how to care for every type of backsplash
because your tile deserves top-notch treatment.
Published Aug 19, 2016 5:00 AM
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by Cora L. Diekman
Ceramic and Porcelain Tile
Though glazed tiles can stand up to plenty of kitchen messes, it’s important to clean them often which will prevent any grease or grime from building up over time. Clean with a mild pH-neutral liquid cleanser using a damp cloth or soft bristle brush – and don’t neglect the grout, which is more prone to stains than the tiles themselves. Products you should NEVER use to clean your tiles include steel wool pads, bleach, and ammonia.
The Honest Company’s Honest Bathroom Cleaner is one example of a pH-neutral cleaner approved for tile. Utilizing the power of natural tea tree oil, this gentle solution is completely plant based, non-toxic, and free of any harsh chemicals.
Because the health of your tile begins with the grout, it’s important to keep grout in good condition. Cracked or chipped grout can result in tiles falling out and potentially breaking. If your grout is in need of repair, this tutorial can walk you through the process step-by-step.
Glass tile is a popular choice for backsplashes in both traditional and modern spaces. Not only is it available in variety of beautiful shapes and colors, but its glossy surface makes is easy to wipe clean – a total win-win. For that reason, regular maintenance is more about the grout than the actual tile. Clean with a mild cleanser, or with equal parts vinegar and water. Remove loose debris with a clean cloth and scrub away any remaining residue with a soft bristle brush – anything more abrasive can damage the grout. To avoid leaving unsightly water spots behind, finish by wiping clean with a soft, dry towel.
Glass cleaner may also be used to clean glass tile, but the ingredients can sometimes be too abrasive for grout. Shop for an all natural glass cleaner instead, which is typically free of alcohol, ammonia, and abrasive agents. There are a variety of all natural cleaners out there – like this Better Life cleaner, available online. And as always, test in a small area before applying to the entire backsplash surface.
Concrete and cement tiles are extremely strong and durable; however, they are also are very porous and subject to staining. Manufacturers recommend sealing the tiles with a penetrating concrete sealer – which is longer-lasting than a topical sealer – upon installation. Clean the tiles with a pH-neutral soap and water, and NEVER apply acid or bleach. Wipe away splashes and spills immediately – especially when the substances are acidic or concentrated in color such as soda or wine. Also, plan to reseal the tiles every couple of years to ward off potential staining.
With cement or encaustic tiles, it’s ALL about sealer. One manufacturer warns that tiles are often shipped unsealed, meaning that it’s absolutely imperative to properly seal them upon installation. Cement Tile Shop recommends Miracle 511 Porous Plus Sealer, but there are many varieties available for purchase. Failure to properly seal the concrete can result in staining and discoloring.
As you might imagine, rust and oxidation are your biggest contenders. Keep the tiles clean of any residue by using a metal cleaner, but not metal scourers – these can scratch the surface. Also, as tin tiles are especially delicate, be careful not to press too hard during cleaning.
If tiles are showing signs of rust, remove as much oxidation as possible with a metal cleaner, and then wash them thoroughly with a mild detergent and hot water. Finish by buffing the tiles dry with a soft, dry cloth.
While wallpaper provides endless color and pattern possibilities in backsplash areas, it is the most vulnerable to moisture. Always clean spills and splashes immediately, and be sure to seal the seam between the countertop and wallpaper with silicone or latex caulk.
Moroccan Tile Wallpaper by Louise Body.
For additional protection, an acrylic wallpaper sealer may be applied to the entire backsplash surface which will provide a clear water barrier – essential for preventing damage to paper caused by frequent cleaning. If the potential of wallpaper damage is still keeping you up at night, consider covering the entire backsplash area with a clear acrylic panel – which would provide a similar look to this lovely glass backsplash that plays well off the patterned wallpaper to the side.
Be it tile or a solid stone backsplash, marble is especially susceptible to staining. Marble should be sealed immediately upon installation, and then resealed often to ward off any staining or etching. Opt for a penetrating sealer, which offers greatest amount of protection with a no-sheen, natural look. Avoid contact with acidic substances, and always clean spills immediately – especially in the case of red wine and food coloring.
While not as prone to staining as marble, granite should be sealed in the same manner and treated with the same care. All sealers are different, so always adhere strictly to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Available at home improvement stores and online, Miracle Sealants Penetrating Sealer is just one option for sealing your natural stone, tile, and grout backsplash. As always, follow manufacturer’s instructions and test on a small area before applying to the entire surface.
Of course wine, berries, beets, food coloring, and anything with a high concentration of color are enemies of natural stone. However, there are plenty of other seemingly innocent products that can also cause serious damage to stone surfaces. Avoid contact with milk, most fruit juices, citrus, beer, pickle juice, liquor, coffee, and tomatoes. If surfaces to come in contact with any of these, wipe clean immediately.
Vinyl is quite forgiving, but as with all other backsplash materials, avoid contact with harsh abrasives. Sponge clean with mild soap and water, and adhere to manufacturer’s instructions about heat.
While vinyl tile is frequently shown for use behind cooktops and near stoves, some varieties aren’t intended for this placement, and can be irreparably damaged if temperatures rise too high. Always read the manufacturer’s warnings regarding heat and installation before making a purchase.
Brick is highly durable and so sealing is optional. If you do decide to seal your brick, experts recommend using a saline-based breathable sealer. Clean the brick with a vinegar-water solution, and if yours is a brick veneer, be especially careful to avoid acidic cleaners. For harder to clean messes, a mild soap may be used with a stiff bristled brush.
There are several types of faux brick materials. While some resemble real brick in their composition, others do not. Be sure you understand what you’re dealing with before you begin applying a cleaning agent; however, mild soap and water is almost always a safe bet.
To clean, first remove any chalk with a felt eraser and then wipe with a damp cloth. While this is an inexpensive and simple backsplash to install, the paint will need to be refreshed periodically to maintain its original look.
This is another surface that may be safely cleaned with a simple vinegar-water solution. Combine one part vinegar to two parts water, and then wipe with a damp sponge being careful not to overly dampen the surface. Buff any residual moisture dry with a soft, dry cloth. Areas behind the stove top should be cleaned frequently to avoid buildup of grease. If a buildup of residue has accumulated, or if an area is especially dirty, up the concentration of your cleaning solution to equal parts vinegar and water.
While these tiles impart a unique, old-world feel to the kitchen they require special care and attention. Newly installed tiles should be sealed with a product designed for specialty tiles. Never introduce cleaners that are acidic, ammoniated, are highly alkaline, contain bleach, or are known to be abrasive – these can break down the sealer and potentially damage the tiles. There are a variety of cleaners available in the market appropriate for these unique tiles – DuPont’s StoneTech Professional Stone & Tile Cleaner is only one option. Whenever possible, consult the tile installer or manufacturer for their recommendation on a sealer and cleaning solution.
There are a variety of cleaners available in the market appropriate for these unique tiles – DuPont’s StoneTech Professional Stone & Tile Cleaner is only one option. Whenever possible, consult the tile installer or manufacturer for their recommendation on a sealer and cleaning solution.
Treat these as you would a pressed tin backsplash, and use a specialty metal cleaner for routine cleaning and maintenance. Keep the metal free of moisture, and dry any splatters or spills as soon as possible.
Stainless steel metal sheets – such as this one – will not require polishing, but copper, zinc, and brass will require polish to maintain their original shine.
Because wood will absorb stains quickly, it is important to clean up spills or splatters ASAP. Scrape away any residue with a plastic spatula and sponge the area clean with a mild dishwashing soap.
Stain removal should be handled just as it would for a butcher block countertop. Natural cleaners work best, like scouring stains with a combination of lemon juice and salt. Vinegar can also be used, or a mild dish soap. It is important that the wood stay moisture-free, so dry any splashes before they have a chance to soak in. And remember – they can always be restained.
Yes, of course you would treat these panels as you would standard glass – they’re just too clever and adorable not to mention here. All you need is a little glass cleaner, and you’re done.
Since most backsplash materials require grout, it’s important to properly maintain yours. If mild cleaning agents such as a vinegar-water solution are unsuccessful, try removing difficult stains with a paste made from baking soda and water, and scrubbing with a soft bristle brush. Chlorine bleach and commercial cleansers may be used as a last resort, but should be used sparingly as they can damage grout. Also, while a vinegar-water solution is recommended for cleaning, high concentrations of vinegar can sometimes erode grout as well. If mold or mildew appear, wipe clean with a small amount of alcohol. And ALWAYS test your cleaning agent on a small, obscure spot before applying to larger areas.