Understanding the Difference: Daily Maintenance vs. Post-Installation Cleaning
Porcelain tiles are a popular choice for flooring due to their low maintenance requirements. They can be easily cleaned with common household cleaners and don’t need special oils or waxes like hardwood floors. However, there is a specific moment when attention to cleaning and product selection becomes crucial: the post-installation phase, especially during the drying process.
It’s important not to confuse the daily maintenance cleaning of porcelain floors with the post-installation cleaning. In the latter case, it involves removing any residue of adhesives, mortars, or other materials used during the installation process, whether the tiles are laid on a regular subfloor or over an existing surface.
Daily Cleaning of Porcelain Tiles
The daily cleaning of porcelain tiles can be performed using traditional detergents that effectively remove common dirt and grime from the surface. The type of dirt that accumulates may vary depending on the area, such as kitchens, living rooms, bathrooms, or bedrooms, and the choice of detergents and cleaning frequency may differ accordingly.
In most cases, regular commercial detergents are sufficient and readily available.
Post-Installation Cleaning: A Critical Maintenance Step
Post-installation cleaning is a crucial step for long-term maintenance. During this process, any residue from the installation, such as adhesives, mortars, or paints, needs to be thoroughly removed from the surface. Unfortunately, this step is often overlooked, underestimated, or performed using unsuitable or low-quality products, leading to potential surface issues over time.
Cleaning During Installation (Performed by a Professional Installer)
After laying the porcelain tiles on the substrate, the joints, which are approximately 2 mm gaps between each tile, are filled with suitable grout, typically matching the tile color. This step is critical and requires careful attention from the installer. If excess grout is not removed promptly before it completely dries, it can make the floor more susceptible to stains and challenging to clean in daily maintenance.
To ensure proper grout removal, it is essential to work on an area of about 5 square meters at a time. Using a sponge and clean water, the excess grout should be removed from the surface. Since the grout is still relatively wet during this phase, cleaning movements should be light, repeated, and in a diagonal direction to prevent the removal of grout from the joints and eliminate any residue from the tiles, especially if they have a textured surface like wood-effect porcelain.
This step is essential for all tiles, but it is particularly critical for structured tiles and outdoor tiles, which naturally have rougher and anti-slip surfaces.
Immediate Post-Installation Cleaning
At the end of the installation, the installer should wash the floor with a solution of water and a buffered acid to prevent residues from drying and becoming challenging to remove later on. It is important to use an acid-based cleaner with powerful degreasing action that is free from harmful fumes.
If you desire an impermeable grout, it is possible to apply epoxy grout during the final phase of the installation, following the manufacturer’s instructions provided on the package. However, it is recommended to seek professional assistance for using epoxy grouts, as incorrect application can affect the aesthetic appearance, especially the color, of the tiles.
Consequences of Neglecting Post-Installation Cleaning
If the post-installation cleaning is not performed adequately, several issues may arise:
- Residue from the installation process attracts dust and dirt, giving the impression that the floor is always dirty.
- Construction residues become integral parts of the floor, altering its color. Sometimes, the surface may develop stains from acid substances that dissolve dirt, which are commonly referred to as “cleaning stains.”
First Cleaning Procedure
Once the grout has sufficiently cured, typically after 3-4 days, the first cleaning can be performed using an acid-based cleaner, following the instructions on the label.
Here’s the step-by-step procedure:
- Thoroughly sweep the floor to remove any dust or debris.
- Dilute the acid solution in water and apply it to the floor using a mop or cloth.
- Allow the solution to sit for a few minutes.
- Use an abrasive sponge to remove stubborn stains.
- Wipe away the remaining dirt with a clean cloth.
- Rinse the floor thoroughly with hot water.
- Repeat the process a second time to eliminate any remaining stains or streaks.
- Acid-based cleaners may be aggressive towards adjacent materials, such as windowsills or frames, so it’s crucial to protect these areas adequately.
- Ensure thorough rinsing until the wash water becomes completely clear.
- Whenever possible, use a professional wet vacuum to remove the dirty water, preventing it from spreading across the surface.
Recommended Products for Initial Cleaning
The most suitable product for deep and effective cleaning is an acid-based cleaner, specifically designed to:
- Remove construction residues and dirt.
- Eliminate efflorescence.
- Get rid of any remaining limescale.
- Provide a thorough cleaning action due to its high surfactant content.
Using an acid-based cleaner offers several advantages:
- It does not alter the appearance or color of the tiles.
- It provides a deep clean without being overly aggressive.
- High-quality products do not emit harmful fumes into the environment.
- It respects the color of the grout without altering it.
- It is a multifunctional product that cleans, degreases, and removes deposits from the surface.
In conclusion, understanding the importance of proper cleaning and maintenance for porcelain tiles after installation is key to preserving their beauty and longevity. By following the recommended procedures and using the right products, you can ensure a clean and pristine floor for years to come.