Down & dirty

Have you ever wondered why a newly installed tiled floor looks dirty? in most cases it’s down to a poor initial clean, with over 70 per cent of all installation complaints being the result of this. Lisa Breakspear of FiLA UK explains further.

Once a tile installation has been completed, speed is of the essence. Stopping to thoroughly clean a surface with the correct detergent takes a bit of time. And yet this simple procedure, carried out correctly, can potentially save a massive amount of time, money and incon- venience.

The initial clean – or ‘builders clean’ as it’s often called – is crucial, regardless of the tile installed, be it porcelain, ceramic or natural stone, and it needs to be carried out with a suitable detergent.

If you only use water, as is often the case, you will leave behind a ‘grout haze’. In the case of a non-porous surface that doesn’t need sealing, this will compromise the look of the installed surface, and the fixing residue that’s left behind will attract dirt. If the tile has been chosen for its non- slip properties, the subsequent build-up will affect its slip resistance too. If the tiles are porous, and they do need sealing, you’ll effectively sandwich the dirt between the surface of the tile and the sealer. The sealer will then under-perform because the layer of residue will prevent it from being properly absorbed. Dirt will build up, which will attract more grime, compromising both the aesthetic and the safety of the floor.

To ensure that these problems don’t arise, a thorough initial clean using the correct detergent should always be carried out. Cleaning products are either acid- based, alkaline-based or pH neutral. The pH scale spans from 0-14, with anything in the middle of the scale, 7, considered to be neutral. Anything below 7 is acidic, and above 7 is considered alkaline. In general, alkaline solutions are better at cutting through dirt, grease, proteins, oils and other organic substances, while acids are best for removing calcium, rust and other minerals. In addition, acids are great at removing cementitious residues and alkalines are effective at removing polymers.

Acid cleaners will damage or etch acid- sensitive stone tiles, so should only be used on acid-resistant stone or non- absorbent surfaces, like glazed ceramics, porcelain, quarry tiles and terracotta. If you are using an acidic product, make sure that it is a ‘buffered’ solution. Unlike hydrochloric acid, buffered acids don’t emit harmful fumes and they won’t damage aluminium and steel trims. In contrast, alkaline cleaners should not be used on polished natural stone as they can damage the polished finish.

PH-neutral cleaners can generally be used on all surfaces, so they’re the safest bet. Sometimes, more than one product might be needed to thoroughly clean a surface – for example, to remove high performance epoxy grout or adhesive residue – and care should be taken in identifying the correct solution.

If an initial clean hasn’t been carried out, and problems have arisen, surfaces can be restored by deep cleaning and resealing. Stubborn residue can be particularly problematic on textured ceramic and porce- lain surfaces and this is where a good degreasing alkaline product will prove particularly effective. A revisit to clean and reseal a floor can be very expensive, so a good initial clean really does pay dividends. It’s a vital step that promotes a good instal- lation and helps safeguard future referrals.

Lisa Breakspear is business development manager at FiLA UK