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Stripping, cleaning and staining saltillo tile

I need to know the best products to use to strip old sealant from saltillo tile, to clean the tile and then I would also like to stain the tile a darker color. Does Home Depot sell all of these products? If you have any tips (equipment to use, type of stain, etc.) on the best way to do these three things  that would be greatly appreciated! 

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Posted 2011-12-03T03:46:24+0000  by DBF DBF

Good morning DBF!

Welcome to the community; let's talk about getting your saltillo tile back on their feet again.


We get this question a lot not only on our tile aisle, but also in our paint department. It is a multi-step process, but it can give you the exact results you want. So let's get started....


Stripping/Cleaning the tiles


You are dead-on in wanting to first start out with stripping and cleaning the old finish/grime/sealant off the surface. The great news is that we sell a product that will clean AND strip your saltillo tiles in one step! It's by Custom Building Products, and is a concentrate that comes in a 32 oz. bottle. Apply it with a sponge mop in a 4ft by 4ft area and let it set for 5 minutes, and scrub any tough areas with a scrub brush. Lastly, take up the remaining residue with a mop and now you have a clean and unsealed surface ready to be re-finished! If you have a large area you are working with, consider renting out a floor maintainer with a scrub pad to really cut down on the time and effort. Lastly with this step, if you have any stubborn spots or you would just like a tougher acid-based product to use, I would recommend using Sulfamic Acid.  The one well sell comes in concentrated crystals that can be mixed with water, giving you a effective yet safe-to-use tile cleaner. Only use this though if the cleaner and stripper product I first recommended didn't meet up to your expectations.

saltillo tile process.JPG


Staining your tile


Now that the tile and grout have the sealant taken off and down to its unglazed state, you are now ready to apply a stain of your choice. There are many types of stains out there, they are mostly for concrete and some are acid-based. However, after speaking to Behr's Consumer Hotline and our in-house stain expert, ChristineClaret, we all agreed that you can use a Semi-Transparent Concrete Stain,shown in the image above.


The semi-transparency of the product will still allow the color and texture of the tile to show through, but now giving you a darker new color of your choice. The solid color concrete stains out there will give you more of the look of a paint, so I would rule this out for you. This is where coming down to your local Home Depot and checking out samples of semi-transparent concrete stain colors will greatly assist you.


Now this is the part of the process where it is CRUCIAL to know the steps of working semi-transparent concrete stain properly. Failure to do so will give you the results you will not want. As shown in the image above, this product is best used with a deck pump sprayer rated for stains. This is the absolute best way to apply this product as it's consistency will allow you to mimic the look of an irregular surface. The best temperature to use the stain is at 50–90°F. That shouldn't be a problem indoors but make sure not to apply it in direct sunlight or if humidity or rain is in the weather forecast for the next 24 hours if this project is being done outside


Work in the same size (4' by 4') section as you did for cleaning the tiles. You'll need to spray the stain with the pump sprayer at a fine setting and use a circular pattern when applying. Work quickly before the stain dries/tacks and feather the edges using a roller or brush. As soon as you are done spraying, go over the surface again with a 3/8" nap roller to give it a professional even appearance. Depending on how porous the tile is, you can usually get a 250-400 square foot coverage rate out of one coat of the semi-transparent stain. I know this may sound like a lot of tools to use as once, but having a helper is a big plus in applying this, as you can save lots of time.


If you'd like a 2nd coat, wait 4 hours before applying it again. Just remember, the more coats you'll do, the more darker and uniform the finish will look. Additional coats will cover better, at around 400 square feet a gallon.


Again, I can't stress enough the steps to take to apply the semi-transparent stain down. I've had a lot of personal experiences from customers not following them or just applying it with roller and giving them results they didn't like. It may sound like a bit tedious, but remember, you will get great looking floors again with this product without having to reseal afterwards, as the stain does that for you as well!


Hope this helps you out, and if you have any further questions, please let us know.


Posted 2011-12-03T17:32:27+0000  by Joseph_HD_ATL

Great information. But what do you do after the staining? What is the best way to seal the tile. This will be indoors in a high traffic area and will be stained almost black. The area  will take some wear. What's the best sealer for this?


Posted 2012-04-05T17:29:44+0000  by buddie2000

Hey there buddie2000,


With the product that Joe is recommending, I would use the same Behr style products that they recommend for finishing the stain job off. 


You have your choice between a Low Lustre Sealer or a Wet Look Sealer, both of which will help protect your newly stained saltillo tile.




Allow the stain to dry for at least 4 hours before applying the sealer topcoat. For first coat needs a similar dry time, at 4 hours and then you can apply your 2nd coating (no more than four coats however.)


Give it about 24 hours before you resume foot traffic and up to 72 if you need to place furniture or other heavy objects on it.

Posted 2012-04-05T18:17:22+0000  by Jay_HD_CHI

What about grout? In the staining method you described, it seems like one would be staining grout along with the tiles. If so, do you remove stain from grout afterwards? Or do you not spray grout to start with? If that's the case, it seems spraying stain would be more time consuming than hand staining tiles.


Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks in advance,

Posted 2013-08-09T06:28:24+0000  by SDA1111
How do you remove stain that gets in the grout?
Posted 2015-12-26T23:55:48+0000  by DBF
The stripper on this page by Tile Lab is only going to remove the sealer from the SURFACE of the Saltillo tile, not from the pores on the inside of these very porous tiles.

it needs to be a Solvent Based Stripper, there's no other way. This is the best way to strip saltillo tiles.

Even the bottle of Heavy Duty Cleaner and Stripper shown here on the page where it says in the description: "Use on...."

.........It says nothing about saltillos, tecates, lincoln pavers, or clay tiles at all!


Because all that product will do once you use it and its all dried out is turn white and hazy, cloudy, and possible blistering and peeling depending on how strong the stripper really is.

these types of strippers will do the same thing to any other topical coatings you may find on slate, flagstone, quarry tile, terrazzo, concrete pavers etc.

I'm sorry tile lab, your products are not good enough for the pros and the person who wrote this "misinformation" obviously got his info from wikipedia or Will Arnzen tile installer out of san diego, and it's not right that you are putting FALSE information out there to the public.

What if America has tried this advice? Then that means there are a whole lot of pissed off saltillo tile floor owners.

2-in-1 products like this always suck. And you recommend SULFURIC ACID to people?

Have you ever done this yourself? I don't recommend sulfuric acid for a few reasons.

  • It takes the stain into the tile's surface unevenly, and sucks the pigment out of the carrier (which is water and acrylic), making the stain almost impossible to apply evenly.
  • It also sucks the carrier (water) out of the sealer the same way, making it really a challenge to get the sealer on evenly.

Cleaning saltillo tile

once stripped with a solvent, removing all of the old finish out of the grout and off of the saltillo tiles completely, you can NOW use that tile lab stripper to clean the floor. Like all saltillo tile refinishing, the cleaning is done by hand.

Use hot water, some of that tile lab, and green scrubbies.

Scrub them vigorously and rinse with fresh water and then dry with rags.

Let the tiles dry out completely, and the floor is now prepped for staining and sealing.

Staining and sealing saltillo tiles

Acid based stains work best on concrete pavers and stamped concrete. I agree with Christine Claret with Behrs consumer hotline, semi-transparent concrete stain is the way to go. It's real easy to use and if you mess up, its fixable, unlike linseed oil and turpentine which is often recommended. Once you put that stuff on your saltillos, then you're stuck with it.

Deck pump sprayer rated for stain is absolutely NOT the best way to apply stain for quite a few reasons.

  • What about the grout? You going to make it terracotta colored like the saltillo? Or what about if you want to keep the "checker board effect" by keeping the nice natural grey saltillo blend grout. It matches the saltillos perfectly. Not happening with a sprayer..(Staining the grout can be done, but the 3 or 400 times I've stained saltillos, my clients never want the grout stained.)

  • It will streak and be too dark out of the sprayer, giving it a more painted look, that semi-transparent stain is still really thick like paint and needs to be cut to make it more like water color using multiple coats. Some tiles look great with 1 coat, some get 2, 3, and 4.

  • A sprayer is too messy and out of control for the detail that we're looking for. Some people accept 2nd rate work because they didn't know there was a better way. The roller leaves air bubbles in the stain.

Direct sunlight works great, helps dry out faster, and temperature doesn't matter as long as it's dry. The stain dries out too fast to do a 4 x 4 sq ft. area. I recommend 1 tile at a time.

After 4 diluted coats the stain will start to look heavily painted. Giving the saltillos different numbers of coats also keeps it real varied with a nice hue. But still, if done right the natural colors and characteristics should will still come through.

To stain saltillos correctly, get Behr semi-transparent color of your choice. Mix 5 cups of distilled water to 1 cup of stain and mix well. Use a half of a yellow rounded edge grout sponge. Use the round edges not the side you cut.

Do a small sample on 1 or 2 tiles.

If the stain looks too thick or gets streaky, add more water. Think water color.. Just enough to tint lightly, we want to stain not paint..

Apply 1 coat with the sponge 1 tile at a time being careful not to get too much stain in the grout (it's near impossible not to get a little bit in the grout, as this can be taken out later, but 100 grout joints to fix is way better than 1000.

Once you put a coat on the whole floor, repeat the process until you reach your desired look.

Who ever wrote this article obviously has NO CLUE what they are talking about. At the end he tells you 1 more lie. He says "You don't need to seal the stain"...

That's COMPLETELY FALSE. You absolutely 100% need to seal it. You can use the Behr low-lustre or the Behr Wet look sealer. just make sure you apply multiple coats.

A great saltillo tile restoration option
Posted 2016-01-14T21:33:50+0000  by SaltilloTileMan
Saltillo Tile Man

Love your comments and want your advice on doing my project right!

I am extending the tile patio (outdoors) of the house I just bought. I need to strip/clean the existing tile and then add new tile to finish the job,

My questions are these...

1. do I strip/clean the existing tile BEFORE laying the new tile?
2. do you recommend pre sealing the new tile, or seal everything after the new tile is laid?
3. what product do you recommend using to clean/strip? You were very against the method laid out by the HD guy...

thankyou in advance...

Posted 2017-04-23T00:40:34+0000  by sawxfan
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