Caring for terracotta surfaces
Much loved throughout the 1980s, the terracotta tile is making a comeback! The huge popularity of natural, tactile surfaces has certainly steered this course but the simple clay-based tile does have its own unique features:
Its rich tone creates a warm environment and it’s very forgiving in terms of disguising footprints and dirt. It’s also ideal if you want to create an on trend travel-inspired look. But, when it comes to maintenance, the same issues that were around thirty years ago still need addressing today.
Cleaning terracotta surfaces isn’t a difficult task and terracotta isn’t a difficult material to look after. But it does have a high level of absorbency, so it needs to be correctly sealed to prevent staining. Traditionally, terracotta was treated with boiled linseed oil and white spirit. Fortunately, a wider choice of treatments is now available, including natural and eco-friendly water-based formulations.
Like all natural surfaces, a correct cleaning regime throughout and beyond the laying process will ensure that the surface maintains its original look and is easy to care for.
For starters, it’s worth pre-sealing a terracotta surface with FILA PRW200. Grout residues will be much easier to remove and a pre-seal will also speed-up the drying time after the initial wash, and after subsequent treatment stages.
An initial wash should always be carried out, to remove residues of adhesive and grout, along with accumulated dirt. If it isn’t carried out properly, the application of any subsequent protective treatments will be compromised, as you’ll effectively be ‘sealing in’ the deposits.
In the case of terracotta, an acid cleaning product should be useful. Choosing a ‘buffered’ solution has a lot of advantages; these types of formulations don’t emit harmful fumes, erode aluminium or steel trims or damage profiles. You can speed up the process further by using a multi-purpose acidic product, like FILA Deterdek, which will both clean the surface and remove all residues. After application, always leave the detergent to act for a few minutes and then, using a brown pad or sponge, wipe up residues before rinsing with clean water.
In terms of sealers, water-based products are ideal, as they’re odourless, have a lower eco-impact and dry quickly. If you don’t want to alter the tiles’ appearance, choose a natural- effect impregnator – like FILAW68 – which won’t stain. Indoors, wax products can also be applied to provide a natural, satin, shiny or high gloss finish; look our for FILA Matt, Satin, Classic or Longlife. Outside, a water repellent is strongly recommended. Both water-based products and solvent formulations are available and can be followed by application of a stain protector; Fila recommends either FILAHP98 or FILAES82.
Once laid, a pH-neutral cleaning product should always be used to maintain terracotta; FILA Cleaner is ideal. This will lengthen the life of the impregnator and finish, and will ensure that the surface remains protected, in terms of practicality, longevity and aesthetics. Always avoid normal household cleaners as they will break-down the surface protection provided, cause surface staining and can, potentially, damage the finish of the tile. And, throughout all stages, always carefully follow instructions.
For information on Fila’s wide range of surface care products, please contact Lisa Breakspear at Fila UK on tel. 01584 877286 or visit www.filasolutions.com.
Post written by Angela Fitzhugh