Terracotta Tile Cleaning

Welcome to my Work History archive where you will find detailed examples of the cleaning and renovation of Terracotta tiles carried out in South Essex

Cleaning and Renovating Terracotta Tiles

Terracotta tiles have been around in certain parts of the world for over two millennia, in fact the word Terracotta means burned earth. The ancient Romans used a variety of terracotta tiles in their villas and palaces for many centuries. Terracotta tiles are thicker than most modern tiles giving them strength and durability.

The one big downside to Terracotta is the fact that it has no glaze on the surface and being very porous can soon pick up and store muck and dirt very quickly. If you have ever owned a Terracotta floor before you will be able to relate to this problem however the answer is to ensure you have the correct sealer in place.

Traditionally Wax was used to protect terracotta tiles however with the advent of modern purpose made sealers we don’t recommend it. Not only is it troublesome to remove but it scratches easily and we have seen situations in kitchens where dirt and oil trapped in the wax turns black and becomes very unsightly.

For sealing Terracotta we actually recommend Tile Doctor Seal and Go which works well on clay tiles such as Terracotta and is also water based so doesn’t give off a smell as it dries. When applying a sealer always make sure the floor is dry first as applying a sealer to a damp floor can lead to inconsistent results. Because of this we typically clean and seal Terracotta floors over two days so we can clean on day one and then apply the sealer on day two having let the floor dry off overnight.

Below you will find detailed examples of work we have carried out in the past, it should give you some idea of what’s involved and what can be achieved with the right techniques and products.

Terracotta Restoration Wickford

Terracotta Tiled Kitchen Floor Refreshed in Wickford

Sealers really do bring out the best in Terracotta tiles, however the catch is they will wear off over time and if you want to maintain that appearance you have to work out a regular maintenance plan. If you don’t maintain the sealer you will find that the sealer near the most heavily used areas such as doors etc. will wear away first and once that happens dirt will become ingrained in the tile and becomes difficult to clean resulting in a patchy appearance.

The remaining sealer on this Terracotta tiled kitchen floor at a house in the town of Wickford, Essex was no longer effective and had worn completely off in places. The solution was to strip off the old sealer, clean the Terracotta tile and gout and then re-seal with a fresh seal.

Terracotta Kitchen Floor During Cleaning Wickford

Stripping Sealers from Terracotta Tiles

I started by giving the floor a deep clean with Tile Doctor Pro Clean diluted 2 parts water to 1 part cleaner. This is quite a strong dilution designed to allow the removal of the sealer and was left to dwell on the floor for ten minutes before working it into the floor using a scrubbing machine fitted with a black pad. Surprisingly the sealer was proving difficult to shift in certain areas and I had to repeat the process a few times and made sure to give the grout a good scrubbing as well.

I managed to get rid of most of the sealer using this process and for the remaining stubborn areas I used a stronger product called Tile Doctor Remove and Go which is a very effective coatings remover that is safe to use on tiles. This did the trick and the floor was now free of sealers and the grout was looking much better too, the resultant slurry was removed using a wet vacuum and I then rinsed the floor several times with water before leaving it to dry for weekend.

Terracotta Kitchen Floor During Cleaning Wickford

Stripping Sealers from Terracotta Tiles

Tile Doctor Colour Grow which is an impregnating sealer that seeps into the pores of the tile to block them and prevent contaminates becoming ingrained in there and it also enhances the natural colours. Once this was dry I followed up with a number of coats of Tile Doctor Seal and Go which is topical sealer that will protect the surface and adds a nice sheen to the floor and is a popular choice for Terracotta and Quarry tiles.

Terracotta Kitchen Floor After Cleaning and Sealing Wickford

I’m not sure my photographs do this post any justice however hopefully you can see that floor was quite transformed, the grout is much cleaner and the colours in the Terracotta have really come to life.

Maintaining Terracotta Tiles in Essex

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Terracotta Refreshed Wickford

Dirty Terracotta Tiled Floor Refreshed in Wickford

Not too long ago, I was contacted by a client in the town of Wickford, which is a fairly small, quiet town in the south of Essex. My client had a Terracotta tiled floor that was in dire need of a complete refresh in the form of a thorough clean and seal.

You might not be aware of this but the word ‘Terracotta’ actually means ‘burned earth’, owing to the stone’s fantastic natural orange-auburn colours. A strong, durable material,it has been in use for residential uses for over two thousand years; the ancient Romans, for example, used Terracotta tiles to decorate their villas and palaces. However, as anyone who has ever owned with a Terracotta tiled floor will know, a major downside to the stone is that it has no natural glaze on the surface, and therefore can pick up ingrained dirt very quickly.

Terracotta Tile Before Cleaning Wickford

Cleaning a Terracotta tiled floor

I began the cleaning process by focusing on the grout lines. Firstly, I mixed a solution of one part Tile Doctor Pro-Clean to two parts clean water. Pro-Clean is a high alkaline cleaner that is suitable for use on most types of natural stone tile. I scrubbed the solution into the grout lines using a stiff grout brush in order to lift out the ingrained dirt and freshen up the grout.

To clean the tiles I applied Tile Doctor Remove & Go, which is a powerful coating remover product designed to break down and strip away any remaining old sealer on the surface. Nonetheless, most of the old sealer on this floor had clearly already worn away, allowing dirt and muck access to the tiles beneath. The product was applied to the tiles and agitated using a black scrubbing pad fitted to a rotary machine. As you can see from the photographs, the clean made a marked difference to the appearance of the floor, and also helped to remove some linseed oil which had been applied at some point in the past.

Once I was satisfied with the results of the clean, I left the house for a total of four days in order to allow enough time for the floor dry completely. This was important, as any excess moisture can inadvertently affect the performance of the sealer.

Terracotta Tile After Cleaning Wickford

Sealing a Terracotta tiled floor

Upon my return, I finished off the job by sealing the floor with multiple coats of Tile Doctor Seal & Go. Seal & Go offers durable surface protection, which is especially important for porous stone like Terracotta that can, as I’ve mentioned, become very easily ingrained with dirt. Seal & Go also provided the aesthetically pleasing, low sheen finish that my client had requested.

Terracotta Tile After Sealing Wickford

TIP: If you have ever wondered how to tell if you floor is fully sealed, simply add a few drops of water to the surface; if the water forms a bubble on the surface as in the photograph below, then its sealed.

Terracotta Tile After Sealing Wickford


Tile cleaning and sealing for dirty Terracotta tiled floor restoration in Wickford

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Terracotta Restoration Chingford

Terracotta Tiled floor Restoration in Chingford

These photographs are from an old Terracotta tiled floor in Chingford, Essex that had been under carpet for years. The owners had removed carpet which had been glued to the tiles beneath and found this lovely floor which they wanted to restore as an original feature. As you can see it was in a bad state and needed some work on it.

Terracotta Tiles in Chingford Before Cleaning

Remove Grout Haze and Cleaning Terracotta Tiles

We started by giving the floor a deep clean with Tile Doctor Pro Clean which was left to dwell on the floor for ten minutes before working it into the floor using a scrubbing machine fitted with a black pad. I knew this wouldn’t resolve all the problems but it was a good start and would show what was going to be removed easily.

As expected there were a number of stubborn areas including the surface glue especially around the edges which needed to be tackled with a stronger product so the next step was to apply Tile Doctor Remove and Go which as the name suggests is a coatings remover that will remove almost anything and is safe to use on tiles. Hand scrapers were used along the edges of the floor and although the area was relatively small it took a long time to remove all the various contaminants.

Another issue we found was grout haze on the surface of the tile and for that we need to apply Tile Doctor Grout Clean-Up which was applied to the tile surface and scrubbed in with black scrubbing pads.

Terracotta Tiles in Chingford During Cleaining

Once satisfied the haze was removed we washed the floor down three times with water to remove any residue using a wet vacuum to pick up the slurry and suck any remaining liquids from the floor to allow it to dry quicker..

The floor turned out to be quite acceptable to customer who was happy with the results. They were going to seal the floor themselves once all the decorating had been completed.

Terracotta Tiles in Chingford After Cleaning


Restoring Terracotta tiled floor in Essex

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Saltillo Terracotta Abridge Essex

Saltillo Terracotta Tiled Floor Cleaned and Sealed in Abridge

Pictures below of a job we did cleaning and re-sealing a 25m2 Saltillo Terracotta tiled floor installed in the kitchen of a house on a working farm outside Abridge, Essex. The owner had been applying coats of sealer for the last 10 years or so and over the course of time a bad build-up of layers of sealer had occurred causing and un-even and darkening effect on the tile (see picture below).

Saltillo Terracotta Floor Before

Cleaning Saltillo Terracotta Tile

Removing the old sealer to get back to the bare Terracotta surface was incredibly hard work, normally we can get most of the sealer off with a strong dilution of Tile Doctor Pro-Clean but in this case something a lot stronger was required so we applied Tile Doctor Remove and Go (which is a coatings remover designed for taking off sealers and other coatings from tile) mixed 50/50 with Nano Tech Ultra-clean which adds tiny abrasive particles to the mix. We applied the resulting solution and let it soak in for 30 minutes before tackling it with scrubbers and a steamer, gradually over the course of three days we managed to remove all of the sealer. We rinsed the Terracotta down with clean water to remove any trace of chemical and neutralise the floor before sealing and then left it to dry out.

Saltillo Terracotta Floor After Cleaning

Sealing Saltillo Terracotta Tile

We left the floor for 10 days to dry out and came back to seal it using two coats of Tile Doctor Colour Grow which is a colour enhancing sealer that protects the tile as well bringing out the natural colour in the tile.

Saltillo Terracotta Floor Part Sealed

I left the floor to cure overnight, and came back the next day to finish sealing with Tile Doctor Seal and Go, Seal and Go is a water based sealer so it doesn’t give off an odour when it’s drying and also offers durable stain protection together with a low sheen finish. In the end the floor actually took seven coats of Seal and Go before it was fully sealed, this naturally took a long time to apply as you have to wait for it to dry before applying the next coat. Needless to say this was a very long job but the difference was remarkable and the owner was very happy with the result.

Saltillo Terracotta Floor After Sealing


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South Essex Tile Doctor

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