Zellige Tiles: Cleaning and Installation Tips

Using Zellige Tiles As a Backsplash

Zellige tiles add a pop of color to any home design. They are a great alternative to traditional ceramic tile, offering a wider variety of colors and textures.

Made of natural pigments and clay, zellige is handmade by craftsmen and kiln fired using olive pits. Due to the artisan production, each tile is unique.

1. Use a mild soap

Zellige tiles are one of those classic yet popular elements that can be used to add a bit of character and style to any space. These handmade terra-cotta tiles have been used in Morocco for centuries and are a unique and artisanal way to create a unique look that will stand the test of time.

Because they are handmade, each tile is unique. This means that some may have minor imperfections, cracks and chips which are an inherent part of the kiln fired clay process. These imperfections are not considered defects and add to the character of your tiles.

It is important to use a mild soap when cleaning your zellige tiles, as a harsher cleaner can scratch and damage the textured surface. Be sure to rinse your tiles well after scrubbing and drying them with a towel. It is also a good idea to seal your grout after installation to protect it from stains.

2. Wipe with a damp cloth

Having a beautiful backsplash is an excellent way to protect your kitchen or bathroom walls from spills and splashes. But even more important, is the opportunity for a backsplash to become a design element.

Zellige tiles offer an intriguing artisan vibe that can’t be replicated by machine-made, mass-produced tile. While they may not be suitable for every home, they are a wonderful choice for those who embrace their rugged charm.

The process of making true, handmade zellige has remained virtually unchanged for centuries. Natural clay is mixed, hand-molded, cut and glazed. The zellige is then kiln fired using olive pits and then enamel glazed to offer protection.

During installation, it is very important that the installer blends the tiles carefully to create an attractive, unified appearance. In addition, the installer should be well-versed in installing zellige and working with handcrafted tile. This is why it’s best to work with an experienced, reputable installer.

3. Rinse with clean water

Zellige tiles are made one by one from natural clay (usually sourced in Fez, Morocco), moulded and cut by hand, then dried naturally and kiln-baked. They are then coated with enamel glaze to offer protection.

They are incredibly beautiful and unique, but they can be trickier to clean than regular tiles. Their rippled surface, uneven edges and small square size can trap dirt. This is why it’s important to have a professional installer set the zellige tiles.

They should sweep the tiles before applying the tile adhesive cement and then install them as per your design plan, filling the gaps between each tile. During the installation process, they should check for color matching and ensure that each tile is in the correct position. This will help ensure that you get the best results. They should also check that the tile is level, and that the surface is free from cracks, pitting and iron spots. Once the tiles are installed, they should rinse them with clean water to remove any excess cement.

4. Dry with a towel

Genuine Moroccan Zellige tiles bring a touch of the exotic to any interior. Their quirks and imperfections are what make them so beautiful and unique, adding character to the space. When used properly, they create a feeling of calm and tranquility where simple zellige is used, or uplifting energy where more ornate patterns are displayed.

While glazed zellige tiles have a glaze to protect them from stains and water damage they are still porous and require regular care. Using a mild cleaner and gently scrubbing will keep them looking gorgeous for years to come.

Authentic Moroccan zellige tiles are not grouted as traditional tile, however, if installed on surfaces in continuous contact with water such as pools, spas or fountains they should be grouted and sealed with a waterproof sealant like Mapei’s Ultracolor Plus F511 Porous Grout. The grout color should be matched as closely to the zellige tile. For unglazed zellige, install using a thin liquid joint cement and flexible wedge tile spacers to allow for movement of the clay tile.

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