Why does my ceramic tile floor feel tacky when it gets cold?


I have ceramic tile in my kitchen, dining room and living room area. It gets pretty humid where I live in the summer and the tile sweats and floors get really slippery. We are now having a cold snap and some nights a little below freezing. My tile now is so tacky that my shoes stick to it. I have a concrete slab underneath floors. Could the sudden change of temperature to the slab cause this problem?


ANSWER - When the interior atmosphere is humid and warm, and the outdoor temperature is very cold, then the tile surface is relatively cold, and in effect it becomes the warm side of a vapor barrier that develops condensation once it hits its dew-point.

Depending on the texture of the ceramic tile or the coefficient of friction of the tile, it can become more or less slippery when subjected to moisture.  The more texture the ceramic tile has the less slippery it will be, but the more maintenance it will require as it will tend to get dirty easier and take more effort to clean.

The only reason I can think of that could make a tile surface tacky when damp, is that the tile surface probably had a residual substance on it that was water soluble.  So when the tile surface is subjected to the moisture from the condensation it becomes tacky.

Often people clean their floors with mops and they don't change their mop water often enough and they don't properly rinse the floor afterwards.  So in effect they leave dirty water residuals on the tile surface.  The water evaporates eventually and then there is a residual contaminate on the tile surface.  When the tile is subjected to moisture after that, then it causes some residuals to feel tacky.

The proper way to clean a tile floor is to first sweep it or vacuum it to remove any loose material.  Then use a scrub brush on an extended handle with a tile cleaning detergent to scrub the floor.  Then use a wet/dry vacuum to pick up the dirty water.  Then get a clean bucket of water to rinse the floor, and then use the wet/dry vacuum to pick up the rinse water.   You can let it air dry or you use a lint free cloth to buff the floor dry.


3 thoughts on “Why does my ceramic tile floor feel tacky when it gets cold?

  1. John Cannon says:


    We live in Northern Vermont and in recent summers we have experienced hot humid weather. During these hot humid days, the porcelain tile in our bathroom sweats (has condensation collecting on top of it). The bathroom tiles are attached directly on top of the uninsulated concrete slab. I believe the only way to correct this issue is to rip up the tiles and install Schluter Ditra heat duo or an insulated backer board?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      For a porcelain tile to develop condensation on its surface the air must have high humidity and high temperature. The porcelain tile is impervious with less than 0.5% absorption so moisture cannot come up through the tile.

      By definition, the dew point of a given body of air is the temperature to which it must be cooled to become saturated with water vapor. This temperature depends on the pressure and water content of the air. When the air is cooled below the dew point, its moisture capacity is reduced and airborne water vapor will condense to form liquid water known as dew. When this occurs through the air’s contact with a colder surface, dew will form on that surface.

      So the tile floor has to be cold enough for the warm humid air to come into contact with it bring the air temperature down to the dew point that causes the condensation.

      In theory, you can replace the tile floor with another tile assembly over a radiant floor warming system so that you can bring the temperature of the floor up to prevent the dew point and condensation.

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