How to Remove Cement from Tile


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. Be sure to protect your skin and use good ventilation as you work through the steps below.

You Will Need:

  • 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
  • Sponges
  • Soft cloths
  • Water
  • Soap or detergent
  • Bucket
  • Protective gloves and eyewear
  • Small brush or old toothbrush

Steps to Remove Small Amounts or Thin Cement:

  1. For mild problems such as small spots or a thin film of cement, vinegar typically provides enough acidic power to loosen the bond between the cement and the tile.
  2. Use a sponge or pad to apply enough vinegar to the area to cover it completely.
  3. Allow the vinegar to set on the cement for at least an hour or two.
  4. If the weather is warm and the vinegar is evaporating, reapply frequently to keep the area moist.
  5. After the cement starts to loosen, scrub the area with either a brush, Scotch Brite pad or scouring pad.
  6. It will take some elbow grease, but the vinegar will have loosened the cement enough that it can be scrubbed away.
  7. If a small amount remains, reapply vinegar and allow it to set again.
  8. Scrub again until all of the cement is removed.
  9. Rinse the area with water.
  10. Wash the area with soap and water.
  11. Rinse the area again to ensure all of the acid is removed.

Steps to Remove Large Amounts or Thick Cement:

  1. 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.
  2. Use a scraper, metal scrubber or flat head screwdriver to remove as much of the cement as possible.
  3. For the remaining cement, apply the phosphoric acid following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Once the cement loosens, scrub the area with a scrubber until it is all removed from the surface.
  5. Rinse the area well with clean water.
  6. Clean the area with soap and water to remove any remaining acid.
  7. Rinse completely.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • If the tile is glazed, use acids with caution as it can eat through the glaze and decorative designs.
  • 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.


  1. Jenny says:

    I have moved into an apartment that has a roof-top terrace. I can see that the original flooring is red terracotta paving, which I want to expose. It has been covered with an ugly layer of grey cement/concrete (I don’t know), but it is worn and beneath I see this lively red color. How can I remove the ugly grey to expose the pretty red floor?

  2. Kim says:

    I used vinegar to remove concrete off my tiled floor. Thank you so much – all the cement came off. I am so happy with the result!

  3. Melanie says:

    Vinegar and phosphoric acid cleaner are safe to use on terracotta. You can also use HG Cement, Mortar and Efflorescence Remover safely on terracotta.

    Source: Solutions – Sealers for Stone and Tile
    Source: Homecare Essentials

  4. McMathenge says:

    I will try these cement stain removers.

  5. Ayorinde says:

    Thanks for the information; so useful. God bless.

  6. Devi says:

    The information was really helpful… will try it out for sure.

  7. Michael says:

    Thanks for the info.

  8. Minoo says:

    Thanks for the helpful information; so useful.

  9. Sandy says:

    This information was spot on. I tried the vinegar and the scoring pad, and it worked extremely well. I would recommend this to anyone.

  10. Leslie says:

    I took the tile from around my fireplace and there is mortar/cement that was holding up the tiles. I cannot get it off. I don’t want to use muriatic acid as it scares me. What can I safely use so I can do it myself?


  11. Melanie says:

    Phosphoric acid is not the same as muriatic acid. Muriatic acid, also known as hydrochloric acid, is a dangerous chemical as you know. Vinegar is not dangerous. Phosphotic acid is a bit stronger than vinegar, but nowhere near as strong as muriatic acid. It (phosphoric acid) is actually used as a food additive sometimes, like in soft drinks.
    If you don’t want to try one of the acids, Google “Concrete Dissolver” and there are several product results that look very user-friendly. They seem to be mostly used for removing dried concrete from tools, but they could probably work in your situation as well. Just make sure that they will not damage the surface underneath the cement, whatever that may be (brick, etc.).
    Source: Wikipedia – Phosphoric acid
    Source: Wikipedia – Hydrochloric acid

  12. Musty says:

    Vinegar results…just great. :) Thank God for sites like this…satisfactory.

  13. Cyndy says:

    I’ve been researching for cleaning chemicals that will suit my industrial business. Thanks for this information. Can’t afford to do a bad job for a customer. Now I’m glad I know what to use and how to use it. A big kiss for this info.

  14. Usama says:

    Thank you so much for such great information! It really worked for the tiles in my kitchen. :)

  15. G Sudhakar says:

    Thanks for information. I will try to remove it from my neighbor’s terracotta roof tiles which were marked by cement while I was constructing my house.

  16. Janet says:

    Will any vinegar do? Any tips on removing bitumen? Very easy instructions by the way. Thank you.

    Check it out! We’ve answered your question! Yay!

  17. Rob says:

    A big thank you for the information; the vinegar worked wonders removing large thick areas of cement from my Victorian red quarry tiles.

  18. Syed says:

    Please tell the exact quantity of chemicals, i.e
    molarity or molality of HCL
    molarity or molality of H3PO4

  19. Lamin says:

    Is it only vinegar I shall use without mixing it with water, or should I mixed it water to remove cement of my tiles?

  20. Melanie says:

    Use undiluted vinegar (no water). Adding water will dilute the vinegar and make it less acidic. You need the acid power of the vinegar to remove the cement.

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