Care & Maintenance
Almost any building in the world that has to hold up to extreme use or remain hygienic with prolonged exposure to organic materials is finished with ceramic tile. Hospital operating rooms, airports, dairies, breweries all chose ceramic tile for its ease of cleaning with minimal time and labor for years of heavy use.
The Cronin Company sells glazed ceramic tile and porcelain tile that is either glazed or made using a process that brings materials to the surface of the tiles that make them almost completely impervious to staining. With the exception of crackle-glaze wall tiles, none of our ceramic tiles require sealer. Crackle glaze tiles should be sealed before grouting if a contrasting grout color is to be applied; otherwise, the entire installation can be sealed after the grout has cured. Excess sealer should not be allowed to dry on the face of the tiles. TEC Guard All invisible penetrating sealer is the recommended sealer for these applications.
Cement-based grouts should be sealed after the grout has cured and any excess sealer should be removed from the face of the tiles before drying. We recommend Tile Lab Surfacegard water-based sealer or TEC Guard All solvent based sealer for all cement-based grouts, following manufacturers' directions. Specific information regarding these products can be found at the following websites:
Always make sure the installation is completely clean before applying sealer!
After the installation is clean and the grout has been sealed, maintenance is usually very simple. Here are some tips for keeping your ceramic tile looking good for years:
Vacuuming will remove most dirt from interior tile floors. Occasional damp mopping with clear water will remove most dirt that is tracked in. A neutral cleaner will break down grease and oil but should only be used if needed. All excess residue should be removed and rinsed with clear water. One of the most common problems people have is using a cleaner but not removing the cleaning solution from the floor.
Glazed tiles and most porcelain tiles will not absorb anything. Paint, nail polish and even most glue can be removed with the appropriate solvent without harming the tile just clean off the solvent residue.
Some tiles can be damaged with acids. Shiny tiles, and occasionally other finishes, can be affected by mild acids such as lemon juice. Blues and greens are the colors most commonly affected by acids but most tiles are resistant to most acids. For counter use, it's always good to verify that the particular tile you are considering is acid resistant. If a supplier can't tell you whether or not a certain tile is resistant to acid, put a spot of vinegar or lemon juice on it and let it sit overnight. If the spot washes off, the glaze is acid resistant; if it leaves a dull spot, the glaze has been etched and is not suitable for counter use.
Cement-based grout will deteriorate from exposure to acids and some cleaners contain enough acid to damage grout with repeated use. Any cleaner that promises to remove mineral spots or even soap scum without scrubbing probably contains acid and will damage grout with repeated usage. If it does not say "acid-free", use with caution.
A few tiles are very rough, usually to give them increased slip resistance. Even though these tiles cannot be stained, dirt can get trapped in crevices and be difficult to remove by vacuuming or damp mopping. In these cases, a brush can be used with a neutral cleaner and water to loosen the dirt, which should then be removed with a sponge mop or wet/dry vacuum. Outdoors, these tiles can be hosed or even power washed and kept clean with minimal effort, but the rougher the surface the harder it will be to keep clean, especially indoors.
Kitchen counters get oil, mild acids and every color of staining material imaginable on a daily basis, so picking a good tile, grout and sealer, as well as getting a good installation are very important. The larger the tile and the smaller the grout joint, the easier it will be to keep a counter looking like new. Medium colors and a little texture are also easier to keep looking good, dark shiny tiles will show streaks. Finally, white grout will almost certainly discolor over time in a kitchen, a little color will make your life easier. If you follow these simple rules you can have tile counters that are not only beautiful and long-lasting, but easy to maintain as well.
Floor rated tiles are recommended for kitchen counters because they are impact and scratch resistant. Avoid rough textures they will make cleaning more difficult. With good tile and small sealed grout joints, a clean dishrag will clean off nearly anything. Use soap for greasy spills and then rinse out the dishrag and remove the residue. Dark tiles will require a pass with a dry towel to remove water streaks. After preparing meat, fish or poultry, it's good to use a highly diluted bleach solution to kill bacteria on counters and breadboards. When you see grout joints begin to darken when they get wet, it's time to re-seal them. With a good sealer, once every few months will be as often as needed.
Certainly no other building material has stood the test of time like natural stone. There are countless buildings around the world that have withstood weather and heavy wear for hundreds of years that still amaze people with their beauty.
Natural stone, however, does require some maintenance to keep it looking new and not all stones are suitable for all applications. Marble, limestone and travertine are sensitive to acids and not recommended for kitchen counters. Very rough stones are difficult to clean when used for interior floors, polished stones can be slippery and may dull in traffic areas and some stones are too soft for heavy floor traffic. Nearly all installations will perform better with the application of a good sealer and sealing is mandatory for lasting satisfaction in many applications. All of these factors should be considered when choosing natural stone.
There are several types of sealer that can be used with natural stone. Most inexpensive silicone sealers will repel intermittent water, but will not keep out oil-based stains and need frequent applications to provide the little protection they offer. There are several premium penetrating sealers on the market that are long-lasting and help block oil-based stains as well. Typically, these sealers do not change the color of the stone or its gloss level, but some of them will slightly alter the color of certain stones. With all sealers, it is good to test some leftover scraps before applying sealer to your installation. Enhancing sealers bring out more color in stones and are often used with darker stones to make the coloring more dramatic. Most enhancers are also excellent sealers, in fact, TEC's Ensealant SB was the most effective sealer we tested for resistance to oil-based stains. Finally, there are acrylic surface coats that usually enhance the color of the stone and add varying degrees of gloss level. These can make very porous stones easier to maintain but will need re-application in traffic areas and eventually stripping and re-application to maintain their appearance.
Always make sure the installation is completely clean before applying sealer!
The Cronin Company carries sealers and cleaning products from both TEC and Custom Building Products. Specific information regarding these products can be found at the following websites:
Once the stone is sealed, maintenance is usually easy but varies with different applications and different stones. Some of the more common installations are listed below:
Once they have been sealed, most granite countertops are extremely durable and easy to maintain. Even sealed, the lightest granites may show staining from common items like red wine, balsamic vinegar and mustard. If you choose a light colored granite for kitchen counters, be careful to quickly wipe up all dark colored items as soon as possible and avoid colored cleaning products. Cleaning products use dyes to achieve colors they think might be appealing to you as a consumer, but repeated use of those products can eventually lead to your counters taking on the color of your cleaner.
Extreme heat can also damage granite. Although granite is heat resistant, a heavy pan hotter than 200 degrees can cause the granite crystals to separate, leaving a very rough surface that is difficult to repair, or in some cases impossible to repair. It's always safest to set hot pans from the oven or stove top on a hot pad or trivet.
With those precautions, granite is usually easy to clean with a dishrag. Use soap for greasy spills and then rinse out the dishrag and remove the residue. Dark stone will require a pass with a dry towel to remove water streaks. After preparing meat, fish or poultry, it's good to use a highly diluted bleach solution to kill bacteria on counters and breadboards. When you see your granite begin to darken when it gets wet, it's time to re-seal it. With a good sealer, once very few months will be as often as needed.
Vacuuming will remove most dirt from interior stone floors. Occasional damp mopping with clear water will remove most dirt that is tracked in. A neutral cleaner will break down grease and oil but should only be used if needed. All excess residue should be removed and rinsed with clear water. One of the most common problems people have is using a cleaner but not removing the cleaning solution from the floor. Most dirt will come off of properly sealed stone with clear water. Textured stones might take an occasional cleaning with a neutral cleaner and a brush, but again, clean up the residue with a clear water rinse.
Some stones can be damaged by acids. Even if your stone is acid resistant, cement-based grout will deteriorate from exposure to acids and some cleaners contain enough acid to damage grout with repeated use. Any cleaner that promises to remove mineral spots or even soap scum without scrubbing probably contains acid and will do damage with repeated usage. If it does not say "acid-free", use with caution.
In tub and shower areas avoid dark grout colors as shampoo will cause them to turn whitish. After showering, rinse off the walls with clear water. Soap scum and body oils will rinse off easily before they dry but will be hard to clean if they build up. Occasional cleaning with a neutral cleaner will keep things looking good with minimal effort. If soap and body oils do build up and regular cleaning does not remove it, products like Scrub Free will dissolve them for a one-time cleaning but regular use will severely damage grout and can also damage marble, limestone and travertine, especially if they are polished.
The best way to prevent mold and mildew is to use an exhaust fan during and after showers and keep shower doors open. With constant heat and moisture, mold will grow on anything, but good ventilation and a fairly simple cleaning schedule will usually keep it from being a problem. Sealing the grout will help keep mold out and occasional bleach- based cleaners can be used, but repeated use of bleach will also lead to grout damage over time. Using exhaust fans will also help prevent mold growing in other places, including your attic.