How to Remove Water Stains from Tile


Kim asked: How do I clean water stains, from watering a plant, from a tile floor. I have a brown stain on light colored tile. It is where I have watered a potted plant, and it seeped out. The tile is porous, and I have tried bleach, Ajax, vinegar and baking soda, and a variety of other cleaners to no avail. Please help.

When you’ve exhausted all the usual suspects in your arsenal of household cleaners and still can’t lift that stubborn stain from your tile floor, it’s time to pull out the big guns. This method will etch away the surface to remove the stain. Before you get started, make sure to follow all safety precautions and provide as much ventilation as possible, this solution means business!

You Will Need:

  • Muriatic Acid
  • Baking soda or garden lime (to neutralize the acid if needed)
  • Ammonia
  • Spray bottle
  • Toothbrush
  • Heavy gloves
  • Goggles
  • Water
  • Bucket
  • Fan or other form of ventilation
  • Paper towels

Steps to Remove the Stain:

  1. Get dressed in your safety gear (gloves, eye and face protection minimum) and open a window or set up your fan. Safety is top priority when working with acid. You don’t want to skip this step! Keep baking soda or garden lime available for any spills. These can be poured on top to quickly neutralize the acid and keep it from causing damage.
  2. Taking heed of all label precautions, dilute the acid to six parts acid with four parts of water (for example, 1.5 cups of acid with 1 cup of water). Always add the acid to the water. Do NOT add water to acid. Adding water to acid causes a heat reaction that results in the acid exploding onto the person who is mixing the liquid. Use caution.
  3. Dip the toothbrush in the mixture and use the soft bristles to scrub at the stain. Apply more liquid as necessary. You’ll need to work it into the stain.
  4. As soon as the stain disappears, wipe all remaining acid away with clean water and paper towels.
  5. Clean any remaining moisture up with paper towels.
  6. Mix one cup of ammonia with one gallon of water. Fill a spray bottle with the mixture.
  7. Spray the surface with the ammonia mixture to neutralize any remaining acid.
  8. Follow package directions and/or local regulations for disposing of the remaining acid and any paper towels that may have come in contact with the chemical. Do NOT pour the remaining acid down the toilet or sink. It will damage the pipes. The acid will continue to eat through anything it comes in contact with until it becomes neutralized, so be careful to keep these used items away from other items.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • Muriatic acid is readily available in most hardware, home improvement, or pool supply stores. It is one of the most dangerous chemicals you can buy, so read the guidelines carefully and follow them completely.
  • If Muriatic acid is too strong for your comfort, try phosphoric acid. It has some of the same cleaning properties, but is not as dangerous. It is also readily available at hardware and home improvement stores.
  • Don’t remove your protective gear until you’ve properly neutralized and disposed of the excess acid.
  • Store the bottle of Muriatic acid well out of the reach of children while following all label directions and precautions.
  • If your floor was sealed, it will be time to add a new coat. Once stains get through, the seal is no longer effective. The area that was just cleaned will definitely need a new coat since the acid will have removed any existing sealant.
  • A way to neutralize large amounts of acid is to fill a large 5-gallon bucket with 3-4 cups of garden lime. Wear a face mask to keep from breathing in the fumes. Working outside is best. Add a small amount of acid to the lime. Stir with a long stick until the fizzing stops. Continue adding acid and more lime in small amounts until all of the fizzing stops, meaning that the acid is neutralized.

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