Saltillo tile has a stunning, authentic appearance and is full of old-world charm. The tile ages naturally over time to a rustic sheen — after all, it is a natural, handmade product!
If your busy household always has kids coming and going and pets running around, Saltillo tiles are up to the wear-and-tear challenge. The tiles will look great for many years with proper cleaning and maintenance.
What is Saltillo Tile?
Since around 1580, the Tlaxcaltecas Artisans in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico, have been making genuine Saltillo clay tiles. While Mexican clay tiles are created in other regions of the country, they can only be called Saltillo if they originate there — similar to how champagne can only be made in a particular area of France.
No two Saltillo tiles will be identical because they are handmade. The clay is either formed by hand or by being pushed into a wooden frame. The most common colors are typical terracotta tones and brown hues, both light and dark.
Rustic characteristics of handcrafted Saltillo tile include bumps, cracks, lime pops, color striping, color variances, size disparities, thickness variations, concave backs, fingerprints, uneven patterns, and smudges.
Saltillo Tile Flooring Advantages
Having Saltillo tile floors in your home can be a cause for celebration because there are so many advantages to this natural flooring option.
- Environmentally friendly: The handcrafted tiles come from naturally occurring clay that is only found in northeastern Mexico. The process is still the same as it has been for centuries.
- Comfortable: Because they are made of clay, they are comfortable underfoot. Additionally, these tiles feel significantly warmer on bare feet in the winter than some other flooring options while still feeling cool in the summer heat.
- Easy to clean: A quick sweep or vacuum a couple times a week should keep your floors looking clean, as the rustic appearance can hide a fair amount of grime. When it is time for a more thorough clean, knocking them into shape isn’t too difficult either, as we will show you below.
Sealed or Unsealed?
Before we can dive into the deep clean process, it is important to find out whether your Saltillo tile floors are sealed or unsealed. The tiles need to be cleaned in a slightly different way to protect your flooring.
If you aren’t sure, don’t worry. It is relatively easy to figure out. Take a close look at the grout lines and the tile surfaces; do they have a glossy sheen? They are probably sealed if they appear a little shiny.
However, to be sure, sprinkle some water on the tiles. The tiles are sealed if the water rapidly beads up.
The Cleaning Process
When it comes to routine maintenance, Saltillo tile is very forgiving. Unless your floors are in really rough shape, you should be able to get them looking like new in just an hour or two.
Sweep and Vacuum
Vacuuming or sweeping Saltillo tile floors every day (or as often as you have time) is the first step in maintaining their cleanliness. Uneven edges contribute to their rustic beauty, but they also cause them to collect dirt in the grout.
Cleaning regularly with a vacuum is the easiest way to keep the dirt from piling up. Many people with tile flooring choose to use a robot vacuum cleaner as it is easy to run daily. You can switch it on before you head out to work and come home to floors free of debris and dirt.
Mopping Sealed Tiles
Washing your sealed tiles really involves cleaning the seal coat rather than the actual tiles. This is fine if you only need a fast clean once a week or so. However, it’s worthwhile to remove the sealer and clean the exposed tiles underneath around once a year.
But for regular maintenance of your sealed tiles, use a cleaner made for tile floors. The cleaning agent should be strong enough to clean your floors but won’t damage their natural beauty.
You can dilute the cleaner with plenty of water to ensure that it isn’t too harsh for your flooring. Scrub the tile with a gentle brush or cleaning pad if there is a lot of grime, or use a mop if they just need a little refresh.
If you are concerned you might damage your floors, you can hire a cleaning company specializing in Saltillo tiles.
Mopping Unsealed Tiles
Work cleaning a small area at a time, and pour an equal mixture of cleanser and hot water straight onto the tiles. Before you start scrubbing, let the cleaning solution lie on the tiles for 10 to 15 minutes. Use a floor brush or heavy-duty scrubbing pad to clean each individual tile.
Once the tiles are cleaned, rinse with a mop and hot water. Use a shop vac to gather any extra water that accumulates on your floor, and then finish drying with a clean towel. You can allow the tiles air dry as long as you don’t leave any pooled water on the tiles.
Scrub the Grout
Grout frequently turns darker over time due to dirt, debris, and spills sticking to it. You’ll be surprised at how much the floors can improve by simply cleaning the grout. Use a brass wire toothbrush to do wonders for your grout lines.
If your grout is sealed, the sealer eventually flakes off, which is a problem that cleaning will not fix. If you notice this issue, the grout and tiles will likely need to be resealed.
The multipurpose cleaner Fabuloso leaves behind a lingering fresh aroma. You will notice the perfume that the lavender fragrance leaves behind. It comes in a handy, pourable bottle. This all-purpose cleanser from Fabuloso is simple to use and leaves behind no residue.
This tile floor and grout cleanser is good at removing ingrained filth from tiles and grout lines, including water stains, oil, grease, and rust. It is safer, more effective, and less harmful than other liquid cleaners. A natural cleaning solution choice for those that are sensitive to strong fumes.
The BoomJoy Floor brush eliminates the need to crouch down at awkward angles while scouring because of its long handle and broom-like bristles. Plus, anything that the filaments are unable to remove can be cleaned up with the rubber blade scraper.
Brass Wire Brush Tooth Brushes
Brass wire toothbrushes are excellent for removing dirt and grime from various surfaces.
With the Roomba i3 robot vacuum, which has 10X more power-lifting suction to capture dirt, dust, and pollen, you can clean floors with less effort. Even better, it picks up on your cleaning preferences and proposes cleaning times that fit into your schedule. While Dirt Detect Technology concentrates on cleaning where it is most needed, Reactive Sensor Technology aids in preventing it from becoming trapped. It uses Dual Multi-Surface Rubber Brushes to effectively vacuum your floors while moving purposefully in clean rows. Voice command is available through Google Assistant and Alexa.
What If They Still Don’t Look Clean?
So, you’ve completed all these cleaning steps, and your Saltillo tile floors are still looking a little rough. It may be time to strip and re-seal the tiles. It is possible to hire professionals to take care of process, but it can also be done yourself.
You’ll start by stripping off the old sealer with either a water-based floor stripper or a polyurethane-based sealer — depending on what type of sealant is already on the floors. You’ll need an abrasive pad or a floor machine to get down to the bare tiles again.
Once you have stripped off the old sealer, you can thouroughly clean the floors taking care to remove any stains that may have seeped into the tiles since they were last sealed. Then, it is time to apply the new sealer. The two main types to choose from are a wet-look high gloss product or a natural-looking sheen. You also have the option of adding an anti-slip additive to the new sealer which is a good choice in wet areas like the bathroom or kitchen.
Due to the porous nature of Saltillo tiles, it will likely take multiple coats of sealer to achieve the sheen and protection you desire for your flooring. Make sure you allow the product to dry completely before adding additional layers.
Re-sealing the tiles should have your floor looking great once again!