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Unread 06-30-2020, 06:00 AM   #1
Julie S
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Bleach on Antique Ceramic Tile - Help!

My dear husband put a spray bleach product on my 1925 ceramic tiles in an outdoor fountain and now they are covered with a white deposit that will not come off. I'm in St. Petersburg, Fl. Any advice on removal without further damage and/or recommendations on area professionals for restoration would be greatly appreciated. This is Batchelder - type tile which was in vibrant colors. I am sick that the glaze may have been forever chemically ruined.
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Unread 06-30-2020, 09:19 AM   #2
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Welcome, Julie.

If you don't add that geographic location to your User Profile the information will likely be lost before we leave this page.

I've not heard of household chlorine bleach (guessing) harming glazed ceramic tiles, but our folks will need at least a photo or two to even start the serious guessing about your problem. You can attach photos from storage on your computer using the paper-clip icon above the Reply dialog box. The brand name, make and model of the bleach used might help as well.

Let's start with that.
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Unread 07-12-2020, 07:03 AM   #3
Julie S
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Thank you

Here are pictures. I apologize for the delay - I found a professional tile/grout cleaner who did a test on 2 of the tiles but I'm afraid that it caused pitting which you can see in the blue tile that he cleaned. I'm pretty sure that the pitting was not there just after he cleaned it. The last 2 pictures show how vibrant to colors of the tile should look like.

My husband told me that he poured some regular household bleach in the fountain as it had a couple inches of green water in it, and this is what happened afterwards.
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Unread 07-12-2020, 07:52 AM   #4
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Julie, those don't look like the Talavera tiles I'm accustomed to seeing. The glaze is not as brilliant or shiny and I see none of the characteristic cracking of the glaze that always occurs with Talavera.

If you have any broken tiles, can you see they have a red body?
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Unread 07-12-2020, 02:33 PM   #5
Julie S
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Thank you for your response! They aren't Talavera, they're arts and craft tiles from the early 1920s. The blueprints for the house say that they're Batchelder, but they may be something similar. The house was build in 1925 and the tiles are original to the house.
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Unread 07-12-2020, 02:54 PM   #6
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Solves that.

Are we sure that's even a ceramic glaze on the tiles?

Did your professional cleaner offer an opinion as to what she was trying to clean?
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Unread 07-12-2020, 03:36 PM   #7
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Here's a description that I found about these types of tiles that were made in the early 1900s in the US:
By the late 1920s, Batchelder was producing a wide variety of tiles in multiple color schemes and styles ranging from Art Deco to Maya Revival. But the tiles he’s best remembered for today are generally those with soft color schemes and matte finishes, created in an engobe process.

Under this method, tiles were colored using clay slip (a mix of clay and water) and then fired once in a kiln. Most ceramics would then be glazed and fired a second time, but Batchelder preferred the subtle hues created through this single-firing process and used glaze sparingly in his early tile designs.

“Every tile manufacturer will have their own formulation,” Waterman says. “They’re really chemists. They’re mixing different types of mineral with silica to create a glaze or coloration.”
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Unread 07-12-2020, 04:00 PM   #8
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Well, you just left burn marks streaking out of my knowledge base, Julie.

I'll point this thread out to our esteemed tile industry chemist and see if he has any insights for you.
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Unread 07-13-2020, 02:39 PM   #9
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Oh thank you, thank you, thank you. I need a chemist's advice. I also called the tile heritage foundation but haven't heard back yet. I did find this in a Historic Preservation Brief but it scares me:

In limited instances, glaze failure or surface powdering of ceramic floor tiles may sometimes be treated successfully by a conservator with a specially formulated, solvent-based, mineral densifying agent (such as silicic acid), followed by a siloxane sub-surface repellent, applied 24 hours later. Under the right circumstances, such a treatment can harden and bind the surface, and lower the absorbency of the tile, and still maintain the vapor transmission. But this is a highly complex undertaking and should only be attempted by a conservator after appropriate testing. Not only are these chemicals highly toxic and dangerous to handle, but if used improperly, they can cause greater damage to the tile!

https://www.nps.gov/tps/how-to-prese...rs.htm#damages
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Unread 07-13-2020, 03:13 PM   #10
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Chlorine bleach is highly reactive to metals, commonly found in the colors used for ceramic tile. The white residue is the result of the reaction of the bleach with the colored pigments in the tile. Normally glaze on the face of the tile protects the pigments and coloration. I doubt you will be able to chemically remove the haze without further damage to the tile surface. You will need to use an alkali cleaner and elbow grease. You should take care not to use an abrasive cleaner, as it could cause further damage. Because of the reaction with the bleach, the color and surface texture may not be the same as before.

It is advisable to seek profession help from a restoration expert, for the best outcome.
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Unread 07-13-2020, 06:09 PM   #11
Julie S
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Thank you so much! Is there an alkali cleaner that you recommend? What is the best tool to use with the cleaner so as not to damage it physically? What do you think about the preservation brief's comments about silicic acid and siloxane sub-surface repellent? I would be happy to hire a restoration expert but I haven't been able to find many except for the franchises locally. After the person that I hired did a test on the blue tile in the picture, it looked great but several days later I noticed pitting, which I really don't think was there before. Could an acid cleaner have caused that?
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Unread 07-15-2020, 02:48 PM   #12
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Julie,
It is difficult to say what cleaner may work, it will just be trial. Do a small test area, to see if that is satisfactory. I suggest using an alkali cleaner designed for tile; check a store that sells ceramic tile. A nonabrasive brush should loosen the residue. If the color looks good, there may not be much you can do about the pitting. The pitting may be the result of an acidic cleaner or the bleach.
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Unread 07-16-2020, 04:52 PM   #13
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Thank you, Steve! Is there a sealer that you would recommend? I also have some other tiles on the house (not pictured) that may have mineral residue from rain or are just faded. They're up high so I will need to get on a ladder to check. I would like to see if I can apply something that would help bring out the original color.
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