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Other Materials Cure / Clean 

Materials:  flagstone, creamic tile, cultured marble, onyx, basalt, alabaster stone, terrazzo, mexican tile

Q 2254: I would like to know what should be used to seal flagstone. We had used a product It looked great but yellowed over the years and we just spent many hours trying to remove it with a citrus stripper. What could we use on the floor to make it look nice again? It is so dull without anything on it. It is in a spa room and needs to be water repellent. Thank you. Larry, July 18, Contact
R1: Dear Larry: Use a paint stripper based on Methylene Chloride. Anything else won't cut it. About what to use afterwards, sorry, I'm not into that. , Maurizio, USA
Q 2209: I have 3 problems. The 1st one is I have a ceramic tile bathroom floor, the tiles are 1" sq. I cleaned the grout with bleach, it cleaned the grout well, but it seems to have lightened the color of the tiles. The tile colors are: dark yellow, light yellow, & white with dark gray flecks. How can I clean the grout without discoloring the tiles? When I do clean the tiles, how can I seal the grout to prevent future build-up of dirt? 
The 2nd: I have a cut stone (non-functioning) fireplace. I don't know what type of stone it is, I think it may be sandstone, the color is gray and a few of the stones are a brown color, if this helps "I.D." the stone. There are black marks on some of the stones; my guess is it is dirt. What can I do to clean the black marks. both the tile floor & the fireplace were done in 1966.
The 3rd and most serious: There is something forming on my basement walls, I don't know how to describe it, but it looks like a "bubbly" substance. It is dry to the touch. I think it may have to do with rainwater seeping into the walls. Perhaps it is some kind of chemical reaction between the rainwater and materials that the walls are composed of. (They are cement with a coat of latex paint on them.) 
In another section of the basement there's old sandstone walls (from 1927) with whitewash on them, Sometimes when it rains, water seeps into the walls & I've noticed there's a deterioration of these walls. What can I do to remedy the aforementioned problems? Thanks, Vincolo, July 12, Reply
R1: Dear Vincolo: 1. There's no way that bleach can discolor ceramic tiles, NO WAY! Period, no debate, end of story! 
What most likely happened is that the bleach cleaned the tile surface (installed since 1966 ... it makes sense, all right!) along with the grout. It's not a problem, you should be actually happy about it!
2. Try to poultice the stains with bleach (it will make the whole stone become of a lighter color again! After so many years!!) 
3. I'm no engineer, sorry. , Maurizio, USA
A 1965: We have an black onyx ashtray, about l0 years, that seems to have accumulated stains, glass bottom circle, etc and are trying to get it back to its original condition; i.e, without all of the ugly stains. I have tried lacquer thinner, acetone, toulol, soft-scrub and nothing seems to phase it. Irvine, May 26. Reply 
R1: Dear Irvine: Those ugly "stains" ain't no stains! They are chemical etches, which are surface damages. Only a professional stone refinisher can restore your piece of stone to its original condition. , Maurizio, USA
A 1664: My wife used Lime Away on our cultured marble vanity and it stained it yellow. Can this be cleaned? Thanks, Jim. April 7. Reply
R1: Dear Jim: Cultured marble is nothing but plastic, so I'm no expert on that. I believe, however, that it can't be repaired. The best thing you could do is to get hold of some dealer in your area (Yellow Pages: Cultured Marble). , Maurizio, USA
A 1592: What is the easiest way to remove the patina on a basalt column? Grinding?  Sandblasting? Or something else? Does anyone have experience with this? Thanks, Calvin. March 26 Reply
R1: Dear Calvin: No, I don't have any experience at removing a natural patina from a stone surface, nor do I care to achieve it. Actually I am very proud not to have it!! , Maurizio, USA
A 1512: Help! I live in South Florida and have beautiful 65 yr old Cuban quarry tile thru house and outside patio. After using an outdoor fryer, we have oil spots on the tile. I have not been able to remove it. I have used clorox & detergent, 409, Cinch, Krud Cutter, Oops, De-Solv-It -- but nothing has helped. Please! Any advice will be appreciated. Thanks! M Joy, March 11,  Reply
R3: Dear M Joy: Try to poultice them with acetone, providing that the type of tile you have (and that you did not disclose) is not going to be adversely effected by it. Maurizio, USA
R2: There is nothing that will remove that stain - you could be doing more damage by the products you are applying. Products of these types should not be applied to any tile or stone surface, for fyi. Wish I had a better answer for you. The only way to remove them is to replace the tiles. Rebecca, USA
R1: Lay tissue paper on the tile, Then a hot iron. Repeat the process. John UK.
A 1470: We recently bought a house that needs work. One of the projects is to remove thick polyurethane from the flagstone floors that run through the entire home except the bedrooms. What is a good product that will remove the polyurethane but not harm the floor? We are then planning to reseal with something that will leave the stone more natural. Thank you. Camille, USA, Feb 24, Reply
R1: This is very difficult to do. You will have to sand the polyurethane without changing the texture of the stone. I would advise you to call a stone finishing professional to do this task for you. Regards, Steven, USA
A 1438: I would very much appreciate if someone could offer a little of advice on flagstone. I recently saw a beautiful home (new) in Las Vegas that had approx. $200,000 worth flagstone in the front & back yard. I was perplexed with what I saw: the stone looked as if someone had spilled a lot of acid everywhere and it ate through the stone leaving hundreds of dark stains. When I asked about it, I was told that that was a part of its natural beauty and what I was looking at was simply an oxidation. I've seen a lot of flagstone before, but none with such stains that, to me, ruined what was a fine yard. Alicja Feb 12. Reply 
R4: Alija, I am familiar with Las Vegas sandstone. If it is from the Las Vegas area, then it should not have that stain (or whatever it is). If a realtor showed you the house, ask to see another one with this color of sandstone, because obviously, you like a house with sandstone. Obviously, you don't like this one.....Good luck RJ,  USA, 
R3: Dear Alicja, The first thing you need to find out is the rock type. There are many stone varieties that can be used as flagstone. One common variety is sandstone and it is possible that what you are looking at is a sandstone that contains clay balls. because these balls are softer than the sandstone they weather and fret preferentially leaving a small depression. However, because they are not as porous as the sandstone, any water sits around for longer and promotes algal growth which can be black, especially if the sandstone contains some iron. but there are many other ways of causing such black spots so have the rock identified first and then the black spots Dr. Hans, Australia.
R2: The flagstones will probably been under intensive heat in the past to make the surface spelch. Which will give the affect you describe. Richard, USA.
R1: Without viewing the installation, it would be unwise to give a diagnosis. Please contact the company responsible for the installation . I believe that there could be a moisture issue. Regards, Steven, USA.
A 1423: Maurizio: In the care of alabaster, you recommended beeswax. We were told that we should coat the alabaster with olive oil. Is this a recommended procedure? We have a wall sconce and a hanging bowl type fixture in the formal dining room that are made of alabaster. If beeswax is the only recommended protective substance, then could you tell me a good source to obtain it in Houston, Texas. Thanks Johnston, Feb 10, Reply
R2: Dear Johnston: beeswax is an old sound treatment, but not the only one (by the way, how can you expect me to know where to get beeswax in Houston, TX?!). Among other recommended treatments, the olive oil rubbing thing is conspicously absent! Forget about it. You could use paraffin wax (please, don't ask me where you can find it in Houston, TX!), or a good-quality carnauba-based car wax (you do have Pep-boys in Houston, don't you!), Maurizio, USA
R1: There are plenty of local honey producers in the Houston area. You should be able to get your beeswax from any of them. JVC, USA

A 1228: I have a customer who is interested in achieving a gloss finish on their exterior Crab orchard natural stone patio. I have applied a matt stone enhancer which has brought out some of the color; however, the owner is looking for a "wet" look. Is this possible for an exterior application and if so what type of product and manufacturer makes it. belinda, Nov 29. Reply
R3: Stone correctly sealed with a vapor sealer (meaning it will allow moisture to pass through but will not allow moisture and staining materials to enter the surface and correctly maintained on a regular basis will not deteriorate!!!) The biggest enemy of exterior natural stone and masonry besides not being sealed and maintained on a consistent basis is a person who hoses the surfaces down with hard water, leaving deposits which will destroy the natural finish of the stone/ masonry just like the finish of glass or the clear coat finish of an automobile. Reverse osmosis and or Dc/ionization water filter tank systems offer an affordable way to occasionally wash an exterior stone installation on a as needed basis, Also a formulation is available to aid in cleaning and speeding up the natural drying of the water left on the surface to a spotless finish. Kim, USA
R2: There are topical coatings that give a high gloss finish. However, since the application is outdoors, none would last very long. I always tell my clients not to put any finishes on the stone as it will eventually deteriorate. Enjoy the material as it is meant to be. best regards, Steven, USA.
R1: Hi, A wet look topical for outdoor is not possible. They all get yellow. Pini, USA.

A 1207: Hello, I have a new apartment which is flooring with terrazo. The problem occured when the craftman polished the terrazo. A rusty color mark appeared on the edge of every piece of terrazo. According the craftsman, the mark is caused by the construction worker mixing with some kind of dirt sand during installation. Cheong. Nov 20. Reply
R3: It depends. Has the rust penetrated into the terrazo matrix or is it on the surface? Let me know, Steven, USA
R2: Dear Mr. Cheong: I'm afraid I know what happened to your terrazzo, and I don't think that you're going to like my diagnosis (although, without actually seeing your floor and without having all the facts, it's only a guess, at this point). It is possible that your craftsman used a procedure -- to polish your terrazzo floor -- that's dubbed "Crystallization", or "Vetrification" (actually, the procedure managed to accumulate such a bad reputation over the years, that whoever still implements it, won't call it anything!). It's a chemical approach to stone surface refinishing that implies the use of a strong acid to create a dubious chemical reaction with the calcium carbonate of marble (terrazzo is made mostly of marble chips). It turns out that it's not an actual polishing, but a high-tech and, very definitely high-risk, sort of waxing. In the case of a terrazzo floor -- although, I must admit, I witnessed several terrazzo floor "crystallized" successfully -- what could have
happened is that the acid of the concoction got combined with the water with which the floor was still saturated due to the honing process -- especially along the edges of the sections, where you have the metal strips -- and further reacted with the metal that, ultimately oxidized giving you those, alas permanent rust stains. I hope I'm wrong, but what the guy told you as an explanation of what happened, makes no sense whatsoever -- at least in the way I could understand it. , Maurizio, USA
R1: Hi, If the polish man did it with crystallization it might happened. It need to be grinded ASAP and polished right this time. Look in www.findstone.com/articles.htm . Pini, USA
A 1118: We have a false fireplace surround in our 120 year old Victorian House. We didn't know what was underneath the 3-4 layers of old enamel paint that was on it. I say false fireplace surround in that there is no firebox, although it did have a grate and vent system to an old hot air system that must have been closed up years ago.  I only make that point because it apparently was never subjected to the heat of a fireplace (I don't even know it that matters...I just thought I should mention it.)

Anyway...after removing the paint, the mantle and the surround were a uniform black. I started hand sanding the mantle with 150 grit paper. I uncovered a lovely green stone, across the entire mantle top.

I then started sanding the surround (the vertical surfaces) by hand, then with an orbital sander with 60 grit paper.  It remained black but small spots (maybe 1/4 inch across) of green similar to the mantle began to
appear.  I switched to 36 grit paper and more "spots" appeared. Finally I switched to a belt sander with 36 grit paper.  The spots are getting larger and in some areas there are patches where the black is getting lighter and
with a strong light, I can see a green tint appearing.

So, unlike the mantle, which turns green very quickly after sanding with fine paper, the surround is requiring mush more aggressive grit with power equipment and a lot more time and effort. Climbing into the false fireplace
and looking at it from the back, large sections of the surround are green on the back, but as I said, not on the front. My questions....

Do you think it's soapstone? We were hoping it would turn out to be uniformly green, but I'm concerned
that I'm sanding and sanding and that it'll turn out to be black
(or more brownish) stone with green highlights?  I.e. I don't want to ruin it. I've read that with soapstone, people used to "oil" it which would darken it. Would that make "green" stone black? Might we be lucky and once I get through this black layer, it's uniformly green?

If so, how deep might I have to go? And finally...is there anything faster than sanding? I know this was lengthy, but I tried to be detailed...anything advice you can provide would be highly appreciated!!! Thank You, Tom, USA, Oct. 1, Reply
R3: Dear Tom: I have no idea what kind of stone it could be. I can't be sure, but I don't remember having ever seen any green soapstone. Furthermore, I believe that only recently soapstone started being quarried
and processed into slabs (but then again, I could be wrong: I really don't know much about soapstone).
Nobody can tell you how deep you can keep grinding into the stone until you get to a uniform green, but unless it's getting real thin, you can keep going. Using 35 grit sandpaper with a power-tool sounds to me like as fast as you can go. Using 30 grit grinding diamond pads with a professional right-angle grinder could increase (marginally) the speed, but the cost for the equipment and material would not justify the improvement.
Finally, as far as the mineral oil treatment is concerned, try in a small, incospicuous spot with some "baby oil" and see what happens (baby oil will eventually evaporate). , Maurizio, USA
R2: It is so hard to advise people on this question. Practices for mantles and surrounds were quite varied on original installations. Lets see. 1st all the sand paper you are using is quite aggressive. This means that the coarse sandpaper itself can cause you not to see a finished color. Try approaching this by focusing on removing the paint. Try not to get to the green yet. When that is all done call a local stone expert to come over & look at the surround. Soapstone has been a dark gray green when oiled. On another note do not try to convert this surround to a wood burning fire unit as it has never been installed to serve that function. Good luck, Steven, USA 
R1: Well Tom,  without actually seeing what you have, any suggestions or answers can only be guess work.  First off, soapstone is a really soft stone, and the dust from sanding will have a soapy, slippery feel to it.  The coarse grit papers you are using should be cutting the stone away rather quickly if it is in fact soapstone.  Have you tried to go back up to the finer grit over an area that you have coarse sanded?  What is the resulting look if you do that  Go back to the 60, then 100, then 150, and see what the color is then. Wetting a small area will give you an indication as to what you will get.  It is entirely possible that the surround is of a different stone than the mantle top. Green soapstone can be more expensive to buy, and the original owners may have been cutting cost. Might be that is why it was painted in the first place. Or it might be the same stone only sawed in a different direction.  Soapstone is a very dense stone, and not very porous, so the oiling would not have penetrated very deep into the stone. Don't know what else to suggest other than sanding, except to use wet/dry paper like they use in body shops.  be careful with the coarse grit on the belt sander, those machines can take alot of stone away real fast, and can do some unreparable damage before you realize it.  And please  wear a good particle mask/ respirator  as soapstone does contain minerals that you don't want in your lungs.  Good luck, JVC, USA

Q 1028: Care: I have put ceramic tiles for the flooring. In some places there are some stains which do not go by cleaning with ordinary water. Some people suggests me to use acid solution / acid powder which are available freely in the market. I am hesitant to do since it may spoil the surface. Pls advise me the best way to remove the stains & also for regular maintenance. Thanks. Hariprasad, India. July 4 reply

R1: Try using white vinegar. Depending on the result you can use vinegar to remove stains. Alternatively, you can also use Hydrogen Peroxide. Soak a muslin cloth with Hydrogen Peroxide and dab it on the area where the tiles are stained. but make sure to experiment in a sample area.  bM, USA.

A 947: I have over 5000 sq. ft. of Mexican tile around my pool which is disintegrating rapidly. it has been in place for 2 or 3yrs and very thin layers are coming off. Is there any finish I can apply to it that will save it? Any information would be appreciated. Regards, Wilson, USA, March 23. Reply
R1: Nope! Maurizio, USA.

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