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How to Clean Saltillo Tile Flooring (Updated Visual Guide)

How to Clean Mexican Saltillo Tile

Easy DIY Tips from the Pros

Brace yourself. The topic of how to clean Saltillo tile is not as hard as some people think. In fact, I’ll give you three easy steps to follow.

So, before dumping a lot of money into professional cleaning services, let me help. Try these three easy steps to spruce up your floor.

Let’s jump right in.

mexican tile in spanish style home

Many moons ago, did your floor look fresh and vibrant like this?  And now, is it dark, dull, and has dirty grout lines?

Just getting started? Check out this article on installing Saltillo on a wood subfloor!

Vacuum Saltillo Tile

start with the basics

First Step – Vacuum.

Some people like to sweep.  As for me, I don’t understand sweeping in an indoor space.  The idea of pushing dirt and dust around so it collects in grout joints makes my skin crawl.  Buy a vacuum and suck up the dirt.  Get it off the floor and out of your home!

Vacuuming regularly reduces the chance for that dust and dirt to absorb into your grout lines.  Have you ever wondered why old floors have dark grout lines?  That dark color is dirt, grime, dust, and all the gross things.  Please, use a vacuum to clean Saltillo tile flooring.

I use something similar to this.

vacuum saltillo tile floor

Inspect the Saltillo Tile Floor

rustic characteristics

Step 2 – Inspect.

As the years pass, your Saltillo flooring evolves with enhanced rustic characteristics.  That’s an excellent way of saying… you’ll see more bumps, chips, hairline cracks, and color variations.  These are not defects. 

Check this out if you’re looking for other Terra Cotta Flooring Ideas!

Those rustic characteristics are part of the norm.  If you want to clean Saltillo tile, then scrutinize these characteristics.  When you find a chip exposed to raw terracotta clay, apply a thin coat of sealer. This prevents the raw clay from flaking away or deteriorating.

Additionally, here’s some quick advice about Saltillo tile sealer. Whatever tile sealer you choose must be chemically compatible with any other sealer you’ve applied on the floor previously.  Don’t create more maintenance by using an improper sealer, which can peel or flake off in time. When in doubt, test the sealer first in an unseen area. Give it a few days to dry and fully cure. Watch for any discoloration, peel, flaking, or other weird things.

Want to See It In Your Room?

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Also, I’m not a big fan of waxing Saltillo tile floors.  Waxing these clay floors requires a lot of maintenance over time.  As the wax dulls, a fresh coat of wax and buffing is required frequently.

Why bother with this process when the lifespan of quality sealers exceeds 10+ years?  Save yourself time and money and reduce ongoing maintenance by properly sealing Saltillo tile flooring. Check out sealers like TerraNano Saltillo Tile Topcoat Sealer or Crest Sealer. 

Should You Strip Your Saltillo Tile Floor?

hopefully, it doesn’t come to this

Step 3 – Mop.

If you don’t have to strip or resurface your floor, move on to mopping!  That’s right… mop.  I like a string mop configuration when I tackle my floors.

I find that the string mop adequately gets into the grout joints.  Cleaning Saltillo tile with a string mop is easier because these floors traditionally have wide grout joints.  Most joints range from 1/2 – 1 inch.  Also, the string mop doesn’t deteriorate like a foam or sponge mop.

Next, determine your cleaning agent.  To preserve the life of the Saltillo tile sealer, choose a cleaner that is not harsh. For example, dilute any detergent to lessen the impact of harsh chemicals.  Personally, I like to use a water/vinegar mixture for my normal cleanings.

And since my floors have a durable Saltillo tile sealer coating, I use a bleach/water mixture a few times each year for deep cleaning & disinfecting.  With kids, dogs, and a front door open to many, my floors occasionally need a disinfectant overhaul.

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However, I don’t advise the strength of bleach to universally clean Saltillo tile.  That recommendation applies only to floors with a sealer like TerraNano Saltillo Tile Sealer that can withstand strong chemicals.  Even still, I dilute it with water.  Also, open some windows and turn on ceiling fans to boost ventilation. Learn more about our advice for Spanish tile projects.

how to clean saltillo tile flooring

Should You Apply Sealer or Strip Saltillo Tile?

only if it’s necessary

That’s it – just three simple steps to clean Saltillo tile flooring. Sometimes there are reasons to refinish, resurface, or strip these floors.  But give your floor some TLC for basic cleaning or an occasional facelift.

→ Need the big guns? Check out How to Strip Saltillo Tile (& why you should try to avoid it!)

Oh… one last thing. Inspect your sealer once in a while.  If you pour a little water onto the Saltillo tile and it absorbs (even if just a little), it’s time for a fresh coat of sealer.  Before applying that Saltillo tile sealer, follow these steps to scrub up the floor first!

Do you have any tips or tricks on how to clean Saltillo tile flooring?  Leave a comment below!

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11 thoughts on “How to Clean Saltillo Tile Flooring (Updated Visual Guide)”

  1. Hi, I buying and old 1970’s house with Saltillo in the kitchen and living room. The people living there have 4 dogs so you can imagine what the floor looks like. The grout is very dark in the high passage areas so my first question is how should I restore the grout or will i need to replace it? Will a steamer restore it and can I restore the tile with a steamer before resealing properly. I believe that if I can restore the floor it will greatly improve the house interior.

  2. Hi Daniel – Start scrubbing! 🙂 Nothing cleans as well as elbow grease and basic floor cleaner. If you can lift the dirt from the grout, then you’ll be in good shape to re-seal it. A steamer may be helpful but it doesn’t typically lift dirt very well (in my experience). But, a steamer is ideal for routine cleaning because it doesn’t need chemicals to clean (which preserves the life of your sealer). And take a similar approach with your Saltillo tile too. When you’re happy with the outcome, seal the entire floor again. Our TerraNano Sealer is excellent and long-lasting.

  3. Our tile was installed 5-6 years ago and I suspect we didn’t get it sealed completely as water/liquid is absorbed into the grout. As a result we have some stains in the grout that I’m not sure scrubbing will remove. My thoughts were to strip, darken the grout and re-seal. We used a matte sealer when we installed them and I have always regretted that decision as I really wanted high shine. What are your thoughts on that and would that be something non-professionals (my husband and I) could accomplish.

  4. Hi Susan – If you pour a little water on the grout and it soaks in, then you may not need to strip it or drill it out. If so, you can experiment in a small area by applying some concrete stain and grout sealer. But if you have moisture issues from under the tile/grout… efflorescence will continue to appear even on a darker stained grout. Best of luck with your project!

  5. Hello,
    I have a Mexican tile floor throughout my house. It is showing some wear and the grout is grey and dirty.
    What is the best product to use to scrub the grout?

  6. Hi Wendy, There’s no magic formula for grout cleaning. You can, of course, experiment with different cleaners. Find one that you like and scrub, scrub, scrub!

  7. Please provide recommendations for removing efflorescence from hallway Saltillo floor tiles resulting from water leak in nearby shower area. Vinegar water and elbow grease do not appear to be effective. Thanks.

  8. Hi Dave – Great question! Removing efflorescence is most successfully done with an acidic cleaner. We have a great product that is effective if the efflorescence is not below sealer. If it’s below sealer, it’s much more difficult to remove.

  9. Martha A McDonald

    I went with the Matte look on a recent tile installation and now wish I had gone with the shiny sealant. Can I just go over the matte sealant with a gloss sealant or do I have to wait and or strip the old sealant off first?

  10. Hi Martha – It depends on the sealer in most instances. A common approach is to lightly sand your tile before reapplying a new coat of sealer. And always be sure to test for chemical compatibility (i.e. the different sealers need to be chemically compatible).

  11. Martha A McDonald

    So if I used the Crest Sealant that I purchased from Rustico for the matte finish and use the same Crest sealant but in gloss I should be okay?

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