So you probably remember me bellyaching about how poorly our kitchen tile was installed when we first moved into our house. AKA lessons learned. So here is a little knowledge bomb about how tile and sealer work according to my manufacturer's rep. When tile is sealed the installer is supposed to wipe away any sealer that gets on the tile because it will literally act like a magnet for dirt, and you will NEVER be able to fully clean it. I mean it will be clean, but it will look filthy. So then what's the point amiright?
That being said, our sealer had been aplied with a mop (and several coats) that not only sat on the tile, but also trapped any grout haze, dirt, footprints (I'm not even joking), and debris that wasn't properly cleaned unerneath the layers of sealer. So in our situation it was a losing battle because 1. the floor actually was filthy (yet preserved under layers of sealer) and 2. it was then coated in sealer which was an unstoppable dirt magnet.
This is what it looked like fresh after installation and sealer. Notice the grey splotches and general haziness. I know I know its not that bad, but I mean when you want white tile you should have white tile. Oh and this was just the beginning.
After telling my grout rep about our situation he gave us some crazy intense chemical strippers and cleaners which we still haven't tried because the back label is filled with terrifying warnings. Highly flammable, skin irritant, eye irritant, must wear gloves, googles, and a respirator. I'm like whoa buddy this is a scary project. AND we were going to be on our hands and knees with a tiny toothbrush scrubbing each tile. Fun right?
So we kept putting it off, and kept apologizing to guests for how filthy our floor looked assuring them it actually was clean. This went on for two years. You think we're exaggerating like when you go to someone's house and there is a throw blanket haphazardly tossed on their sofa and they are all "oh pardon our mess" and you're all "whatever this place is immaculate", but this is how much dirt had accumulated over these 2 years.
I'll pause while you go and throw up. This tile was WHITE when we bought it. AND this photo was taken after cleaning and steam mopping.
A few weeks ago I saw an Insta Story where they used vinegar and water to strip sealer and remove grout haze and I was like what.
You guys. This method is no joke.
AND you can breathe it and touch it and eat it (if you want). It's that natural.
- Spray bottle of Vinegar + Water mix (1 part vinegar 3 parts water)
- All purpose cleaner (we barely had to use this)
- Scotch Brite pads
- Paper towels or rags
- Orbital sander
The overall process is pretty simple. You just vacuum and spot clean your floors using an all purpose cleaner to remove any loose dirt and debris. Then you generously spray your floors with the vinegar water mix working in small 2'x2' areas. Place your Scotch Brite pad on your orbital sander and work work around your freshly sprayed area and you will instantly see the dirt and stripper come up like magic. Wipe away the dirty water and voila! sparkling clean floors that look just like they did when you first laid eyes on them. You may have to touch up a few areas once you wipe away the dirty water and can see if there are any stubborn spots that need a little more scrubbing.
We (Derek) continued this process in rows all around the room and overall it took about an hour. Not too shabby. AND no masks or ventilation were required. And the house just smelled like a salad bar for a while.
I still can't believe what a difference this method made. You can also do this on the walls or anywhere else you have tile that is either covered in haze or just looking dull in general. I can't wait to try it on our bathroom. Even the texture of the stripped tile feels totally different.
You're probably wondering how it has been holding up, and I'm here to tell you that we've been living in a construction zone with people coming in with gross shoes and debris falling from walls and they still look brand new sparkly white. Scouts honor!