Pam asked: After having a fireplace built on our sunporch, they got cement on my quarry tile floor. How do I get the cement off the tile?
Ceramic tile is much harder than cement and can tolerate the cleaning methods needed to break down and remove the cement. For thin layers or small amounts of cement, common household products may be sufficient for removal. However, for larger jobs, stronger acids may be needed to get the job done. If the tile is glazed, use caution as even a weak acid like vinegar can eat through the glaze. Be sure to protect your skin and use good ventilation as you work through the steps below.
You Will Need:
- White vinegar (for thin layers or small spots)
- Flat head screwdriver
- Phosphoric Acid Cleaner (for larger spots and thicker layers)
- Tampico brush or
- Scotch Brite scrubbing pad or
- Metal scouring pad
- Soft cloths
- Soap or detergent
- Protective gloves and eyewear
- Small brush or old toothbrush
Steps to Remove Small Amounts or Thin Cement:
- For mild problems such as small spots or a thin film of cement, white vinegar typically provides enough acidic power to loosen the bond between the cement and the tile.
- Use a sponge or pad to apply enough vinegar to the area to cover it completely.
- Allow the vinegar to set on the cement for at least an hour or two.
- If the weather is warm and the vinegar is evaporating, reapply frequently to keep the area moist.
- After the cement starts to loosen, scrub the area with either a brush, Scotch Brite pad or scouring pad.
- It will take some elbow grease, but the vinegar will have loosened the cement enough that it can be scrubbed away.
- If a small amount remains, reapply vinegar and allow it to set again.
- Scrub again until all of the cement is removed.
- Rinse the area with water.
- Wash the area with soap and water.
- Rinse the area again to ensure all of the acid is removed.
Steps to Remove Large Amounts or Thick Cement:
- For areas with thick layers or larger spots of cement, a stronger acid will be necessary. In these cases phosphoric acid, a commonly used acid to clean up masonry projects, will give the necessary cleaning strength to cut through the layers of cement. You can buy phosphoric acid cleaner online or in some hardware stores.
- Use a scraper, metal scrubber or flat head screwdriver to remove as much of the cement as possible.
- For the remaining cement, apply the phosphoric acid following the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Once the cement loosens, scrub the area with a scrubber until it is all removed from the surface.
- Rinse the area well with clean water.
- Clean the area with soap and water to remove any remaining acid.
- Rinse completely.
Additional Tips and Advice
- Always use caution and protect yourself when using acids for cleaning procedures. Ensure the area has proper ventilation. Read through all of the instructions and warnings on the package prior to use.
- If the instructions say to mix the acid with water, always add the acid to the water. Adding water to acid can create a reaction that causes the acid to splash out everywhere. This quickly becomes a safety hazard.
- There are products available to neutralize acids when the cleaning process is completed. Applying these products at the end will ensure that there is no acid remaining on the surface that could cause further damage.
- As a last resort, hydrochloric acid, also known as muriatic acid, can be used. If you are not familiar with these products, it is best to contact a professional who is used to working with them. Improper handling of these acids can create dangerous situations and cause more damage than the original cement stains.