Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Quietly Cleaning Tile

Hmmm, maybe it hasn’t been all that quiet. There is quite a bit of grumbling and the occasional profanity while I’m cleaning, I just haven’t been blogging about it that much. I’m talking about the salvaged 2-inch hex tile that I got from The Oberon Saloon.

The bleach method works well, but there is still some scrubbing to be done on about half the tile. There is also a small percentage that just won’t come clean. I call these tiles “The Uncleanables”. Clever, don’t you think? Out of the 1200 or so tiles I’ve cleaned so far, I’ve had 30 or 40 of them that remain gray no matter what I try. Thirty or forty is not bad so far, but my fear is that I will hit a big run of them and lose several, or even dozens of square feet of tile.

I have two plastic bins and I can load about 6 or 7 sq ft of tile in to each one. I fill them with bleach and let them sit for a week. After a week I take the tiles out one at a time, give each a little rub, and then rinse them in a third pale that has clean water in it. At first I was using a green scrubby, but surprisingly that didn’t work all that great. I also tried a brass wire toothbrush sized brush, but it was slow to use. What ended up being the most efficient method was my thumbs in the rubber gloves.

The fingers and palms of the cheap-o dish gloves are covered with little rubber bumps smaller than a be-be. The bumps are packed together tightly and make a very effective cleaning tool. I take a tile in my hands and rub the surface with both thumbs at once. This method not only works the fastest but does a more complete job. With the green scrubby I always had to scrub the tile and then look at it, and then scrub some more to get any spots I missed. The scrubby is so porous that there is not enough surface contact. When I use my thumbs the tile surface starts out as grungy and there is a slight resistance as I rub my thumbs on the tile. As it becomes clean though, the surface become slick and you can just feel that the tile is clean. Most tiles take a matter of seconds.

It takes about 2 hours start to finish to clean all the tiles in the two tubs and to refill the tubs. Two hours is about all I can take in a sitting. It’s not the most comfortable work in the world. Lots and lots of time to contemplate the Universe.


After. Each finished box of clean tile contains 220 tiles and I have 5 and a partial so far.


Sam said...

Dude, you are one patient guy. Looks great, and will look stupendous in the end. And I guess, due to the way-beyond-sweat-equityness of it all, you'll never sell this place?

Greg said...

Patient? Think neurotic obsession.

Ragnar said...

Makes me wonder... I've got salvaged tile sitting in my basement too, about 120 square feet of 3/4" thick(!) 8" square floor tile. There are two patterns, one of which came from an apartment building stairway, the other, even more beautiful from the laundry room in the basement. So they're badly stained and I need to celan them up. However, I'm wooried the bleach solution might affect the colors since mine isn't plain white but black and white resp. blue and white. Might give it a try on one of the cracked ones...
If I ever get to try it you can read the results at

Greg said...

Hey, I never made the connection until now. This must be Texas_Ranger.