Cleaning Natural Stone Tiles in Your House
Natural Stone Care and Cleaning Tips
Tiles are so versatile—they can make any room stand out. Tiles can be used in just about any room of the house: bathrooms, kitchen, laundry room, and even the garage.
If you’ve added tile into your home décor, think of it as a long-term investment. They are a beautiful addition and, when properly cared for, will look great for years.
Although they may look impervious to damage, it is still possible to ruin stone tiles. For instance, we talk about cleaning with white vinegar in many of our articles. However, vinegar is acidic, and you should never use it on natural stone products, as it can etch and dull the surface, causing permanent damage.
For the most part, tiles are easy to keep clean and maintain, but there will always be spills and stains that require special attention.
Marble is a very versatile natural stone. It is essentially limestone which has been exposed to super high temperature and pressure in Earth’s crust.
The variations in color are a result of other minerals present, such as sand, clay and silt minerals. These minerals are responsible for the different colors of marble, as well as uneven spots and vein-like patterns. You can find marble in white and black as well as shades of red, brown, green, and pink.
Because of the way marble is formed, there are many unique pieces to choose from for any room of the house. Marble should be sealed to help protect it from staining and scratches.
Marble can last virtually forever if cleaned and maintained properly. As it is porous, marble can be stained and is prone to scratches or etching if not properly cared for.
When cleaned on a regular basis, warm water is usually all that is necessary. If you don’t feel that water alone is good enough, there are cleaners made specifically for marble.
Murphy Oil Soap is also a popular choice. Whatever cleaner you choose, it should be pH neutral in order to avoid damaging the surface.
Cleaning Marble-Tiled Floors
Prior to washing, sweep to get the dirt off the floor. If you want to give your marble floor a little extra shine, add a little Murphy Oil Soap to the water.
- 1 gallon warm water
- 1 tablespoon Murphy’s Original Oil Soap
Your mop should only be damp—no need to wet it excessively and re-wet the mop as needed. Go over the floor with a soft, dry towel or a sh-mop when you’re done.
Remove Dirt, Grime and Soap Scum from Marble
This mixture is pH neutral and is safe for cleaning and removing grime from stone surfaces.
- 2 gallons warm water
- 1/ 4 cup Murphy’s Original Oil Soap
Fill a spray bottle with enough of the mixture then spray on the stone. Use a soft cloth to scrub the surface clean. This will also leave a nice shine when you’re finished cleaning.
Making a Poultice for Removing Coffee and Tea Stains from Marble
The cleaning method below is for cleaning an old coffee or tea stain from marble that can’t be removed using a regular cleaning method. Most often these types of stains are cleaned up when they happen, but there are times when some spills get overlooked.
Make a paste of powdered whiting and regular household strength hydrogen peroxide—you’re looking for a thicker consistency that will hold up on its own.
Note: Prior to removing a stain on natural stone surfaces, it’s best to test in an inconspicuous spot first.
- Wet the marble with water before applying the paste.
- Spread the paste over the stain and cover with plastic wrap.
- Leave this on for up to 24 hours, depending on how bad the coffee stain is.
- Using the dull edge of a credit card or plastic spatula (something that won’t scratch the surface), scrape up the paste.
- Rinse with a sponge or cleaning rag to remove all traces of the cleaning solution, and then dry.
Granite is formed by hardened magma that consists of coarse grains of quartz, feldspar, mica, and other minerals. Granite is a great choice for homeowners because of its durability and beauty.
Like marble, granite comes in many color variations and is a beautiful addition to any home. Its popularity has caused it to become very competitively priced. As a natural material, no two slabs of granite are the same, so it offers you a unique look that will last a very long time.
Granite is used on counters, floors, walls, and in showers. Granite is naturally antibacterial which makes it a great material to use in kitchens and bathroom areas.
Cleaning Granite Surfaces
Granite is a very resilient stone that is highly resistant to staining and scratching. It’s also less absorbent than other solid surfaces.
That being said, stains can happen. Spills should be wiped up as soon as possible, just as with any other surface. Granite should also be sealed to protect the surface and keep it looking great longer.
For general cleaning purposes, a microfiber cloth can be used to dust surfaces. For daily cleaning, all you need to do is wipe them down with water.
For weekly cleanings, use a pH-neutral cleaner. You can also use mild dish soap and warm water.
- Fill up the bottom of the sink with warm water.
- Add a little squirt of dish soap to the running water, about 1/8 of a teaspoon.
- Wet your dish cloth and wipe down the countertops. If it looks like you’ve used too much soap (you might notice excessive suds while wiping back and forth), get a clean cloth and wet with cool water and wipe down the surface again.
- Dry with a microfiber cloth to avoid streaks.
Removing Old Coffee and Tea Stains from Granite
Follow the steps as listed above under the “Making a Poultice for Removing Coffee and Tea Stains from Marble” section.
Removing Food Stains from Granite Tiled Surfaces
- Mix together 2 tablespoons flour with dish soap. Adjust as needed but it should be a thick paste.
- Rub onto the food stain and let sit overnight.
- Wash away with water the next morning.
Slate is a fine-grained rock that has repetitive layering, called foliation, throughout the rock. These layers can be very thin or very thick. Slate’s composition consists of quartz, feldspar, muscovite, illite, graphite, and other minerals.
Slate has a flaky look, but it’s tough and durable. It is used both inside and outside the home. Some slate is slightly rough which gives it a non-slip surface. Slate comes in a variety of colors, such as blue-gray, green, brown, orange, red, and dark gray or black. It often has thick veins of color going through it as well. No two tiles are exactly alike, which can create a stunning pattern on floors, fireplaces, roofs, counters, or anywhere else you use it.
Slate tiles are very resistant to stains, scratches, and fading. Like other natural stones, slate should be sealed regularly and requires little maintenance if cared for properly.
My parents have a slate fireplace made of the blue green rough stones. It looks great in their country style home. It’s very durable, has stayed great looking for years (through all the kids and grandkids) and is easy to clean.
Cleaning Slate Tiles
As with the other cleaning methods we’ve gone over so far, slate only requires regular sweeping, mopping, or wiping down with plain water. Drying with a soft cloth afterward helps prevent water spots. Again, a stone cleaner with a neutral pH is another option for cleaning slate.
Regular Cleaning of Slate
If you don’t have a pH-neutral cleaning solution and want to use something more than water, mix a few drops of mild dish soap with 2 cups of water. Dry when you’re finished cleaning.
You can also fill the bottom of a sink with water and add a little of the dish soap.
Basic Stain Removal
Mix equal parts 3% hydrogen peroxide and water. Spray on stain and scrub with a soft-bristled scrub brush. Rinse with clean water and dry.
Depending on the stain, you can let the solution sit for a few minutes, then spray a little more on the stain and scrub with the brush.
Test in an inconspicuous spot first. Because hydrogen peroxide can turn to water when exposed to light, it’s best to only mix what you need at the time of cleaning. Avoid getting this on grout, as it could cause discoloration.
Removing Oil from a Slate Floor
- Use paper towels to absorb as much of the oil as possible.
- Cover the remaining stain with a generous amount of cat litter. Make sure to place the cat litter a little beyond the stain’s edges to ensure proper coverage.
- Let the cat litter sit on the stain for a while to absorb any liquids. Check every 15 minutes for up to an hour and add a little more cat litter
- Sweep away the cat litter or vacuum up with a shop vac.
- Rinse with clean water to remove any remaining litter and let dry. If necessary, use mild dish soap, water and a scrub brush to clean the area. Rinse and dry when finished.
To Remove Light Scratches from Slate
Occasionally you may get some light scratching on the surface of slate tiles, especially in high traffic areas. Quite honestly, I think it adds to the character of the stone’s surface, which is already irregular and slightly rough.
Scratches don’t really come out of slate. If you were to use something, it would only mask the scratch. Some websites mention the use of sanding; however, that could ruin the surface.
I have also seen some people mentioning the use of rubbing compounds, oil, Rain-X, etc. These may hide the look of the scratch, but they may discolor the stone as well.
If you are dead set on removing the scratches from your slate, call the manufacturer of the tiles, or the store where you purchased them. They will have the best solution for your particular tiles.
When purchasing slate tiles keep in mind that some should not be used on floors. Make sure you tell the supplier so they can get you the best possible tile type for where they are being used.
Travertine is a calcareous stone and is similar to a marble and limestone composition. Travertine varies in hardness, density, and porosity. This stone can be scratched, as it is softer than marble and nowhere near the hardness of granite.
As with other natural stone tiles, a travertine tile is unique—no two are exactly the same. Each has its own characteristic look, dependent on the location of the stone and the minerals present.
Travertine tiles have a variety of finishes and sizes, and the layout of the designs can be quite stunning.
If your travertine is polished, it is almost stain proof and doesn’t usually need to be sealed. If your travertine is honed or tumbled, though, you should seal it to protect against stains that may not come out otherwise.
It’s important to know that sealing will not prevent etching or stains (sealing is not bullet-proof). Because of this many companies will tell you that travertine is not the best stone for kitchen and bathroom counters. If you do use travertine for counters, make sure to place your items on a decorative mirror or tray in the bathroom and coasters on kitchen counters to avoid glass rings from etching the stone.
Cleaning Travertine Surfaces
Cleaning travertine with a sponge or soft cloth and hot water is generally all that is needed on a daily basis. Dust mopping floors with a dry, clean, non-treated mop is recommended for regular use. If something more is needed, mix:
- 1 gallon warm water
- 1 tablespoon Murphy’s Original Oil Soap
Slightly dampen the mop to clean the floors. Dry when finished. Diluting a small amount of Murphy’s soap in water makes it suitable for cleaning stone. This solution removes the grime and leaves a nice shine behind.
Remove Dirt, Grime and Soap Scum from Travertine Tiles
Follow the instructions as listed under “Marble Tiles” above.
Removing Oil-Based Stains
An oil-based stain can consist of milk, makeup, cooking oils, grease, etc. Oil-based stains can darken the color of the stone. To pull out the stain, mix together:
- Baking soda
Make a thick paste and cover the stain about 1/4-inch thick. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap and let sit for 24 to 48 hours. Uncover and lift the poultice off the surface with a plastic spatula. Clean the area thoroughly with water and dry.
This process may need to be repeated. This process of removing oil-based stains can also be used on marble and granite tiles.
Removing Organic Stains
Organic stains such as tea, coffee, and fruit stains can be cleaned as outlined under the Making a Poultice for Removing Coffee and Tea Stains from Marble section above.
Routine Maintenance and Protection of Natural Stone Tile Surfaces
- A regular cleaning is the best way to maintain your tiled surfaces. Generally all that is needed is a daily cleaning with water.
- Sweep or vacuum (without a beater bar) prior to cleaning.
- Do not use abrasive cleaners.
- Do not use a hard-bristled brush when scrubbing or cleaning. Use a cloth, sponge, or soft mop.
- Always rinse after cleaning with clean water to remove any residue from the cleaning solution to prevent build up.
- Clean spills immediately. Blot the spills up with absorbent material. Don’t wipe, as this will spread the spill.
- Protect floors by using felt pads on the bottom of furniture legs.
- Use floor mats and rugs to protect the flooring from dirt and grime.
- Use coasters on counters to protect the surface from water rings caused from glasses sweating.
- Do not place hot pots and pans directly on the surface of natural stone tiles.
- If you have natural stone countertops, they should be resealed regularly to prevent staining.
Do not use acidic products on natural stone surfaces, as they can cause permanent damage to the surface.
We’ve gone over some of the more popular natural stone choices and the most asked about cleaning methods. I hope we’ve been able to give you some good options for daily cleanings and stain removal.