Should I clean saltillo tiles if I haven't done it before? | TruckMount Forums #1 Carpet Cleaning Forums

Should I clean saltillo tiles if I haven't done it before?

Tcoulter

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Apr 18, 2017
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Trace Coulter
Off the bat, I'm sure the answer is no. But I wanted to open up a bit of discussion. I got a call a couple days ago from a guy who said he heard that I do excellent work (he saw a travertine cleaning that I did for his friend). He told me he has saltillo tiles. I told him I'd at least give it a look. I of course immediately came here and started reading all of the previous posts about saltillo. Seemed like there were a lot of mixed responses. One time I actually cleaned some saltillo a few years ago but I didn't make it look any better but they didn't seem to mind. Pretty sure it was sealed/coated and I didn't strip it at all, so it didn't really do much. Anyways, it looked like it didn't have any coatings on it, looked like bare tile to me. I could sort of scratch it with my fingernail. It was pretty dirty, around 700 sq ft of it on outdoor patios. When we got around to the back, I just leveled with him. In short, I essentially told him "I really am not an expert on saltillo. All I could try is a small area and maybe get some saltillo sealer for the area and see what you think of it. But I know for a fact that there are saltillo experts in this area that I can refer you to, and then you would know for sure the job gets done right". He super appreciated that. He told me that I really earned his respect by just telling him that rather than just winging it.

But this got me thinking. First of all, would I have been fine spraying it down with some neutral cleaner, scrubbing with brushpro, and rinsing with spinner? Then sealed with whatever shiny sealer home depot or my supply house has? Or would it of looked like crap or somehow gotten screwed up because I don't have my degree in saltillo cleaning? lol. Also, where does one go to learn how to properly clean or strip and seal saltillo?

The guy respected my response so he went in his house to find other stuff for me to clean. He's going to have me clean his sofa and loveseat. I told him "now this...I'm pretty sure I'm not going to melt this sofa like I would your mud tiles".
 

Mama Fen

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Jul 18, 2012
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If one never tries anything new, one never learns, lol. But true handmade Saltillo tiles can be finicky to learn on, so I recommend serious study first and a gentle, slow approach.

If the tiles are sealed (which is typically done with a Saltillo-specific high-gloss sealer to make the color "pop"), you can either use a neutral cleaning agent and simply remove soil on top of the sealer, or you can strip and re-apply the sealer. The latter is usually only recommended if the sealer is in poor shape, and is something I'd call in an expert on the first time you attempt it.

Bare tiles are extremely porous and irregular. They may have fingerprints, drag-marks, or even pawprints, embedded in them and this is actually desirable. Care must be taken to not damage their surface while cleaning, and often the guys "soak" the tiles thoroughly with fresh water before applying chemical to keep the tiles from absorbing too much sauce and getting hazy when dry. Since they are a clay product they are not usually super-sensitive to chemistry - it's their irregularity and their thirsty nature that makes them challenging.

We've got a few guys here that have done Saltillo since it's common in their area - their input will be very valuable for you.
 

Tcoulter

Active Member
Apr 18, 2017
189
86
28
Real Name
Trace Coulter
If one never tries anything new, one never learns, lol. But true handmade Saltillo tiles can be finicky to learn on, so I recommend serious study first and a gentle, slow approach.

If the tiles are sealed (which is typically done with a Saltillo-specific high-gloss sealer to make the color "pop"), you can either use a neutral cleaning agent and simply remove soil on top of the sealer, or you can strip and re-apply the sealer. The latter is usually only recommended if the sealer is in poor shape, and is something I'd call in an expert on the first time you attempt it.

Bare tiles are extremely porous and irregular. They may have fingerprints, drag-marks, or even pawprints, embedded in them and this is actually desirable. Care must be taken to not damage their surface while cleaning, and often the guys "soak" the tiles thoroughly with fresh water before applying chemical to keep the tiles from absorbing too much sauce and getting hazy when dry. Since they are a clay product they are not usually super-sensitive to chemistry - it's their irregularity and their thirsty nature that makes them challenging.

We've got a few guys here that have done Saltillo since it's common in their area - their input will be very valuable for you.


Thanks Mama Fen. I tend to stay as busy as I want to, maybe even a little too busy, so I've begun to shy away from any work that I am not 100% comfortable with. But it is always good to be open to trying new things.
 

PistolPete

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Sep 28, 2014
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I would say there is a difference between cleaning and restoration.
Cleaning you will be fine with neutral cleaner or even diluted down groutmaster (1oz / gal) and then rinse at 800 psi with spinner.
I wouldn't apply an sealer

If the sealer is failing then stripping it and re-sealing is required.

Read the posts on here about that process.

I did one with 3 layers of sealer and dirt between each layer.
I used floor stripper and a black Malish brush on my 175, and a grout brush for the grout lines.
Shop vac the slurry, rinse and then apply sealer.

So it all depends on how bad it is.