Terracotta Tile Care, Protection, and Cleaning
By Torin Dixon
Terracotta is one of the Oldest Flooring Materials
Clay tiles have been used for flooring for thousands of years. Terracotta pavers can add Old World charm to your home, but require special care to preserve the beauty for years. You can purchase glazed Terracotta or unglazed tiles. Unglazed terracotta is relatively inexpensive ($3.00-4.00 per sq. ft.) but you MUST use the proper sealer, wax, or oil to enhance and preserve the rich beauty of Terracotta pavers.
Unglazed Terracotta Tile & Pavers
All terracotta tiles start out as 'Unglazed' raw clay. Some types are 'Sun-Dried', like Saltillo Clay tiles from Mexico, while other types may be 'Kiln-Dried'. This process dries out the tile and hardens the surface. When raw and unglazed, these tile are as absorbent as a sponge and need some form of protection. Using one of the following methods will help bring out the rich color tones enhancing the appeal, while also making it easier to clean and maintain your floors.
Four Methods to Protect Unglazed Terracotta Tile
Sealers are usually 'Topical' products that lay on the surface of the tile, enhancing the colors
and providing protection agains spills. Topical sealers are not as durable as Impregnators
because they are susceptible to scatches from pets, furniture, and foot traffic.
Topical sealers generally require more maintenance.
We offer Topical Acrylic Sealers in Matte Finish, Satin, and High Gloss.
It is best to Pre-Treat unglazed terracotta tile with a Pre-Seal product to reduce the
absorption of Sealers.
Impregnators are 'Penetrating Sealers' that absorb deep into the clay, both enhancing color
and adding Stain Protection. Because the protection lies below the surface, impregnators
are not subject to the wear and abuses that Topicals must deal with. Impregnators are also
more durable than topical acrylics because our impregnators are Naptha based and do not
break down as easily as acrylics. We offer several different impregnating sealers for
1. First is Clear-Invisible protection that will not enhance the color.
2. We also offer Color Enhancer impregnator.
3. For extra stain protection a Extra Protection Color Enhancer .
One of the oldest methods for treating clay tiles is with the use of special oils. Oil
treatments will enhance the color and also provide protection against spill and stains.
Think of oil treatments for terracotta like hand rubbed wood finishes that leave a
We offer special Paraffin Oils for the treatment of unglazed terracotta, clay tiles, and brick.
Another option is to treat unglazed terracotta with waxes. Liquid waxes are the easiest to apply, as
you brush on liquid waxes much like other sealers. We offer a special Terracotta Liquid Wax that
deepens the color and adds a highly protective finish. Keep in mind, waxes are topical products
that may require more ongoing maintenance.
Lastly, you can use Beeswax to treat unglazed terracotta tile floors. One of the oldest methods
is first staining the tile with Bioled Linseed Oil, and polishing with Beeswax. When I was working
in Beverly Hills, CA in the early 1980's, we installed thousands of square feet of reclaimed
terracotta tile in a herringbone pattern. After grouting we applied 15 coats of beeswax and used
a buffing machine in between coats, thus burnishing a warm shine into the tile. It took about
8 weeks to finish the floors.
When finished, it looked spectacular. This is of course a VERY expensive and time consuming
method and fortunately, many of the modern synthetics offer a much more economical
and practiacl approach.
For regular maintenance, we offer a specialized Terracotta Cleaner that reduces the penetration of water
and dirt, and protects your floor and applied sealers.
If you have questions about protecting and maintaining Terracotta surfaces,
please contact us. Toll Free: 800-380-6881