Top tips for cleaning stone floor finishes

A helpful guide for maintaining premium floor finishes: How to clean natural stone flooring without damaging the surface and what to do when there’s a spill.

Article: Jim Mann

The golden rule for maintaining a premium floor finish is ‘as little and gentle as possible, but as much as is necessary.’ The most important factors are to minimise the amount of water used on the tiles; to only use mild, non-reactive cleaning solutions for daily cleaning; and to always clean up spills promptly. The procedure below identifies a basic methodology for regular cleaning of tiles and for dealing with spills. 

  • Where practical, cleaning should be performed using a broad microfibre mop. This can be used in combination with a spray bottle filled with diluted detergent as discussed below.
  • The frequency of cleaning required should be assessed and based on the degree of soiling evident on the floor; this may be daily or up to weekly, depending on the location and the traffic type and volume. Overcleaning can be counterproductive and deleterious to the condition of the floor.
  • Regular cleaning should be performed using a neutral detergent in a wet-vac scrubber fitted with nylon pad chosen to match the desired degree of cleaning, surface finish and gloss level:
    1. Adjust the water-flow rate and pad pressure to the correct levels for the soil-load on the floor and allow for sufficient dwell time. To avoid discharge of excess water, the wet-vac scrubber should have the ability to vary the discharge rate of the detergent solution depending on the travel speed. If the wet-vac scrubber does not have an automatic feed rate, the flow rate of the detergent solution should produce an effect similar to that of damp mopping (i.e. minimising the discharge of excess solution).
    2. Keep the machine clean and dry. All parts of the machine, including all brushes and pads, should be thoroughly washed after use and allowed to dry. Inspect the squeegee blades regularly. If the squeegees are not kept in good condition, the machine will not be able to pick up contaminated water effectively.
  • In areas not accessible to a wet-vac scrubber, a clean microfibre mop and a fresh solution of neutral detergent may be used. The mop head must only be damp when used on the floor and must be rinsed regularly. Ensure that all excess moisture is collected from the floor promptly.
  • Intra-day cleaning should be limited to dry-mopping using a microfibre mop to remove dry dust and grime.
  • Spot cleaning of conspicuous stains may be performed by applying a more concentrated solution of neutral detergent to the affected area and allowing it to dwell for up to five minutes. After this time, the area should be cleaned and dried using a scrubber fitted with the selected nylon pad or alternatively a clean, damp microfibre mop and dry cloth.
An example of a premium floor finish: Commonwealth Bank Australia at Darling Quarter, Sydney, made up of a range of marble and granite stone types representing the local stratigraphy known as the Great Sydney Dyke.

Reapplication of Sealer

The maintenance of any premium floor finish must include regular monitoring and reapplication of the sealer. The frequency of application will depend on location and traffic type. As a guideline, a sealer applied to a premium floor should be assessed on an annual basis. 

Determining the rate of water absorption using a ‘water droplet test’ is a simple method of determining the efficacy of the sealer. It should be noted that an ‘active’ sealer does not necessarily cause the water to ‘bead’ on the surface – the sealer’s job is to prevent water absorption. Absorption is evident if the stone surface darkens when surface water is removed (e.g by blotting with a dry paper towel) and the stone tile is effectively surface dry.

See our guide to sealer selection here.