hazy white cloudy saltillos



If you are thinking about steam cleaning your saltillo tiles DO NOT DO IT. Water is the enemy these porous clay tiles and steam mopping them will surely ruin the tile and the sealer. Your saltillo tile sealer will most likely turn white and hazy, dull, and begin to peel. If your saltillo tiles are not coming clean and you have tried everything including cleaning your saltillo tiles the right way then it may be time for refinishing and restoration. Let’s look at why you should not steam clean saltillo tile and what you should and shouldn’t do instead.


badly damaged exterior saltillo tiles



Water Damage and Saltillo Tile Efflorescence


Using steam for your carpet is ok, but for these fragile clay tiles, steam is a disaster. We got a lot of calls from Florida saltillo tile owners after their recent hurricane telling us their tiles had dried and turned white. Usually with a flood, the standing water will find its way into the cracks and crevices and when it manages to get under the tile, the problem can be unfixable. Efflorescence is a sure  fire way for us to tell that there is water damage and thise tiles may have to be replaced.


These tiles are super porous like sponges and they start to disintegrate rapidly especially if there is a lot of foot traffic such as in kitchens, bathrooms and hallways. Don’t be fooled by the cheaper price to use steam. The only real way to fix the tiles if they can’t be cleaned is to strip them using a chemical process. The reason companies want to use steam cleaners and sanders is because they do not have a chemical strong enough to remove that old sealer.



How Do You Get Stains Out Of Saltillo Tile

First of all you must determine what type of stain it is and is it actually sitting on the sealer or on the raw  porous tile. A lot of times old neglected sealer gets worn down from all the foot traffic and what you think is a patch of dirt is actually tile disintegrating. A  lot of advice out there is false, like I see articles claiming that you should use ammonia. This is not good because ammonia acts like a mild stripper and letting it sit on the sealer will actually start to remove the sealer putting you into a whole other obstacle.


What you want to do is get a neutral cleaner and a green scrubby pad that you can get here or your local store. If the stain does not come up after scrubbing it out with neutral cleaner, you should seriously consider getting the Saltillo tiles stripped and restored. Even if you manage to clean the spot and the sealer was peeling you still have to get those tiles completely sealed ,and sealing over a little patch just isn’t going to cut it.


You have to completely strip that tile down to its raw state then it can be sealed. Don’t try to seal a whole tile that has patches of sealer missing without completely stripping that tile down because it will peel worse.



Why You Should NEVER Sand Your Saltillo Tiles

Saltillo tiles are like French bread, hard on the outside, delicate and soft on the inside. When you sand the surface of Saltillo tile you ruin the integrity of the tile and get into the soft clay. Once the surface is sanded, the tile disintegrates much faster with foot traffic.

I see many articles advising people to sand the tile if the sealer cannot be removed, but this is HORRIBLE advice! These people usually don’t specifically deal with Saltillo tiled on a daily basis. Make sure you are taking advice from a specialist and not a jack of all trades.

Sanding your tiles also make the already porous tile twice as porous, and wet sanded tiles take a very long time to dry out granted, steam cleaning and sanding saltillo tiles is a cheaper option but in reality, you get what you pay for, and you really should not even let these be options for you. If you really care about your saltillo tile floor then a chemical process to remove the old sealer and re-apply fresh new coats is the best solution to your problem of unclean-able Saltillo tiles.



Indoor Vs. Outdoor Saltillo Tile Cleaning

Not all floors are qual and you should not approach indoor and outdoor Saltillo tiles the same way when it comes to cleaning. For one, the sealers for outdoor saltillos are different then the ones for indoor saltillos. Outdoor tiles are usually sealed with a penetrating sealer, which gives the tiles a more natural look unlike indoors where you usually see the shiny glossy type of sealers such as lacquers. Now and then is see outdoor saltillos incorrectly sealed with the shiny sealers for indoors.

Although the bottle says good for inside and outside, shiny sealers have a strong tendency to flake and peel, turn white, efflorescence and open up the tile for damage, mold and algae growth. This is because sprinklers, weather, sun, and other elements break down these sealers that were not created to hold water for long periods of time thats why they are better for indoors, where there is no water getting on the tiles for extended periods.
The penetrating sealers for outdoor saltillo tile makes the water bead up like water sitting on glass.

That’s not saying that you shouldn’t maintain the floors with periodical cleaning and a solid maintenance schedule, but your problem is cut in half when the tiles are properly sealed in the first place. If sealed correctly, you can be a little more aggressive with the cleaning and as long as you aren’t letting acid or ammonia sit for too long they SHOULD be okay.

You still should use a neutral cleaner and a nylon brush for outdoors, and a neutral cleaner and green stubbies for indoors on the glossy sealers when they need a deep cleaning. A mop is okay indoors but be sure to change your water often and use brass brushes for the grout inside and outside, NOT steel, brass.


What Is The Best Way To Maintain Saltillo Tiles

This leads me to my next topic. The best way to maintaining saltillo tiles (considering they are already clean) is to use neutral cleaner and a mop. Clean the floor in sections and change water often or you will wonder why your grout is so dirty after only 6 months. Brass tip brushes work wonders on the grout but you must scrub the grout and wipe dry with rags, towels, or Terry cloths, while the grout is still wet. If you scrub grout till its dry then try to wipe it you will be disappointed. Another important tip no one else is talking about, is that you should buff the saltillo tiles completely dry after cleaning.


Do not leave them damp and periodically (2-5 years) you should (or you tile restoration company should) deep clean the floors and apply fresh new coats of sealer to keep the protection and durability built up. Anything on the sealer can be fixed but when you start to wear down the actual tile the only fix ix to replace those ruined tiles.


Is Saltillo Tile Restoration & Refinishing Right For You?

Are your tiles just unclean able? Flaking and peeling sealer? Disintegrating Saltillo tile? Then you may want to look into restoration which can cost you anywhere from $2.00 per square foot to over $10.00 per square foot depending on the quality you are looking for. If this sounds like what you are looking for check out my youtube channel where you can see over 100 videos of floors just like yours being restored back to like new condition here.

If you found this article before you made the decision to steam clean you tile consider yourself lucky because you dodged a fatal bullet, that would have lead to you probably wanting to rip out the floor, along with your hair. let me know if you found this article helpful and if you have any other questions, or you are ready to get on our best schedule to bring your tiles back to life call or email.

Get on the busy schedule asap to ensure your spot!


Kevin Williams
(707) 389-8375
[email protected]

or contact

Fritz Wittmann
(707) 384-1172
[email protected]

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