What’s Living Beneath Your Feet?POSTED 10.31.18
Who doesn’t love ceramic or stone tile? It’s a dramatic look that enhances the interior of a room, and your overall home value. Another thing we love about tile is that it’s relatively easy to keep clean. Relatively. And, maybe not as clean or as safe as you might think. Tile texture and design elements can make it porous. Grout certainly is.
Porous substances are the perfect hangout for bacteria, mold, and general dirt. It’s difficult to remove or control, and it certainly reduces attractiveness. Most of the time, what we see is mold or dirt – which isn’t very attractive. Whether you can see it or not, tile and especially grout can harbor harmful bacteria.
It’s not a reflection of your housekeeping ability
Bacteria is microscopic, and the majority of us do not have the ability to do battle with substances this small. They’re stubborn and resilient, and it can be more harmful than you might think. Here’s an example.
Light colored tiles with white grout is extremely popular right now – especially subway tile. People are installing it in kitchens and bathrooms, only to discover a frustrating mystery. The white grout and edges of the tiles are turning pink. The discoloration is difficult to remove.
This pink staining is caused by a type of bacteria known as Serratia marcescens. There are many more dangerous types of bacteria, but this particular one is a growing concern because it can cause respiratory and urinary tract infections. It’s also been known to cause gastrointestinal infections in children. Serratia marcescens prefers to feed off phosphorous-containing materials such as soap. So, you’re feeding Serratia marcescens its preferred food in your shower, and likely giving it a dose of what it enjoys eating when you mop the tile with a floor cleaner.
The problem with Serratia marcescens is that it’s extremely difficult to eradicate once the bacteria establishes itself in grout and works its way into the porous edges of the tiles. A bleach-based disinfectant is often effective – but you have to be careful because bleach is highly caustic.
Bacteria and mold can’t gain a foothold if they’re unable to hide out in tile and grout’s porous surfaces. A growing number of professionals who install tile in private residences and for commercial use are teaming up with companies that offer tile sealing services.
This isn’t the same as the tile sealing solutions found at your neighborhood big box home improvement store. The tile and grout are professionally prepared first – which means this can be done to both new and existing tiled surfaces.
Once the tile and grout have been deeply cleaned, these porous surfaces are sealed with a coating so effective at resisting mold and bacteria that it’s FDA approved for use in hospitals and restaurants. This coating helps to retain the tile’s luster, and you have far less worry about what might be living beneath your feet.