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How To Clean Slate Floors

By Maria Hernandez / April 26, 2022 / 1 Comments

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    How to Clean Slate Floors

    Maybe you’ve always had a slate floor, or perhaps you have just moved into an older property with not-so-glorious slate floors? Either way, you will need to learn how to clean slate floors the right way.

    What can you do once your slate floor needs a pick-me-up? This article will review different cleaning techniques for slate floors, the best floor cleaner for slate tiles, the benefits of resealing your slate floor, and how to spot-treat slate tiles.

    Slate Flooring Cleaning Advice

    Natural slate is a raw and “undressed” stone. It lends itself to absorbing liquids, oils, and polishes that can stain it or give it a beautiful glow. It is recommended that you keep your slate floor clean with routine daily maintenance, which involves cleaning this flooring type regularly with a mop, water, and mild detergent.

    Here are the basic steps and tips for cleaning slate floors including how to clean rough slate floor tiles (i.e. natural slate) and how to clean slate floors before sealing:

    Step-By-Step Daily Care Guide For Slate Floors

    The steps to clean a slate floor are reasonably straightforward, but it is essential not to skip a step, as this could lead to scratching or discoloration. Follow our detailed guide below to clean and care for your slate floors properly.

    Step 1: Sweep and Vacuum

    Sweeping or vacuuming will remove any loose dirt or debris that could scratch your floor when you mop. It also reduces the amount of washing you need to do to clean your floor. Daily sweeping and vacuuming will prolong your slate floor’s life.

    Tips:

    • Use a high-quality vacuum cleaner with an appropriate attachment designed for hard floors. When in doubt, you can always use the same cleaning head as the one recommended for hardwood floors as these have soft rollers, which won’t scratch your slate tiles.
    • Turn off the beater bar on the vacuum.
    • You can also use a dust mop with a microfiber pad to remove dirt in tiny crevices.
    • Always sweep, vacuum, or mop in one direction.

    Also check our in-depth review of the best vacuums for tile floors.

    Step 2: Mop

    The second part of your cleaning routine is to simply use warm water and a mild detergent or dish soap or some appropriate slate-floor cleaning product to mop your floor. Slate is colorfast, so it won’t stain from mild cleaning solutions. This helps get rid of dirt and grime that were not removed by sweeping/vacuuming.

    What you need to do is:

    • Mix warm water with a few drops of mild dish soap or detergent. If you’re going to use a slate floor cleaner, make sure to follow the dilution instructions.
    • Dip your mop in the mixture and wring out excess water.
    • Try to mop in one direction, as this stops smaller particles from collecting in the grooves between slate tiles.

    If you find any tough stains or embedded materials on your slate floors, you can clean this up in a number of ways, which we will cover later.

    Also, Stone World recommends wet mopping your slate flooring once a week for residential applications. However, you can adjust the frequency depending on your flooring’s condition.

    Tips:

    • Be sure to clean using an abrasion-free mop. While you can mop quite vigorously, you should not scrub so hard that brittle particles flake off of your slate tiles.
    • Use a damp, but not wet, mop to prevent streaking on larger slate tile floors.
    • Don’t leave puddles of water on your flooring for too long.
    • We recommend using a spin mop as it allows you to wring out water effortlessly.
    • Only use gentle cleansers for DIY solutions.
    • You can use pH-neutral commercial cleansers that are designed for natural stone.

    Check out our in-depth review of the best tile mops and best spin mops.

    Step 3: Rinse

    Once you have washed your slate floor and removed any spots that required special attention, it is a good idea to rinse the floor with plain water, as soapy residues can leave an ugly layer of buildup behind.

    To do this, simply rinse your mop or fit with a new cleaning pad. Then mop as you normally would, but with only clean water. Be sure not to wet the floor too much, but you should clear away any remaining soap foam or bubbles that may have formed in the grouting.

    Step 4: Dry

    Your slate floor can air dry or use a dry towel or fans to help dry it before allowing foot traffic in the space. You can also use a buffing machine to help you dry your floor if you are in a rush, though care should be taken to set the pressure at the lowest setting available.

    Step 5: Polish Or Oil

    Once your slate floor is clean and dry, you can apply a thin layer of teak or olive oil to help shine up the surface. Just apply a small amount of the oil using a clean cloth. Commercial waxes and polishes are also available, though care should be taken not to coat the floor so much that the pores become clogged, as this will create an unsightly buildup.

    You can choose to let this surface treatment dry naturally, or you can lightly buff with a fresh and clean buffing pad.

    Pro Tip: Slate is porous, which means it will absorb certain oils and waxes, giving you a beautiful luminous finish. While you may not want to polish or oil your floor each time you clean and mop, it is an essential step to add to your cleaning routine every month.

    You can also check out this video below on the basic cleaning steps for natural slate flooring:

    Items You Need To Clean Slate Floors

    Whether sealed or natural, slate floors are hard-wearing and long-lasting if you take care of them. You will require the following items to clean and maintain your slate floors:

    • Broom and/or vacuum cleaner (with appropriate head)
    • Mop
    • Bucket
    • Warm water for detergent and for rinsing
    • Mild detergent or slate tile cleaner
    • Buffing cloths or fans
    • Teak or olive oil, or slate floor polish

    Our Top Product Picks

    Cleaning ToolOur Product PickWhy We Like It
    VacuumBissell Crosswave Floor and Carpet Wet-Dry Vacuum 1785A
    Bissell Crosswave Wet-Dry Vacuum 1785A
    – It’s an all-in-one wet-dry vacuum that’s surprisingly affordable.
    – It can pick up pet hair well and easily cleans tiles through its wet-clean feature.
    – Works on carpets too.
    MopNellie’s Wow Mop
    Nellie’s Wow Mop
    – Easy to operate and requires minimal effort while providing excellent results.
    – Has a cordless operation with a reasonably long battery life.
    – The pads can effectively grab ground in dirt and clean grout lines.
    Commercial Slate Floor CleanerZep Neutral pH Floor Cleaner
    Zep Neutral pH Floor Cleaner
    – It’s kinder than other cleaners when it comes to your natural stone or slate floor tiles. 
    – Doesn’t leave a dulling residue.
    – Doesn’t require rinsing.

    Tips:

    • Instead of a mild detergent, you can also use a cleaning solvent that is pH-neutral. It will preserve the natural beauty of your slate floor while removing any trapped or absorbed dirt and grime.

    What To Avoid When Cleaning Slate Floors

    Below are products that you should avoid when cleaning slate floors: 

    1. Acidic Cleaners

    Do not use something with high-acidity like vinegar or lemon and other solvents that contain acids or other harsh chemicals. It can lead to surface damage and can cause your slate floor to fade and become brittle as microparticles of the slate may loosen.

    It will also lead to the formation of:

    • An orange peel-like surface that is unsightly on slate flooring.
    • A white deposit as the acid reacts with the calcium in the stone.
    1. Oil-Based Cleaners

    Oil can clog up the flooring’s textured surface and make our floor slippery.

    1. Abrasive Cleaners

    These chemicals can strip off the sealer (for flooring that has been treated) on your flooring and grout which exposes its porous surface to stain and liquids.

    1. Jute or Rubber-Backed Mats/Rugs

    The backing of these mats/rugs can bleed into your flooring which causes stains that can be difficult to remove.

    7 Preventive Care Tips: Dos and Don’ts

    1. Swiftly cleaning up spills is a must to prevent stains on slate floors.
    2. Use non-slip mats and rugs.
    3. Don’t slide your furniture when moving them across your room.
    4. Don’t use abrasive solvents and cleaning tools.
    5. Always test cleaning solutions on a small spot on your floor before using them.
    6. Minimize scratches by clearing your flooring of dirt, dust, and debris regularly.
    7. Don’t use worn vacuum cleaners. The wheels or attachments may scratch your floor.

    Expert Slate Flooring Cleaning Advice

    Expert Slate Flooring Cleaning Advice

    Here are other professional tips for you to follow to take your cleaning a step further:

    Slate Stain Removal Ideas: DIY Solutions on How to Remove Particular Stains From Slate Floors

    For the most part, treated slate flooring is naturally liquid-deterrent, so it should not become easily marred by stains. Natural slate floors are different as they stain more easily.

    To clean stains, you can use the following DIY solutions regardless if you have a natural or treated floor: 

    #1 Detergent

    Simply take some of the detergent solution you are cleaning your slate floor with and gently scrub the area with a soft-bristled brush. Rinse before drying, and apply a surface treatment.

    #2 Hydrogen Peroxide

    Hydrogen peroxide works well on stains without damaging your slate flooring. Just mix the same amounts of hydrogen peroxide and water in a spray bottle and then spray it onto the stain. Leave it for up to ten minutes before scrubbing the stain off with a sponge or soft brush. Make sure to rinse your floor with clean water.

    Pro Tip:

    Don’t use a hydrogen peroxide solution on colored grouts because it will cause discoloration.

    #3 Baking Soda and Peroxide

    Mixing equal parts of these two cleaning agents will give you a foaming paste to remove tough stains. Wait until the paste stops bubbling, and then rub onto the stained area. Once the stain is lifted, wash as normal and then rinse.

    #4 Rubbing Alcohol

    Using rubbing alcohol is also an effective way of loosening and lifting chemical stains. Simply combine 4 cups of water with 1 cup of rubbing alcohol and apply using a soft cloth, rubbing firmly. Once the stain is removed, wash as usual, rinse, air-dry, and seal.

    For a more detailed information on removing specific stains on natural stone floors including slate, refer to the Marble Institute of America’s guide.

    Removing Scratches From Slate Floors

    Scratches may appear in high-traffic areas. To hide deep scratches on your floor, you can use mineral oil. Clean and dry your floor before applying the oil using a cloth. This will darken the spot which can hide minor scratches.

    Sealing Slate Floors

    Be aware that slate is porous in its natural, untreated state. When not adequately sealed, slate floors can become like a sponge, sucking in spills to their core and become permanently stained as a result.

    A sealant is required to keep your slate floor more stain and spill-resistant. It will allow your floor to repel liquid better which will also make cleaning stains easier. However, if you allow liquids to pool or messes to set, you will face a nasty discoloration.

    Moreover, although slate floors are natural stone, a high shine can be achieved by applying a sealant coat. It’s ideal for those who want a glossy look on their flooring instead of the natural matte finish of slate.

    Conversely, with improper care, this type of flooring can look dingy quickly. A slate floor in all its glory is a shiny surface that speaks of careful maintenance and opulence. Once it starts to lose that high-gloss sheen, it can soon look tired and worn.

    NOTE: There are two main types of slate sealers you can choose from: a surface sealer or a penetrating sealer. Surface sealers are more visible and provide a glossy finish while penetrating sealers are more natural-looking. Choose which option suits your style.

    When Should You Seal Your Slate Flooring?

    Generally, you can seal your floor once a year. However, some types of slate need to be sealed more often compared to others.

    To know if your flooring needs sealing, you can pour some water on it and see how it reacts. Properly sealed slate should repel the water better. If it doesn’t, it’s time to seal your floor.

    NOTE: Make sure that you wipe up the water you poured immediately.

    How to Seal Slate Floors

    Follow the steps below on how to seal slate floors:

    Step 1. Remove Existing Sealants

    Old sealants may require a new coat or refinish. You will need to use a chemical stripper to remove existing sealants before you apply a new one. You can follow Stone World’s recommended steps on how to remove existing sealers from your slate floor

    Step 2. Apply the Sealer

    Before applying the sealer, clean your floor and make sure it’s dry. Follow the manufacturer instructions on how to apply the sealer you will be using. But, the general procedure is to use a small grout sponge when applying the sealer over your floor.

    Tips:

    • Apply the sealer in a circular motion over the tiles and grout lines.
    • Work in small areas until you finish the application.
    Step 3. Buff Your Floor

    Buff your floor dry immediately after sealing using a lint-free cloth to allow the sealer to fully dry as well as remove excess residues. You can apply a second coat after the initial coat dries if you want.

    You can also refer to the video below on DIY slate floor sealing:

    Cleaning Sealed vs. Unsealed Slate Floors: Is There A Difference?

    You would essentially clean a sealed slate floor the same way as you would treat an unsealed slate floor. Slate floors and slate tiles don’t technically have to be sealed, but once you have gone down this road or the previous owners committed you to this journey, you need to keep that glossy finish up to date.

    A slate floor that has previously been sealed can be cleaned in the same way as a natural slate floor. 

    Specialty Slate Floor Cleaning Advice

    How to Clean Slate Floors With Steam1. Sweep or vacuum the area to remove dirt and debris.
    2. Attach a pad to your steam mop.
    3. Fill the device’s water tank.
    4. Use the mop according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

    Tip: Change the pad often when cleaning and don’t place the cleaner in one spot for too long.

    Important Note: Although steam mopping is ideal for deep cleaning, natural stone tile experts do not recommend using it. But if you really want to keep your flooring as hygienic as possible, use it sparingly and with care. Keep the heat to a minimum. You might also need to reseal your flooring more often as steam mopping can remove sealers.

    “On marble, granite, and other natural stone, steam cleaning can be harmful. Steam causes thermal expansion and contraction of the stone. This heating and cooling process can create all sorts of problems.” – Classic Marble & Stone Restoration
    How to Clean Slate Hearth1. Wipe the slate using a damp kitchen towel to remove dust and debris.
    2. Wait for the slate to dry completely.
    3. Apply a few drops of olive oil, teak oil, or WD40 on a clean cloth.
    4. Polish the slate in circular motions.
    5. Buff the slate using another clean cloth to absorb any residue.

    In addition, here’s a video on how to clean and polish natural slate hearth using WD40: 
    How to polish & clean a natural slate hearth TOP TIP! Cleaning & polishing natural slate life hack!!

    Professional Slate Floor Cleaning Advice

    Don’t want to risk damaging your precious slate flooring? Ask for the help of an expert slate floor cleaning company to help you ensure that your flooring is cared for properly.

    We recommend hiring a professional especially if you haven’t cleaned your flooring for a long time and need heavy cleaning. We can find one that can meet your budget and provide you with a free quote.

    Slate Floor Cleaning FAQs

    What Is the Best Thing to Clean Slate Floors With?

    The very best floor cleaner for slate tiles is plain water and a little detergent. Remember to go for something mild and acid-free. That is to say, leave the lemon freshness for the kitchen or bathroom, not your slate floor.


    How Do You Make Slate Shine?

    While an oil rub or wax finish is the traditional way of treating a slate floor and produces a certain shine, the best way to achieve a lasting shine is to apply a sealant like GlazeGuard Gloss Floor/Wall Sealer, which works well. The glossy finish is long-lasting, and it protects your slate tiles from scrapes and scratches.

    When applying a sealant to natural stone floors like slate, you need to keep in mind that the sealant will make the stone more waterproof, but it will need refinishing every so often, especially in high-traffic areas.


    Can You Use Vinegar on Slate Tile?

    It is not advisable to use vinegar. With the high acidic level of vinegar, slate floors have a chemical reaction and become brittle, forming an undesired, pitted look.

    Vinegar creates a glossy shine on other flooring types, but with slate, it tends to blemish the surface, whether the slate is treated or not. The sealed slate may turn white if the vinegar reacts with the sealant coating. Vinegar may also cause the sealant to separate from the slate, making vinegar an unwise choice for cleaning slate floors.


    Why Does Slate Turn White?

    When slate floors take on a white veneer, this is usually due to the slate’s sealant discoloration, often the result of old age or excessive heat. The only way professionals recommend on how to remove the white haze is to remove the sealant and reseal it.

    Removing the sealant is a tricky process, but it is necessary to refurbish the slate floor and restore the stone’s natural tones before retreatment.


    Can You Steam Mop Slate Floors?

    A steam cleaning mop is a great way to clean and revitalize a tired slate floor. Steam gets into all the little cracks, grouting grooves, and surface irregularities characteristic of a slate surface. 

    However, sealer manufacturers and stone floor experts do not recommend steam cleaning. The heat from the device can cause your floor to expand and contract which can lead to other problems like spalling, sealer removal, cracking, grout damage, and others.

    “Steam cleaning should be used with care and sparingly, or better yet, not at all… Steam cleaning every few days, or even every week or two can result in damage. At most, you could use a lower temperature mop-style steam cleaner a few times per year.” – Classic Marble & Stone Restoration


    Can you clean slate with WD40?

    First of all, WD-40 is not a slate cleaner. It is used to oil your flooring to make it shiny if you don’t want its original dull look. Although it’s highly flammable, it’s safe if you just rub it into your slate floor. But if you are bothered by this, better use other products. You can refer to this video on how to polish natural slate hearth with WD-40.

    Another thing to consider is that although many recommend WD-40, it doesn’t really keep your slate floor shiny. There are people saying that olive oil does a better job than WD-40.

    Final Thoughts

    Cleaning your slate floor may seem like a massive chore, but it really isn’t. With some easy preparation, you can clean like a pro, leaving your slate tiles sparkly and brilliantly-hued.

    With some soap and water, you can wash away buildup and dirt, creating that radiant look associated with hygiene and earthy goodness. Slate flooring is an investment since it will never perish or need replacing, as long as you maintain its natural surface and avoid damage by heavy-duty solvents, acid-based cleaners, and surface abrasions.

    Have you used any of the techniques described in this article to clean your slate floor? Let us know in the comments section or leave an image and opinion of your experience with slate floor cleaning on our social media.

    About Maria Hernandez

    Senior Floor Critic, 25 years of experience in residential and commercial cleaning

    Maria Hernandez has 25 years of experience in residential and commercial janitorial and cleaning services. From hardwood to carpet to marble floors, Maria has developed a deep expertise in cleaning and maintaining many different flooring types. Visit Website.

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    1 thought on “How To Clean Slate Floors”

    1. Hello and thank you for writing about how to clean a Slate tiled floor. Do you know how to best lift the grime from the grout around the tiles. I’ve used mild dish soap here and it didn’t budge the dirt from the grout. Should the grout be treated differently? Also, is it important to use a low PH cleaner?
      I would greatly appreciate a response from you. Thank you!

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