Ceramic tiles and laminate floors are two of the most popular choices for homes and with good reason. Both are durable, low maintenance and hard-wearing; laminate floors are generally fade-, stain-, dent-, burn- and scratch-resistant whilst ceramic tiles has to be washed less frequently than other surfaces that receive similar amounts of traffic and soiling, and providing it is correctly installed and cared for, will retain its beauty and luster for years. Both require little more than a regular dust and damp mopping or wipe to keep clean. However, even these surfaces can be susceptible to stains; for example, standing water or other liquids can deteriorate tile and grout and leave water marks, so should always be removed promptly.
Tiles come in two forms: glazed and unglazed. The former is most often used on traditional walls, counter tops and floors. It has a tough, glasslike surface produced by kiln firing at extremely high temperatures, and can have a glossy, matte or texture finished. Unglazed tile is made of natural clays, which are sometimes mixed with pigments and can be used on floors, walls, counter tops, windowsills, fireplaces, swimming pools, etc. although it may actually require more care than glazed tile. Tile grout is also something which needs to be considered as it is porous and may stain more easily. A liquid silicon seal can be applied to grout (after the stain has been removed) to prevent future soiling.
Over time, glazed tile can exhibit ‘crazing’ which is fine surface lines caused by age, heating and cooling. This is a natural effect and part of the tile’s appearance and not considered a stain.
Regular cleaning of tiles will help prevent stains. For wall tiles, wipe with a non-abrasive damp cloth and use an appropriate household cleaner if required (eg, window cleaner for glossy tiles). For floor tiles, vacuum first to remove dirt and grit and then mop with an appropriate household cleaner (note: for unglazed tiles, use a soap-free detergent). For specific stains, here are some suggestions:
- Nail polish – dissolve this with nail polish remover and then rinse. If the stain persists, use liquid household bleach and then rinse thoroughly and dry.
- Oil and grease – wash with a solution of water and soda (eg. Club Soda)
- Dyes – apply household bleach immediately, leaving it until the stain disappears and then rinse thoroughly, before drying.
- Iodine – scrub with ammonia, then rinse and dry.
- Mould and mildew – you can use specially-designed commercial cleaners, although regular ammonia or bleach is just as effective. Make sure you scrub the grout with scouring powder. Rinse and dry.
NOTE: never use ammonia and bleach together – keep them well separated. If mixed, they will create a chemical reaction that could be lethal.
- Blood – hydrogen peroxide is very effective against blood, otherwise, try chlorine bleach, or a chlorinated (bleaching) scouring powder.
- Water stains (eg. hard water) and soap build-up – a solution of water and white vinegar is a good stain remover for this, although be careful as vinegar can damage some tile glazes so always spot test first. You can also buy commercial products specially designed to deal with hard water stains.
- Wax, tar and chewing gum – chill with ice first to reduce smearing and then scrape away as much material as possible with a blunt instrument (eg, wood blade). Any remaining residue can be removed with non-flammable paint stripper (make sure you follow the precautions on the label). Rinse and dry.
- Coffee and tea, food colouring, fruit juices – wash with an all-purporse household cleaning solution or a soap-less detergent, followed by bleach if necessary. Rinse thoroughly.
- Lipstick – same as above.
Remember, do not use abrasives and harsh cleaning agents (eg. steel wool pads) which can scratch and damage the tile surface. Similarly, for unglazed tiles, do not use a cleaning agent which contains colour as these tiles are relatively porous and may absorb the colour.
For a beautiful hardwood effect without the price tag and with more ease of care, it’s hard to beat laminate flooring. Most laminate flooring is made of several layers of moisture-resistant HDF (high density fibreboard), with a top layer covered by a high resolution photographic image of natural wood, and finished with a hard, clear coating made from special resin-coated cellulose to protect the laminate flooring. General care is easy with regular dust mopping, vacumming or sweeping. For heavier dirt, a damp mop or cloth can be used but never use excessive water and always dry thoroughly with a soft cloth. Always mop up spills or water from wet feet or shoes immediately and never leave excess liquid on the surface of laminate floors. In particular, do not mop with soapy water – it is best to use the appropriate cleaning solution. Most laminate flooring manufacturers will provide recommendations or even cleaning kits with instructions; it is wise to follow these as most warranties will be conditional on these instructions being followed.
While laminate flooring is very tough and generally stain-resistant, it is not indestructible. The most likely staining is from damage of the protective surface, therefore make sure that you never use the following on your laminate flooring: soap-based detergents, abrasive cleaners, steel wool or other scouring pads, wax or polish and never steam clean or use chemicals which may damage the surface.
If any staining does occur, from stubborn substances such as from glue, paint or oil, try using nail polish remover (acetone) or other solvent (eg. lighter fluid) to dissolve the stain and then wipe clean with a damp cloth. Always spot test first.
As always, prevention is better than cure so try to prevent damage and staining by placing a doormat at entrances to collect excess moisture, dirt and other contaminants; use protective felt pads under furniture legs and use only colourfast and non-scratch carpeting or pads on your laminate flooring. In addition, be careful with sharp objects such as high heels and try not to slide furniture or appliances across the flooring.