cleaning your tiles in winter weather

3 Tips to Caring for and Cleaning Your Tile Floor in Winter

Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin are famous for their winters. And you’ll find a film of rock salt residue covering cars, shoes and — you guessed it — tile floors after the first freeze.

Keeping tile floors looking new is a challenge when salt, sand and dirty slush constantly gets tracked in during Midwest winters. Professional tile and floor cleaning, with in-home cleaning in between, is the best approach. Also, repairing broken tiles and grout lines will help prevent more damage during the winter.

1. Attack Salt Residue that Makes Your Floors Look Dingy

Even after tile and grout cleaning, lingering salt residue can make floors look dull or dingy. That’s a sign you’re using the wrong kind of cleaner. Salt is an alkaline, so you’ll need to use a cleaner that’s on the acidic side of the pH scale to neutralize it and remove that dingy residue.

Because you can’t call professional tile cleaners after every snowstorm, a multi-step approach is best for regular do-it-yourself tile and grout cleaning in between professional cleanings:

  1. Sweep. Sweep or vacuum salt, sand or dirt from the surface of the area you want to clean.
  2. Wet mop. Simply mop up salt residue and wring the mop into a bucket to remove the top film.
  3. Acidic cleaner. Use an over-the-counter floor cleaning solution that’s mildly acidic (vinegar and lemon-based cleaners are on the acidic side.) To make a homemade cleaner, mix 1 cup of white vinegar, 3 gallons of water and 2 tablespoons of dish soap.
  4. Dry. Microfiber material and/or a dryvac should be used to dry the floor to prevent any remaining salt residue in the moisture from being spread around the tile.

Regular cleaning is the only way to keep tile floors looking clean in the winter. Also, ask your tile contractor to recommend a finishing polish to keep your tile looking fresh between cleanings.

2. Turn to Tile and Grout Cleaning Experts

No matter how often you clean the slush, ice and snow that gets tracked across your tile floors during the winter, there will come a point when high-traffic areas just don’t look as new as other areas. The reason? Heavy traffic embeds dirt into the pores of grout lines, causing discoloration.

Home cleaning generally stay on the surface — but professional tile and grout cleaning is a multi-step process that goes to the root of discoloration:

  1. Deep clean. An eco-friendly cleaning solution pulls dirt from the pores of grout joints.
  2. Steam vapor. A steam vapor cleaning system removes signs of heavy foot traffic from grout.
  3. Topcoat. Finally, a penetrating sealer prevents future grout discoloration and keeps tile floors looking new.

Professional tile and grout cleaning not only makes floors look better — it also protects high-traffic areas by sealing them from future dirt, water and salt stains.

3. Take Care of Cracked or Damaged Tiles to Prevent Water Damage

Wintery weather in the Midwest brings plenty of moisture. And when snowmelt from boots or pets seeps into cracked floor tiles or grout joints, expensive moisture damage to the subfloor can occur.

The best solution is to repair cracked grout and tiles, but some homeowners avoid taking that step because they assume that it’ll be an expensive fix. That’s not the case because you only have to replace the broken tile and grout lines.  Look for tile and grout repair companies to help match grout colors and track down hard-to-find tiles.

Even more important, replacing damaged tiles and grout lines near entryways and breezeways before winter moisture damage seeps in will save more money in repair costs for water damage.