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Our Poor Floor

One feature that attracted us to buy our house was the beautiful terra cotta tile on the floor downstairs. People often ask if we installed it ourselves, but the previous owners get the credit for that.

Alas, the old floor ain’t what it used to be.

Poor Floor

It sat under brackish water for a couple of weeks back in 2005. We pressure-washed it with a mild detergent, but since then it’s been subjected to all the dirt and abuse of a two-year renovation project.

I despair of the floor ever looking as good as it once did. We merely aspire to restore a semblance of its former glory. But we’re not sure how.

Over the weekend Xy tried scrubbing a section with soap and water. After it dried you could hardly tell the area had been cleaned at all.

So… any bright ideas?

Published inOur HousePix


  1. I suspect if that is true terra cotta — as opposed to the faux ceramic stuff — it might look considerably better with a coat of sealant and luster enhancer. Ask for it at a tile store or at Lowes, and test it in a corner. Make sure you tell them exactly what it’s being used on. I don’t know off the top of my head the proper brand for saltillo tiles but a professional dealer should be able to help you.

    The best cheap thing for cleaning tile is a non-bleach gritty laundry detergent with just enough water to make it moist. If that doesn’t work there are other tile cleaners, but again make sure they’re appropriate for that tile.

    Beyond that you could check the phone book for grout restoration companies. In most big cities there are tile companies that specialize in that. It’s time-consuming work but cleaner-looking grout usually does wonders for the overall look.

    Hope that helps!

  2. This looks like a Mexican tile. Some of them are very soft and absorb all sorts of stuff. There are also fake ones which are really made of colored concrete.

    Washing isn’t likely to do much, if the tile restorers/sealers don’t work you might try some concrete stain and some sealer to even up the color.

  3. celcus celcus

    Basically, I agree with what mominem said…But remember, once you seal it, there’s no going back.

    I would try a washed out coat of concrete stain to blend the colors. It will change the tone and darken them somewhat, but it should even the color out, and mask some of the stains. I’d keep it pretty thin, you can always put on a second coat. There will be a point where it will look as good as it’s going to get, and anymore will only make it look muddy…good luck in figuring out when that is.

  4. Jenny Jenny

    I was at the park one day & I noticed someone had sliced open one of those huge, green, wrinkled, smelly pod fruits from the nearby tree. Whoever did this deed dragged the exposed “meat” of the fruit along the rather crappy, dull, grey concrete for a good two or three feet–leaving a trail of :
    Maybe these gross fruits will clean terra cotta? I’ve been meaning to try them in the driveway at home. I can have Herb identify the tree, or maybe send them to you…

  5. I was thinking, It is also possible what you are seeing is discolored wax/sealer damaged by the water. If you floor is old enough it was probably waxed a lot.

    I have a similar problem with some brick floors in my house, but they are real hard fired heavy clay brick and I knew I can use pretty harsh brick cleaner on them,

  6. Muriatic acid is used to clean concrete; it’s possible this will work for your tile. You need something strong to get into all the pores of the tile. You’ll probably need to leave it soaking in it for some time. Consult with a tile company that sells this kind of tile to get some heavy duty cleaning solutions.

    As someone else noted above, this type of tile is porous, so you may never get it back 100% to the way it was.

  7. Greg Fisherkeller Greg Fisherkeller

    I would not use muriatic acid. I use it to wash stone and even diluted, it is too strong for your job. I would suggest looking at the steps on the following website You don’t have to use their products, but they have the proccess right. You neet to get rid of the remaining wax and dirt before you can get to the fun part of waxxing. Your floor is worth saving. I would not seal it with wax or anything until all of the imbedded dirt is removed.


  8. My house in Mexico was covered in this tile. There were large areas that were outside and would get all dry dull and nasty.

    We used to take motor oil and spread it all around then buff it with a rag.

    It is a little messy but the tiles look like leather when you are done.

  9. […] rented a buffing machine to clean our tile floor. It cleaned up OK, I guess, except for a powdery white residue everywhere. I thought this might be […]

  10. Carolyn Carolyn

    There is a spray, which I purchased at Home Depot in the cleaning product isle (sorry I don’t remember the name). It is specifically to clean grout. I sprayed it on my tile, which had become discolored by Alabama red clay being tracked in over many years. When you apply it, it begins to fizz and foam. When it has set for about 20 minutes, mop it off. A miracle. When it is clean (and dry), be sure to seal it to protect it and enhance the beauty.

  11. Ann Ann

    OK that is what an antique floor looks like.
    However,an acid of some sort should disolve the alkaline white powder.Basin Tub and tile cleaner [soap scum remover] should do it nicely.
    I vote you leave it alone, learn to love it for it really IS bueatiful. A.E.

  12. I like the earthy, organic look of it. I wouldn’t do too much to it. My belief is that we can’t erase what happened, we need to preserve what we can and accept some things, like this beautiful floor, as a silent remembrance. It will remain an important part of your family history.

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