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Cleaning Difficult Floors – Brick And Unglazed Tile

Updated on December 9, 2013

Photo credit to steelmore.

Whether you have brick on your patio or unglazed tile in your home, you don’t want stains marring the look of your floor’s finish. Brick is clay fired at a relatively low temperature, while most unglazed tile is usually fired at a slightly higher temperature. Brick and unglazed tile share one characteristic: Both materials are absorbent. If you spill something on brick or unglazed tile, it will stain unless the floor has been sealed.

Because both materials are ceramic, the same cleaning methods work for both, whether inside or outside the home. The major difference comes in what stains you face.

One Rule to Never Forget

Never use an acid cleaner on brick or unglazed tile! That means no vinegar solutions even though they work well on other surfaces. All cleaning solutions that come in contact with brick or tile need to have a neutral pH. Anything above a pH of 6 opens up the tile’s pores, making it even more prone to staining.

Brick Often Cleans Up With Power Washing

Moss and mildew stains are common on exterior brick. These usually respond to power washing quite well. Keep the spray broad and avoid pressure above 3,000 psi so you don’t damage the brick. Any residual stains often respond to a treatment with 50/50 bleach and water. Apply with rubber gloves. Let stand for several minutes, then scrub with a stiff brush, making sure to wear eye protection so no bleach splatters into your eyes. Because bleach can cause light areas in the brick, you may want to apply it to all the bricks, but many homeowners find the variations in color intriguing.

Photo credit to frederickmdrocks.

Other Common Stains And How To Treat Them

Efflorescence—You’ve seen these salt deposits on brick and tile. In most cases, these will clean up with a stiff dry brush. Deposits that don’t respond to this treatment may be calcium based, making them the most difficult stain to remove because calcium is usually removed with an acid. A product called Pav-R Clean is your best option. It works effectively on bricks to remove calcium deposits.

Dirt and Mud—Once again a good stiff brush is the best option. Work with the area dry and vacuum away any dust that forms. Use a neutral cleaning solution only after any loose material is gone.

Egg—If the egg has dried, the best way to deal with this stain is to wet the area first with warm water. Wipe away as much of the egg as possible. Then wipe the area with a mixture of 50/50 vinegar and water. Scrub this into the stain until any remaining egg loosens. Wipe up any residue, then immediately apply a solution of 50/50 baking soda and water. This will neutralize the acid so the brick or tile doesn’t develop a worse tendency to stain.

Brown Stains—In some cases, brown stains are caused by manganese. If this is the case, you need to apply a solution of paracetic acid. Either dab the solution onto the brick or tile (wearing gloves) or spray on. Do not scrub. If the stain is manganese it will disappear very quickly. Immediate apply baking soda to neutralize the acid. Wipe up and rinse thoroughly. A second application of 50/50 baking soda and water is a good practice.

Oil and Tar—Use a commercial oil and tar remover. Or make a poultice using 1 part kerosene and 2 parts diatomaceous earth and apply it to the stain. Spread about 1/4 inch thick. Allow the poultice to stand for 12 hours covered with plastic. Remove the plastic and let the poultice dry out completely. Sweep away. Follow with steam cleaning, and in most cases the oil stain will disappear.

Green Stains—Some green stains are algae based and clean up easily with just neutral cleaner and elbow grease. Other stains are caused by the mineral vanadium. Apply a 50/50 solution of bleach and water to the stain. Let stand for 24 hours, then rinse. Reapply if necessary.

Chewing Gum—Apply a small piece of dry ice to the gum. When the gum hardens, scrape it up.

Keeping your floors looking great is not as exciting as choosing coffee metal wall art for the library/media room or metal wall art sculptures for the foyer, but you can maintain the value of your home by properly maintaining your unglazed tile floors and exterior brick surfaces.

This article is written by Maria Harris, who writes for .


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