Can you re-polish marble tiles in-situ?
March 4, 2013 10:50 AM   Subscribe

I have a shower area with rough marble tiles. How to polish them in-place?

The walls of the shower stall in our home is finished in marble tiles. Owing to years of crappy (if conditioned) well water, a lot of the tiles are rough to the touch.

Is it at all possible to re-polish the tiles in-place? If so, how would you accomplish it? Bonus kittens if your instructions don't begin "First, remove the grout..."

posted by Thorzdad to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are they rough because of mineral build-up or because of erosion of the surface? Plain white vinegar can remove many deposits, but I'm not sure of its effect on marble. You might try a neutral PH stone cleaner like AquaMix or StoneTech. Can't offer any advice for polishing away eroded surfaces ...
posted by peakcomm at 11:51 AM on March 4, 2013

many years ago, when I was still a teenager living at home my father sold MAC tools for a living. He drove one of those big panel trucks around full of tools (mostly automotive) to places where mechanics work. As such we had access to all kinds of fancy tools that are not readily available to most folks (and this was before things like home depot really got going).

So, my mom had to leave for a while to take care of her dying father and her mother dealing with that for several weeks, a month a two (it was a while ago). So me and my dad decided we would super clean the house so she wouldn't have that deal with when she got back. The house had two bathrooms that were both all tile-floors, counter, shower, everything. We couldn't get them to gleam like they do in the commercials. Well we both knew how they get car paint to gleam like we wanted the tile to so that is what we did. We got out the compressor and hooked up a couple of air powered rotary polishers like body shops use between coats of paint for a high end paint job. We used polishing compound (i think three different grits as we progressed) and at the end that tile gleamed like you wouldn't believe. After that polishing it stayed clean too with very little effort. We didn't really have a problem with the grout coming out and we just used caulk in the few areas that it did come out. Also this was fired porcelain tile from Mexico (we were living in El Paso at the time) and not a natural stone and it might not work like porcelain does in this regard.

I don't know if you could use electric polishers and get the same result we did, I doubt it. The don't spin that fast and the stuff you can buy at sears or autozone is mostly intended to just clean up the paint finish not really polish it. And a sufficiently large air compressor and polisher is going to run you at least 500 dollars for used equipment if you can find it, probably close to 1000 for new off the shelf MAC tools quality stuff.
posted by bartonlong at 12:02 PM on March 4, 2013

Design Sponge ran this article not too long ago about restoring marble floor tiles; I don't know how this might effect grout or whether these methods are appropriate for use in a shower. But maybe something else to consider?
posted by lilnublet at 12:29 PM on March 4, 2013

When we moved into our current house I had a tile resurfacing company come out and diamond hone and polish our marble floors. The same company also polished our marble shower walls but would not do the floors as it makes them too slippery. My suggestion would be to call a couple stone resurfacers for estimates.

Whoever it was who came up with the brilliant idea to use marble in the shower should be sentenced to a lifetime of having to clean it. I cannot wait to tear it all out. Can. Not. Wait.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 1:03 PM on March 4, 2013

the link in lilnublet is pretty much what we did except over a much larger area and with way more power tools and less elbow grease, so it appears it will work on natural stone.
posted by bartonlong at 1:31 PM on March 4, 2013

Natural stone varies widely in hardness, but porcelain is pretty damn hard itself, so I'd bet most polishing compounds* are going to work on them.

* Anything labelled "carborundum", a common polishing grit, is actually ruby dust. That'll polish anything but solid diamond floors!
posted by IAmBroom at 2:45 PM on March 4, 2013

Marble is mostly calcium carbonate (also known as Tums), and really pretty soft; that's why sculptures in marble can look like soft cloth.
posted by dbmcd at 5:37 PM on March 4, 2013

I've had to do small touch-ups in historical buildings that couldn't be polished properly. In a pinch, you can use a no-wax floor polish. It isn't long-term and can shift the color a bit if the marble is light, but it brings the sheen up temporarily. In a shower I would probably go for a sealer-finish like the guy used on his threshold in lilnublet's link.

You really want to either hire stone resurfacers or buy the equipment yourself if you want to polish it properly. I've tried to do it with different grits by hand, but for anything other than small pieces it is lunacy IMO.

Please don't use vinegar on marble. Marble is mostly calcium carbonate and will dissolve in vinegar. At best you will probably end up etching your tiles - at worst you will totally destroy the face of them.
posted by Tchad at 10:06 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older What resources are there for people with Olfactory...   |   Songs about the Crucifixion? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.