First, there are some major differences between tile types! Ceramic is a man made material, with a fired, finished surface on each tile that generally does not require any sealing or waxing - it is non-porous and cleans easily with a good neutral cleaner. The grout lines between the tiles, however, are usually cementious (sanded) grout, and this is a porous surface that, if unsealed, will absorb spills and dirty mop water, causing discoloration of the grout lines. All grout should be sealed after installation, but many installers skip this step because the grout needs to cure for a time after installation, and they're often too busy to make it back. So, especially if moving into a new house, make sure that the grout is sealed before moving in! If you're re-tiling a room, count on letting it cure as directed by the grout manufacturer, and then sealing it before use. The installer can do this, or recommend someone to do so. Reputable tile and grout cleaners will also be able to seal a new installation for you on request, and the product used will often be much better than what you can buy at the "big-box" stores to use yourself - which is the option. (Be sure to follow directions on the bottle, and ventilate well while working.)
Natural stone, on the other hand, is a porous material, and must be sealed (along with the grout) after installation and prior to use. Whether a hard stone like granite, a soft stone like limestone, or a travertine or marble, it is essential that the stone surface be protected along with the grout against spills and soil for maximum life.
Daily cleaning can be accomplished by mopping with a good neutral cleaner, and then a plain hot water rinse. (Tile and stone stores can sell or recommend the proper cleaning products.)
When the groutlines and crevices in the tile or stones become dirty, or when several years have passed (3-5, depending on traffic level) and the sealer is becoming worn, it's time for a professional cleaning and sealing!
Stone and ceramic tile and grout should be steam cleaned, preferably with an alkaline cleaner to dissolve soil and grease, followed by a clear rinse to remove residues. The grout and any porous stone should then be sealed before use. Depending on the porosity of the stone or grout, it may be necessary to clean one day, and return the next day to apply sealer, allowing 24 hours for complete drying of the floor before sealing.
In cases of extreme soiling or staining, the grout in ceramic tile installations may be etched with an acidic product that will help whiten it back to its' original color. DO NOT USE ACID! in a stone installation as it CAN be etched, since the acid will also etch and damage the natural stone. This is why it's important to vet your cleaning company carefully, and make sure that they have the certifications and experience to use the right products and procedures for the job!
NOTE: It is not recommended to use any acrylic "gloss" type finish on ceramic or stone; it will require more maintenance than a penetrating sealer, and will require a more expensive stripping procedure at the next restorative cleaning, before the stone and grout can be cleaned.
Saltillo tile floors are a softer clay-based tile, and will usually be cleaned much like a natural stone floor, with the caveat that these will often require stripping first, since they've often had acrylic finish applied in the past, or been maintained with improper cleaning products that have left a finish buildup on the tiles and grout lines.
Slate floors are also prone to these conditions.
If you want a glossier look, ask your cleaner about other new options that can give you that "wet look" without the surface buildup of acrylic products.
Choosing a Professional Cleaner for Your Stone, Tile and Grout
How to get the best cleaning ever, in Salem Oregon or anywhere!
Given that your stone, tile and grout floors are a major home investment, it only makes sense to care for them properly so that they last longer. So of course you'll want to choose your cleaner with great care when they require maintenance.
Don't be afraid to ask what procedures they'll follow in cleaning, either. Hard surface cleaning is not a "quick-in, quick-out" sort of job, so be wary of anyone who treats it that way. Steps should always be taken to care for and protect your home, such as: use of entry mats, corner guards to protect your walls, baseboards appliances and cabinets taped or masked off while working, and use of wet floor warning signs around areas being cleaned. Better companies will speed-dry areas as they finish, to help return your home to normal as soon as possible.
HERE IS A GREAT EXAMPLE OF WHAT TO EXPECT FOR MY TILE AND GROUT CLEANING VIDEOS