Proper care and maintenance is crucial to the long-term appearance and performance of any tile installation. The following information outlines recommended products and techniques for the cleaning and sealing of most pool and exterior tile and is general in nature. Some projects may require the services of a maintenance professional.
Maintaining proper water balance and chemistry is critical for the prevention of mineral scale build-up in pools and water features. Water balance is calculated via the Langelier Saturation Index (LSI). The water’s LSI is a numeric expression of the water’s balance and takes into consideration multiple factors. When water is balanced the LSI equals zero and variation between 0.0 and 0.5 is considered acceptable. LSI levels greater than 0.5 may lead to water cloudiness and accelerated scaling (mineral deposits). Negative LSI levels may lead to corrosion of cement-based materials (e.g. plaster & grout) and metal surfaces. Pool water chemistry should be measured and maintained by a pool-maintenance professional.
Sealers are beneficial for natural stone, masonry (i.e. coping) and cementbased grouts. To protect porous materials and ease maintenance, seal installations with a high quality sealer. When sealing grout with impervious tile (porcelain or glass tile) use a low-residue sealer, which will ease application and not leave a sealer haze on the tile.
In general, there are two types of sealer: penetrating or enhancing. Penetrating sealers are designed to penetrate and protect porous materials without altering their appearance. Enhancing sealers are also designed to protect but will darken and enrich the color of the sealed material as well.
To help prevent calcium build-up and reduce maintenance on pool tile, apply a surface protectant, which can inhibit the bond of mineral deposits. Application of a surface protectant combined with regular brushing can dramatically reduce or even eliminate the need for chemical calcium cleaners and aggressive cleaning methods.
Pool tile should be brushed or scrubbed as part of a regular, weekly, pool maintenance program. Avoid the use of pumice stones or 50/50 brushes, which can damage tile surfaces.
To remove waterline scum and grime, scrub the installation with a nylon bristle scrub brush or a 3M White or Blue nylon scrub pad combined with a pool-safe degreaser, which will not promote algae growth.
To remove mineral scale, use a non-acidic calcium cleaner, which will not affect the pool pH. Do not use abrasive or acidic cleaners.
In cases of heavy mineral scale or neglected tile, media-blasting may be necessary. Media-blasting is a process in which an abrasive material is pressurized and shot at a surface to remove heavy deposits. This is generally performed by pool tile cleaning specialists through the use of portable mediablasting equipment. An array of blasting media is available, ranging from glass bead (aggressive) to baking soda (mild). Generally, baking soda or similar hardness blasting media (i.e. kieserite) is aggressive enough to remove scale but is safe for tile (including glass tile). As with all cleaning procedures, this process should be tested in an inconspicuous area to ensure the results will meet your expectations and not damage the tile surface.
Once media-blasting is complete, pool tile installations should be sealed, protected and regularly maintained per the other sections of this guide. NOTE: Always wear personal protection equipment, follow instructions for product use and protect surrounding surfaces when using cleaning or sealing products. Test all products in an inconspicuous area for desired effect.
WARNING Certain acids will damage tile glaze and iridescent glass tile. Consult the tile manufacturer for specific recommendations and warnings. Care should be taken to protect tile surfaces when using acids in the pool finishing process and when adding acid to the pool water. DO NOT allow products that contain hydrofluoric acid to come in direct contact with tile. In the case of accidental contact, neutralize immediately with baking soda and water (1lb: 3 gallons).