Natural Stone Cleaning

Home Natural Stone Cleaning

Agglomerates   are blocks  made of marble, granite or limestone chips held together with a 5% polyester resin.  It looks like terrazzo but it is usually in 12 x12 or 18 x18 inch square tiles. Engineered stones are similar but they contain 93% quartz chips and 7% plastic resin.   They are inexpensive compared to natural stone, but like natural stone, they should be professionally sealed. Because of the resins, their maintenance requirements are slightly different than natural stone.     

Ceramic Tile is made from a mixture of white, brown or red clay and natural minerals fired at various temperatures to produce different characteristics.  Glazed ceramic tile is sometimes referred to as vitreous tile and is fired in a kiln above 2000 degrees Fahrenheit.  Ceramic tiles can be glazed or un-glazed. Glazed tiles are moisture and stain resistant, and are usually applied to bathroom walls. They usually have a shiny and smooth look while unglazed tiles have a dull and rough look.  Porcelain tile has its color all the through the body and is nearly indestructible.  All ceramic tiles are virtually maintenance free since they have NO PORES.

So most topical finishes or sealers will not adhere to ceramic tile.  However, if the grout is other than epoxy grout, it should be professionally cleaned and sealed.

When maintaining ceramic tile floors and grout, you should never use vinegar, bleach or ammonia. All three will damage most grout sealers.

Bleach may remove the color of the grout if it was dyed. Since ammonia is very alkaline, it will cause rapid re-soiling.   Since vinegar is an acid, it will etch the grout and may turn it powdery after prolonged use. Also, you should avoid using  an infomercial home steamer to clean any floor. Many times, moisture will get between the tile and the sub floor and expand and loosen the tiles from the sub floor or concrete. Once a ceramic floor is cleaned and sealed, it should be only cleaned with a quality neutral cleaner made for floors.   

Granite Cleaning – Granite  is 4 times harder than marble and is highly resistant to most acids.  That’s why it’s a great choice for kitchen countertops.  However, it can be affected by some rust removers and it is the most expensive stone to buy .  Granite rarely exhibits veining but has a crystal like appearance which is very distinct. It resembles a “speckled” or “salt and pepper” look.    All granite floors and countertop should be professionally sealed to make cleaning easier. To prevent staining, it should be maintained with a cleaning product specifically designed for natural stone floors.   

Grout is mortar, mortar /sand or epoxy based. Mortar type grout should always be professional sealed for stain resistance and ease of maintenance. Non-sanded grout is usually used with polished stones to prevent scratching during grouting or refinishing. Since epoxy grout is plastic resin based, it does not need to be sealed.

Limestone  This stone is similar in composition to marble but is more porous, a little harder, and the least expensive of all natural stones. Because of its porosity and softness, it will not hold a deep shine and it stains more easily than granite or marble. It comes in a variety of earth tones but can sometimes have gray or red tones.  It has a grainier look than marble and it has more of a dull look than marble. Limestone is not a marble but marble is a limestone that was subject to enormous heat and pressure to transform it into marble. The same cleaning and maintenance precautions should be taken for limestone as for marble.

Marble Cleaning There are hundreds of different kinds of marbles on the market, and even a geologist could not name them all.  But no matter what the color, most marbles usually exhibit veining.  The veins are usually a different color than the floor.   However, some marbles like white will show no veins at all. Compared to other stones, marble is soft and it scratches easily. It has a 3 to 5 hardness rating compared to 7 or 8 for granite on the Mohs scale.

Diamond is the hardest at 10.  If you choose a spot like the inside of a closet or an inconspicuous corner, and run a knife blade on the floor, it will scratch.  Compared to other stones like granite, marble is one of the most high maintenance floors you can buy next to wood.  Reason?  It is easily etched by common household acids like vinegar, lemons, wine, coffee, fruit  juices, and tomato juice. Plus it is easily compromised by urine, vomit and alkaline like soap, ammonia, bleach, tile cleaners and most supermarket and infomercial cleaners and steamers.

So, it should not be installed in a bathroom, in high traffic areas or used as a countertop.  Once marble becomes etched through improper maintenance or from the use of improper cleaners, then costly diamond disk honing or grinding is required to give it a   natural mirror finish.

The most expensive marbles to maintain are green, pure white and absolute black. Black marbles and granites are often dyed to obtain an even black color. When they are heavily polished or cleaned, they can exhibit a gray color because of dye loss. This can sometimes be corrected by flooring professionals.

Diamond disc honing or grinding is very labor intensive and messy. It sometimes takes 2 men 8 hours to grind 350 square feet. That’s why it’s imperative that after a marble floor has be installed, it should be professionally  sealed and a cleaner specifically made for marble should be used in it’s routine maintenance.

Mexican/Terra Cotta Tile  is also sometimes known as Saltillo tile. These tiles are usually soft and brittle and come in shades of red, yellow brown and orange.They will usually bleed when mopped, scrubbed or stripped if they are not professionally treated with an appropriate topical finish or sealer. Since these tiles are sometimes hand made, they vary in shape, texture, size and appearance.  Since these tiles are somewhat sensitive, one should avoid harsh or deep cleaning and over-wetting when attempting periodic maintenance.  

Quarry Tiles   are usually 6 inches square and about ½ inch thick. They come in dark red, brown, tan or grey. Because they are very hygienic, they are usually found in commercial kitchens and other places were food is processed. Since they will only absorb 3% or less of their weight in moisture, topical sealers and finishes do not adhere well to quarry tiles.   

Sandstone is softer and more course than limestone and is sometimes referred to as bluestone or quartzite.  It won’t take a polish and it is very absorbent and tends to have a gritty open rough surface.  It is most used for building stone and is seldom used as a flooring material.  It looks like sand cemented together. It is highly resistant to acids and should be professionally sealed after installation.   

Slate  is much softer than marble or granite and comes in blue, black, purple, gray and copper tones. It scratches and wears easily, is highly absorbent like a sponge, and has a dull appearance.  That’s why it should be professionally sealed after installation. The best slate comes from Vermont.

Terrazzo  is a mixture of 70% marble or granite chips and 30% resin or cement. If   your terrazzo floor is 10 years old or more, then its binder is probably cement. It should be professionally sealed and maintained like marble.

  Over the last quarter of a century, we have cleaned, restored and sealed almost every type of natural stone floor that you can imagine.  So if you would like a free no-obligation grout or flooring analysis anywhere in central NJ or Bucks County, PA, or if you have specific maintenance concerns or other questions ,  feel free to call or e-mail us for free expert advice you can trust.