usually had 150 years of foot traffic so they have had a life and will show it!
This article cannot possibly cover all aspects of cleaning, sealing and renovating Victorian tiles. For this reason, the information contained within this article is not exhaustive. If you need further information please contact Floorseal on (01484) 861461 or email us Info@floorseal.co.uk our web address is www.floorseal.co.uk
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