It’s time for new tile and, let’s face it, there are so many to choose from. If you’re looking for something timeless, it might be time to check out subway tiles. Not only are they practical, but subway tiles also have evolved in styles, materials, colors, and patterns since they first originated over a hundred years ago.

What is Subway Tile?

Subway tile has been around for over a century. In 1904, designers George C. Heins and Christopher Grant LaFarge created the traditional 3×6 rectangles for the very first station of New York City’s brand new subway station. Victorians back then loved good hygiene and loved that these tiles were easy to clean and didn’t stain.

The beginning of subway tile in NYC (Photo courtesy of Apartment Therapy)

 

NYC subway tiles

Subway tiles throughout NYC subways that we recognize today

As time has passed, there have been many different varieties of colors, styles, materials and even patterns of subway tile–enough options to fit in any home design.

Subway Tile Colors and Styles

Subway tile doesn’t always have to come in the classic uniform white color it started out in. Today there are numerous textures and colors that will fit with any interior design style.

Subway Tile Patterns

The pattern you choose makes a big impact on how your subway tile backsplash will look. You can choose from classic and traditional to more modern and geometrical. Any pattern adds timeless character to your room design. The subway tile shape is still the classic rectangle but the different layout, like herringbone, is what sets it apart and adds a nice design value.

For example, mixing marble and patterned subway tile shows the sought after veining of actual marble and the texture and movement of patterns—perfect match!

Subway Tile Materials

Subway tile comes in a variety of different materials including glass, porcelain, metallic, marble, ceramic, and slate! You can even get a natural stone style that has natural color variation in each one, which gives a classic complete look similar to that of a brick wall.

subway tiles today

Subway Tile Placement Ideas

So because of all these amazing changes throughout the years, subway tiles are now even more perfect for any room in your home.

Kitchen: No matter the style of your kitchen, today you can easily find subway tile that is perfect for your backsplash and perfectly matches your kitchen style. And thanks to the smooth surfaces and thin grout lines of subway tiles, they’re a great choice for your kitchen backsplash because they’re so easy to clean and maintain.

white subway tile backsplash

Classic white subway tile available at Avalon Flooring

Bathrooms: Tile in bathrooms is a very common and popular choice. And deciding on subway tile is always a good and classic design. Whether it’s for your floor, walls, shower or all of the above, you can’t go wrong!

blue bathroom subway tile

Maioloca subway tile in blue steel color, available at Avalon Flooring

colored bathroom subway tile

H-Line subway tile in denim, available at Avalon Flooring

Feature Walls: As common as it is to see subway tile in kitchens and bathrooms, they can also be used as a neutral or a bold statement feature wall given the range of materials available.

colored and pattered wall subway tile

Maioloca subway tile in grey, available at Avalon Flooring

Choosing Grout for Your Subway Tiles

While it might seem like a minor detail, choosing the right grout for your tile is extremely important. It can add strength and help avoid chipping and cracking. There are different types and colors of grout to choose from depending on what style you’re going for. To learn more information about choosing the right grout, check out our other blog (link to grout blog).

How to Clean Subway Tile

Maintaining and cleaning your subway tile is easy and simple. The most popular tips have to do with creating a natural cleaning spray yourself. Here are helpful tips for each subway tile material:

Porcelain: You can clean porcelain subway tiles with a vinegar-based cleaning or simply making a vinegar water solution.

-All you have to do is scrub the tile with a small bristle brush or cloth

-Then rinse them with hot water and dry with a clean towel

-*Don’t let the water just sit and air dry on the tile because that will leave noticeable water spots

-*If you have a rare tough stain, let your vinegar and water sit on the stain for about 10 minutes before simply wiping it away

Stone Tiles: Natural stone subway tiles should be simply brushed or dry wiped to get rid of any dirt or small debris that will leave scratches on the tile

-*Don’t use any vinegar, bleach or acidic cleaning products to clean natural stone tile. Instead use specialized stone cleaners that don’t have any harsh harmful ingredients.

-Apply these types of cleaners with either a damp cloth or sponge—never any steel wool or abrasive pad because that will scratch the natural stone tile

Ceramic: Glazed ceramic subway tile can simply be wiped down with a damp sponge. To add extra cleaning power, look for an all purpose cleaner that isn’t oil based.

-Never clean ceramic tile with ammonia based cleaner because it’ll cause the grout to become discolored.

-If there’s a rare heavy stain, mix scouring powder with water to make a thick paste. Then apply this past with a non-metal brush or pad (you don’t want to leave scratches).

-After it sits on the stain for a few minutes, simply scrub it off.

Glass: A simple soap-based detergent mixed with warm water can be directly sprayed onto glass subway tile and then just wiped with a soft cloth.

Metallic: These can be cleaned with a mild mixture of soap and water. Make sure you use a soft sponge or cloth to clean metallic subway tiles. Then dry the tile immediately after so no streaks are left.

By using these simple tips and tricks, you can make sure that your subway tile always looks its freshest!

As you can see, subway tile is not just some bland product. Today, it comes in all sorts of materials, finishes, colors, sizes, and designs giving you unlimited subway tile design ideas. So stop by one of our 14 locations to see our large selection of subway tile in a variety of costs. Our design experts will help you choose the right ones for your home. And to make things better and even easier, our installation team will take care of beautifying your space.


At Avalon Flooring, we want to make sure you’re happy from your first step in our showroom to your first step on your new flooring—and as your partner in home design, we’ll be there every step along the way. Consider us your “One-Stop Shopping” destination for all things flooring…(and window treatments)!

Our design consultants are equipped with the knowledge to guide you through the wide selection of products we offer, and our expert installation team is professionally trained to make sure everything gets installed the way you envision. We know your home is an expression of your sense of style, and we’re here to make sure you’ll be proud of it for years to come.

If you have any questions, please email us.