How to Clean Floor Tile Naturally
By Marilee Nelson |
Tile flooring is a favorite among healthy home advocates because it’s durable and affordable, comes in a huge variety of styles, and hard surfaced floors are non-toxic or less toxic than other flooring options.
But can tile floors be cleaned naturally without resorting to expensive cleaners (or ruining your natural stone tile’s finish)?
The answer is yes!
Not only can you achieve a clean and polished look using natural products, but most natural stone and marble should not be cleaned with harsh chemicals because they can compromise the sealer.
This article teaches you how to clean floor tile naturally and effectively.
Why We Love Tile Flooring (and why clean floor tile matters)?
If you watch our reels on Instagram, you’ve probably seen a lot of tile in our homes.
That’s not just because we live in warm climates (although it helps with that too).
We all love tile because certain types of tile, such as porcelain and ceramic tile, do not need to be sealed, are inert, and will not outgas/off-gas chemicals like many other flooring options.
Plus, with kids and pets running around, it is a practical choice for busy households. Tile floors are not vulnerable to moisture and spills like carpet and wood flooring.
However, tile floors should be cleaned regularly to remove tracked in dirt, prevent grime buildup and stains.
Fortunately, there are several ways to accomplish this without resorting to chemical-based cleaners.
What Causes Stains On Floor Tile?
Porcelain and ceramic tile are not porous and are resistant to stains, but natural stones need a little more care. They have to be sealed, spills require quick cleanup, and may require special cleaners with either a neutral or alkaline pH.
For example, natural stone or unglazed quarry tile is porous and likely to absorb spills. Likewise, older finished tiles (such as travertine or limestone) can be more susceptible to stains as their finish wears thin.
So, it helps to know what you’re working with.
The best way to avoid stains is to clean them up as soon as they occur using one of the methods we’ll discuss next.
We’ll also share some deep cleaning options if your tile floor has stains. However, if the tile is significantly damaged, it may warrant replacement.
Tools For Cleaning Floor Tile
Ready to get started cleaning your floor tile naturally?
Here’s a list of the tools you may need.
- Broom or vacuum (preferably a HEPA vacuum)
- Non-scratch sponge or natural scrub brush
- Microfiber cloths or mops*
- Dry towels
- Branch Basics Oxygen Boost (for cleaning tile grout)
- reusable Microfiber mops
- unscented refillable microfiber mops (Swiffer is a good brand)
- spray mop like the ProMist Max Microfiber Mop
- dry steam mop - Advap Ladybug Dry Steam Cleaner
- steam mop like the Hoover Steam Mop
- classic cotton mop or sponge mops
* We highly recommend using microfiber mops because they grab up bacteria and dirt particles instead of spreading them around.
These tools facilitate the non-toxic cleaning methods below.
6 Natural Ways To Clean Floor Tile
It’s nice to have options for non-toxic cleaning.
That way, if you ever run out of anything, you’ll have a backup or two.
Note: not all these recommendations are appropriate for every type of tile. If you have natural stone or marble, always check with the manufacturer of the tile and sealer for special care and cleaning product recommendations. For example, many types of natural stone, concrete, or unglazed quarry tile typically should not be cleaned with acidic cleaners.
Never forget to test compatibility of any cleaner used on an inconspicuous part of the floor.
If you’re unsure what kind of tile you have (or its finish), stick with the non-acidic cleaning recommendations such as Branch Basics, dry steam cleaning, steam mopping, or castile soap. And don't forget to test!
Let’s explore all the best options with these six natural ways to clean floor tile.
1. Branch Basics Concentrate + Oxygen Boost
At Branch Basics, our mission was to create one non-toxic cleaner to replace every single cleaner in the home. We worked until we had a Concentrate that didn't irritate the eyes, lungs, or skin when sprayed!
Our Concentrate plus Oxygen Boost—for extra cleaning power, fulfills this intention. And this system works wonders on tile floors!
For those who are new here, here’s how it works.
When you order a Branch Basics Premium Starter Kit, you’ll receive the Concentrate, Oxygen Boost, and four bottles to make your own All-Purpose, Bathroom, Streak-Free, and Foaming Wash.
So, where’s the bottle for floor cleaner, you may ask? Good question.
We could not provide a one-size-fits-all dilution recommendation for so many different flooring types.
However, All-Purpose is perfect for cleaning porcelain and ceramic tile. Floors with sealers like cement, or natural stone tiles may need a more dilute solution (small area should be tested for compatibility), and Oxygen Boost is terrific for cleaning grout.
Here’s how to clean tile using Branch Basics Concentrate and Oxygen Boost for grout:
- HEPA Vacuum or use a dusting microfiber to remove dirt and dust from the floor. A broom may also be used if necessary.
- Spray the floor with Branch Basics All Purpose or use a more diluted solution if the floor is sticky when dry. (You could also put All Purpose or 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon Concentrate per 2 cups water directly in a spray mop.)
- If needed, use a scrub brush to remove any caked-on mess.
- Otherwise, wipe clean with your mop or microfiber cloth.
- Dry with towels if needed.
If your grout needs a special clean
- Spray grout lines with Branch Basics All Purpose Cleaner.
- Sprinkle Oxygen Boost along the grout line.
- Spray All Purpose to wet the Oxygen Boost.
- Agitate and let dwell at least 5 minutes.
- Scrub with brush to remove stains.
- Wipe clean with a microfiber cloth.
- Dry with towels if needed.
Mop and Bucket Method
For those who prefer a mop and bucket, here’s how to dilute Branch Basics Concentrate to use on your tile floor:
- Fill a bucket with a mixture of 2 - 4 teaspoons Branch Basics Concentrate to 1 gallon of water. You’ll need to experiment with the concentration based on your floor type, humidity level, etc. Dilute more if the floor is sticky when dry.
- Fill another bucket with plain water.
- Wet the mop with the soapy water and wring it out well.
- Mop the floor, then allow it to air dry.
- Dip mop in the plain water when needed to clean soiled mop. Change to fresh water when water becomes murky.
- Wipe dry any wet spots.
- Treat grout as above.
This method is safe for all types of porcelain and ceramic tile flooring. Always check compatibility on natural stone or marble floors.
2. Dry Steam Mopping
Using a Ladybug Dry Steam Cleaner is an amazing way to clean your tile and grout without harmful chemicals. In fact, it is the ultimate quick and easy grout cleaner! If you have years of ground-in dirt in your white or light grout, using a dry steam cleaner may reveal an entirely new look to your floor. Remember to follow the manufacturer's instructions and always test natural stone and marble floors in an inconspicuous area.
- The Ladybug qualifies as a disinfection device* for the EPA. It disinfects* virtually any hard surface (through proprietary TANCS® technology) thousands of times better than the standard that chemical disinfectants must meet to qualify as an EPA registered disinfectant. Unlike chemical disinfectants that require dwell times where surfaces must remain visibly wet for minutes in order to kill germs, the Ladybug kills a very broad range of bacteria and viruses like MRSA, C. diff, norovirus, C. parvo, and COVID-19 in seven seconds or less while leaving no residue behind that promotes new microbial growth. It is also proven by scientific studies to eradicate hard-to-kill biofilms in three seconds. Strong chemical disinfectants such as bleach are no match!
- * How is mechanical disinfection different from chemical disinfecting? We have known for years that the overuse of chemical sanitizers and disinfectants has created a superbug issue where the germs become resistant both to the cleansers and to antibiotics. Mechanical disinfection with the Ladybug does not create superbugs as there is no chance for a germ to mutate to the point that it can resist the heat!
3. Steam Mopping
A steam mop is another wonderful way to clean all types of tile floors without chemicals.
For steam mopping, there are many options. One product we recommend is the Hoover (steam) mop.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
User’s tip: one downside of steam mops is they tend to become clogged or break if minerals or other debris build up in the steam holes.
You can try to avoid this by using distilled water and/or filtered water and not mixing anything into the water except white vinegar on occasion (which can help dissolve mineral buildup).
If you purchase a new steam cleaning floor product, we recommend using the sunning method to speed up the outgassing of VOCs before use.
If you use a steam mop that has been used with harmful chemicals, then it is necessary to wash it out and outgas it from the chemical smell before use.
Generally, steam mopping is appropriate for all types of tile, but check with the manufacturer to confirm.
4. Lemon Juice For Stains And General Cleaning
Plain lemon juice is a secret weapon for non-toxic tile cleaning and stain removal.
Its naturally-occurring citric acid acts as a natural degreaser and works great on dirt, mildew, soap scum, and stains.
For stain removal
Apply fresh or bottled lemon juice directly to the stain. Let dwell for 5-15 minutes. Scrub clean.
For general cleaning
Fill a spray bottle with either 100% fresh or bottled lemon juice or a 50:50 mixture of lemon juice and water.
Spray onto tile floors and wipe clean.
Lemon juice can also be combined with other natural ingredients, such as vinegar and baking soda, for a powerful DIY floor cleaner. Cut a lemon in half and sprinkle baking soda on the cut section of the lemon. Grab the lemon and use it as the applicator.
Acidic cleaners, such as lemon juice, may not be suitable for concrete tiles, natural stone, marble, or unglazed quarry stone.
5. Vinegar* + Baking Soda
If you like making DIY cleaners, you’ll love using vinegar and baking soda to clean your tile floors.
Like lemon juice, vinegar is acidic, making it effective at breaking up stains, dirt, mildew, and grime without damaging your flooring.
Important Note: Acidic cleaners, such as distilled white vinegar, may not be suitable for concrete tiles, natural stone, marble, or unglazed quarry stone that has to be sealed. Check with the tile and sealer manufacturer for recommended cleaners.
Baking soda is an excellent mild-abrasive and brightener, making it effective on grout and removing stains on tile.
Here’s how to clean your tile floors using vinegar and baking soda:
- HEPA vacuum, microfiber dust, or sweep your floor to remove loose dirt and debris.
- Make a DIY vinegar spray* using a 1:1 ratio of distilled white vinegar and water.
- Make a thick baking soda paste using baking soda and water. Some sites recommend a vinegar/baking soda paste. However, straight vinegar can wear down grout over time. Use caution or stick with the water/baking soda mixture.
- Next, apply the baking soda paste to the grout using a toothbrush or grout brush. Let dwell for at least 15 minutes. Scrub and wipe clean with a damp microfiber cloth.
- Clean the tile using the vinegar water spray* and microfiber mop.
- Dry with towels as needed.
For spot-stain removal, apply a thick paste of baking soda and vinegar and let dwell for at least 15 minutes. Scrub and wipe clean. Repeat as needed.
* Vinegar has acetic acid which is a lung irritant when sprayed. Use in a ventilated area and make a conscious effort not to inhale the freshly sprayed vinegar. Do not spray vinegar in the presence of children, the elderly, and those with lung or chronic health conditions.
Discover more ways to use baking soda and distilled white vinegar at home in:
6. DIY Mopping Solution: Vinegar Or Lemon Juice + Water + Castile Soap or Non-Toxic Dish Soap
This is an excellent mopping solution you can make at home with just a few simple ingredients.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 cup distilled white vinegar or lemon juice
- 1 quart of warm water
- 1 teaspoon Dr. Bronner’s Fragrance-Free Baby liquid castile soap OR a non-toxic, EWG-verified liquid dish soap such as Fragrance-Free AspenClean or Fragrance-Free Attitude
- Combine all these ingredients in a mopping bucket. Dip the mop in, wring, and mop your floors clean.
- Have a fresh water bucket to dip and clean soiled mop each time you need to freshen.
- If needed, finish with plain water spray to remove any excess.
- Dry with a towel or microfiber, and you’re done.
Omit vinegar or lemon juice if not recommended for your particular concrete, natural stone, or unglazed quarry stone tiles.
How Often Should I Clean Tile Floors?
As previously mentioned, tile floors should be cleaned regularly to avoid dirt build-up and stains while protecting your home’s air quality.
That usually means vacuuming or sweeping a few times a week, spot cleaning as needed, and mopping or spray cleaning at least once weekly.
What Should I Not Clean Floor Tile With?
Tile floors should never be cleaned with harsh chemicals such as bleach, which can damage their finish.
Also, (as previously discussed) acidic cleaners, such as lemon juice and distilled white vinegar, may not be suitable for natural stone, cement, regular use on grout, or unglazed quarry stone tiles.
When in doubt, go with a mild soap cleaner like Branch Basics or a vinegar-free version of the Castile soap mopping solution.
Get Started With A Branch Basics Trial Kit
Tile floors offer many advantages for a healthy home, especially if cleaned using Branch Basics or other natural floor cleaners.
Branch Basics offers a non-toxic, affordable, and effective solution for all types of tile flooring—from ceramic to natural stone. We made sure that our formula was not an eye, lung, or skin irritant when sprayed which is an advantage over using vinegar or Castile soap.
You can also make your own using the recipes and techniques shared here. Just be sure to use the appropriate products for your types of tile.
Our Trial Kit is a great way to test our Concentrate on your tile floors. For just $5.00 you get a mini-bottle of Branch Basics Concentrate and an All-Purpose Spray bottle to test out all around your house.
Learn more or order yours here.
For more information on non-toxic floor cleaning, check out:
Marilee Nelson is an Environmental Toxins expert who has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the chemically-sensitive and chronically-ill. She is a Board Certified Nutritionist, Certified Bau-Biologist and Bau-Biology Inspector and specializes in Food As Medicine. She has helped thousands of families and individuals identify, heal and recover from toxic exposures and is on a mission to revolutionize the way American families view their health.