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Cleaning a Quarry Tile Floor

Cleaning a Quarry Tile Floor

Cleaning a Quarry Tile Floor

We bought an old Scottish vernacular farmhouse a few years back and are in the process of renovating it. The house was built around 1860 and has been subjected to a number of 'improvements' over the years. These 'improvements' are in need to being removed.

The current project is the kitchen, which we have gutted. The kitchen was a 1980's MFI special. It was awful. Anyway, after we ripped it out we found that the original clay quarry tile floor was still insitu. They previous occupants have poured a cement screed over the quarry tiles and laid PVC floor tiles on that.

The screed is pretty thin, ranging from about 2mm to 10mm, so is coming away relatively easily.

Unfortunately, in places, it is leaving a cement residue on the tiles. Does anyone have a good idea how best to remove this residue without damaging the tile underneath?

I have attached a blurry picture which gives you an idea.

RE: Cleaning a Quarry Tile Floor

I think you'd be wanting a mild acid (stand by for confirmation from others, or test in a corner first). Acid (as opposed to base) should react with the concrete residue making it more soluble.

Here's an applicable link.

RE: Cleaning a Quarry Tile Floor

I have tried these but without much success. Possible something more heavy duty may do the trick. Next question would be whether these chemicals can be shipped to the UK?



I have also tried scrapers and a drill mounted wire brush. Neither of which was particularly successful.

Maybe a small hammer and chisel in conjunction with a chemical dissolver?

RE: Cleaning a Quarry Tile Floor

I've seen brick masons cleaning old brick with Muriatic (hydrochloric?) acid and a wire brush. Looks like a nasty job, but achievable. Definitely want good ventilation when your working with it, though. I couldn't really tell by the picture, is there any glaze at all on those tile, or are they natural finish vitrified?

Good luck!

It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.

RE: Cleaning a Quarry Tile Floor

Acid is what you want. Muriatic will be most economic. Lime removers will also work and will be more gentle.

RE: Cleaning a Quarry Tile Floor

Ornery, the tiles are unglazed vitrified I believe.

I had a quick look for hydrochloric acid and there seem to be a number of places I can get it, with concentrations ranging from 10% to 36%.


I would prefer to use the lowest concentration possible as our house is infested with dogs and cats. What do you think would be the minimum you could use and it still be effective?

RE: Cleaning a Quarry Tile Floor

I just took a look at the stuff I've got in my cabinet here at the shop, and it's 31% by weight. I picked it up at the local DIY, so it's what's commonly available in my locale. I use it for stripping zinc and rust off of parts, so I cannot comment directly on its use for cleaning tile, but I'm sure this is the same stuff I've seen used for brick cleaning.

My guess is that any of the concentrations are going to work in varying degrees. If it's not a big hassle to do so, you could experiment with several concentrations and see what does the job best in your particular application. You always stand a chance of deep etching the original finish with higher concentrations on unglazed tile.
Just my 2 cents.

It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.

RE: Cleaning a Quarry Tile Floor

Think you can forget power tools, you need to get into the little nooks, crannies, imperfections, porosity etc and even then you will probably see some residual screed in the tiles which will never be completely removed, why do I say this, because I have tried on a number of occasions to remove residual concrete from brick work and quarry tiles always only partly successful - as to the best material to remove the majority - I don't have an answer, but from memory the brick-layers usually use hydrochloric acid to help clean-up their work.

It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. (Sherlock Holmes - A Scandal in Bohemia.)

RE: Cleaning a Quarry Tile Floor

Muriatic acid and hydrochloric acid are the same compound (aqueous HCl) and are generally used for cleaning mortar and cement products off of brick or to prepare concrete (etch) for painting. If by tile floor you mean blocks interspersed with grout joints, the acid on a horizontal surface will probably take out a lot of the grout, but then you can pick a color for the replacement. A moderately powered power washer (~ 2000-3000 psi), NOT in conjunction with the acid, may also be good at nooks and crannies.

RE: Cleaning a Quarry Tile Floor

I think it will be a try it and see job.

Thanks for the suggestions.

I don't fancy power washing inside, although it could be fun.

RE: Cleaning a Quarry Tile Floor

Former chemist here. That 36% is as strong as aqueous hydrochloric gets - it's the limit of solubiility - and produces quite nasty (if not especially toxic) fumes. You won't be able to stand being around it. It's even bad at a 9% concentration. I'd say you shouldn't work with anything stronger than a 10% dilution of the 36% stuff - 3.6% actual, and work up to that if weaker doesn't do the trick. Wear gloves and use forced ventilation and lots of elbow grease. Unfortunately, I don't know of anything better for removing concrete film.

RE: Cleaning a Quarry Tile Floor

Vinegar will also work.

RE: Cleaning a Quarry Tile Floor

You can buy commercial grade acetic acid, (Vinegar concentrate). It is as strong as 18% However at that concentration it may run you out of the room.
Wear gloves, Acetic acid attacks skin and nerves.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

RE: Cleaning a Quarry Tile Floor

There's a commercial product called "CLR", meaning calcium / lime / rust; these being examples of what CLR will dissolve. I believe that it's basically phosphoric acid.

RE: Cleaning a Quarry Tile Floor


Sika's brick cleaner is reasonable. FEB's equivalent is similar. Both are HCl-based with some detergent (or perhaps detergent-based with some HCl, lol).


While looking for the Sika brick cleaner I also spotted their concrete remover just below it in the list, but I haven't used it so I won't comment. Their products are generally good, FWIW.

RE: Cleaning a Quarry Tile Floor

Thanks folks.

A few options there for me to try.

RE: Cleaning a Quarry Tile Floor

Just an update.

I managed to get hold of the Sika Concrete Remover (which is 15% HCl) and it has worked a treat. Not very easy to get hold of through the internet as most people wont carry it due to the hazardous material labelling.

Thanks again for the assistance.

RE: Cleaning a Quarry Tile Floor

Excellent news, thanks for the feedback. I'll bear that stuff in mind for the future.

RE: Cleaning a Quarry Tile Floor

I love a happy ending.

Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Cleaning a Quarry Tile Floor

Depending on local regulations, dairy industry suppliers offer no name bulk chemicals such as Phosphoric acid H3PO4 @ 50%, Hydrochloric acid HCl @ 32%, and Caustic Soda NaOH @ 50% at highly competitive prices

Be sure you understand and follow correct storage, handling and application procedures - - the Laws of Natural Selection are cruel indeed


RE: Cleaning a Quarry Tile Floor

The brick cleaner is excellent for removing stubborn brake dust from alloy wheels too, and at a fraction of the cost of the products sold by car accessory shops. Just remember to rinse it all off properly. smile

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