Everything You Need to Know About Mexican Saltillo Tile (2021 Style Update)

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Saltillo tile is a unique, handmade clay tile from northern Mexico that has seen a resurgence due to its old world look and feel. 

Clay Imports has created some of the most unique Saltillo tiles in the world, and with this guide, you’ll learn whether including this for your residential or commercial project is a good fit.

We’ll cover the following topics:

  • - How is Saltillo tile made?
  • Where can I install Saltillo tile?
  • - Where can I install Saltillo tile?
  • - How do I install Saltillo tile?
  • - How do I seal Saltillo tile?
  • - Why is Clay Imports’ Saltillo tile different?
  • - How do I clean Saltillo tile?
  • - What are Saltillo tile style trends (Updated in 2021)?

How is Saltillo tile made?

Saltillo tile is a tile that is produced and manufactured in Saltillo, the capital of Coahuila in northwestern Mexico. Just like Champagne can only come from the Champagne region of France, Saltillo tile can only be called Saltillo when it comes from that specific region of Mexico.

All Saltillo tile is made of terracotta, a naturally occurring red clay. You’ll see the terms Saltillo, terracotta, and Mexican all used together - but It’s important to note that while all Saltillo tiles are made from terracotta clay, not all terracotta tiles are Saltillo tiles!

Saltillo tiles are handmade and fired at a relatively low temperature. The clay is then hand-packed into wooden molds and left in the sun to dry. Once dry, these tiles are stacked in wood burning-kilns where they are fired for 24 hours.

Where can I install Saltillo tile?

Saltillo tiles can be installed indoor and outdoor - the classic example is a kitchen floor to give it an old world feel. But we recommend it for:

  • - Residential: Bathroom floors, backsplashes, kitchen islands, backsplashes, decorative walls
  • - Commercial: Restaurants, bars, retail shop floors
  • - Outdoor: Patio floors under a covered area (that aren’t exposed to freezing conditions)

Avoid installing Saltillo tile in freezing conditions, sloped floors in wet areas, and shower floors.

What are the pros and cons of using Saltillo tile?

Here are some of the factors to consider when considering whether or not to use Saltillo tile:

Pros:

  • - It’s eco friendly. Unlike many other kinds of tile, Saltillo is made of pure clay from Saltillo, Mexico, and water. It’s organic and biodegradable!
  • - Each piece is unique. Each box of tile will have a unique texture and color due to the handmade process. Sometimes you’ll even find a tiny paw print from a furry helper in the tile factory.
  • - It will conceal dirt. Due to its rustic, old world feel and warm tone - Saltillo tile hides dirt well.
  • - Affordable: Saltillo tile is a more cost-effective product than many other more modern tiles.

Cons:

  • - They can be slightly uneven. Each tile is handmade leading to slight size variation, so saltillo floors are more rustic and less even than a machine-made cement or marble tile.
  • - They are harder to install. Due to thicker tiles and the uniqueness of each tile, installation may require someone with more familiarity with Saltillo tile installation.

How do I install Saltillo tile?

Installing Saltillo tile is very similar to any clay tile with a few unique touches. Because each Saltillo tile differs in size due to firing under an uncontrolled flame, installers maintain a slightly larger joint. 

Most of the time, tile is installed with a ¼ inch or ½ inch grout line, but Saltillo can be installed up to ¾ inch.

How do I seal Saltillo tile?

Check to make sure the Saltillo tile from Clay Imports is sealed and unsealed - if unsealed, you’ll need to seal it to make it livable.

Here’s Clay Imports co-founder, Nick Barreiro, on the two different sealer options.

How do I clean and maintain Saltillo tile?

Saltillo tile is a fairly easy product when it comes to regular maintenance. After all, these tiles have been used for centuries across Mexico.

A standard soap and water combination for mopping is fine. A vacuum cleaner will help keep dust and dirt out of the lager-than-usual grout joints.

If it’s been a couple years - it's worth checking to see if you need to reseal your Saltillo.

Why is Clay Imports's Saltillo tile unique?

We’re glad you asked. 

Because Saltillo is hand-molded, there are a lot of opportunities to put a unique twist on the traditional flat face of each tile.

At Clay Imports, we experimented and created our Antique line of Saltillo by pressing burlap bags onto our wet tiles to create a more textured, distressed look. This yields a whole new aesthetic and looks fabulous in outdoor areas.

We've also created an entirely new Saltillo tile: Glazed!

Fun Fact: Clay Imports was the first company in the world to glaze Saltillo tile! For more than 300 years, people have been firing Saltillo clay in Mexico, but we combined glazing technology from Morocco and brought it to Saltillo and other parts of Mexico. Glazed Saltillo is now one of our most popular products. 

 

What are Saltillo tile style trends (2021 update)?

Saltillo tile has become one of Clay Imports most sought after products - whether glazed or authentic. Restaurants, retail stores, bathrooms - it’s everywhere!

If you’re looking for style inspiration, check out our Saltillo tile Pinterest page here (Here is our Pinterest board for inspiration).

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