In the kitchen, one of the best surfaces for ease of cleaning, durability, and ease of installation is ceramic tile. Ceramic tile can withstand hot pans, and cleans up with a sponge and a mild dish washing detergent. If spills stick to the surface of the tile, it can be removed with white vinegar and a clean cloth. Do not use acid based cleansers on ceramic tile - they will discolor the tile over time. The use of abrasive sponges or SOS pads will scratch the surface of the tile.
One disadvantage of ceramic tile in the kitchen is the grout used to attach the tiles in place. If poorly designed, the tile may become uneven over time. The grout should be sealed after it is fully cured after installation to prevent discoloring and make it stain resistant. Curing time is generally one week after installation. Grout must be cleaned thoroughly due to the build up of food that is inevitable, and allows mold and mildew to develop. It is best cleaned with a soft toothbrush, using a solution of one tablespoon of grease cutting dish detergent to one quart of water.
Re-grouting of the tile may be necessary if they have become very discolored over time, or if it has cracked from heating and cooling. Clean the tile thoroughly before re-grouting. Use a razor knife to scrape the old grout out of the joints. Some grout compounds require the use of water to moisten the joints during installation. Be sure to read the instructions that come with the product carefully.
One of the most common surfaces in new home construction and remodeling projects is granite. An advantage of granite is it comes in one piece, and can be cut to specifications of the installation. Typically, installation of a granite countertop is dependent on the layout of the kitchen. An L shaped countertop, for example, would require the granite slab to be cut and then seamed on installation. After installation use a good sealer to protect the porous surface, and use cleaners and disinfectants designed for use on granite countertops.
Granite can best be kept looking new by immediately cleaning up any spills as they occur. Clean the surface with stone soap, available at any stone dealer. Use a non-abrasive cloth to clean the granite, and rinse after using the stone soap, drying the surface with a clean soft cloth. Depending on the type of stain, several methods can be used to remove. Mix one cup of flour with 2 tablespoons of dishwashing liquid to make a thick paste. Cover the stain with the paste, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to sit overnight. Next, scrape away the paste with a wooden utensil, and rinse the surface. If the stain is oil-based, use hydrogen peroxide in the paste in place of the dishwashing liquid. For coffee and tea stains, use a mixture of twelve percent hydrogen peroxide and several drops of household ammonia to remove. Lacquer thinner or acetone (finger nail polish) works to remove ink or marker stains on darker granite surfaces. On lighter shades of granite, use hydrogen peroxide for stain removal.
A granite countertop should be resealed every year or two depending on usage. Use a resealant recommended by your installer. Always check to insure that the sealer is non-toxic when used in a food preparation area of the kitchen.
There are several types of tile that is used in the kitchen. Ceramic tiles, made from pressed clays, are covered with a glaze of metallic oxides and ceramic stains. They may also be finished in a matte surface. Quarry tile is an unglazed mix of shale and clays that show good color. The tiles generally come in a standard size, and are joined using grout.
Ceramic tiles are generally used for flooring or backsplash projects. The glazed surface wipes up easily from spills. Care must be taken, though, to insure that a stiff bristled brush, scouring pad, or harsh abrasive cleansers are not used for cleaning, as it can scratch the shiny surface of the tile. Bleach can be used for cleanup of many spills and stains on ceramic kitchen tile. However, if the stain is deep, a solution of muriatic acid, mixed 60/40 with tap water, works very well. This solution is what professionals would use to remove stains from your kitchen floor. If you attempt this method, be sure that you properly ventilate the room, and use protective equipment including safety goggles and rubber gloves when removing deep stains. Use a soft bristled brush, such as a toothbrush, and scrub the stain until all traces are removed. Rinse thoroughly with cool water, and blot up any excess with paper towels. Always dispose of the remaining muriatic acid in a safe and proper manner. There are commercial grout cleaners and finishers available from your tile dealer to clean up most types of kitchen tile.
Using the right cleanser and procedure goes a long way in keeping the surfaces of your kitchen bright and shiny. Following a regular schedule of cleaning helps to keep it looking new, and protects your investment.
Alden Smith is an award winning author and regular contributor to DoItYourself.com. He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.