Cleaning Saltillo Tile: A Unique Challenge

Although we don't see Saltillo tiles in homes as much as we used to, there are certain parts in South Orange County such as San Clemente, Capistrano Beach, San Juan Capistrano, Laguna Beach and even Corona Del Mar where a lot of the older homes have them. This often leads to the Zerorez® SoCal team encountering the challenge of cleaning Saltillo tile.

Saltillo, Terra Cotta or Adobe. Which is it?

Saltillo is a type of unglazed, terra cotta (red clay), tile. The clay is mixed, and poured into wooden frames and dried in the sun, then baked in a fire kiln. It produces a light yellow to deep orange tile depending on its placement in the kiln. Occasionally you may see a pattern of animal footprints running through the tile. Due to its sizing irregularity, grout lines are always thick and usually around 1" wide to keep a uniform appearance.

Maintenance approach is a must

When we are faced with cleaning a Saltillo tile floor, we use a tool called a tile spinner for our rinsing. When we clean normal tile (porcelain, ceramic) and stone (travertine, marble, granite), we use 1000 psi of water pressure and heat. However when we are cleaning Saltillo tile, we turn the heat off and lower the pressure to about 600 psi. We do this because we do not want to disturb the existing topical sealer and we also do not want to damage this relatively soft clay tile.

Here at Zerorez in Irvine California, we have a training floor that consist of wood, slate, travertine, marble, and Saltillo. We put several layers of topical sealer on this floor over the past year and then stripped it off in this video. To do this we typically will use a high alkaline stripper. The topical sealer that was used on this tile is a Home Depot product for Saltillo tile. After you take the topical sealer or coating off the tile like this, you always have to reapply another protective coating back to the Saltillo.

This video makes it look really easy to strip topical sealers off of Saltillo, but depending on the product used, it can be very difficult and could take several attempts to get these coatings off. This is especially true for the areas of the home that have not experienced much traffic or wear and tear. One of the worst sealers to attempt to remove are the lacquer sealers for Saltillo. In extreme cases you may even need to sand a topical sealer off from the Saltillo.

If you have a properly applied topical sealer on your Saltillo tile, maintenance is very easy. If you have a foggy and worn out topical sealer, you are probably a good candidate for a strip and re-coat restoration job.

If you feel we might be able to help you either clean, restore or seal your Saltillo, terra cotta or adobe floor, please contact us. And for more information about cleaning rugs, carpet and hard surface flooring such as tile, grout, stone and hardwood, please call the Zerorez office at 949-387-2222 or visit We have many specialized products and services designed to tackle any imaginable floor cleaning challenge using our natural and pure cleaning solutions.


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