Why is my Porcelain Tile turning dull when cleaned?


Porcelain Tile becoming Dull when Cleaned - I have a porcelain tile floor that suddenly is turning dull. Since the last time I washed it, now when I spot clean it the areas I wipe (with just plain water on a towel) are turning very dull. I don't know what happened but now I have a lot of dull patches all over my floor and I am afraid to wipe any more areas. Please help!! any suggestions what happened or how to restore the finish?


ANSWER - There are a lot of questions you need to answer to determine what is causing your tile to turn dull.  Is it an unglazed, polished or glazed porcelain tile? Was there any type of sealer or coating applied to the tile after it was installed?  What type of products is the surface of the tile being subjected to during its use?  What type of cleaner are you using on the tile?

Generally speaking some polished and glazed tiles are sensitive to acidic material that can cause etching that will result in a dull finish.  Some sealers will give tile a polished look and when subjected to some types of solvents will tend to cause them to become dull in those spots.

Best bet is to call a tile restoration company who specializes in cleaning, polishing, and sealing and with their experience determine what you have to do to correct the problems.  Otherwise you need to experiment.  You can contact some of the cleaner and sealer companies listed on our website www.CTaSC.com to see if they can assist you.

46 thoughts on “Why is my Porcelain Tile turning dull when cleaned?

  1. Brian Willoughby says:

    My porcelain tile are not glazed but dull. I use a damp mop with water. But the area is being walked across quite a bit. Iv tried the ceramic restore products but to no avail.
    Could you please advise.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Glazed tile is a glass-like substance that is applied to the surface of the porcelain clay tile body and fired in a kiln. Unglazed porcelain tile doesn’t have a glaze and is clay throughout. If you go to our website to the Resource section there is a section listing some manufacturers of sealers for tile that you can click on to go to their website to review their product selection.

      I think when you say glaze you mean it does not have a sheen. When you say dull finish I am assuming you have an unglazed porcelain tile, which is meant to look that way. If it is an unglazed tile it can be polished but that would be expensive to do to a tile that is already installed. There are enhancer sealers that tend to give a tile a wet look, but porcelain tiles have very little absorption so the enhancer might not work well. You can wax a tile, but that requires a lot of maintenance to maintain the appearance.

      • Rob says:

        Sir, you seem to be a expert on the subject of tile. We installed Tribeca Italian porcelain throughout our home which has a slight sheen. Recently, we a guest spilled a dark cola on the floor and although we removed it quickly, it has stripped off the finish and now appears noticeably “duller”. Is there a way to restore the finish. This has occurred in other locations throughout the house as well leaving noticeable irregularities.

        • Donato Pompo says:

          Porcelain tile comes either polished, glazed or unglazed. The porcelain body is technically impervious as it can’t have more than 0.5% absorption. If a glass-like glaze is applied to the surface it is even more impervious. If the unglazed porcelain tile is polished then it might be more susceptible to staining as the polishing process can open up pores from the tile out-gassing during the firing in a kiln.

          Coke a cola is acidic. In theory it can etch the surface of the tile, but I think that is unlikely as it isn’t that acidic. More likely there was some sealer or other coating on the tile surface that got affected by the cola. If you know what sealer was originally applied then reapply it as most sealers will allow that. You may need to get a sealer stripper to test a tile and see if it also removes the sealer. Then if it works and you are satisfied with the results you would have to strip the entire floor. Then you can reapply a sealer that won’t dull when things are spilled. This is a trial and error process to determine what will work for your situation. You can also hire a professional stone restoration company who specializes in refinishing stone and tile floors.

  2. Carol Nunez says:

    My recently installed matte porcelain tile had a metallic stain which I removed with a ceramic glass cleaner. The spot is now shiny. How can I make it look matte again?
    Thank you.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      The matte porcelain tile might be an unglazed (through body) tile or a glazed tile. What you might have done if it is a unglazed tile is polish the surface because you used too abrasive of a cleaning pad or you scrubbed too hard. In theory you could hone the surface of the unglazed tile to bring back the matte surface but it might be hard to match the other tiles.

      If it is a matte glazed porcelain tile you may have used too abrasive of a cleaning pad or you scrubbed too hard and wore away part of the glaze. That isn’t something that can be fixed other than remove the tile with a matching replacement tile.

      If you used glass cleaner then it should not have left a residue causing the shinny spot and it should not have been to acidic or too alkaline to have etched the tile surface, but if you did etch the tile surface the repairs would be the same as the above two respective types of tile.

  3. Shawn says:

    I recently had a polished tile installed in my bathroom. It was beautiful. I washed it with plain water after installation and it became darker in some spots but thought that it’s just what happens when wet but now it’s looks stain with those spots the spots feel a bit ruff on those tiles but not the floor. Is my tile defective? No dealers or chemicals have been used and it has had little to no foot traffic.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Porcelain tile by USA standards is impervious not to have more than 0.5% absorption, so I would not expect that it would turn dark when wet. Although polished porcelain tiles can develop microscopic pores in its surface when it is polished which are the results of off-gassing during the firing in the kiln. It has been known that liquids could collect in the pores to create a stain. Maybe the dirty residual water collected in the pores and when the water evaporated it left residual dirt?

      That is my best guess? If this was a cheap import porcelain tile the quality of the tile might be suspect even if it does meet the standards.

      It can be difficult to remove the residuals in the microscopic pores so you could try using a poultice to try to pull them out. Once the floor is acceptably clean it would be recommended to use a penetrating sealer to seal the floor. Because the surface is polished there will be very little absorption of the sealer so you have to immediately buff dry the surface after applying the sealer with a lint free cloth.

        • Donato Pompo says:

          it depends on what kind of glue it is and what type of porcelain tile you have in terms of glazed versus unglazed porcelain tile.

          Generally speaking the products of Goof-Off and Goo-Gone remove most glues. You have to test a small spot to make sure it doesn’t damage the tile surface.

  4. Korin M Giles says:

    I recently put new metallic and glass tile around my refrigerator and it is way to shiny/glitzy. I don’t want to have to remove it – is there any product I can apply that might dull the sheen a bit?

  5. Sharon Quackenbush says:

    We recently installed new ceramic tiles in our home. Upon installation, we wiped them down several times with clean water to remove the grouting haze. After several weeks, the haze is still there and the tiles look really dull with blotchy shine spots.
    I keep reading that we may have uses too much water when grouting. Based on your experience, do we need to keep cleaning and will the haze/dullness eventually go away or is it possible we somehow removed the manufactored glaze?
    We are a bit worried we may have somehow ruined them in the grouting and washing. Do you have recommendations?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Depends on what kind of tile you installed. A glazed floor tile or an through body porcelain floor tile should be fair resistant to acidic etching that is caused by trying to clean the tile with a too corrosive acid. Some tiles are coated with a was type coating at the factory to help prevent the tile surface from being abraded during the transportation overseas. These coatings normally will come off during regular cleaning.

      Sometimes the latex or polymers in the thin-set or grout can leave a haze. They don’t come off with acidic cleaners. There are special cleaners for cleaning off latex haze like Aqua Mix Grout Haze Clean-Up. Try that. If you did abrade the glazed tile surface too aggressively or use to corrosive of an acid cleaner it might not be repairable. If it is a throughbody porcelain tile you might be able to hone the surface to remove the shiny spots.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Depends on what kind of tile you have. A glazed floor tile or an through body porcelain floor tile.

      Glazed tile is a glass-like substance that is applied to the surface of the porcelain clay tile body and fired in a kiln. So it should not become dull.
      Unglazed porcelain tile doesn’t have a glaze and is clay throughout. It comes as unpolished in a matt finish or in a polish finish. If you have a polished porcelain tile it has become dull it could be from wear, but I would not expect it to wear easily. Or perhaps the unglazed tile has a sealer on it that gave it a sheen.

      There are enhancer sealers that tend to give a tile a wet look, but porcelain tiles have very little absorption so the enhancer might not work well. You can wax a tile, but that requires a lot of maintenance to maintain the appearance.

  6. Derrick Schiffner says:

    I cleaned a tile that was unglazed and clay through out. It’s the wood looking matte finish type. The floor was newly installed and the contractors applied a wax type sealer over like rejuvenate. Which left the tiles milky and absolutely unacceptable. After using a wax stripper to strip the wax from my tiles They were severely discolored and faded. What can be done to darken or Fix this new floor?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Normally you don’t want to apply a wax over a tile as it is more maintenance to maintain it. When the coating turns milky it is normally due to moisture being trapped under the wax. Removing the wax normally fixes it.

      If after stripping the wax off it discolored the tile that doesn’t happen with a throughbody porcelain tile. If it is true through body tile then the wood grain affect would be seen on the bottom of the tiles. Many of the wood grained porcelain tiles have a a coating applied to it using the ink jet technology to make it look just like wood. I have seen a couple of cases where this coating can scrape off, which it should not do. If the coating comes off then that could be a manufacturing deficiency, but you would have to test it to be sure. If that is the case there is no way to repair that condition. Or if that isn’t the case perhaps you left on some of the stripper or the stripper maybe etched the surface of the tile? It needs to be investigated by a professional expert to determine what caused the problem and how best to remediate it, which cost wise may or may not be practical.

  7. Andrew says:

    We have a wood like porcelain tile that after a few years of weekly cleaning has become blotchy with dull spots…not sure if previous owner put a sealer down…please help !!

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Hard to say if the blotchy dull spots are from etching where it was chemically altered or if there is some sort of sealer coating on the tile. Porcelain tile is technically impervious so it isn’t required to put a sealer on it, but some do to make it easier to clean. Some might try to use an enhancer sealer to give it more of a wet look or maybe put a wax on it to try to give it a sheen.

      The only thing you can do is experiment with strippers to see if there is something on the surface. Probably try a wax stripper first since it is less likely to be corrosive. Whatever you do test it out first in an inconspicuous spot to make sure it doesn’t do any damage and will work to your satisfaction.

  8. Ali Jarvis says:

    Good afternoon!
    My parents used barkeepers friend and an old toothbrush to clean our grout. It is now very full and has spots that are streaking. It is about 6 year old tile. Does anyone know of any product ya we can use to help get a little bit of shine back? We are afraid we have already done too much damage and don’t want to do anymore. Any advise would be appreciated! Thanks in advance!

    • Donato Pompo says:

      I am assuming it is the tile that now has spots and streaking that you want to add a shine to, as the grout shouldn’t be shinny as it is normally a cementitious material with no shine. Unless it is epoxy or a sealant caulking that can have a slight sheen.

      Barkeepers Friend is acidic and it isn’t recommended on natural stone or other chemical sensitive products as it contains Oxalic acid that can etch some tile surfaces. Natural stone can be refinished to bring back the shine, but acid sensitive tiles can’t be repaired if they are etched.

  9. Julie says:

    My shower tiles were shiny. I tried to remove water stains (i think that’s what those stains were) with bleach, didnt work. I recently used limescale remover and left it on for 40 minutes before using a sponge to wipe off and then wash away . Now the entire shower floor is dull with some spots that look like the cleaning agent stains. Please help!

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Chances are you might have etched the surface of the tile which if it is a glazed tile it isn’t repairable. Whenever you use a strong acid that isn’t properly diluted or use a highly alkaline cleaner you can damage the tile surface as it chemically alters the material.

      Normally when you etch the surface it will feel rough compared to the origin surface. All you can do is through trial and error experiment to verify whether it is cleanable or if you etched it.

  10. Sandra Mallozzi says:

    My unglazed kitchen tile looks like its dirty all the time i wash it and when we walk it leaves marks it is a black unglazed tile

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Black is always a hard color to keep clean as it tends to show lighter color dirt or stains. I will assume the tile is unglazed and not polished as polished tiles can develop a haze that is hard to remove.

      I would clean the tile to a satisfactory condition and then seal it. Sealers can act as a bond breaker so it isn’t likely to pick up foot prints and etc.

      When you clean the tile use a scrub brush on an extended handle and clean with floor detergent or tile cleaning product. Use a wet vacuum to pick up the dirty water. Then rinse the the floor with clean water and pick it up with a wet vacuum. Then buff dry the tile with a lint free cloth.

      After the tile is clean and dry apply a penetrating sealer. It can be an enhancer sealer that will tend to darken the tile if it is porous. Be sure to apply the sealer with a lint free cloth and immediately after applying the sealer, buff it dry with a lint free cloth not leaving any damp sealer on the surface of the tile.

      Dry this out first in an out of the way spot to make sure you are satisfied with the results.

  11. G. Hayes says:

    Thank you for the wonderful advice on porcelain tile you’ve been giving everyone. I will be installing unglazed (color through out) 1″ x 1″ white (and some black) porcelain tiles on a bathroom and shower floor. Any advice on how to keep this newly installed tile in tip-top shape? I want to start off taking care of it the right way and you’re the man with the knowledge. Thank you!

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Generally speaking if you take a detergent like simple green and add it to warm water and the apply it generously to the floor and scrub it in with a scrub brush on an extended handle. Then leave it for ten minutes or so, and scrub again. Then pick up dirty water with a wet vacuum and then rinse with clean water and then pick it up with a wet vacuum. Then take a lint free cloth and buff it dry.

      You can seal the tile with a penetrating sealer such as Miracle 511 Impregnator. It should change the appearance of the tile. You have to apply it to a clean and dry floor with a lint free cloth and immediately buff it dry with a lint free cloth so the floor doesn’t get tacky.

  12. Carol Stanford says:

    Hello, I find that after washing my glazed porcelain main floor tiles with water (as I was instructed to do so), there is a slight film remaining after the floor dries. I buff it with a soft cloth and looks great – but that is a lot of work. Do you have a suggestion on the best way to buff the floors. I was actually told there wouldn’t be any buffing required for my new floors – not the case. Thanks in
    advance for any suggestions you may have!

    • Donato Pompo says:

      First of all you should be using a floor cleaning detergent in your water to breakdown any petroleum based residuals. Water is not a solvent for some of the residuals that are likely on the tile floor. Just like at a carwash there are cleaners added to prevent streaking.

      You should not use a mop as mops tend to move dirt around and not pick it up. You should use a soft bristle brush on an extended handle to scrub the floor. Then you should use a we vacuum to pick up the dirty water. Then you need to rinse the floor with clean water and pick that up with a wet vacuum.

      Depending on the type glazed tile finish you might still get streaks to some degree. Buffing it dry with a lint free cloth can help.

      Tile floors have a lot of advantages, but they aren’t self cleaning.

  13. Zach russell says:

    Hi there,

    I have had issues with excess grout curing on matt porcelain beige tiles that I have installed.

    After trying to remove the grout with a course pad I found I was not getting very far and found a video on YouTube of a guy recommending a nylon brush connected to a drill to remove excess grout. I have now found that anywhere I have used the nylon brush the tile has gone from beige to white and almost looks/feels polished. It’s incredibly obvious and I’m now considering what my options are.

    I feel as though the nylon brush has damages the surface. Any advise would be appreciated

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Applying and cleaning grout during an installation is all about timing. You can’t clean it too soon or too late.

      We say the grout should be finger print stiff. So if you touch it the grout should not transfer to your finger. On more durable tile surfaces we will use a stiff brush after bagging the grout in. It cleans up very nicely and isn’t messy. If you use a sponge it can get very messy.

      On applications where you have to use a rubber float to apply the grout you need to first use the edge of the float to take off all excess grout. Then you need to let the grout set up for at least 10 minutes or more before you use a sponge to finish it off. Waiting too long can make it difficult to clean up and get a good finish on the joint. Cleaning too soon can drag the grout out of the joint and can cause discoloration (shading) of the grout.

      After you have cleaned and finished the grout then you can use cheese cloth to buff off any haze, but again you can’t wait too long and start too soon.

      Most porcelain tile surfaces are very durable, but some tiles can have softer glazes, so if you have waited too long to clean off the grout haze and you are too aggressive with a brush you can damage the glazed tile surface.

  14. Tam says:


    We are installing new tiles 32×64 and I am having a hard time deciding on polished porcelain or satin. This will be a large area of the house including the walkway, hallway, breakfasts area and kitchen. We have three young kids and my concern is if the polished will be slippery. As well as which one is easier to keep clean? I do want a nice look as well (I know polished looks nice). But also need it to be functional with young kids and a dog. Does polished stay polished or does it go full. Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Polished porcelain tiles are more scratch resistant than a polished marble, but you can still scratch it. It is possible to repolish the floor if you got scratches. The polish tiles will be more slippery under wet conditions; particularly if there are food residuals on the floor. A polish tile will be easier to clean and shouldn’t pick up dirt, but you might get foot prints under various conditions. Some polished porcelain tiles can come from the factor with a polishing haze due to how it was not polished properly that will stand out under certain lighting conditions.

      A hone finished porcelain tile will be more slip resistant (nothing is slip proof). Depending on the texture of the tile it may tend to collect dirt requiring more frequent cleaning. Depending on the color and texture it will tend not to show dirt as much and is not as likely to scratch.

      Bottom line it generally has more to do with personal preference. A quality polished or hone porcelain tile normally performs well.

  15. Aaron Abrams says:

    Hello Donato! First, thank you for your answers on this thread. They are incredibly helpful, I have found myself on the expert answers through the years and have been very appreciative of the knowledge provided.

    My question: We have matte white porcelain tile throughout our newly renovated home, and have found that it is VERY easy to mark the service with very little effort (moving furniture, shoes, dirt…you name it). Usually the marks come out with some elbow grease, but occasionally they don’t. We selected porcelain due to the durability (with young children especially) but now are finding it difficult to live with. Is there anything that can be applied to the surface that can limit this? Will a sealer help? Thank you in advance!

    • Donato Pompo says:

      There are sealers that can be applied to the tile surface that will help keep the tiles from picking up dirt and foot prints. The porcelain tile is very dense, so when you apply an impregnating sealer it won’t absorb much so you have to buff it dry right away with a dry lint free cloth or the surface will become sticky.

      Before you seal the tile you have to make sure it is clean to your satisfaction or you will trap the dirt or stains on the tile. I have heard some say that Miracle 511 impregnator sealer worked well for them. Their contact info and others is listed on our site at https://ctasc.com/category/resources/cleaners-sealers/.

      To properly clean the tile floor, you should use a neutral based detergent in water. Get a scrub brush on an extended handle. Wet and soak the floor for about 10 minutes and then scrub. Use a wet vacuum to pick up the dirty water. Rinse the floor with clean water and pick it up with the wet vacuum. Let the floor dry over night and seal with an appropriate sealer to act as a bond breaker so things won’t tend to stick to it.

      You could also wax your floor. The problem with that is occasionally you have to strip the wax off and redo it.

  16. Maria says:

    Hi!! We just installed a polished porcelain tile. During construction we covered it with a glued paper, and we took it out now the tile have some dull spots. How can we remove those spots?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      If the dull spots are caused by the glue then it should be easy to remove the glue with water and a scouring pad.

      Some polished porcelain tiles can have a condition called optical hazing. This is where in certain lighting you see cloudy condition spots. It isn’t noticeable when there isn’t direct lighting. It is a condition that can be caused by type material used and how it was polished at the factory. There is currently no standard for polishing. In theory, if this is in fact optical haze it can be polished in place, but that can be difficult and expensive.

      Before you resort to those steps, make sure you that the spots are not glue or something else that can be cleaned.

  17. Mike R. says:

    I recently installed Satori matte finish black tiles on a bathroom floor. After cleaning the initial grout haze (Tec accucolor charcoal black) with clean water and sponge, I waited 3-4 days then used Custom grout haze remover per directions. Now I have a blotchy appearance where there are lighter areas that look like wipe marks and drops. An additional, lighter application of the haze remover, and multiple rinsings with clean water and immediate dry up have not remedied this. Appreciate any ideas.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      If this is the tile sold at Lowes, it says it is an unglazed porcelain tile. If in fact that is what you have the haze should be cleanable, unless you used something abrasive to clean it that scratched the surface. Even then porcelain tiles are very dense and resistant to scratching.

      An unglazed tile means the clay porcelain material is the same material from top to bottom.

      The haze is either a cementitious haze that can normally be easily removed with a diluted solution of vinegar. Or it is a latex/polymer has that the grout haze remover should be able to remove. Use a a bristle brush when you clean the surface with the cleaner and use a wet vacuum to pick up the dirt water. Follow up with clean water to rinse and pick that up with the we vacuum. Use a dry lint free cloth after you have vacuumed the rinse water off to buff it dry.

      If there is still a haze afterwards, then use dry cheese cloth to buff the haze off the surface.

      Regardless of which method or products that you use to clean the floor, first test a tile out of the way before you apply to the entire floor to make sure you will be satisfied with the results.

  18. Mike R says:

    Wow, thanks so much for the quick reply! This afternoon, I used Custom brand NanoScrub per label directions, wet vacuuming the residue, and rinsing multiple times. It fortunately got rid of the blotchy appearance on the tile surface. The only thing I am struggling with now is the inconsistent grout line color, which should be essentially black, but varies from very light gray to near black. I am hoping it will even out when I put the penetrating sealer on, but definitely doesn’t look as I expected at this point.
    Thanks again!

    • Donato Pompo says:

      If the blotchy color black grout was that way before you started cleaning then it was likely due to using too much water in mixing and/or cleaning it during the installation process. If the blotchiness occurred after the various cleaning processes, then you might have bleached the grout. If you use an enhancing penetrating sealer over the grout that might give it more of a wet look that will even it out. Test it first to make sure you are satisfied with the results before applying it to the entire installation.

  19. Ava says:

    Hi there. We installed Italian matt grey porcelain tiles throughout our kitchen and family room a couple of months ago.

    I walk around in bare feet most of the time and find my feet are getting black (really black), on the soles. The floor has been washed many times since installation, so I doubt it’s grout glaze. The retailer contacted the manufacturer to see if oxide could be “bleeding” from the matt surface. The answer was an emphatic NO!

    I’m wondering if we could seal the tiles? They also appear “damp” on humid days.

    Any help gratefully received. Cheers

    • Donato Pompo says:

      If you have glazed ceramic porcelain tile or even an unglazed ceramic porcelain tile they do not shed any type of residue.

      Changes are it is due to how you clean the floor. Often people use mops to clean floors and the somewhat dirty water residuals are left on the floor. So when the water evaporates the dirt residuals stay on the floor even though they may not be visibly noticeable.

      The proper way to clean a tile floor is to use a neutral detergent in your water. Use a medium duty scrub brush on an extended handle and apply the solution with a brief scrub. Make sure the brush doesn’t scratch the tile, which is unlikely. Let the solution sit for about 5 to 10 minutes and scrub thoroughly.

      Now get a wet vacuum to pick up the dirty water. Now use clean water to rinse the floor. Use the wet vacuum to pick up the water. If necessary, now use a lint-free towel to wipe the floor dry. There should be no dirt on the towel after wiping the floor if you have thoroughly cleaned the floor.

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