A large expanse of ceramic tile floor in a home or business might be cleaned by hand, with a kitchen scrubber wielded by an intrepid housekeeper, or it may be cleaned by machine in only a fraction of the time and with much less effort. Owners of such surfaces may opt to buy or rent a cleaning machine that can provide a simple solution to a vexing problem.
Both ceramic tile and porcelain tile are made of fine clay, smoothed and fired to a shiny or matt finish. Porcelain tile and ceramic tile differ mainly in their durability because porcelain is fired at a higher temperature than ceramic tile and is, as a result, more resistant to stains and scratching. In either case, machine cleaning is recommended, but owners should identify that their grout is sealed by testing to see if the grout darkens when water is applied. If so, the grout may require attention prior to cleaning or repair after cleaning.
So long as a scrubbing machine is equipped with soft bristle brushes, a scrubber will not harm a ceramic tile floor. It will allow the use of one of many nontoxic cleaners available from dealers and discount stores. Read the package directions carefully before use. In case of stubborn stains and soils, a ceramic tile floor may also be cleaned with special acidic cleaners. All cleaners should be rinsed from the floor.
For some ceramic tile surfaces, a viable cleaning method is with a pressure washer developed for commercial applications and probably not appropriate for use in most homes. While most pressure washers are powered with electricity, some machines are highly versatile and use alternative power sources such as natural gas, propane and diesel fuel. Pressure washing using no chemicals or with eco-friendly cleaners will not harm ceramic tile floors, though adjustments to the amount of pressure are recommended for best results.
It is possible to clean an entire porcelain or ceramic tile floor with steam alone, no chemicals or cleaners needed. The heat of the very hot water sanitises the surface and removes most soils and stains easily, even those on older, yellowed tile floors. Manufacturers of steam cleaners advertise that only a steam cleaner can reach into every corner and seam of a floor without any additional effort on the part of the operator. The primary warning about steam cleaning concerns damage to old, unsealed or cracked grout.