How to Clean Tile Scale

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Although tile is durable and elegant, keeping it clean can be a challenge, especially if it has developed tile scale. This can be especially problematic in certain areas of the country where water is very "hard," meaning that it contains minerals such as magnesium, calcium or iron that are left behind when the water evaporates. When it comes to removing tile scale, sooner is definitely better. Heavy scale is not only very difficult to remove, but can eventually damage the tile.

Things You'll Need

  • Commercial cleaner
  • Vinegar or lemon juice
  • Phosphoric acid
  • Rubber gloves
  • Putty knife
  • Muriatic acid
  • Goggles
  • Tile sealer
  • Clean the tile with a non-abrasive cleaner such as 409 or CLR. Any grime, soap scum or mildew should be eliminated before you attempt to remove tile scale.

  • Try either lemon juice or white vinegar, which both contain acids that can help to remove tile scale. Apply the lemon juice or white vinegar to the scale and leave it for at least 30 minutes, then wipe it away. Repeat as many times as is necessary.

  • Use a cleaner that contains phosphoric acid to remove heavy mineral deposits that can build up quickly when your tile is exposed to hard water. Wear rubber gloves and follow the directions carefully.

  • Remove thick mineral deposits by scraping it away with a putty knife, but be very careful not to scratch the tile. A scratch will allow more mineral deposits to build up, along with mold and bacteria. It will also damage the appearance of the tile. Avoid using sandpaper or steel wool.

  • Tackle extreme tile scale problems with a mixture of half muriatic acid and half water. Be sure the room has good ventilation, because use of muriatic acid can result in a buildup of toxic fumes. The substance is also very corrosive, so be sure to wear not only rubber gloves to protect your hands, but also goggles to protect your eyes.

  • Rinse the treated area thoroughly to remove any traces of acid or cleaning material. Allow it to air dry.

  • Consider applying a sealer to your tile to prevent buildup of tile scale. Check with the manufacturer to determine which product is best for your particular type of tile.

Tips & Warnings

  • Once you've removed the tile scale, take steps to prevent it from re-developing. If you live in an area with hard water, shop for soaps and detergents that are formulated especially to prevent buildup of dissolved minerals. Consider turning your hot water heater down a few degrees, because very hot water will allow more deposits to build up.
  • Acids can sometimes pit and scratch certain types of tile. It's advisable to check with the manufactuer before using any product containing acid, including vinegar and lemon juice.

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