Unglazed terracotta tiles look lovely, but can be difficult to clean. They are porus, and become more so with age. But there is an ingredient you can use to help stop them absorbing water – linseed oil. It takes a few days to get them looking lovely, but one application a year could save you a lot of time.
The Long But Easy Method
This method is best if you have a limited amount of time each day, and can spread the work over a few evenings.
To clean the terracotta, use a good stone floor cleaner and leave to dry. It will take a few days for the floor to dry out completely, but you need to wait for this. You don’t want to trap water into the tiles – especially water that has whatever was on your tiles when you cleaned them in.
When the tiles are dry, vacuum over them to get rid of any dust that could affect the finish of your tiles. Pay particular attention to the grout between the tiles.
Then, mix one part linseed oil with three parts white spirit. This will help to thin the oil, so it can get into all of the tiny pores in the stone. Use a mop to cover and leave to dry overnight. It is importnat not to stand on the oiled part of the floor until it is dry, or you will leave permanement footprints on your floor. Repeat this three times over three evenings.
The Short But Intensive Method
If you can’t spread the workload over several days but have an evening free this method works just as well.
Again, start by applying stone cleaner and leaving for a few days to dry. On the day you plan to clean the floor, warm the room up. Like the white spirit, this warmth thinks the linseed oil and allows for easier, smoother application and better absorbtion. Pick a warm day or turn the heating on fr a few hours before you apply the oil. Using a paint brush, apply the oil to the whole floor and leave to dry for 20 minutes or so. Again, make sure nobody steps on the floor while it is drying. Have a look over the floor; if you can see any pools of oil on the surface of the tiles, go over them gently with the paintbrush. When finished, use white spirit to remove the excess oil on the brush.
Leave this for around an hour before applying a second coat in the same way. Once this second coat is dry, remove any excess oil using a clean cloth or rag. If the excess is allowed to remain it will become sticky and attract dust and dirt, so it is important to remove it.
The next evening, apply a floor sealant with a mop.
Maintenance For the Rest of the Year
Once you have put this effort in, maintaining a terracotta floor is an easy task. You can just vacuum, sweep, and mop the floor as usual.