How to Clean Thin Set Off of Ceramic Tiles


Thin set is a type of mortar used during installation of ceramic tiles. It is placed on the back side of the tiles to help adhere them to a surface. Thin set mortar is messy to work with, so it is not uncommon for some of the mortar to get onto the face of the ceramic tile. If thin set is caught on the tile right away, it can be wiped off with just a damp rag; however, the mortar dries quickly and is often not found until it has hardened.

Things You'll Need

  • Empty spray bottle
  • Water
  • Wooden sticks
  • Rags
  • Nylon scouring pad
  • Bucket
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Paper towels
  • Fill an empty spray bottle with warm water. Saturate the thin set spots with the water.

  • Scrape off as much mortar as possible with wooden sticks. You can purchase wooden sticks for this job at most home improvement centers, or you can make them yourself. Ideally, the wooden sticks should be between 1/4- and 3/8-inch thick and about 1 inch wide.

  • Wipe down the tile with a damp rag once all of the larger clumps of thin set have been removed. Spray the affected areas again with water, then scrub with a wet nylon scouring pad. Add more water and rinse out the scouring pad as necessary.

  • Dry the ceramic tile with a soft rag. Alternate scrubbing with the wet nylon scouring pad and drying with the soft rag until you cannot remove any more of the thin set.

  • Fill a bucket with 1 gallon of warm water and 1 cup of sugar if some mortar remains on the tiles. Lay paper towels soaked in the sugar water directly on top of the thin set spots.

  • Let the sugar water sit on the tiles for a minimum of two hours. Keep the thin set wet with the sugar water by replacing the paper towels as they dry out.

  • Scrub the ceramic tile with the wet nylon scouring pad to remove any remaining thin set. Rinse the tile with a rag and clean water, then buff with a soft rag to dry.

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  • Photo Credit ceramic tile image by Karin Lau from
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