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How to Deep Clean Grout and TileJanuary 22nd, 2021 by
The grout that surrounds bathroom tiles can become discolored by mold, mildew, dirt, or spilled personal care products. The tiles themselves are made of durable material, easily maintained and cleaned, but keeping the grout between them looking pristine can pose more of a challenge. Learn the best methods to protect and preserve your grout while maintaining the condition of tiles.
Why Grout Can Be Hard to Clean
The grout used for tile installation is a porous mixture of cement, sand, and water, and is often light in color, making it very prone to stains. Common culprits in bathrooms include mold, mildew, dirt, and spilled products.
Harsh cleaners like heavy-duty grout products or chlorine bleach may remove stains, but these solutions can also break down grout. Used over time, these caustic chemicals may even make it more likely that you’ll need to re-grout, or worse re-tile, before you’re ready to.
Grout and Tile Cleaning Methods
The best way to keep grout clean is to regularly spray and scrub tiles with water and gentle household ingredients. By starting with these lower-impact methods, and using them more frequently, you may be able to prevent stains early and avoid progressing to more powerful and potentially damaging treatments.
Scrub with Warm Water
Start grout clean up with warm water and a stiff-bristled brush. You may find it helpful to fill a dish tub or use a spray bottle for pressurized, targeted application. Scrub grout in circular motions to loosen up dirt and grime, repeating the process multiple times before resorting to more powerful solutions.
If you have one, a steam mop can also serve as an easy, very, and environmentally friendly way to clean grout. This appliance releases heated water as steam to help lift stains, particularly in combination with targeted scrubbing. These methods can also be intensified with the use of safe, do-it-yourself household cleaners.
Vinegar is a non-toxic substance that can be very effective on grout. Dilute the acidity by mixing together equal parts vinegar and water and use a brush or spray bottle to apply the mixture to grout. Wait five minutes for the mixture to sink in before scrubbing in circular motions with a brush.
Baking Soda Paste
Baking soda and water make a gritty, powerful satin-combating paste. Applied with a stiff-bristled brush or sponge, this paste can help buff away grout stains, reducing effort. Baking soda also has inherent stain-fighting properties, particularly when combined with vinegar.
If baking soda and water alone are not enough to remove stains, apply this paste to grout and spray with vinegar and wait for a foam to form on the grout surface. This foam has a stain-lifting effect, particularly if you wait a few minutes before starting to scrub.
Hydrogen peroxide is another gentle, bubbling solution that can eliminate stains, mildew, and mold from the grout in a bathroom. Try using hydrogen peroxide alone, applied with a spray bottle or cloth, then scrubbing grout with a brush. For stronger stains, it can also be combined with baking soda to form a stain-blasting paste. Just remember that peroxide can also discolor hair: Make sure not to get in the way if you spray!
Oxygen-based bleach is less harsh than chlorine bleach making them a good choice for stain-treating grout without causing as much damage over time. Depending on the formula, you may need to mix oxygen bleach powder with water or use a spray treatment on grout.
Allow oxygen bleach to sit on the grout for 10 to 15 minutes prior to scrubbing for the best effect. Ventilate the bathroom as much as possible during application and be sure to rinse the grout afterward so that dirt does not settle back down into crevasses.
Grout Cleaning Products
Products that are marketed as being formulated for grout may be harsher than the preceding substances, but these solutions are also often specialized for the job. If you do not regularly clean grout, or if humidity or an extreme mess can’t be countered by more gentle approaches, resorting to something stronger may be necessary to cut through grime and eliminate stains.
Bleach solutions may be considered the strongest stain, mildew, and mold agents, but chlorine is a very harsh chemical for both your grout and you. Frequent use of chlorine bleach (even diluted) or other bleach-based products can cause your grout to break down more quickly, resulting in flaking or cracking, leading to re-grouting. It could even cause grout erosion, allowing for water and dirt infiltration leading to premature retiling and in-wall water damage.
Chlorine bleach, used with care, is effective on some of the most stubborn stains, but be sure to exercise caution if you’re using bleach as a last resort: Residual vinegar can react with chlorine bleach to form toxic chlorine gas. In general, tile experts recommend avoiding chlorine bleach, and only using dilutions of this solution sparingly on stubborn stains, but rinsing surfaces thoroughly before applying it in any form is an important step to prevent accidental reactions.
Bathroom Remodeling Tips for Tiles
Once your grout has started to break down, re-grouting may be the best remedy. But depending on the age and condition of tile application and surface, a homeowner may need to weigh the pros and cons of having the area completely retiled. New tiles and new grout, laid by a skilled professional, can help eliminate repeated, heavy cleaning with more frequent, but more gentle upkeep that maintains that freshly-set look.
When researching tile installation services, a homeowner should always ask professionals for references. Talk to past customers about their level of satisfaction with the tiling process and the quality of the finished job. Photos can attest to the quality of work, but firsthand accounts from past customers who are willing to vouch for good workmanship can help you hire the best tile installer for a job.
Only have tiling work done by a Certified Tile Installer or professional with at least two years of experience as a full-time lead installer. Background in one or more entry-level support roles such as helper, improver, grouter, or finisher doesn’t equate with the training and knowledge that a lead installer gains over two years or more of laying tile.
Treating grout with a gentle cleanser, drying, and applying two coats of penetrating or membrane-forming sealer can keep this part of flooring looking clean. If grout is damaged, regrouting may be the best solution. Tile flooring and grout may also be replaced in a bathroom remodel.
Daily or weekly bathroom cleaning may make it possible to avoid using harsh cleansers on grout. Spraying grout with warm water and applying common household substances such as vinegar, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide before lightly scrubbing once or more a week can make stain cleanup less intensive and potentially damaging to tiles.