If You Have Terracotta Flooring, Avoid Using This Cleaning Agent At All Costs

Terracotta floors are a beautiful addition to any house. They're charmingly rustic and add an old-world flair to anything from a kitchen to an outdoor patio. Their rich color adds warmth, and their rough texture adds dimension to a room. They're a popular choice in the design world, and while they're not high maintenance, they do have specific care instructions. For example, you can't just wash terracotta tiles with any cleaning agent. Using the wrong one can lead to stains or marks, especially if the cleaner is acidic. Because of that, you can't use vinegar to wash your tiles.

These tiles are made from baked clay, and since it's a natural material, it's porous and prone to water stains and etching. Since it's more delicate than its sturdier counterparts, like porcelain or ceramic, it requires some special care. But that doesn't have to be intimidating. Instead, all you need to remember is that you can't use acidic cleaners like vinegar on it.

Why you can't use vinegar on terracotta

Whether your terracotta tiles are sealed or not, you can't use vinegar on them. If they're sealed, the vinegar will likely eat through the seal, reaching the tiles below. If it isn't sealed, then the tiles will stain even more readily.

Vinegar contains acetic acid, which can cause discoloration, erosion, or dulling of the bright color. While you might become lucky and not see immediate stains the first time you use vinegar on your tiles, regular use can cause them to become more porous, absorb stains more easily, and lose their natural luster.

The degree of damage also depends on several factors, like the concentration of vinegar used, how long it was left on the tiles, and the specific condition of the terracotta. For example, older tiles will fair worse when treated with vinegar since they've become more porous over the years. Because of this, it's best to skip vinegar when it comes to cleaning your terracotta floors.

How to clean your floors

So what can you use instead to clean your floors? The first thing you want to do is to sweep or vacuum your terracotta tiles. Loose debris can actually etch the tiles, leaving lines and marks. Keeping them dust and dirt free will minimize that risk. But when it's time to finally wash the floors, all you really need is a bucket of warm water and mild dish soap.

Prior to going all-in with the mop, test the solution in an inconspicuous spot first, like behind a door. If the tile doesn't discolor, you're good to go, but you shouldn't run into any trouble as long as the soap is pH neutral. Dip a soft mop or sponge into the cleaning solution and wring it out to remove excess moisture. Thoroughly mop the terracotta floor, working in small sections at a time. Avoid saturating the tiles with excessive water, as terracotta is porous and can absorb moisture. Then, simply let it air dry, and you're good to go!