It might only require using a decent cleaner and cleaning filth out of grout lines to restore a Mexican Saltillo tile floor. Then again, it may be as complicated as working with a flooring restoration specialist with loud, large equipment.

How do you know if your tiles are ready for restoration or just need a thorough cleaning? Repair may be in order if your regular cleaning methods don’t seem to yield any results or the sealant is flaking off. Other indicators that a good scrub is not enough include hazy-looking tiles, white residue, or a cloudiness to the old sealant.

What is Saltillo Tile?

In the Mexican town of Saltillo, clay tiles are handmade by local craftspeople. Simply put, a tile is not truly Saltillo if it is not from this area — much like how champagne only comes from a specific region in France! 

The clay comes from a local riverbed, the only place in the world to produce this particular type of clay. Additionally, this riverbed clay is regarded as one of the world’s most resilient clays, which makes this Mexican tile an excellent option for flooring. 

Mexican families have produced this tile for many decades. So, despite advancements in manufacturing efficiency throughout time, the manual technique of creating this terracotta tile has remained primarily unaltered since the beginning.

The Restoration Process

Clean the grout lines first. Grout often darkens over the years due to dirt, debris, and spills adhering to it. You’ll be astounded at how much merely cleaning grout will improve the look of the floors. However, if your grout is sealed, the sealant eventually flakes off, which cannot be solved by cleaning alone.

Second, swap out any broken tiles. Any cracked or severely chipped Saltillo tiles can be hammered out and replaced. However, those with minor chips just add to the rustic appeal of tile floors and may not be worth replacing.

The next step is to give the tile floor a good cleaning. Reseal everything once the floor is dry — including your grout, newly installed tiles, and all the old ones. 

Cleaning Saltillo Tile Floors

You’ll want to ensure the floor is spotless before attempting to restore your Saltillo tiles. Before mopping the floor, sweep and vacuum it to eliminate any loose dirt.

To create a Mexican tile floor cleaning solution, vinegar and water can be combined. One part vinegar to two parts water makes an efficient solution that isn’t too strong for your tiles. 

After application, do not let this mixture rest on the tiles for too long, however. The tiles are vulnerable to water damage because of their porous nature, and they will be very susceptible to soaking up the cleaning solution in the spots where the old sealer has worn off. To remove extra moisture, use a towel to dry any particularly wet areas after mopping. To simplify this process, you may wish to work your Saltillo floor in sections.

If you don’t like the smell of vinegar, there are plenty of cleaning solutions you can use instead. You’ll want to ensure that the cleaner is compatible with natural tile flooring.

Cleaning Tools

Yocada Sponge Mop

When you pull the handle, practically all of the water is sucked out of the sponge, which keeps you from soaking your Saltillo tiles. Additionally, the mop’s retractable feature makes it comfortable for users of all heights to operate it. 

Brass Wire Brush Tooth Brushes

If you really want to scrub your grout lines thoroughly, using a brass wire toothbrush works wonders.

pH Neutral Tile & Stone Cleaner

A biodegradable, non-toxic cleanser made for regular use on practically any hard surface. The pH Neutral Tile & Stone Cleaner needs to be diluted because it is highly concentrated. One quart of concentrate will yield five quarts of cleaning solution when diluted with water.

Stripping Old Sealer

Your Saltillo tile floors need a good stripping solution, a highly abrasive scouring pad, and a lot of patience to get rid of the old sealant.

You should initially try to determine the type of topical sealer that was used if you did not apply the present sealant to your tiles yourself. Polyurethane and water-based acrylic are the popular categories of topical sealers regularly used on Saltillo. Comparatively speaking, water-based acrylic sealers are easier to remove.

Applying a floor stripper with a water base is the simplest approach to find out which you have. If it works, you’re dealing with a water-based acrylic sealer; if not, you’re probably dealing with a polyurethane sealant.

Because the required stripper to remove polyurethane is more toxic than a water-based one, removing polyurethane involves wearing protective equipment and a respirator. Typically, MEK-based paint strippers are required to soften and remove polyurethane-based sealers. When handling MEK compounds, using rubber gloves, a respirator, and eye protection is advised. 

When using a water-based floor stripper, you are still advised to wear rubber gloves and goggles for protection, even though it is less dangerous than those containing MEK. Always carefully follow the instructions on the stripper to avoid causing unnecessary harm to your tile or yourself.

To remove the sealer, directly apply the stripper solution to the Saltillo tiles and let it sit there for the recommended amount of time. An hour or more may be needed to start softening and dissolving the old sealer. The sealant can be removed using your abrasive pad once it has been released. Renting or buying a floor machine may be more efficient than elbow grease if your Saltillo tile flooring covers a large area.

It’s imperative to prevent the stripper from drying on the tile surface. Apply the stripper again as necessary to keep it from setting into the tiles. Before starting the resealing process, thoroughly rinse away any extra stripper and scraped-off sealant. Also, make sure to give the area enough time to dry before you begin the sealing process.

Stripping Tools

Prolux Core Floor Buffer

Any floor surface can be cleaned, stripped, buffed, and refinished by The Core. It has a 50-foot extension cable, an adjustable handle for different user heights, big rubber wheels so you can roll it upstairs, and it scrubs simultaneously in both directions for a deeper clean.

ROYAKI Chemical Resistant Latex Gloves

A greater grip is provided by a diamond design that improves friction allowing you to handle even small objects without too much difficulty. The gloves shield your hands from acetone, alcohol, and other corrosive substances.

Sealing the Tiles

Test out your Saltillo tile sealer on some scrap tile or a tiny sample section of tile that isn’t prominently located before applying it to the whole floor. Make sure that your tiles are clean from all debris and old scraped of sealant.

Add the appropriate sealant to a paint pan. Coat a short-napped roller evenly with the sealant. 

Roll the sealer onto your Saltillo tiles working in small sections and taking care to apply the product evenly with no space between rolls. Ensure that you do not leave behind any drips of sealant on the tiles. 

Saltillo tile is very porous, so you may need several coats to protect your floor thoroughly. Be sure to allow plenty of time between each coat. While the first coat is likely to dry quite quickly, the dry time will likely increase with each additional coat that is added.

If the paint roller starts to deteriorate, replace it with a new one. Replacing it will keep the material from ending up in the sealant and thus on your tiles.

Remember: If you had to replace any tiles or regrout any areas, you will need to wait three to four days for the grout to dry completely before sealing the tiles.

Sealing Tools

Glaze ‘N Seal Olé Mexican Tile Sealer

Your porous Saltillo tiles will be protected by this Glaze ‘N Seal product, making it possible for them to withstand stains from food, oil, and grease. It may be used on tiles both indoors and outside and produces a high gloss look.

Miracle Sealants Plus

The porous surface of Saltillo tile can benefit from being sealed and shielded by Miracle Sealants Plus. The premium surface sealer forms an imperceptible protective coating resistant to weather, oil, water, and stains. Plus, the sealant offers advanced slip protection which works well for high traffic areas like the kitchen. Miracle Sealants Plus offers a natural-looking sheen to your Saltillo tiles.

Deluxe Metal Paint Tray

This metal tray is composed of rust-resistant steel and has a one quart working capacity. The legs keep the tray even while you are working and help prevent spills. 

Paint Roller Covers

A 1/2-inch all-purpose roller with a high density napp allowing for holding more product. The micro-fiber material is shed resistant and easy to clean.

Editorial Contributors
Stacey Bailiff

Stacey Bailiff

Stacey Bailiff is a talented writer with a passion for home improvement, particularly in the realm of tile design and installation. Stacey is an expert on the latest trends, techniques, and materials used in transforming spaces through tile work. Whether you're a homeowner looking to revitalize your kitchen backsplash, renovate your bathroom with stunning tile patterns, or explore creative ways to incorporate tiles into your living spaces, Stacey's writing is sure to inspire and guide you.

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