Tiles are generally very hard wearing, but as they are often used in damp and dirty areas, there are certain problems which might occasionally occur. Treating these problems quickly and correctly can stop more damage being done.
Grout in kitchens, especially around the cooker, can become dirty from grease and fat deposits. It is best to clean grout in these areas regularly to avoid the grease becoming ingrained. Use an old or cheaply bought toothbrush and a standard non-abrasive cream cleaner to easily remove the dirt and grease built up. If the dirt is more stubborn, you can buy special bleach pens fitted with a small brush for exactly this type of job. If all else fails, clean as much as you can, and then paint the grout with a good quality grout whitener.
Bathrooms and kitchens can both suffer from high amounts of moisture in the air, if not properly ventilated this can lead to mould forming on the grout of any tiled areas (particularly in showers and around wash basins). Cleaning with bleach may brighten up the grout but it will not kill the roots of the mould and it will quickly return. Instead clean as much of the mould as possible with an old toothbrush and cream cleaner and then spray the whole area with a fungicidal spray. Use grout whitener to cover any stubborn areas. Once the whitener is dry, a further spray with the fungicidal spray is a good idea.
Small areas of missing grout are a common problem in older tiled areas. If left unchecked, moisture can enter through the gap and cause one of more tiles to become loose, or even start to effect the wall behind. Buy a grout rake (cheaply bought from any diy store) and rake out the grout along the edge where the hole is to a depth of about 3mm. Use a stiff brush to remove all the grout dust from the area. Now you can re-grout the area, making sure you push extra grout into the hole. Tidy with a grout shaper or thin piece of dowel before it is fully dry.
Crazed or cracked Tiles
Crazing (a network of tiny cracks in the glaze of the tiles) occurs when moisture gets behind the glaze of a tile and, once it has occured, cannot be fixed. Your options are now to paint the tiles with tile paint, or remove and replace the crazed tiles.
Cracked tiles need to be removed and replaced, as moisture will soon find its way into the cracks and possibly loosen the surrounding tiles. We would always recommend keeping a few extra tiles from any tiling job you do, exactly for this sort of problem. Finding a tile which exactly matches old tiles may be tricky, especially if they are patterned or oddly shaped. If this is the case, you may have to replace the whole tiled area. You can read more about removing and replacing tiles in our Replacing Cracked Tiles guide.
If you are having to buy new tiles to replace a cracked or broken tile, remember to remove the tile before buying your new ones. By doing this, you can take a small piece of tile with you to match both the colour and the depth of the replacement tiles.