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AlphaHomemaker: How to Clean Tile Floors

Nov01

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Advice Smackdown ArchivesDearest Amy,

My current four step process to cleaning our guest bathroom (I don’t bother cleaning our own bathroom. It’s too overwhelming for me to deal with):

1) Sweep the tile floor. Cringe when I have to pick all the hair off the broom with my fingers

2) Run the Swiffer wet mop over the floor. Stare, appalled, at the amount of dirt it brought up, as well as the amount of dirt it left on the floor.

3) Get down on hands and knees with Clorox wipes, become disgusted with the hand print marks of dirt left of said wipes, spend 15 minutes chasing hair and dirt around the floor.

4) Run away screaming in horror and disgust when I see that, after all that work, my father-in-law’s pubic hair is STILL on the floor.

Surely there’s a better way? This is the first house we’ve had with tile floors – I’m a traditional redneck linoleum kind of girl. And my hubby is threatening to put tile in the KITCHEN. Which, dear lord. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of food I won’t be able to clean out of those cracks…

HALP!

Um.

Have you tried…a mop? And some water?

Seriously, the best way to clean a tile floor is with clean, warm water and a mop. Once a week. I admit I usually go two weeks, though I swear I sweep a couple times in between.

For sweeping, I use a soft dusting mop with a removable microfiber dust mop top that can go in the washing machine. Swiffers are okay, but I find that most of the time I’m just pushing dirt and debris around, and the reusable dusting mop really does a better job and is most cost-effective in the long run, at least for the big floor jobs in rooms where you’re dealing with hair and other more substantial flotsam.

Next up, it’s a bucket of warm water. Stick mop in bucket. Wring out once, maybe twice. Mop floor quickly. Refill water in bucket once it starts to get dirty and brown. THAT’S IT.

“But! OMG! Plain water won’t get anything clean, will it?”

Trust me, unless you’re talking pet accidents or raw chicken juice, plain water will indeed get things cleaner as your fruitless broom/Swiffer/Clorox Wipes routine, all of which work best for small, targeted jobs (like a small counter spill or the dust bunnies riiiiight under the couch), but NOT for taking on an entire floor that really requires some wetness. No wonder the tile is driving you insane. Since I live in a house surrounded by boys and their penises and their terrible aim, obviously I do have to bust out the specialty cleansers sometimes — I like Seventh Generation’s Tub & Tile Cleaner for the area right around the toilet. If I sense the mess is big one or the grout is looking stained, I stick with the damp mopping but add some white vinegar (or rubbing alcohol) to my bucket of water. Easy, environmentally-friendly cleaning without the harsh chemicals, the waste output of individual wipes or the worries about the safety of commercially-produced antibacterial products.

So seriously. Go buy a dusting mop and a wet mop. You can try a wet-dry vacuum — which work nicely for spills and stuff like muddy footprints in the foyer — but I admit I am crazy old-school after trying a lot of the newer, fancier gadgets and wonder when exactly people got it into their head that pushing a mop around the floor was SO INSANELY HARD or unsanitary. Yeah, the water gets dirty and then the mop will too. But that’s hardly the mop’s fault, you know? Dump the water, refill, and toss the mop-head in the washing machine or rinse it out in the shower. A bathroom floor takes me 10 minutes, start to finish. You can probably get away with a light dusting of the guest bathroom now and then and only damp mop before and after you have guests. High-traffic floors like a master bath or kitchen? Aim for mopping once a week, just like you would do with hardwoods or for vacuuming carpet.

Tile floors are awesome. Tile is durable and lovely and protects your bathrooms and kitchens from mold and moisture damage and really, I SWEAR, is one of the easiest surfaces to take care of. (We have hardwoods in our kitchen. Ask me how much I love trying to vacuum out crumbs from the quarter-round or the number of spills I accidentally let sit too long that have since damaged the finish and how many times I’ve tried to convince my husband to please, oh God, let’s put some tile down already.)

__________________________________________________________________
If there is a question you would like answered by Amalah on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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47 Responses to “AlphaHomemaker: How to Clean Tile Floors”

  1. Katie Nov 01 at 11:33 am Reply Reply

    Yeah, old school cleaning seems to work best a lot of the time. Any suggestions for wood floors? I feel like a wet mop can’t be right, but I can’t seem to get them clean enough by sweeping/swiffering. Do you all use some kind of wood floor cleaner?

  2. Olivia Nov 01 at 11:36 am Reply Reply

    I like to take my vacuum into the bathroom because of all the hair. I vacuum the rug in front of the sink and then use the hose attachment to chase down all the fly-aways in the corners. I do not mop very often, so that is something I need to work on.

    And, yeah, for my linoleum floors in the kitchen, I’ve been using swiffer wet cloths, but I am finding they do not get up all the dirt. I can go over the same area twice, with clean cloths, and they still come back nearly black. I must go back to a mop and bucket.

    I laugh at the idea of vacuuming only once a week. Between cream carpet (not my choice), one dog and two cats, I vacuum every other day.

  3. Allison Nov 01 at 11:45 am Reply Reply

    What about to clean the already nasty looking grout (spelling?). We inherited a bathroom that is almost tile top to bottom (oy) and the former owners didn’t take great care of the pure white grout so it’s an odd yellowish color. Awesome

  4. Ally Nov 01 at 12:08 pm Reply Reply

    We have tile everywhere in our house (bathrooms, showers,kitchen, counters, foyer). I started with the traditional mop and broom and that never cleaned the grout. I resorted to using the bucket, a rag, and a toothbrush. It took me hours each week to clean everything. I still don’t know how to clean well, but scrubbing on my hands and knees gets the best results. Luckily since I’m pregnant with baby number 3 my husband let me hire someone to come and clean every other week. The first day she asked me where the mop was and I told her I threw it away and I scrub the floor myself. If anyone else has better suggestions let me know. 

  5. Amalah Nov 01 at 12:19 pm Reply Reply

    For grout grossness, a powdered oxygen bleach product (think Oxyclean) works really well, especially if you’re trying to stay away from skeevy heavy-duty chemical products. Add to some water and scrub with a bristle brush. I only tackle the grout once in awhile, like during heavy-duty spring cleaning and/or pregnancy nesting. Usually the vinegar in the mop water keeps things okay maintenance wise in between the scrubbing.

    For hardwoods, we mop with a slightly damp mop, water and diluted Murphy’s Oil Soap. LOVE that stuff — makes everything clean and shiny. We have an orange-oil based spray (cannot remember the name) that we use to cleaning messes and spills and then I sweep or Swiffer now and then when I see dust bunnies and stuff. 

    (For the record, my house is an honest-to-God disaster right now. I feel hypocritical even typing this stuff out right now.)

  6. Stephanie Nov 01 at 12:27 pm Reply Reply

    Steam mop!! I use it on all our hard surfaces (tile, hardwood, linoleum. I have a Eureka Envirosteamer and I adore it.

  7. tasterspoon Nov 01 at 12:54 pm Reply Reply

    Thanks for this post! We’re getting wood floors put in this week and I was just about to hit the Google for cleaning instructions. I’m a vinegar and water gal for the rest of the house but worried that the acid/water would eat at our finish/leave water marks. And that Method stuff in the teeny spray bottles is so expensive. Murphy’s Oil it is!
    (And yes to the OP: what is it with men and dropping pubes all over the bathroom?? We had a cleaning lady once a month and I always cleaned the bathroom floor before she came because no one should have to pick up a stranger’s pubes, seriously.)

  8. Beth Nov 01 at 1:09 pm Reply Reply

    I always vacuum a floor before I mop. I’ve always found sweeping does absolutely nothing.

  9. lisak Nov 01 at 1:17 pm Reply Reply

    Agree with Beth. Before any mopping a thorough vacuuming is a must. But then we have a large shedding dog, a cat and four people, so maybe that’s not always necessary if you have fewer shedders contributing!

  10. Kailee Nov 01 at 1:54 pm Reply Reply

    I second the steam mop for hardwood floors! What a dream. I got ours at Costco. I love that it just uses water, no smelly chemicals. Plus, the mop heads can go right in the washer. After a round with the steam mop, I then lightly go over the floors with a dust mop and some Murphy’s. Gorgeous floors, every time.

    And a big fat yes to those who vacuum their tiled bathroom floors before mopping. It’s the only way to get up all of the hair. I hate lugging the vacuum up the three flights of stairs in our townhouse, but it DOES make a huge difference.

  11. Cass Nov 01 at 2:06 pm Reply Reply

    Amalah, thank you for this (especially your comments re: grout). We just recently moved into our 1st house and there’s all kinds of surfaces that are new to me to clean. I attempted to clean the shower yesterday and even with all my elbow grease the grout still looks disgusting.

    Will be headed to the store today.

  12. Kate Nov 01 at 2:13 pm Reply Reply

    For the nasty wall tile in the shower I’ve started using a paint scraper with a straight edge razor blade in it.  Sounds extreme but it’s the quickest way I’ve found to get rid of soap scum.  Also, I’ve gotten totally hooked on the FlyLady system.  She knows how to clean anything and gives great baby step instructions on keeping your home clean and running smoothly without getting overwhelmed.

  13. Laurie Nov 01 at 2:31 pm Reply Reply

    For spot cleaning the hardwood floors I keep a spay bottle of diluted Murphy’s oil soap around. It works great. You can also use Murphy’s oil soap to clean paint brushes (just so you know!).

  14. JCF Nov 01 at 2:38 pm Reply Reply

    Here’s what I do for tile floors (will also disinfect those yucky bad-aim spills).
    1. Sweep with a regular old broom.
    2. Use the dustbuster to pick up the pile of stuff from sweeping.
    3. Use the dustbuster to run along the edges of the floor and under the cabinet, etc. where the broom might have missed anything.
    4. Spray the entire floor with half water/half vinegar and let sit for 15 minutes or so to take care of the germs (I usually work on another cleaning chore while I’m waiting and set a timer so I don’t forget to go back)
    5. Run a sponge mop over the floor and wait for it to dry.
    6. If there are any tough spots that don’t get taken care of with the sponge mop, I use a rag and more vinegar/water to finish them off.

    This is so quick. i swear it only takes 5 minutes of hands-on time (plus the wait time for the vinegar).

  15. andie Nov 01 at 2:44 pm Reply Reply

    Does anyone have a mop in an apartment? I just don’t know where I’d keep it, especially when it’s wet from use. It just doesn’t seem practical.

  16. gemma Nov 01 at 3:16 pm Reply Reply

    It might be old school, but I Love Lino. Warm on your feet in the bathroom and in if you drop breakable stuff in the kitchen, it bounces. Plus, the snazzy new stuff looks like tiles anyway.

  17. OP Nov 01 at 3:17 pm Reply Reply

    OK, silly OP here, who obviously has a REALLY dirty house…

    So, when you say to just throw your mop head in the washer to clean it, I am assuming you mean a string mop?  And not a sponge mop?  Cuz I am picturing tossing my current sponge mop head in the washing machine and it seems like a poor idea.

    Thanks for a good answer to a silly question!

  18. Susan Nov 01 at 3:19 pm Reply Reply

    I totally second Stephanie on the Envirosteamer. It’s quick and leaves the floor amazingly clean. Barefeet, white socks clean.

  19. Karen Nov 01 at 3:27 pm Reply Reply

    I also use a regular mop with either warm water alone or with Murphy’s on my hardwood (throughout house and kitchen). I clean it 2x a month because we have a small house with a toddler and a dog so everything gets heavy use.

    So now my problem is – who makes a really good mop? I don’t want one with any “new” features to make them more like a Swiffer. I just want a mophead, attached to a wood handle. Like the one my mom has used for 30 years. Lowes? Are you listening?

  20. Elizabeth Nov 01 at 4:08 pm Reply Reply

    I vacuum a few times a week (I have a crawling baby + 2 cats), and then mop once every few weeks. I used to have an awesome cleaning lady do it, but she moved away so now I’m doing it myself with fewer chemicals. She preferred the old-school mops and I finally found one at Target that works really well.

  21. MommiePie Nov 01 at 5:00 pm Reply Reply

    I skip the brooms that just push all the dirt around and go straight for the vaccuum to get all the debris up off the tile floor. Then, I use the Shark Steam Mop. Works awesome!

  22. Meghan Nov 01 at 5:33 pm Reply Reply

    I have a shark steam mop which I love! It has cut my mopping time in half.

  23. Suzy Q Nov 01 at 6:25 pm Reply Reply

    I highly recommend the Sonic Scrubber for grout or bathtubs that are old and seem to absorb dirt. It’s a hand-held, battery-powered thingy you can get at Bed, Bath & Beyond for about $15. It’s the ONLY thing that got the grunge off my bathtub. (No, I am not a dirty girl but the tub enamel is worn the hell out.)

  24. Nicole C. Nov 01 at 7:26 pm Reply Reply

    For my shower grout that was badly stained with mildew when we moved in, I used a toilet-bowl cleaner with bleach.  I know it’s not environmentally-friendly like vinegar, but nothing else worked!  The gel followed the grout down, I let it sit for 5-10 minutes, and then used an old toothbrush to scrub the stains.  It did take a while, but if you have a real mess, it’ll get that grout sparkling white again!  And then your normal cleaning routine will suffice…

  25. Pogita Nov 01 at 8:48 pm Reply Reply

    Baking soda is awesome for scrubbing grout and tubs. No nasty chemicals!

  26. Elizabeth Nov 01 at 9:57 pm Reply Reply

    My mother always got down on her hands and knees with a rag to clean the floors, and I thought I would NEVER do that and tried all kinds of mops, finally settling on a string mop … and then I tried a rag in my hand, on my hands and knees. Much better and faster!

  27. Olivia Nov 02 at 8:16 am Reply Reply

    Andie, let the mop dry in the tub/shower or propped over the sink. For storing, you must have a closet or corner where you keepa broom or vacuum, right?

  28. lb Nov 02 at 9:09 am Reply Reply

    My husband does all of our mopping, which I should be thrilled about, but he uses harsh chemicals. I’m really sensitive to the smell of cleaning products and they give me a headache. In college he worked part time for his dad’s company which cleaned restrooms for various businesses, so he has strong opinions about sanitizing everything. I can’t seem to convince him that vinegar or a bit of dish soap would do the job just as well. Ugh. I would almost prefer that he didn’t clean.

  29. Megan Nov 02 at 11:41 am Reply Reply

    Amy, maybe you could do a whole household cleaning guide? I feel totally incompetent for making into my early thirties without having a reliable system for mopping the hardwood floors. Seriously–before you mop up the soapy water you’ve just applied to the floor, are you supposed to rinse in the bucket of soapy water, or in a sink? Why can’t I figure this out?

  30. thedutchgirl Nov 02 at 12:05 pm Reply Reply

    For what it is worth, I know a hardwood floor installer, and he says Murphy’s Oil Soap is bad, bad, bad for wood floors because makes a build-up on the floors and can ruin the finish.  He recommends water with vinegar or water with dish soap.
    I’m old school, though.  I do my wood floors on my hands and knees instead of with a mop. 

  31. Erin Nov 02 at 12:54 pm Reply Reply

    I just finished our kitchen tile…not 5 minutes ago…I’m all about vacuuming it (no broom, too messy) and then steam mopping. We have a Dyson (most newer vacuums have a hard floor setting, which basically means you turn the rollers off so it’s just suction with no carpet beaters on…did that make sense?) and then I use our steam mop. Doing our bathroom takes 5 minutes. Kitchen, 10. I love my steam mop (Shark) because you can flip the head over to either do one floor twice (or more times, you can change the cloth covering if your floor is really gross, throw in washing machine when you’re done) or use one side for the kitchen, one side for the hallways, etc.
    I literally just cleaned the whole kitchen while my lunch was in the toaster oven. Awesome.

    PS If I didn’t have the steam mop, I’d totally mop like Amy said. It works way better than the swiffer things. For sure.

  32. Katie Nov 02 at 1:15 pm Reply Reply

    I generally vacuum and then steam mop our tile. But, for a really, really true clean, nothing is better than a bucket with hot water and vinegar, and a good old Cinderella style scrubbing. I only do it every couple of months, but you can always tell when I do!

  33. Olivia Nov 02 at 2:25 pm Reply Reply

    Okay, I’m starting to wonder if I’m the only person who REFUSES to get on hands and knees to clean an entire floor. A spot or spill okay, but the whole floor, no. Since floors get dirty again in no time it doesn’t seem worth the effort.

  34. Bridget Nov 02 at 2:38 pm Reply Reply

    I am all about the vinegar and water. My kitchen and bathroom floors (ceramic tile) just take a few minutes with a rag and a spray bottle of vinegar and water (equal parts). On our hardwoods, I just take a dust mop and that same spray bottle. I spray down an area, then quickly mop it up. Our floors look great :)

  35. Della Nov 03 at 9:58 am Reply Reply

    My mom always got down on hands and knees (as Katie said, Cinderella style) and when my husband suggested that I use the mop, I just looked at him. I had always assumed that Mom didn’t use a mop because it didn’t work as well. But I gave it a try, and learned….
    String mops, for me, certainly don’t work as well as a scrub brusn in my hand. If there are any stuck-on spots, sticky things, etc, you have that one “pressure point” about 2″ wide where the end of the handle pushes through it, and then the floppy strings that can’t seem to do anything but get up dust and loose dirt. Of course, that is an improvement, but I find that most of the time there are sticky, stepped-on gunky mysterious things that require actual scrubbing, and a mop doesn’t allow that to happen.

    We tried my neighbor’s carpet cleaner with the hard-floor attachment on it… the hard floor attachment kept the scrubbers about 1/4″ off the tile and thus did absolutely nothing except put down a lot of water and only sucked up most of it.

    So, for those using mops, what kind of mop are you using that actually gets up things like stepped-on nutrigrain bar filling, dried waffle syrup, and that piece of chicken fat that fell under the cabinet overhang where nobody could see it and is now dried out and superglued to the floor there?
    For those using steam mops, apparently brand matters? One poster mentioned Shark brand… any others?

  36. Clueless Nov 03 at 4:16 pm Reply Reply

    I also was told that murphy’s oil soap and water were both really bad for my wood floors (by the guy at the floor store). Maybe there is a difference if they are finish on sight or factory finished hardwoods? The bona system was recommended and works pretty well but I don’t know how environmentally friendly it is.

  37. JenVegas Nov 03 at 7:00 pm Reply Reply

    True Story:
    I saw this post the other day and said “Pish why do I need a website to tell me how to clean the floor in my bathroom? Whatever.”
    And then this morning I was looking at the disgusting mess of hair and lint and cat paw prints that is the tile floor in my bathroom and prayed that I hadn’t just imagined this post.
    That is all.

  38. Olivia Nov 04 at 8:42 am Reply Reply

    Della, I am using a Libman mop because the mop head is washable, and I find I can get up most spots with that. I will get down to scrub particularly sticky spot with my hands, but I do not do the whole floor that way.

  39. Tiffany Nov 04 at 10:33 am Reply Reply

    Oh man, read this plus the comments, I suddenly want to clean clean clean my floors. I just had a baby 5 weeks ago, so everything has been getting very little cleaning done to it, and suddenly I feel as if I can see the germs running around on the  tile.

    (Pre-baby, I mopped on my hands and knees with a rag. Maybe it is the mops I use, but I could see the dirty water left behind, no matter how many times I rung the mop out, rinsed it with clean water, etc etc, I could SEE the dirt streaks. I did this until my OB said NO MORE at 34 weeks. Time to get back down there).

  40. Erin Nov 04 at 2:42 pm Reply Reply

    After going through the Oxyclean / Toilet Bowl Cleaner / (insert other shoulder-numbing exercise-in-scrubbing method here) to get your grout back to its nice white condition … do yourself a huge favor and SEAL THAT GROUT. Every home improvement store that carries grout carries grout sealant and it’s super duper easy to apply. For sealed porcelain tile, you literally just spray it on, let it sit, and wipe it off. Voila. Do it once a year and you won’t ever have to break out the toothbrush again.

  41. OP Nov 04 at 9:16 pm Reply Reply

    OP again, after trying some suggestions.  The powder room was the room of choice for the first cleaning trial.

    I used my vacuum to start with (all the while wondering “hmmm, why have I not thought of this before?”), then sprayed with vinegar and water and let it sit for 15 minutes.  Because the powder room is so small, I just wiped up with a paper towel and was done.  Easy.

    I was AMAZED at how gross my grout is, and also how clean it becomes when I scrub it a bit.  So more elbow grease is needed there.

    My only complaint is that now my powder room smells like vinegar.  Which is a small complaint.  It’s smelled worse…

    And what proportion of vinegar to water do you use?  I used half and half in my spray bottle.  Too much?

  42. Rachel Nov 04 at 10:29 pm Reply Reply

    So I’m super late to this discussion, but better late than never, right? My 1500 sq ft house is, oh, about 2/3 tile, only the bedrooms & hallway have carpet. I vacuum everything roughly every 2-3 weeks (my goal is once a week but that never seems to happen…) and try to mop once a month. I use bleach water to mop, hot water and then a splash or two of bleach..not too much. I worked in a restaurant for 3 years of college and we used bleach water all the time for cleaning/sanitizing, and bleach is cheap and a little goes a long way. Then just a regular mop from Target. I’d like to try a steam mop but they’re a little pricey for now…maybe when we have a crawling baby I can justify the expense.

  43. Yolanda Huber Nov 05 at 2:32 pm Reply Reply

    Please Pleas Please look into Norwex! There are independent consultants everywhere! You can clean and sanitize your entire home w/ just water using their antibacterial microfiber (which come w/ a 2 yr warranty and if cared for correctly should last you for about 500 washes….launder 1x weekly and thats 10yrs)!! http://www.norwex.com
    You will not regret checking it out! I’ve been using it over a year and selling it for 11 mos now!!! It has changed my life…have a hubby and 5 kids, we do a lo of cleaning :) Check it out!!

  44. Hannah Nov 05 at 3:59 pm Reply Reply

    I have three cats, a dog, two boys, a husband who never remembers to remove his shoes when he comes inside – and I run a home daycare.

    I am wiping away tears of laughter at the idea of only washing floors twice a month. Seriously. I vacuum daily and wash the floors twice weekly.

    Anyway, I have tile in my kitchen and dining room, parquet in my living room, and carpet + vinyl plank flooring in the daycare. I use two tools to clean all of these different floors – my vacuum cleaner, and my H20 steam mop. Vacuum first, then steam mop. Once in a while I add a very small amount of vinegar to the water in the steam mop for extra disinfecting. I only use a broom for weird corners where the vacuum cleaner doesn’t reach – there is no broom on earth that picks up the hair of a shedding labrador retriever.

    The steam mop is saving my sanity. And the pads are machine washable!

  45. Lorelei Nov 07 at 6:03 pm Reply Reply

    First I just have to laugh: “Aim for mopping once a week, just like you would do with hardwoods or for vacuuming carpet”

    Am I really that much of a slob!? I’m lucky if I vacuum every month…oh and I guess the same goes for mopping! But when I do, I use my Scooba to mop. Eat to set, let it clean and then dump out the nasty water.

  46. Lady Nov 08 at 11:39 am Reply Reply

    Thank you so much for answering this question. my mom was kinda old school and i spent every saturday of my time living with her cleaning….thus, i barely clean now. 10 years away from her and I still refuse to clean on a saturday.

    it had been so long that I’ve literally forgotten how to do it most effectively. when i get home i will definitely be attacking the bathroom with the vacuum. i shed so much that the dust bunnies made of hair in the corners are getting scary. i’m sure my husband will appreciate it, lol.

    also adding a gallon of white vinegar to the shopping list.
    thanks for everyone who chimed in with their own cleaning tips. time to crack knuckles and get to work. :)

  47. Tile Floors Novato Aug 06 at 7:00 pm Reply Reply

    “Plain water” will not ruin your tile either! Sometimes people want to clean their tile with vinegar or bleach which can ruin some types of tile.

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