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All About Tile: Maintenance, Grout Cleaning & RepairJune 1st, 2021 by
Tile can change the look and feel of your home. It’s one of those easy add-ons that really makes a difference. However, it’s anything but maintenance-free.
Tile work—whether it’s a basic backsplash or a retro honeycomb pattern—won’t last without proper tile and grout maintenance.
Over time, grout has a tendency to show wear. Once-white grout can turn dark and dingy, ruining the whole look. To keep that from happening, you need to know how to take care of tile—and even how to make minor repairs, when necessary.
In this article, we’ll cover basic tile maintenance, provide tips and tricks for cleaning grout, and even explain how to repair and reseal your grout work.
Routine Tile Maintenance
If there’s tile in your home, regular maintenance should be somewhere on your to-do list. While you’re almost certainly familiar with the need to scrub the tile in your shower or bath, all tile needs occasional TLC, too.
Here’s how to take care of your tile.
A Basic Tile-Cleaning Mixture
There are plenty of commercially available products for cleaning tile. However, you can make a simple but effective mixture using things you likely already have in the house.
You can use a cleaning paste that’s one part hydrogen peroxide and two parts oxygenated powder. (Washing soda is perfect for this.) The resulting thick paste effectively kills mold and mildew, and even brightens grout.
You might be tempted to also use a stiff brush or soap. However, overly abrasive cleaning can damage grout, causing pits or holes. Holes in grout tend to lead to cracking … and the eventual need for repairs.
Save the abrasive stuff for other chores.
How to Clean Grout Lines
We’ll freely admit to the bad news about cleaning grout. It takes time.
You’ll want to spread your cleaning paste into the grout lines with a soft toothbrush. Scrub thoroughly but gently. Take your time and pay attention to the results you’re getting. If your grout simply isn’t coming clean, you may need to speak to a home services pro to see about professional cleaning.
If your grout is pockmarked or full of holes, you need more than a cleaning. You’ll need to regrout and reseal your tile.
We’ll cover both of those processes below.
Quick Grout Repairs
While tile may be durable, grout typically is not.
Over time, grout can crack, become loose, or even develop holes. It’s important to repair damage as soon as possible. For example, holes can leak water through to the drywall behind the tile. This can cause mold and mildew growth.
There are a variety of things that can result in cracked or loose grout. Likely causes include ground shifts, harsh chemicals and age.
We recommend searching for holes or gaps in your grout whenever you clean it as part of your routine tile maintenance. Although fixing these holes is not particularly difficult, it takes time.
In some cases, it can be more expedient to regrout and reseal your tile.
- A grout saw
- A small vacuum or vacuum attachment
- An abrasive cleaner or grout cleaner
- Grout sealant
These are just the basics. Some types of tile and grout require specific cleaning solutions. Harsh cleaners may destroy the finish of your tile or weaken the grout.
Make sure you do your homework before you start.
If you find small holes and want to repair them on your own, here’s what you need to know. It’s worth noting that grout repairs are very DIY friendly, but you should never take on a project you don’t feel comfortable doing yourself.
If you prefer, contact a professional.
1. Remove the Old Grout
Carefully use the grout saw to remove old grout around the hole. Make sure you get all of it. Mold, mildew and other organisms can remain if you don’t.
2. Clean Up
Vacuum up stray bits of grout and dust, making sure the area is completely clean.
3. Add the New Grout
Press new grout into the area. Try to keep it even with the edge of the tile.
While it’s still wet, be sure to wipe away any excess grout for a clean finish.
4. Allow Time for the Grout to Dry
Give the new grout time to dry. Specific dry times may vary, so pay attention to the instructions that apply to the grout you’re using.
5. Seal the Grout
Finally, you’ll need to seal the grout. If you’re not sure how to do that, keep reading.
Dealing With Broken Tiles
When you apply new grout, there’s always a chance a tile will break. While this is a shame, there’s also an upside. The perfect time to replace broken tiles is when you’re already re-grouting them.
While replacing a tile may seem simple, it’s not. There are a lot of ways to make a small break a bigger problem. We strongly encourage you to hire a tile professional for this work.
How to Reseal Grout
One of the best ways to maintain grout is with a sealant. Not only does this help grout last longer but it also keeps your grout clean.
If you’re sealing your grout for the first time (or resealing old grout), there are a few things that you need to know.
When You Should Have Your Grout Sealed
There’s a simple test to know if your grout needs to be sealed.
Spray a bit of water on the grout. If the water beads, it’s already sealed and the seal is good. If the water seeps in, you probably need to have the grout resealed.
A sealer is important because it keeps the grout from absorbing water and prevents dirt from building up. That said, if you have large tiled areas, sealing grout can be difficult. Once again, hire a pro if you’re not completely comfortable with the scope of this project.
The Different Types of Sealers
There are three basic types of grout sealers.
These are just a thin layer on the grout surface. They keep the grout clean and keep dirt and debris from seeping in.
These are aesthetic. They not only seal the grout but also change its color to match your tile. This is great if you don’t want your grout to be white.
These not only coat the grout but also soak into it, protecting the grout composition. This is often the best way to go the first time you seal it.
Talk to a tile professional to find out which type of sealer is right for your grout. Not all sealers are compatible with all types of grout or tiles.
Tile maintenance isn’t always easy. You need to know what type of grout you have, what sealant you need, and how to properly repair, regrout and seal it.
Be sure to go slow and use the right cleaners and sealers to avoid causing damage.