Month: April 2014

The Elusive Clean Gleam: Soap & Water Edition

Spring is upon us- and with it, that uncontrollable urge to open all your windows and clean every surface of your house. But while you’re vacuuming your window screens, polishing the silver, and trying not to be too grossed out while purging your pantry, there’s one surface a lot of people overlook: the walls.  Do you have a tile backsplash in your kitchen? Chances are you clean it when you remember to, but it’s been a long time since your tile has gotten a good scrub.  For those of you with an aversion to strong chemicals, fear not: the best way to keep your installation looking fresh is simple, cost-effective, and innocuous.

Tile generally doesn’t require a whole lot of heavy cleaning, which is one of the many reasons it’s such a popular choice for homes and heavy-duty areas.  Sweeping it free of dirt and dust (or in the case of backsplashes/wall installations, wiping with a dry cloth) every day is incredibly helpful. If you can’t do it daily, try to do it at least twice a week.  Dust and dirt are the top offenders when it comes to scratching tile, and getting rid of them on a regular basis will preserve its luster.  However, sometimes a deeper cleaning is necessary.  In this case, soap and warm water is best- that’s it.  As many products as there are marketed as tile cleaners, we have found that the best way to keep your tile looking brand new is with the ages-old soap and water formula. Other products can dull the glaze, which is probably one of the reasons you purchased the tile in the first place! Take good care of your tile with these regular maintenance steps and you’ll get the long-lasting beauty your home deserves.

Keep the Fronda Perla wood look tile looking new for years with a simple scrubbing.

Keep the Fronda Perla wood look tile looking new for years with a simple scrubbing.

Cleaning the grout lines

Grout is a bit porous and usually a lighter color.  As a result, stains and dirt tend to appear much more quickly and require a little more diligence than cleaning the tile.

Bob Vila’s website has an excellent mildest-to-strongest list of cleaning methods for grout, but we stand by the soap-and-water method.  Warm water with a lot of suds, elbow grease, and a toothbrush will help you get the mold, mildew, and soap scum out of your grout until it’s as clean as the day it was installed.  If you need something a little stronger, you can always turn to the refreshingly dependable household staple of distilled white vinegar. Vinegar is lauded for its versatility, but it’s still highly acidic and must be watered down for this particular application.  A common ratio is one part vinegar and one part water. Put the mixture into a spray bottle, grab a stiff-bristled toothbrush, and get to it! Spray directly onto the grout and scrub it. If need be, briefly leave the mixture on the grout line before cleaning.

Our Metro Lantern Glossy White can be shiny forever!

Our Metro Lantern Glossy White can be shiny forever!

Everyone wants their home to be clean, but that doesn’t mean it has to be toxic.  Your tile can stay looking great for years using these practices on a regular basis (we stress the “regular” part!)- simple household products that won’t emit hazardous fumes or compromise the integrity of your tile are the best approach after all!


Quick Reference Installation Guide

Need some quick pointers but don’t feel like digging through the great wide Internet? Here are some concise tips covering everything from prep to post-installation maintenance.  The tips provided above are suggested guidelines and do not imply warranty.

Our Galan Iris series.

Our Galan Iris series, available through

Tools: Have the right tools and installation products before you begin your mosaic tile installation.  Some of the supplies you may need are a wet saw, tile nippers, trowels, sponges, grout, tile spacers, thinset, gloves, and a few buckets.

Thinset: Be sure to select the correct type of adhesive or thinset suitable for your installation.  Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer of your chosen adhesive.

Cutting Tile: If you need to cut the tile, use tile nippers, tile cutter, or a diamond-tipped wet saw to cut it to a desired size.  Not all cutting tools are suitable for every purpose; please read on for specifics about cutting stainless steel and metal mosaics.

Mesh Backing: Our mosaic tiles have a mesh backing that ensures appropriate bonding during installation.  For optimal performance, avoid exposing the mesh to excessive moisture before installation, which could result in the tiles falling off the mesh backing. For this reason, it may be beneficial to remove the tile from the mesh and cut them individually with tile cutters or nippers rather than with a wet saw.

Stainless Steel and Aluminum Mosaics: You can prevent scratches on these surfaces by using a clean sponge, keeping the protective cover on and applying non-sanded grout during installation. If necessary, cut this tile from the rear with a diamond-tipped wet saw to prevent uneven edges.  Cut edges can then be treated and smoothed with fine sandpaper or a metal file.

Our Meta Steel Hex tile, available on

Our Meta Hex stainless steel tile, available on

Grout Selection: Non-sanded grout is recommended for wall applications, products with glass or metal finishes, and installations with a grout joint less than 1/8”.  Sanded grout is recommended for most floor applications and most installations with a grout joint more than 1/8”.

Grout Cleanup: With a dry, lint-free cloth, remove excess grout from the surface of the tile.  Dampen a sponge with warm water and continue to clean grout off of the tile.  Once it appears to be clean, wipe it down again with a fresh damp sponge to remove any grout film. After about 15 minutes, buff the tile with a soft cloth.

Maintenance: The best way to keep your tile looking fresh and new is to engage in regular upkeep.  Keeping sandy dirt (especially from shoes) away from your tile is the best way to protect the surface.  We recommend sweeping daily and using warm soapy water for regular cleaning. Non-acidic and non-abrasive cleansers can also be used for spot cleaning.


Ally Tarbous, Mosaic Maven

We recently donated some of our mosaics to Ally Tarbous, an artist based out of Philadelphia.  We were fortunate enough to see some of the photos of the amazing work she did with our tile!

Some of our Penny Round tiles on a table. This is a very creative color scheme we hadn’t thought of before, but the tan offsets the blues beautifully!


PICTURED: Penny Round Blue Eye, Penny Round Caffe, Penny Round Light Blue.

Here are photos of an installation on 5th Street in Philadelphia:

Ally Tarbous_wall

Pictured: Penny Round Vermilio, Penny Round White, Mini Lantern Glossy White, Lantern White, Arabesque Glossy White, Moonbeam Diva Blue

Ally Tarbous_wall2

PICTURED: Modena Cobalt Blue, Penny Round Caffe, Penny Round Vermilio, Lantern Cotto, Lantern Black

More shots of the installation, along with a zoomed-out photo of this amazing mosaic, can be found in this album (this directs you to Facebook). Be sure to support a local artist and Like her on Facebook!

Photos courtesy of Ally Tarbous; used with permission.