How to Clean Slate

A slate tiled floor.

So you’ve paid all this money for a beautiful slate floor or countertop and you probably would like to keep it nice. While slate is a strong, durable stone with gorgeous blends of rich color, cleaning your slate is essential to extending its life and keeping it vibrant. Sand and dirt left on slate can etch away at the surface. Regular washing can help reduce wear and tear.

There is no need to purchase any of those floor cleaners made with chemicals that can irritate your skin or eyes. Strong cleaners, especially acidic cleaners, could actually do more harm than good as they can break down the finish on the slate. In the following sections I provide some easy steps on how to clean slate. In many cases the cleaning will not be the hard part. It is usually the grout that is the culprit for stubborn stains. If you are nodding in agreement right now, I have some tips for you too.

Steps for Cleaning Slate

  1. cleaning suppliesGathering your slate-cleaning supplies. This is going to be really simple. Grab your broom or dry mop. Get out your dish soap or Castile soap. You will need a bucket and a sponge mop or a non-course towel. If your grout is dirty, find a spray bottle and your hydrogen peroxide . . . or like me, realize it’s empty and run to the store. If your grout is really stained, grab your baking soda . . . or like me, realize it’s also empty and run back to the store. For those of you who haven’t resealed your floor in a long time, you may want to stop and get some sealer.
  2. swept slateSweep the floor of dirt and other materials. Particles left on the slate during a wet cleaning can act like sand paper and scratch the surface. Be sure to remove as much debris as you can by either thoroughly sweeping the area with a broom or using a dry mop over the surface. I prefer using a microfiber dry mop as it traps dust in the fibers and prevents it from being distributed into the air. You may look at the floor when you’re done and think, “Hey, this doesn’t look so bad now.” However, you still need to move on to the next step.
  3. mop in bucketMop or wipe down the slate tile. To clean most slate, a simple mixture of soap and warm water will be your best bet. Fill your bucket with warm water and add a couple tablespoons of soap. To clean slate floors, use a sponge mop dipped in your soapy water to gently mop the floor. For other surfaces, like countertops, use a non-course towel to wipe down the slate. I try to clean slowly to allow the soap time to break down the filth on the slate. Be sure to rinse your cleaning tool frequently in the bucket to remove dirt from its fibers.
  4. pouring out soapy waterRinse your slate tile. It is important to thoroughly rinse the soap from your slate. Any buildup of soap left on the surface can attract dirt and accelerate the need for the next cleaning. Who really wants to end up mopping again a week later? Not me. Dump out your bucket and fill with plain old warm water for this step. Go over the floor until you are pretty sure that the soap has been removed.
  5. using socks to clean groutCleaning the grout. Shining up the slate was probably a breeze, but you may be left looking at the grout thinking that it doesn’t look so great. If your grout is discolored by a buildup of dirt, you can brighten it with a 50/50 solution of hydrogen peroxide and water. Spray it on the grout and let it sit. Repeat the process until you reach your desired result. However, do not use this mixture on colored grout as it may adversely affect the color. If you are unsure about what it might do, find an area that no one will see and test it out before doing this step.
  6. mixing grout cleaning solutionRemoving stubborn stains from the grout. Grout can be very porous allowing it to absorb spills and become a petri dish for mold and mildew. For stubborn stains in your grout, mix some baking soda and hydrogen peroxide into a paste. Apply it to the affected area and wait about fifteen to twenty minutes. Use a wet rag to wipe the mixture off of the grout. Again, for colored grout you may want to test an area before doing the whole floor or you may end up wanting to kick yourself for a week.
  7. jugs of sealerReapply sealer as directed. Most slate is not a maintenance-free material. It may have a sealant on it to safeguard the stone. The surface will need to be resealed eventually. Reapplying sealant can help keep your slate protected from stains and damage and extend the life expectancy of your slate. Consult the directions of the sealant used on your slate to determine if you are due for a resealing. When applying, I use a minimum of two coats and allow it to dry for thirty minutes between coats.

Slate and the Joy of Maintenance

If you feel like you had a good workout after cleaning your slate, you are either out of shape or you may have been skipping regular maintenance. Slate is a beautiful stone and there are some easy things you can do to keep it that way and to avoid the need for a heavy-duty cleaning session. I suggest dry mopping on a regular basis to reduce buildup on the surface. Set a day each week for a thorough sweeping or dusting. Having your family members remove their shoes before walking on the slate can reduce wear and tear. Strategically placed mats will also reduce tracking debris on the surface. Try not to let spills dry on the grout. If something is spilled, do not use acidic cleaners because they can possibly cause damage.

Green Products for Cleaning Slate

Microfiber dry mopMicrofiber dry mops can be purchased at most stores containing household maintenance products. Using a microfiber mop instead of a broom helps trap the dust during the cleaning process, keeping it from being dispersed into the air. Most microfiber mops can be washed and reused and have a long useful life. Performing regular dry mopping can reduce the need for wet mopping, which may extend the life expectancy of the floor.

spray bottle of simple greenSimple Green Stone Cleaner is nontoxic, biodegradable, and can be used safely on stone surfaces such as marble, granite, quartz, and ceramic for regular cleaning. It conditions the surface to protect from spills and wear. It is great for countertops and walls but it is not recommended for use on floors as it may make the surface slippery. You can order bottles of Simple Green Stone Cleaner from Amazon.

Jugs of HydrOxi ProHydrOxi Pro Grout Smart is an all-natural, biodegradable cleaner—safe for your family and the environment—and it works very well for cleaning grout. This product is a solution containing hydrogen peroxide and orange oil. For extra stubborn stains, you can apply Grout Smart directly onto the area or dilute it with water for general mopping.