Porcelain Tile

Porcelain is a high-quality variant of ceramic tile. While created from clay, like ceramic, its mineral composition makes it more resilient and more flexible than its more common brother. In addition, the method of applying glaze to porcelain makes its finish even more resilient than ceramic.

Durability Means Flexibility

In the tile world, porcelain refers to ceramic that has a water absorption rate less than 0.5%. This low absorption rate most immediately indicates that the tile is suitable for use outdoors or in moist environments. In environments with a freeze-thaw cycle, a low absorption rate is essential. Since water expands as it freezes, more absorbent tile may crack the first time it freezes.

Indirectly, the low absorption rate indicates that the tile is incredibly dense, and therefore resilient. While ceramic is not recommended for flooring use-- especially in high-traffic areas-- porcelain is up to the task.

In addition to increased durability of the tile itself, the application of glaze is different between porcelain and ceramic. For ceramic tile, glazes are painted on to the tile surface. With porcelain, however, the glaze liquid is pressed into the porcelain itself via high pressure. The glaze is heavily integrated into the tile, instead of merely adhering to the surface. This creates an even more durable product and appearance.

All of this durability adds up to increased flexibility in application. Ceramic can be cut into myriad different shapes, and so can porcelain. But where ceramic is most useful in backsplashes and other low-contact areas, porcelain is capable of standing up to the challenges of high-traffic flooring. In short: anywhere ceramic can go, porcelain can go, and then some.

Care

Regular cleaning and care will ensure that your porcelain tile retains its “like new” appearance as long as possible. Depending upon the texture and finish of your porcelain tile, care methods will vary.

For all porcelain tile, the first steps are a good sweeping, followed by a pass with a vacuum cleaner. This will remove loose dirt and dust from the surface, making the following steps much more manageable. Be sure to raise the beater brush if your vacuum is equipped with one-- the brush can scratch the finish, or leave pieces of itself behind in textured tile. Even light scratches add up over the years, shortening the lifespan of the flooring itself.

For cleaning polished and glazed porcelain tile, sweep and vacuum as recommended above. Then go over the area with a dry dust mop. This will collect all of the remaining loose dirt and dust. Go over the surface with a hot, damp mop, avoiding any pooling. If there are any heavily-soiled areas, go over them with a soft nylon brush until the dirt is loosened. For stains, use an all-purpose cleaner or a water-and-vinegar solution as a pre-treatment. Mop with your chosen floor cleanser, again being sure to avoid puddling. Before the cleanser dries, mop again with just hot water. To dry, go over the surface with a towel or microfiber cloth. If you’d like to buff the surface, cheesecloth works great!

For cleaning unpolished/unglazed porcelain tile, sweep and vacuum as recommended above. Skip the dust mop-- it will only leave pieces of itself in the tile and grout, making things more difficult. We recommend using a water-and-vinegar solution, or a mild detergent. It’s important that the solution not air-dry on the tile, so do only a small section at a time-- around 2-4 square feet. Saturate the area with the solution, and allow it to soak for five to ten minutes. Using a soft-bristled brush, scrub the area. Then wipe away the dirty solution and rinse the area with clean, hot water. Finally, pat the area dry with a clean towel or microfiber cloth.

For cleaning textured porcelain tile, the steps are largely the same. It’s still important that the cleaning solution not try on the surface. However, the timing is a little less pressing since the porcelain has been treated. You may be able to do the entire floor at once, depending on the area.

For any porcelain tile, these are things you should avoid, as they can stain or damage your tile or grout.

  • Never use a cleaning product containing ammonia, bleach, or which is acid-based. These can alter the color of your tile and stain the grout.
  • Never use steel wool, hard bristled brushes, etc. on porcelain tile. They can scratch the glaze surface, diminishing the luster of your floor over time. Steel wool can leave particles of steel embedded in the grout, which will eventually rust and stain the grout.
  • On unglazed porcelain, never use cleaners that contain dyes or colorings. The dye particles can penetrate the porcelain and bind to it, altering the color of the tile.

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