Old ceramic bathroom tiles may be scratched, out of fashion, or has simply lost its luster. It may also have become boring to the eye after years of seeing the same old thing. There are some things you can do to improve this position. The first is just giving it a good cleaning. The second is refinishing it if your budget doesn’t permit replacement, and third is replacement.
Bathroom tiles can simply become dull through build-ups of environmental debris, smoke, or even mold. The simple wall cleaning you do occasionally might remove water spots or obvious dirt, but is not sufficient to remove from ceramic bathroom tiles the oils that smoke resolves into. The tiles may be clean, but the grout gets discolored easily. By giving your bathroom walls a spring cleaning, you can restore it to the brilliance it once had.
If you’ve been using household cleaners, that may be the reason your ceramic bathroom tiles are dull. Ceramic tile cleaners are available on the market and have been specifically formulated to clean tile. Some are formulated to also remove grout that has become embedded in the tile. You can also concoct your own tile cleaner, using one part water, one half part vinegar and one half part baking soda. Use either a pail or a spray bottle. A sponge is all you need. Wash thoroughly, rinse, and polish dry. If the grout is still dark in spots, scrub with a brush, rinse and then dry. If the discoloration still remains, dab with bleach and clean. Don’t expose yourself to bleach fumes.
If the cleaning hasn’t brought your ceramic bathroom tiles back to life, and money is tight, you might consider refinishing the bathroom, painting over the tiles. Tiles do not bond well with paint. You have to prepare the tile surface first. This means turning the smooth surface into a rough one. You can do it with sandpaper, but once you start, there’s no turning back. You’ll need to clean the tile with a cleaner that doesn’t leave chemicals on the tile, such as one with trisodium phosphate. Use a large-pored sponge for better scrubbing. Then, with 180 grit sandpaper, abrade the ceramic thoroughly. It will feel sandy to the touch when you’re done. Then paint on an acrylic latex primer, preferably with a roller. Smooth with a latex brush, then allow the primer time to dry. Once dry, apply the paint. A semi-gloss latex paint is probably best. After a couple of hours, add a second coat if it looks as though it requires it.
Your third option for correcting old or unattractive ceramic bathroom tiles is to remove the tiles and replace with new ones. The big job is getting the ceramic off the wall. You use a grout saw, with a handled, thick blade, to cut out the grout. Then, with a hammer and a chisel, you softly separate the tiles from the wall. Be sure to wear protection for your eyes. You can remove old mortar with the chisel and hammer method also. If the old adhesive was chemical you’ll have to use an adhesive remover, which you can purchase at any hardware store. Once that’s done, sand the wall until smooth.
Setting ceramic bathroom walls requires wiping mortar or chemical adhesive on the wall and setting the tiles. You finish up by grouting. You can find more detailed instructions on the internet.
When you’re tired of those same old bathroom walls, try a good cleaning and if that’s not satisfactory, refinish or replace. You’re not stuck with those walls. With a little work and a little cash, your ceramic bathroom walls can be, once again, a pleasure to behold.