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Lisa Breakspear, Sales and Technical Director, Fila UK discusses the importance of carrying out a thorough initial clean of newly tiled surfaces.

Ever wondered why a newly installed tiled floor looks dirty, despite numerous, rigorous attempts to clean the surface? In most cases, it’s down to one thing - a poor initial clean. In fact, over 70% of all installation complaints are the result of this - and, a poor ongoing maintenance regime just compounds the problem.

Once a tile installation has been completed, speed is of the essence. Stopping to thoroughly clean a surface – with the correct detergent – holds things up. And yet this simple procedure, carried out correctly, can potentially save a massive amount of time, money and inconvenience.

The initial clean or ‘builders clean’ really is crucial, regardless of the tile used – be it porcelain, ceramic or natural stone – and it needs to be carried out with a suitable detergent. If you only use water, you’ll leave behind a grout haze. In the case of a non-porous surface, that doesn’t need sealing, this will compromise the look and the fixing residue that’s left behind will attract dirt. If the tile has been chosen for its non-slip properties, the subsequent build-up will affect its slip resistance too.

If the tiles are porous and do need sealing, you’ll effectively sandwich the dirt between the surface of the tile and the sealer. The sealer will then under-perform because the layer of residue will prevent it from being properly absorbed. Dirt will build up which will attract more grime, compromising both the aesthetic and the safety of the floor.

To ensure that these problems don’t arise, a thorough initial clean using the correct detergent should always be carried out. Cleaning products are either acid-based, alkaline-based or pH neutral. The pH scale spans from 0-14; anything in the middle of the scale – 7 – is considered to be neutral. Anything below 7 is acidic and above 7 is considered alkaline. In general, alkaline solutions are better at cutting through dirt, grease, proteins, oils and other organic substances, whilst


acids are best for removing calcium, rust and other minerals. In addition, acids are great at removing cementitious residues and alkalines are effective at removing polymer, which is added to grout and adhesives.

Acid cleaners will damage or etch acid-sensitive stone tiles, so should only be used on acid-resistant stone or non- absorbent surfaces, like glazed ceramics, porcelain, quarry tiles and terracotta. If you are using an acidic product, make sure that it is a buffered solution, like FILA Deterdek. Unlike hydrochloric acid, buffered acids don’t emit harmful fumes and they won’t damage aluminium and steel trims. In contrast, alkaline cleaners should not be used on polished natural stone as they can damage the polished finish. If in any doubt, contact the tile supplier or a surface care specialist, like FILA, to help identify the correct regime.

PH neutral cleaners, like FILA Cleaner, can generally be used on all surfaces, so they’re a safe bet. Sometimes, more than one product might be needed to thoroughly clean a surface, for example, to remove high-performance epoxy grout or adhesive residue, and care should be taken in identifying the correct solution. A good option for non-absorbent surfaces is FILACR10, which removes both new and existing epoxy residue without leaving streaks or a tell-tale haze.

If an initial clean hasn’t been carried out, and problems have arisen, surfaces can be restored by deep cleaning and resealing. Stubborn residue can be particularly problematic on textured ceramic and porcelain surfaces and this is where a good degreasing alkaline product, like FILAPS87, will prove particularly effective. But, a good initial clean really does pay dividends; a revisit to clean and reseal a floor can be very expensive. It’s a vital step that promotes a good installation and helps safeguard future referrals.

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