Sparkle Surface Care Saves “Cinderella” (again, well sort of) And Her Mosaic Shower Floor and Stone From The Wicked Stepmother in Tabernacle
This long time client knows when to give up, call in the big guns, and surrender, saying “I give!” And of course it was not our first time liberating her.
Lucky enough to enjoy updated bathrooms with very appealing style, she did not realize the newer design elements (stone and mosaic glass) may require some require some advanced, professional care. And while she could have slogged through some of it, she started to get the idea her efforts were not getting the results she wanted.
She felt she really was Cinderella, desperately on her hands and knees under the duress of the Wicked Step Mother (in this case her shower walls and floors.)
You see this client knows us well, and knows when she needs help. She has had us in her back pocket since 2004, over 17 different times (for routine cleaning, and yes for some Hail Mary’s!)
In fact, her family was known to have been visited by the “Chocolate Ban Ditto” years ago, and her husband was in huge trouble. That time, while he slept on the couch her toddler got into chocolate icing, and painted the walls, carpets, and her sofa. Frantic she called, and our cleaning was a success. We told her story in a fictional format in our newsletter afterwards, for which she was flattered. Of course we changed the names to protect the not so innocent. And, it was helpful to our clients in knowing what to do if they had a visit from their own “Chocolate Ban Ditto.”
But this time she was being held bondage to her shower cleaning project. Sheepishly she called Wendy two days ago, and described her dilemma. Wendy listened to her concerns, frustrations and requests and mentioned there were a few things that might be above her ability as a homeowner (and may be above yours, or other homeowner’s as well if these are conditions found in the showers in question.)
Some of the newer design elements that are popular today, indeed may well require specialized care that homeowners may have a tough time addressing. Some unknowingly grab stuff from under the sink or laundry cabinet and cause even more damage (see vinegar and stone cleaning.) Also, even if they have researched and gotten the correct cleaning products, they may not have the equipment, the strength or access to the specialized products and procedures to restore them properly. And this was the case here.
Once Wendy explained in detail, she also said I could come right over and help you. Then without missing a beat our client-friend replied, “Well have Chris come right over- that completely changes my day (delightedly.)” She further shared she would quickly abandon her efforts, and take a shower instead of being held hostage in it, and be ready to welcome him to take over. According to Wendy you could hear the weight of the burden lift as she spoke, and got excited at the thought of having a more pleasant day (as Chris started to whistle as he worked!)
Of course, there are so many cool things now for floors, back splashes, accents, walls, seems like the options are endless. While some are more traditional, others are interesting, unique, funky, zen like, naturalist, etc. Others offer texture and 3 dimensions. Kudos to the design, inspiration, building trades, even the DIY Channel and DIY Warriors, the new styles are endless (frankly, I know Wendy is jealous.)
This particular glass floor has mosaic micro tiles, and is beautiful. But, with tiny tiles, whether glass, textured surface, skipping stones, etc, they all have grout, and lots of it- (miles it seems like-lol!) An ambitious homeowner might grab and old toothbrush, and comet, and get set to go to town only to soon discover their efforts might take days, not hours. Add to that the probable iron in the water (known in Tabernacle, Medford and all of South Jersey,) there might be a staining issue with the grout. For this customer that seems to be the case, but consider her lucky.
The fix for the tiny grout lines is to have a system to steam the mosaic micro tiles and grout, using a strong tile cleaning solution, and powerful truck-mounted steam equipment which will pull the discoloration from the grout- none of which is typically available to the homeowner (if a steam mop would work for this I would not invest $65 K in equipment and specialty wands to do the work.)
Another Monkey In the Wrench
Some stone floors experience “efflorescence,” where mineral deposits grow out of the stone floor and can be unsightly and even harmful when stepped on. Wendy explains to the homeowners when we encounter that issue, it’s like stalagmites growing in a cave (same concept.) This homeowner did have a few areas of efflorescence.
Travertine is a popular stone used for interior and exterior use. Commonly used for flooring, walls, and in showers, it is also popular for pool decks. It is harvested stone which has pock marks or voids, which get filled. The travertine is installed and grouted.
Travertine and other stone requires special care. Grabbing something from under the sink (especially vinegar, bleach and high pH cleaners is a big no-no.) But these are popular go-to’s for homeowners to use to clean, unfortunately. FYI- we had an ambitious client do $1300.00 worth of damage using vinegar on her stone bathroom surfaces, in just under an hour and a half. Stone in general has a plethora of specifically formulated products that are suitable and only those should be used and nothing else. Not only will they not damage the stone, but they are highly effective.
Vinegar is not one of them, and actually even EPA registered disinfectants can be harmful to stone surfaces.
The Cleaning Process Itself
But for this homeowner, she was struggling with bath and body care products that built up on the shower walls, particularly under the shower head and side walls, part way down. Add to that the iron and mineral penetration into the grout, and there you have a few different problems not easily handled.
Honestly, all this work done vertically gets to even the best of us (me for one.) We usually make sure we have young, strong strapping young guys with big guns, and we make sure we give them their Wheaties that morning!
Case in point, solutions are sprayed, and the first pass, or procedure, is done with a Makita Hand Polisher, like the ones used for detailing cars. They are heavy, and you feel like you are jack hammering a vertical surface when you are using it. Then the stone is steamed with other suction type equipment to rinse the walls to see the outcome. If you are lucky that does it, but often not.
Other times you need to use diamond polishing stones, in 3 to 8 pass sequences with different grits, with that way too heavy grinder to restore the stone. In effect you are grinding the stone surface to remove chemical etch marks or to remove the dull stone layer.
Once that is done you can evaluate the grout, to look for loose grout, which may need to be repaired. After finding matching grout to use, that is done.
Alternatively, we may recommend a tedious penetrating grout colorant. Specialty colorants are not available in the box stores. (Note: This is far superior to grout paint, which does not penetrate.)
Next you inspect the caulking, and handle any of those repairs if required.
Last comes sealing the stone and grout. The sealant is a special coating that becomes a sacrificial layer that helps the future contaminants bead down and off the stone and grout. And it protects against future chemical etching, which bath & body care, as well as household cleaners are known to cause.
Being relatively new showers, we did not have to execute the long version repair. The specialty solutions and light scrubbing was successful, and it rinsed off with the steaming nicely.
The iron and mineral discoloration was removed, and the grout color restored and brightened nicely.
There was a few areas of efflorescence that our specialty professional formulation zapped pretty easily (often in need of grinding tirelessly) too.
No grout repairs were needed, but caulking was. In fact, in the second bathroom there was an odd gap left during installation that got water soaked, had mold, was filled before but was still was getting mildew trapped in it (oddly, this should not have been installed this way.)
Finally we wiped things down, sprayed the sealant and went on our merry way. Well, not exactly. With the light duty restoration I still spent two whole days in the shower doing the work.
PS- I am so glad I got new foul weather gear and fishing boots as a holiday gift–For once I wasn’t soaking wet all day!