Robert Lamoureux | A solution for the mystery film on new bathroom tile

Robert Lamoureux
Robert Lamoureux
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Question: Robert, we have a bathroom remodel that is less than a year old. All tile was purchased at (a big box store) and were some of the higher-end tiles. We chose black for the base of the shower, along with black grout. The tile installer is high-end, reputable, licensed, insured and came with wonderful references. His workmanship is stellar — we are thrilled with all of his work. We trust his judgment and followed his direction for cleaning the tiles – vinegar and water. 

We scrubbed the shower just with soap for the longest time, but then of course, saw buildup so went ahead and cleaned with vinegar, rinsing immediately and thoroughly, as he had warned. Instantly, the black tile looked as though it had a grey film on it.  

Couldn’t figure it out. We re-rinsed and scrubbed with soap, no change. We called him back out to look at it and see what could be done, and he said he’s never seen this before. He used a couple of grease-cutting products on it, hoping to strip whatever may have gotten to this tile and bring back its shine, and can only surmise that because these are generally made overseas, perhaps there was some sort of finish put onto it originally, and it was stripped with the vinegar solution.  

Now we have dull, grey film-like tiles and are wondering how to get it back to a nice-looking tile without ripping it all out and redoing it. Do you have any magic for this problem?  

— Thomas W. 

Answer: Thomas, this is unfortunate, and because I’ve seen it before and am privy to what the solution was, I do have some magic for you. Know that you are not going to get the exact same finished look as the tile had originally, but you will get a better look, much closer to the original. 

The solution that was found was to use a concrete sealer. Please know that the area will need to be ventilated extremely well, as this product has intense fumes and is normally used outside. The final look at texture was much more pleasing and at a quick glance, back to normal. Different light shows that there is some texture to the tile, almost a very slight sand-finish, and you do see some application marks at certain angles.  

A second coat helps with that, but at the end of it all, the shower looks new again and is, by far, better than how it looked prior to the new sealer. This is the only solution to such an issue that I have seen, but because it was successful I do recommend it in lieu of redoing all of the tile. Best of luck. 

Robert Lamoureux has more than 40 years of experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contracting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Email questions to Robert at [email protected].           

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