How to Strip a Terracotta Floor

a terracotta tile floor
What You'll Need
Broom and dustpan
Vacuum cleaner
Sealant and coating remover
2 fiber mops (cotton string or other fabric)
2 buckets
Tile and grout cleaner for clay tiles
Grout cleaning brush
Shop vacuum cleaner
Rubber gloves
Eye goggles
Knee pads
Power sander
Superfine grit sandpaper

If your terracotta floor is dull, with white patches of efflorescence, you must strip it before you can reseal it to bring back its warm beauty. Follow the tips and suggestions below to strip a terracotta floor.

Step 1 - When to Strip Your Terracotta Floor

Strip your terracotta floor when the room and outdoor temperatures are between 70 and 80 degrees F (21 to 28 degrees C). At that temperature, the terracotta will dry well and be protected from temperature extremes that may cause cracking.

Step 2 - Clean the Existing Surface

Clean the existing surface of the terracotta floor thoroughly before stripping off old finishes. Sweep the floor with a stiff bristled broom, getting into all corners, cracks and crevices between tiles and in the tiles themselves if there are any. Vacuum up any remaining bits of dust and flaky grout.

Step 3 - Apply the Sealant and Coating Remover

Following the maker's directions on the container, mix the sealant and coating remover to the correct concentration in one bucket. Fill the other bucket with clear cold water. Use a fiber mop to apply the sealant and coating remover all over the terracotta floor. Leave the remover solution on the floor for about 30 minutes. Rinse well with the cold water from the second bucket. Sweep away as much of the water as you can with a clean fiber mop, then use the shop vacuum cleaner to lift off the water. Go over the terracotta floor with the shop vacuum until it seems completely dry to your eyes and to the touch.

Step 4 - Clean the Grout and Tiles After Stripping

Wash out and rinse both your mops and buckets before beginning this step. Mix a solution of a grout and tile cleaner recommended for clay tile floors such as terracotta. The directions will indicate the percentage solution you should make, but be sure to use warm water to loosen ground-in dirt and any mold or mildew stains effectively. Use the fiber mop to splash the grout and tile cleaner on to the terracotta floor liberally.

These tiles are porous, so the wetter they get during this cleaning process the better. Allow the grout and tile cleaner to be absorbed by the terracotta tiles for about five minutes. With the grout cleaning brush, scrub vigorously over all the grout lines, until you remove all the dirt and stains you can get off. Rinse the grout and tile cleaner off with warm water, and then follow with a cold water rinse. Vacuum up as much of the water as possible, then allow the floor to dry.

Step 5 - Sand the Terracotta Floor Lightly

Using the power sander with a superfine grit sandpaper (1000 grit or higher), go over the whole floor to roughen it very slightly. Terracotta tile sealant will adhere better if the surface is moderately rough. Vacuum off dust and prepare to seal the terracotta floor surface.