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Unread 10-22-2020, 09:40 AM   #1
Arctic Hare
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Cleaning up mixing buckets, tools, etc in winter

Hi,
I'm undertaking my first major tiling job; I'm installing a heated tile floor and tile shower in my (concrete floor) basement bathroom. My question is how to clean up mixing buckets, mixer, trowels and other tools, etc. when the weather outside is going to be freezing winter conditions for the next number of months. How can I practically clean up all my tools and materials in a responsible, safe, and practical manner as an amateur tile installer working in winter conditions.

More details and context...

So far, on my bathroom tile project, I've completed the bathroom floor tile (outside of the shower), which included self-levelling the concrete, installing a subfloor, installing Ditra-heat, laying and grouting the tile. I've also completed the full construction of a Kerdi shower (including self-levelling the floor, Kerdi board walls, Kerdi floor pan, Kerdi drain, Kerdi curb, Kerdi band, Kerdi corners, Kerdi penetration gaskets etc). All this went well (with much learning taking place along the way). All of the work completed so far was undertaken when the weather allowed me to clean up my buckets and tools out back of my house. The basement is a walkout style, so it was pretty convenient to take my mixing buckets, trowels, etc. outside and clean up with the hose. And, the rec room isn't finished so I was able to set up a large wet saw inside in the rec room. Pretty much ideal conditions for installation work.

Winter has arrived here a bit early this year. We've already had our first significant snowfall and it looks like below freezing weather has settled in for the season. I'm presently waiting for the last of my required material for the shower to arrive, but it is evident that, when it arrives, I won't be able to clean up outside due to freezing weather conditions.

Given that I'm a newbie and that I am under taking a relatively complex shower installation (e.g. large format tile, a niche with a shelf, two different tile types, a few types of Schluter profiles, etc), I will install the shower tile in several stages. I'm just guessing here, but I'll probably have 4 - 6 tiling sessions to complete the job. That means, cleaning up buckets, mixers, trowels, etc. 4 - 6 times when I can't feasibility clean up outside.

Evidently, professional tile installers somehow manage to work through the year even when the weather doesn't permit clean up of mixing buckets, mixer, trowels, floats, etc, outdoors. I can scoop and scrape the bulk of any leftover/waste thinset/grout into a box and let it harden for landfill disposal, but there is still plenty of clean up of buckets, paddles, trowels, etc. to do even after the bulk of the material is scooped out and wiped up. Evidently, I don't want to put waste thinset or grout down my household plumbing drains.

How do professionals clean up (not the tile, but the installation tools and material) when they can't wash up outside? What recommendations do you have as to how an amateur could do this in a safe, responsible, and practical manner.
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Unread 10-22-2020, 10:29 AM   #2
smifwal
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Welcome,

You should have a bucket of water to clean the tiles as you are setting. I use that bucket at the end of the day to clean tools. Everything will settle to the bottom and I pour that water in to another bucket to use for cleaning the next day. I doo this untill the water gets too nasty then I dump the water on the fence line on the back of the property or any other out of the way spot I am next to a compost pile or something like that. I put the sediment in a trash bag or a bucket that I have forgot to clean at some point so I have a excuse to throw it away
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Unread 10-22-2020, 10:34 AM   #3
Lazarus
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Have several dedicated water buckets inside. After mixing thinset, spin the mixer in one bucket. This removes much of the material.

Use another bucket for trowels, etc. For dirty buckets, scoop out the big stuff and swish some water into it, using a brush to clean. A sponge will do in a bind. Pop open the back door and toss the dirty water....
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Unread 10-22-2020, 10:56 AM   #4
cx
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Welcome, Kevin.

The discussion might be a bit more meaningful if you'll add a geographic location to your User Profile.

If you'll type cold into the Advanced Search feature you'll find some discussions on the subject of cold weather tiling.

More important than cleanup is the preparation and setting of the tile during cold weather and keeping everything, substrate, tile, mortar, grout, etc, above 50 degrees Fahrenheit for at least three days.

But there are cleanup tips in some of the discussions you'll find with a search. When it comes to bucket cleaning, some of our Yankee members recommend simply not bothering to do so, but just buying more buckets. Other hints include cleaning your tools in buckets of water and letting that water set overnight or longer until the solids settle out and then disposing of the relatively clean water outside.

Without knowing where you're located, it's difficult to recommend much besides recommending you move farther south. Perhaps a lot farther south.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 10-22-2020, 11:11 AM   #5
Arctic Hare
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I've updated my profile to indicate my geographical location, which is Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. We have one of the most extreme climates of any city on the planet. Hot in the summer; seriously cold in the winter. We got it all - like it or not.

I won't have any difficulty with preparation because of the weather. I am currently finishing my basement and I have hundreds of square feet that is nothing but Dri-core R+ on the floor and taped and primed drywall on the walls. That is, I've got plenty of room temperature space for materials, a large tile saw, mixing, etc. Pretty much ideal conditions for preparation. And, 98% of the materials are already sitting in my cozy warm basement.

I just won't be able to use my outdoor water supplies (yes, I have frost-free hose bibs, but any hose use in winter will lead to bursting hoses and nozzles with frost in no time). Minus 30 degree conditions aren't conducive to water clean up! Pouring buckets of water on 3 foot deep snow can lead to a range of problems... and, the disposal evidence would remain for months.
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Unread 10-22-2020, 06:39 PM   #6
Davy
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To me, the responsible and safe way would be to leave it all in a bucket till spring.

Find your worst looking bucket and every time you have a little thinset or grout left over, scrape it into that bucket. When you're finished with the job, throw away the bucket. That's what I do when working in high rise buildings.
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Unread 10-22-2020, 08:08 PM   #7
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I use a margin trowel to scrape as much as I can out of the bucket at the end of the day. Then pour a little water in, maybe just 3-4 inches, and scrub the bucket clean with a stiff bristle brush so nothing else is stuck to the sides.

At that point there's very little mortar left in the water, and I can get rid of that easy enough. But I'm a lot further south than you are.

Where did you pour the water out in warmer weather?
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Unread 10-23-2020, 07:05 AM   #8
Tool Guy - Kg
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Me, as well. Using a margin trowel is the single best tool to remove all but the last tiny bit of mortar from buckets and tools before using any water. This really cuts down on the amount of mortar in the water, which makes disposal much more manageable.

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Unread 10-23-2020, 07:44 PM   #9
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Another vote for a margin trowel. Keep one in your back pocket at all times.

Years ago when I was a helper, one of the setters I worked with kept his margin trowel pretty clean. When the food truck would come by, he would buy a piece of pie and eat it with his margin trowel.
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Unread 10-24-2020, 06:58 PM   #10
Tool Guy - Kg
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As he’s eating pie, he suddenly remembers that he used that margin trowel for scraping the wax off the toilet flange.
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Unread 10-25-2020, 06:54 AM   #11
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Yep, it's a handy tool for that too.
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