Saltillo tile is unlike any other tile. It isn't super hard and tough like your typical man made tile such as porcelain or ceramic. It is really quite soft. After all, it is sunbaked clay and hasn't been fired in a kiln. You may even find an animal footprint in it much like you find an animal footprint in fresh concrete. Sometimes it has been left in its original, unfinished state to age and change through natural wear and tear. The color it took on as it absorbed the dirt and mop water it has been subject to for years is now part of the tile. What? Dirt becomes part of the tile? That's exactly what happens! The dirty mop water sinks right into the clay and become part of the clay and cannot be separated from it. That potted plant that sat there for years has now left a permanent ring. You can remove some of the top clay and some of the discoloration, but the stain is NOT sitting quietly on top of the tile waiting to be rinsed away. Some of it is, but not all. A lot of this added 'color' is part of the tile forever.
Sometimes, a clear or glossy sealant is applied over the tile to protect it so it is easier to clean and looks prettier. This is great. It looks nicer and does protect the saltillo against further intrusion of foreign materials. It works well if it is a quality sealer made for saltillo. Hopefully, a proper cleaning job was done before application of the sealer. If not, the old dirt is sealed inside.
We can do quite a lot with saltillo. We need to be careful with it because it is soft. Results can vary because of its clay composition.
Most definitely. Our equipment is outstanding for any type of hard surface. We have the ability to adjust the pressure, temperature, and emulsifiers to account for any surface. We put a special attachment on our tools to avoid scratching the surface. With saltillo, we are gentle. The surface dirt will be removed from the saltillo and the grout lines. What remains will be saltillo with the natural coloration and character it has earned over the years. This is part of the beauty and attraction of saltillo. Saltillo lovers love it, others don't. Watch the video below to see how the dirt is lifted from the grout lines and the tiles while some of the hard set stains remain because they are now part of the clay itself.
Absolutely. There are some excellent products that can be applied to saltillo that will enhance the finish and give it either a semi-gloss or even a high-gloss finish that protects it, makes it easier to clean, and leaves a nice attractive shine.
We can do that, too. Some of us prefer the natural look of saltillo and simply want to protect it against more discoloration. In these cases we use one of the high quality clear sealers. When we apply it, it sinks into the clay so that new dirt and liquids tend to remain on the surface where they can be easily cleaned off. It helps keep these substances from penetrating into the clay.
This definitely increases the difficulty, but we can still help. We have different strippers we can use depending on the type of sealant applied over the saltillo. These strippers generally get most and sometimes all of the old sealant off. At times we use mechanical methods. Remember though, we can still only remove the dirt on TOP of the tile and not what has already become part of the tile.
In this video, you see a saltillo tile patio more than 20 years old that was never sealed or protected. Look how my equipment and emulsifiers cut through the dirt and remove it. Notice how dramatically different the grout is after the machinery passes over. Also notice how much dirt is removed from the tile and yet not all. Some of the stains have become a permanent part of the clay. If the tile had been sealed at the beginning and properly maintained, these stains would not have happened. When we finished, we applied a sealer to provide protection for the future.