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How to Strip Saltillo Tile (Visual Guide) | Mexican Tile Restoration

How to Strip Saltillo Tile

and should you strip Saltillo tile?

“Let’s strip our Saltillo tile,” he said.

“It’ll be fun,” he said.

(No, he didn’t really say that, but his tone of voice indicated both confident & happy sentiment. Welcome to our experience with pandemic home project #4,017.)

And so we stripped Mexican tile.

Here’s the thing.  I’ll tell you how to strip Saltillo tile in this blog. But to be clear, I stand by our long-time advice…

Do not strip Saltillo tile if it’s avoidable.

Nonetheless, here is our experience.

In this post, I’ll take you through the process of how to strip Saltillo tile on an outdoor patio.

(The fine print … PLEASE consult a local flooring professional for advice on your job site. This post is intended to share our opinion, based on personal experience, on how to strip Saltillo tile. There are a variety of ways and products for stripping Mexican tile. You do you.)

Materials for Stripping Saltillo & Terracotta Tiles

& important health precautions

First things first.  Preparation for how to strip Saltillo tile is the critical first step. It’s like baking a cake only to find out you’re missing a cake pan.  So, get all the supplies ready from the start to avoid wasting time and money.

These are some essentials.

materials for stripping saltillo tile

These recommended materials are based on our experience of stripping an outdoor space.  Using a solvent-based stripping chemical was a no-brainer because it was the most effective. But the decision of using a stinky stripper chemical bids a larger chain of events.

Solvent-based strippers stink… a lot.  The high VOC chemicals released into the air require wearing a mask & gloves for protection. Use a good mask to combat the health hazard.

Additionally, the best way to remove solvent-based strippers is through pressure washing. The pressure-washing process throws solidified stripper residue (literally) everywhere. So, pants and waterproof shoes or boots are recommended for skin protection.

Stripping Mexican tile creates a mess.  Prepare for your project space to look much worse before it looks better.  Plus, there will be casualties in the process.  More on that in a bit.

(Note: Some people recommend scraping stripper vs. pressure washing. While I would not strip Saltillo tile in an indoor space with a solvent-based stripper, this could be an approach to test out.  But it’s only a viable option if the tile that needs to be stripped has just a topical coating. If the stripper chemical gets into the clay, then pressure washing is the way to go for removal of the stripper.)

The Manganese Saltillo tile that we chose to strip was superbly sealed with several coats of penetrating sealer soaked into the clay. We knew it would take many repeat stripping processes to adequately remove the factory sealer from the clay.  Thus, pressure washing was a no-brainer for our project. It’s messier than scraping but most efficient for getting into the clay.

Bonus! Manganese Saltillo tile is a go-to for indoor and outdoor spaces. This Saltillo tile color finish lends itself to a variety of design styles. Learn more about picking the right rustic tile in our Ultimate Guide to Rustic Decor.)

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The Tile Stripping Process for Outdoor Areas

rinse and repeat (again & again)

Disclaimer: These are the steps that we took for stripping sealed Manganese Saltillo tile.  Your project will likely require variations or alternatives. Consult with a local flooring professional to get advice about your job site. I will not give advice about anyone’s job site without being on the actual job site.  So, don’t ask. ☺ However, I’m happy to answer questions about my experience. Just post questions at the bottom of this post ↓.

how to strip mexican tile

How to strip Saltillo tile is quite a simple process.  Apply stripper, let it sit, and pressure wash.  Those are the nuts and bolts.

stripper on saltillo tile
Saltillo Tile Stripper as it Dries

First, we applied a thick coat of stripper to a small area of flooring.  We worked approximately 20 square feet of floor space at a time.  In total, we stripped 1050 square feet of Mexican tile.

It’s SUPER important to apply the stripper chemical very thick and make sure it stays wet.  Do not wet the stripper with water to keep it wet. That only dilutes the chemical and makes it ineffective.  “Keep it wet” means to keep the chemical thick and wet.

In total, we’d let the stripper do its work by letting it sit on the tile for 20-30 minutes before pressure washing it away. It was summer and hot, so we re-coated the stripper chemical every 10ish minutes.  There’s no precise time measurement, so just watch the floor space.  When it looks like the stripper chemical is starting to dry out, recoat with more stripper.  Keep it wet.

pressure wash stripper from mexican tile
Pressure Wash for the Most Efficient Removal

Next, pressure wash the stripper off the Saltillo tile floor.  This is where it gets tedious.  For our project, it was effective to use a nozzle on our pressure washer, which would give us a concentrated, small surface area of high-pressure spray.  You can see in the photos we removed the tile stripper in 1.5″ passes.  T-E-D-I-O-U-S.  But also, it proved to be a little therapeutic swipe-by-swipe. 

stripped saltillo tile
Partially Stripped Saltillo Tile

When our 20-square-foot area was complete, we moved to a separate area of the patio to tackle another 20-square-foot section. That allowed the first section to dry so we could assess our progress.  (Don’t apply the stripper to the water-wet tile.)

stripped mexican tile
This floor area needs another 1-2 coats of stripper.

In total, we bounced from section to section multiple times. It took an average of 4-5 passes of stripping to get down to raw clay effectively.  In total, we spent approximately 48-50 hours across several days stripping 1,050 square feet of tile.

How to Strip Mexican Tile Video

watch our experience

YouTube video

How to Clean Up Tile Stripper

& other casualties

Now, during the pressure washing process, the mess really expands. As you can see in the video, the gelled stripper flings off of the Saltillo tile floor.  Everything within a 5-6 foot vicinity of our floor had this gelled stripper residue.

cleaning stripped mexican tile

Unfortunately, the stripper residue sticks to anything.  So while we pressure-washed tile inch by inch, we had to remain vigilant about periodically washing the surrounding walls, etc., to keep the residual matter from settling onto other surfaces.  It took us a little while to find our groove to move in sync with stripping while containing residue.  Again, this was a 2-person job for us. It would be very difficult to contain the mess and strip tile solo.

saltillo tile stripper
Stripped Manganese Saltillo Tile Floor

We replaced all of the mulch in 4 qty 8-foot planters. We chipped the door paint as we pressure-washed dried sealer residue from the doors.  All walls & Cantera Columns adjacent to the tile floor needed to be pressure washed. Our iron gates also required pressure washing and need some paint repair.

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Alternatives to Stripping Tile

explore other options

Unfortunately, I don’t have a long list of alternatives to stripping Saltillo tile.

→ First, consider deep cleaning and resealing a Saltillo tile floor.  Some floors just need a fresh coat of Saltillo Tile Sealer. This is a best-case scenario because it’s the least invasive and least costly.

→ Next, consider sanding the Saltillo tile floor.  Then seal the Mexican tile again.

→ Another option is to grind the floor.  Grinding the clay tile will resurface it, so test a small area first.

→ Replace the floor or install new Saltillo tile over the existing Saltillo tile floor. We can help you with this.

If I had it to do again, I’d choose the grinding method over the process of stripping Saltillo tile.

You do You. ☺

how to strip terracotta tile
Stripped Terracotta Floor Tile – Manganese Saltillo

How to Seal Saltillo Tile

the next step

Now that your floor is stripped, clean it and wait for it to dry.  This may take a while, depending on how many coats of stripper and power washing ensued.  We had to wait over a week for our clay tile floor to dry out thoroughly. Patience was critical because it was mid-summer and 100+ degrees in Texas.

Next is the fun part.

It’s time to bring it back to life with sealer.  Check out  How To Seal Saltillo Tile.

Great news!  It’s much easier (& quicker) than stripping Saltillo tile. 

YouTube video

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