How do I Clean my outdoor Mexican Saltillo Paver Tiles?


I have an outdoor patio paved in Saltillo tiles. Through my neglect, deposits of grime and mold have accumulated at many spots. What is the best manner in which to clean the tiles, including your suggestion of cleaning agents to use?


ANSWER - You might have more than just a lack of maintenance problem.  If you have mold on the tiles, then the tiles are being subjected to excess moisture.  To be subjected to excessive moisture means that either you don't have a vapor retarder under the concrete slab or sand bed to prevent moisture from migrating up and/or you have improper slope and drainage because of the area not being properly designed and/or because of how the tile was installed.   So you may need to install french drains at the perimeters to help evacuate the moisture.

In terms of maintenance, for a severe condition you may need to power-wash the tiles to remove all of the grime, mold, and efflorescence.  In addition use a scrub brush on an extended handle and scrub it down using a neutral based detergent.  Be sure to rinse thoroughly with clean water and pick up dirty water with a wet/dry vacuum.

Beware, that depending on the quality of your Saltillo tiles they may not be able to withstand the power-washing.   Some Saltillo tiles are not fired in high temperature kilns and are softer less durable tiles, and some tiles are fired in high temperature kilns and should be able to withstand the power-washing.  Of course if the tile surface has already deteriorated from be neglected and because of the excessive moisture issue, then it could have a propensity to sustain further damage if your cleaning method is too aggressive.

After the tile is clean to your satisfaction let it thoroughly dry.   Then seal the tile with an appropriate sealer and follow their application instructions.

There are cleaning products and sealers available.  You can go to our Resource pages of our website to see a list of manufacturers who you can contact.  Click here:  Cleaners and Sealers


7 thoughts on “How do I Clean my outdoor Mexican Saltillo Paver Tiles?

  1. Peggy says:

    Thank you for your information. My husband installed the tiles around 18 years ago. They were power washed since then and in some areas it looks like the power washer took off the top lair in some spots. Can that be fixed or do they need to be replaced?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Mexican tiles can be produced in different ways that affect their quality. Diesel or Gas fired reaches higher temperatures that makes the clay tile harder. On the other hand wood fuel used produces tiles that are not as durable and sun baked tiles don’t perform well at all.

      Years ago you could buy the Saltillo clay or the Tecate red clay for patching holes or to repair surfaces of the tile, but it didn’t perform very well.

      So your best bet is to replace the tile. If you seal your tiles they will be more resistant to wear.

  2. Claire says:

    I had an outdoor fireplace installed recently and used Saltillo tiles on the bench. The fireplace is stucco and right after it was painted it rained heavily which splattered the paint onto the tile. The contractor used a power washer to remove the paint but now I see the tile is pitted. Seems we traded one problem for another. What can be done to restore the tile?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Saltillo Tile is made from a clay that is common in the Saltillo Mexico region. Depending on how it is produced the durability of it will vary. High fired Saltillo in gas or diesel kilns are the most durable. When wood is used to fire the Saltillo tiles the temperature isn’t as high and it isn’t as durable. Sunbaked Saltillo tiles don’t hold up well at all.

      Saltillo tiles normally have lime added to it as a binder. Sometimes the lime that is added clumps up. So after the tile is fired and installed and gets wet the lime expands and creates what we call “lime pop.”

      Some people will grind up an extra piece of uninstalled Saltillo tile and then mix it with a latex additive or an epoxy to fill the pits in the tile.

  3. Sal Dutton says:

    Our courtyard is Saltillo tiles, previous owners had applied a sealer that has blistered and pealed. What would be best way to
    remove the old sealer and what is best to restore after cleaning?

  4. Steve Heller says:

    I have new Saltillo tile. High quality and sealed. I since purchased a new sectional couch/sofa. 8 sections, 4 feet per section or 32 total feet. The feet, I have found out are rubber and have stuck to the tiles. Almost as if they were melted. I’ve taken the edge of a chisel to removed the rubber residue and have some areas in which the finish has also come off. Can I use something, anything to bring the to;es back to new without sanding the entire room? I can send photos if needed.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      There must have been a chemical reaction between the sealer on the Saltillo Tiles and the rubber pads of the sofa.

      Go to the supplier of the Saltillo Tile to find out what kind of sealer they used and if you can get some of it to touch up the floor. Depending on the type of sealer you might be able to just clean and apply or you might need to strip some of it.

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