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How to Clean Grout

woman cleaning grout
Andrey_Popov/ Shutterstock

Cleaning grout from your bathroom tiles may seem straightforward, but it can be quite difficult. Due to grout’s porous nature, it quickly absorbs anything that sits on top of it. But getting grout as clean and white as it was when first installed is not impossible. Using the right materials and products is crucial to figuring out the best way to clean grout.

Grout is the combination of water, cement, and a colorant, depending on what shade you want. The most common grout colors are white, cream, gray, and other variations of those shades. Grout is used to keep bathroom or floor tiles firmly in place. But because it’s usually in high-traffic, high-moisture areas, it is also prone to becoming dirty and staying that way. Learn how to clean grout with the steps and list of materials below.

What you’ll need

Note that you won’t necessarily need all of these to clean grout effectively. Sometimes, easier jobs only take a little bit of water and a brush. Grout that has been stained for a long time or with hard-staining products may need more attention.

How to clean tile grout in 6 steps

1. Start simple with water

Use hot water and a hard bristle scrub brush to release any stains set into the grout. Dirt and superficial stains should come out, clearing the way for any deeper cleaners.

2. Apply the grout cleaner

Protect yourself while you learn how to clean grout. Wear gloves when using a chemical cleaner. Spray the grout cleaner onto the stained area. You can also use hydrogen peroxide or bleach. However, be aware that if your grout is colored, bleach will leach the coloration from it, staining it white (sometimes unevenly).

If you don’t want to use a chemical floor tile grout cleaner, mix a solution with one part vinegar and one part water. Then, sprinkle baking soda along the lines around the tiles. Spray the baking soda with the vinegar solution and allow it to sit for a minute.

Note: Do not use cleaners that are acidic or waxy as they can damage the grout. Examples: anything with a vinegar base or that is meant to clean wood. Acidic cleaners eat grout away, causing holes and damage to appear. Waxy cleaners leave a buildup that discolors and damages over several uses.

3. Rinse and scrub the cleaner

Grab the scrub brushes and sponges and work at the grout where the cleaner was applied. The cleaners should help pull out the stains and dirt so they can wash away. Only let the cleaner sit for as long as the directions require. If the first try doesn’t completely work, re-apply, and repeat to get the desired results.

After finishing with cleaner, mop the floor to remove any residue and keep it from being soaked back into the grout.

4. Apply the sealant

Stop the grout from being as porous by spraying on a grout sealant. Products like these fill in the cracks and holes in the grout without making it look worse. Follow the instructions carefully to avoid creating a buildup that can discolor the surrounding tiles.

5. Steam cleaning

Although using a steam cleaner is typically done by professionals, it is easy to do yourself. Rent a machine from stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s. Steam cleaning is safe for tile work and grout, but keep it away from painted walls or wooden baseboards. Steam cleaning is a chemical-free way to deep clean tile floors.

6. Dry it off

After the cleaner and the sealant have been applied, look around to ensure that the floor is dry. If any remaining areas need to be wiped off, take care of them now. Anything liquid sitting on top of the grout has a much higher likelihood of being absorbed into it.

The bottom line

When it comes to learning how to clean grout, persistence is vital. It might take a while, but doing it well means a longer, cleaner life for your grout. Prevention can also save you time and money. Before the grout around your tiles begins to discolor, spray it with a sealant and make sure that no stains are allowed to rest on top for too long. Be careful when mopping; you’ll want to vacuum first to remove dust and dirt and stop it from soaking into the grout. If it is too late this time, invest in a quality cleaner and get ready to scrub. For particularly bad stains, use a steam cleaner.

Other frequently asked questions

Is there a grout-cleaning tool?

There are tools, such as power scrubbers or tile brushes, that can be used as a grout cleaner. Some people use a toothbrush when they learn how to clean floor tile grout. Any bristle brush that allows you to get into the thin line the grout makes around the tile is useful. There is not a widely used tool meant explicitly for cleaning grout.

How do professionals clean grout?

Professionals know how to clean grout much the same way as we do. They start by vacuuming or sweeping the floor to get rid of loose dirt that could get caught in the porous holes while cleaning. After this, they apply their cleaner and mop up after it. Often, a professional uses a steam cleaner as their third step. You can rent a steam cleaner for a thorough job. Finally, they dry it all up. Any leftover liquid can seep into the grout, even after a sealant is applied.

When do I replace my grout?

Replacing all of your grout normally isn’t the best option. Instead, remove the top layers of grout with a chisel tool, since that’s the layer that is permanently stained. Then, apply a new layer of grout over the old. The original grout gives the new material something more to bond to, keeping it firmly together.


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