Concrete tiles can be fashioned to look nothing like concrete or cement. You can easily mistake them for your regular ceramic tiles. Concrete is an ideal substitute if you're looking to install a cement floor without the work involved in pouring, staining and dyeing regular concrete.
The life of your tiles will depend on how well the floor is treated. The advantage of concrete floors is that maintenance doesn't involve much more than wiping them down to remove dirt and polishing/sealing them for protection. You may also have to remove stains occasionally, both from the tile surface and grout. This article highlights how to deal with these.
1. Identifying stains from other discolouration
The first thing you need to know is whether the discolouration is caused by a stain or whether it is a sign of surface damage. A general rule is that stains on concrete tiles will appear darker than the surface; lighter patches are often signs of damage, and no amount of stain removal will work on such patches.
2. Treating stains
Staining happens when spills are absorbed into the pores of the concrete, changing its colour. This is corrected by applying a poultice, which breaks down and removes the stain-causing agent, restoring natural colour.
Poultice is made by combining an absorbent medium (more absorbent than cement) and a chemical that is determined by the type of staining agent. The chemical reacts with the staining materials, and then the medium draws both out to the surface, which is then wiped.
For the medium, you can use talcum powder or paper towels. Diatomaceous earth (it's the white stuff in pool filters. You can buy it at your local home improvement store) is ideal for larger stains. The chemical depends on the type of stain:
- Organic – e.g. tea, coffee, gravy, mustard. Use hydrogen peroxide (not food-grade, the kind used in hair salons).
- Inorganic – e.g. ink, dirt, colour dye. Use hydrogen peroxide. Denatured/rubbing alcohol may be more effective for certain inks.
- Oily – Use acetone.
- Biological – e.g. mould, mildew. Use mildew stain remover or household bleach
3. Treating surface damage
Most often surface damage is permanent (like what happens if bleach pours on coloured fabric—it removes the dye permanently) because it results from chemical damage. For this, you'll have to call in professionals who can hone and polish the surface to remove the damaged layer.
4. Dealing with grout stains
Grout is used to bond tiles to the flooring; it protects the tiles from chipping by repelling water. It can, however, be stained by other materials, as well as attracting mildew or other discolouration. Concrete or natural stone tiles should not be cleaned using anything corrosive; therefore, your trusty vinegar solution (useful for ceramic and porcelain tiles) won't do. Look for peroxide-based cleaning agents and use them according to the instructions. Be sure to rinse properly so the grout doesn't get corroded in time.