This is guidance on the problems you may meet with glazed tiles, how to repair them, and on-going care. There is help elsewhere for floor tiles.
The method for cleaning depends on the type of dirt. In principle, avoid water, paint stripper and other liquids as the glaze on many old tiles is cracked and they will penetrate the porous body of the tile. If you have to use them, use as little as you can, applying with a fine brush or with a cloth if possible.
Paint splashes can be removed with paint stripper. Apply it with a fine brush to each spot, removing it as soon as the paint is soft.
General grime will come off with a cloth moistened with white spirit or diluted washing-up liquid.
If really necessary, use a metal blade or a nylon scourer pad. Be very gentle otherwise you will scratch the glaze.
Broken glazed tiles can be stuck together with an epoxy-resin glue from an art shop. Place the tile on a sheet of polythene to avoid a tiled table. Use adhesive tape to hold the pieces together, wiping off surplus glue with a cloth moistened with methylated spirits.
Minor chips missing from tiles are best ignored; they are old and you may cause more damage by attempting a repair. If the damage is a bit more serious, use plaster of Paris or filler. Once this has dried, use artist's oil paints to match the colour, and protect with a matt varnish.
If a tile is missing, look for a replacement. Try your neighbours - who may have taken up their floor, and architectural salvage yards. Alternatively, buy a modern tile. Our Directory has companies with tiles.
If you are removing damaged tiles, record the pattern if necessary. Dig out the tiles, using a knife or scraper.
Cut the tiles to fit; they normally fit tightly with minimal grouting. Use a heavy-duty tile-cutting tool.
To remove old tile mortar or cement, soak the tiles for two weeks in water; this may soften the cement enough that it is easy to scrape off. A more dangerous technique, if the cement is cementitious and has not softened after soaking, is to use hydrochloric acid to dissolve the cement; apply a bit at a time, avoiding the body of the tile.
Alternatively, you can just lay the tiles on a thick bed of new cement; however it is difficult with this method to get an even result.