You’ll find numerous tile cleaners at your local grocery store, and if you peruse the shelves of big-box stores, you’ll find all manner of specialty tile cleaners that’ll cost you at least an arm. The best eco-friendly floor cleaner for porcelain tile will cost you an arm and a leg. But do you really need a special cleaner for your tiles?
As it turns out, baking soda and vinegar are the least expensive and most effective cleaners for your porcelain tile, including the grout. Here, we delve into how to clean your porcelain tile floors with these inexpensive and 100 percent non-toxic kitchen staples.
Why Vinegar and Baking Soda?
Vinegar is an acid with a pH of 2.4, thanks to the acetic acid it contains. The acids in vinegar can dissolve all kinds of buildup, from soap scum and mildew to hard water stains and built-up dirt and grease. While vinegar has a strong smell, it quickly dissipates and leaves behind a fresh, neutral odor.
Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is a salt that’s formed from a positively charged ion and a negatively charged ion, making it an ionically neutral compound. However, its pH is a little higher than neutral, which makes it slightly basic, the opposite of acidic. Baking soda is a powerful deodorizer, since odors are acidic and the baking soda neutralizes them. Baking soda is also slightly abrasive, so for many cleaning needs, it works as well as–or better than–other detergents.
Together, vinegar and baking soda are a cleaning force to reckon with. Since vinegar is an acid and baking soda is a base, they react together to create foaming cleaning action that dislodges dirt and grime, neutralizes odors, and dissolves stains.
How to Clean Porcelain Tiles with Baking Soda and Vinegar
Unless you have a textured tile on your floor, such as a wood-grain pattern, porcelain tile can appear dingy and dirty pretty quickly after its last cleaning, whether it’s in the bathroom or the kitchen. Regular maintenance will keep even light-colored porcelain tiles looking shiny and brand-new.
Thankfully, porcelain tiles are one of the easiest flooring materials to clean. Here’s how to do it properly.
- Sweep the tile floors to remove loose dirt and debris.
- Vacuum the floors to remove smaller particles.
- Mix 1/4 cup of white vinegar in one gallon of warm water. Thoroughly spray a manageable area with the solution, and let it sit for 10 minutes (but don’t let it dry.)
- Use a soft-bristle scrubbing brush or toothbrush to spot-remove stains.
- Mop the area with a mop dampened with the vinegar solution.
- Thoroughly rinse the mop, then soak it with hot water, and mop the area again to remove the vinegar.
- Dry the area with a towel or microfiber cloth.
- Repeat the process in the next area.
- When the floor is clean and dry, buff the porcelain tile to a high shine with some cheesecloth.
You can save the leftover vinegar and water mixture for next time. If you’d like, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the mix, which will reduce the intensity of the vinegar’s smell.
How to Clean Tile Grout with Vinegar and Baking Soda
Every now and then, you may need to focus your attention on giving the grout of your porcelain tile some TLC. Since grout is rougher and sits at a lower profile than the tile, it can attract and hold on to dirt and grease, turning the grout dark and discolored. If you’re going to clean the whole floor, including the grout, do the grout first, and then give the whole floor a once-over as described above.
Vinegar and baking soda are the best eco-friendly floor cleaner for porcelain tile grout, thanks to their impressive stain-lifting abilities. Here’s how to clean the grout with baking soda and vinegar:
- Sweep the floor, then vacuum thoroughly to remove smaller dust particles.
- Make a thick paste with 1/2 cup of baking soda and a little water.
- Slather the paste onto the grout in one manageable area at a time.
- Mix equal parts vinegar and warm water in a spray bottle. Spray the vinegar water over the baking soda paste. The mixture will begin to bubble. Let it sit and do its work for five minutes.
- Dip a soft-bristle toothbrush in the vinegar and water mixture, and scrub the grout clean.
- Saturate a large sponge with hot water. Wipe up all of the dirty paste, and thoroughly rinse the sponge. Saturate the sponge with hot water again, and give the grout one last wipe to remove all traces of vinegar. Because of its acidity, vinegar can cause grout erosion if it’s not thoroughly rinsed.
Sealing your grout each year or so will help it repel dirt and grease so that a weekly mopping is all it really needs to stay clean for the long-haul.
What to Avoid
While a combination of vinegar and baking soda is the best eco-friendly floor cleaner for porcelain tile, it doesn’t come without risks. Here are a few things to avoid when cleaning porcelain tiles with baking soda and vinegar or an eco-friendly store-bought cleaner:
- Never use full-strength vinegar directly on grout. Always use it in combination with baking soda, which neutralizes the acid and helps to prevent erosion.
- Never mix vinegar with bleach, which can cause a dangerous chemical reaction.
- Don’t use oil-based detergents or wax cleaners on your porcelain tile floors, which can leave behind tough-to-remove residue.
- Don’t use cleaners that contain dye or coloring, since this can stain unglazed porcelain tile and grout.
- Use soft bristles to scrub your tiles and grout. Hard bristles, such as the kind you find in heavy-duty scrub brushes, can scratch the tile surface and degrade the grout.
- When choosing a tile floor, it’s important to keep in mind that porcelain tile with a stone or wood look and darker grout may not need cleaning as often as lighter, less-textured tiles and lighter grout.
Porcelain tile is a beautiful and durable flooring choice that doesn’t require much in the way of maintenance. Daily sweeping and weekly mopping with an eco-friendly porcelain tile cleaner like vinegar and baking soda will keep your floors gleaming for as long as you have the tile.