How to Clean Grout
Grout is a funny name for an important product. It is the sealing agent that fills the gaps between tiles. You see grout on a tiled floor, back splash, shower, and counter tops. If grout gets dirty and dingy, the whole room looks like it’s not clean. But when your grout is clean, the whole room shines bright.
I remember when we were moving into our new house, I was so excited (still am, I love my house). I decided I was going to clean the grout first and have everything just the way I wanted –clean, fresh and ready for its new inhabitants.
The cleaning was going great until I got to the bathroom and started cleaning the counter. I thought the grout was a darker color to contrast the lighter color of the tiles. Not really. I was doing some heavy duty cleaning and the grout was actually lighter than I thought - which was okay, I still liked it - but it just wasn't what I had expected.
Has this happened to you? You move into a new home and among other things, you’re thinking the grout is brown or dark beige, only to find out after a good cleaning it’s actually white!
That’s what a big difference having clean grout can make. So, getting it clean and keeping it clean are the key to having a clean room.
Before You Clean, Know Your Materials
Before you start cleaning your grout, you should figure out the type of tile you are working with.
Ceramic tiles are quite often used in kitchens and bathrooms. Ceramic tiles are painted and glazed, are sturdy and can handle many cleaners.
Even though ceramic tiles are sturdy, they can be dulled over time with the use of harsh chemicals or improper cleaning.
Marble and Natural Stone Tiles
Marble is a natural stone that can be damaged or permanently etched if cleaned with harsh cleaners. Many homemade cleaning solutions for grout can include the use of white vinegar and/or bleach.
White vinegar is acidic and you do not want to use this on marble and some other natural stones. Vinegar will permanently etch marble surfaces.
Bleach is highly alkaline and can cause marble tiles to become dull and loose its stylish look.
Other natural stones are a bit hardier, meaning they could handle a stronger cleaner.
It’s always best to see what the manufacturer suggests for cleaning the grout around the type of tile you have.
Cleaning Grout on Floor Tiles
The grout on your kitchen tile floor might get stained and dirty from people walking on it and food spills. The best way to clean the gunk that gets stuck in grout is with a mild abrasive and some elbow grease.
This is probably not the time for using a mop, although a long handled brush can be used if you can’t physically get down on your hands and knees to do the job.
A mop on a tile floor just skims over the grout, so your normal mopping probably won’t do the job.
Choosing a Cleaner
Many people use a mixture of household ingredients, like a vinegar and water solution or baking soda mixed with a little water for abrasion.
If you are just doing maintenance cleaning this is fine, but for deep cleaning or stubborn stains, opt for an oxygen based cleaner or one specifically made for cleaning grout.
Use a Scrub Brush
For a deep down clean, you've got to put in some real work. The grout sits just below the level of the tiles, so a brush of some kind is your best bet for getting it really clean.
With abrasive cleaners, it’s important to rinse thoroughly and often with plain water so you are getting rid of all residue from the dirt you are removing as well as from the cleanser. Rinse the area you’re working on and then wipe up excess water. Continue scrubbing.
Even though you are rinsing often, it's a good idea to do one final mopping. After you have finished scrubbing the grout, go over the surface one more time with a wet mop. Dry the floor of any excess water.
Getting Rid of Mold and Mildew in Bathroom Grout
In the bathroom, your problem isn’t dirt so much as it is mold and mildew. With a moist environment, mold and mildew have the opportunity to grow and flourish and the grout lines provide the perfect surface for them to cling to.
Many people rely on bleach alone to clean bathroom grout and remove mold, but there’s more to it than just putting bleach on the grout lines and leaving it.
To really get rid of the mold and mildew, you need to scrub the grout.
You need the power of bleach or peroxide to scrub the grout and to kill the mold and mildew, making sure it doesn't come back anytime soon.
For those tough areas mix peroxide with a little baking soda to make a paste, use an old toothbrush to scrub the area.
You can let the mix sit on the grout stain a few minutes, scrub again and rinse. Rinsing is generally easier in the shower area because the water is there already. Use the shower head to rinse the tile and grout.
To prevent mold and mildew from coming back, be sure you have adequate ventilation in your bathroom. Opening a window or running an exhaust fan can help keep the bathroom from getting too moist.
Homemade Recipes for Grout Cleaning
Below are some homemade recipes you can make yourself and they are just as effective as store bought cleaners.
Just grab an old toothbrush or soft bristled brush and a pair of goggles and you’re set to clean.
Mild Cleaning Solution That’s Safe for Most Tiles
Here is a grout cleaner that is safe for most tiles. It’s a mild cleaning solution for grout that requires a light cleaning.
1 gallon water
1 tablespoon Dawn dish washing liquid
Tough Stain Removal from Grout
For a more heavy duty cleaning of grout around your ceramic tiles, give this recipe a try:
3/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup bleach
Mix your ingredients into a thick paste (think Soft Scrub), then follow these steps:
Apply paste to the grout lines.
Scrub with the toothbrush.
Let sit for 5 – 15 minutes, depending on how dirty the grout is.
Completely rinse away residue when done.
Repeat if necessary.
In some cases, elbow grease just doesn't cut it. If your grout hasn't been cleaned in a very long time (or you just can’t get the stains out) it may be time to call in the big guns.
You can rent a steam cleaner from a local equipment rental place or hire someone to do the job for you. The combination of hot steam and then a vacuum will lift and remove the stains you can’t get out with just scrubbing.
Keeping Your Grout Clean
Once you've gotten your grout cleaned, you want to protect it. There are many products available for sealing grout at your local home improvement store. Adding a layer of sealant will keep your grout looking good for a long time and cut your cleaning time in the future.