Cleaning Tile Grout

cleaning grout

Those little lines do more than just collect dirt. They also seal and fill joints between flooring and wall tiles in order to create a solid surface, and secure the pieces in place. It’s sort of like cement, and it comes in many different colors. It will go on thick and liquidy, and then set over time to end up completely hard. Once dry, it becomes a permanent fixture in your bathroom or kitchen, and depending upon style and tile type, the lines can be thick or thin. The area between each tile will be completely filled with grout, and it’s always lower, so it’s ideal for collecting grime, and also making it impossible to remove. In order to keep your tiled surface looking it’s best, you will probably have to resort to specialized tools or techniques because it can be pretty difficult to get good results with a simple spray and wipe system. A gleaming surface is much nicer to look at, but it’s also way safer. Use the tips and techniques below to improve appearance and create a healthier environment at the same time.

Why Clean It

It’s pretty easy to mop the tops of each tile, but getting down into the cracks can pose a real problem. Most regular tools will slide right over the top, and will completely miss the grout. You may even find more dirt and grime deposited after cleaning, than you did before you started. The material is very porous so it holds onto stuff well, and makes it difficult to remove. When soap scum, mildew and other yucky stuff are allowed to stay in the lines, it will discolor over time, and then become unhealthy as it’s allowed to cake and build up. Getting the lines clean will make the whole room look better, but it will also eliminate hidden dangers at the same time. You may need a better tool to make the job easier, but you may also be able to combine stuff you already have in order to save a few bucks. Unless you like to bathe or cook in a grimey germ hole, it is very important to clean each tile and the grout that surrounds it.

Health Risks

If ignored, and left alone, all of that dirt may start to affect the people that encounter it. Asthma and allergies can be triggered. Skin, eyes and lungs may be irritated, and in some rare situations, serious diseases can be found lurking within the mold and mildew. It is well documented that mold is bad for you, and the longer it’s allowed to sit, the more potential for danger, and the more difficult it will be to get off. Some varieties are more dangerous than others, but they all look bad, and even the most benign can be irritating to some people.

For those allergic to the grime encountered in this area, it is common to see runny noses, itchy eyes, coughs, sneezes and throat irritation as a response. In some cases, it will manifest in a more chronic  and severe manner to become asthma or some other long term condition. When substances in the grout lines don’t cause full blown allergic reactions, they may just irritate in an annoying way. This can lead to unexplained headaches, fatigue, trouble catching your breath, concentration problems, nausea and more. The most rare problems caused by dirty grout lines are the ones brought about by invasive diseases. This is not at all common, but it is a risk in some extreme cases. Typically these powerful germs can only compromise those with already lowered immune systems.

Cases of asthma have skyrocketed all over the country, and one of the easiest ways to protect yourself and your family is to keep things clean, but also stick with products that don’t add to the problem. If you use harsh chemicals to fry the dirt, you may be doing as much harm as good due to the harsh, toxic ingredients. The tips and cleaning methods below will help you to do a good job without resorting to dangerous products that may cause even more irritation that the stuff you’re trying to remove. Keep reading to learn about several proven ways to accomplish this task, and feel free to add your own in the comments section if there is anything we missed.

4 Ways To Clean Grout


Use Chlorine Bleach

This is one of the most harsh methods we will list, so best to get it out of the way. We would recommend trying the other techniques first, and then resorting to this if necessary. Bleach can be an irritant to some, and should not be on your skin for any amount of time, but many people swear by it, and prefer it for this job. If you choose to try this method, be sure to use proper precaution with the chlorine bleach. Because it will distort colored grout, you should only use this stuff on white or lighter colored lines, or those that you do not mind changing colors.

  1. To prepare your cleaning solution, get a bucket, and add in 2 cups of baking soda.
  2. Measure out 1 cup of bleach and add to the baking soda.
  3. Use a stick or ruler to mix the two ingredients together, and continue until you have a paste.
  4. Grab a toothbrush and dip into your paste to apply some to the bristles. A larger, more powerful brush may make the job easier.
  5. Use an up and down, back and forth action to scrub along the lines.
  6. Do one section at a time and allow to sit for 15-20 minutes.
  7. Once it has set, use a mop and some water to rinse clean and remove any residue.
  8. Repeat if needed to get the results you want.

Use Oxygen Bleach

Similar to chlorine, but safer, and generally more effective on grout. It works on all sorts of stains, and will usually provide better results than professional steam machines. It’s a general purpose cleaning product made from a combination of soda ash and hydrogen peroxide. When mixed with warm water, it becomes activated and offers a powerful cleaning solution that works well with added scrubbing. The oxygen will break down organic build up to make it easy to release it from the surface and lift it away. Although it is a bleach, it will not harm color like the chlorine stuff does. It’s also less toxic and therefore safer for you and your pets.

  1. To prepare for cleaning, mix an amount with warm water according to the instructions on the package. It will totally dissolve once mixed in.
  2. Pour the solution you made directly onto the floor.
  3. Continue pouring until all grout line are flooded.
  4. Once the floor is saturated, let sit for 15-30 minutes. As it sits, it will do the work for you by breaking down the grime.
  5. If your cleaning solution absorbs or sinks in, add more. The area should remain wet.
  6. After 30 minutes, use a scrub brush to clean the lines.
  7. Add more solution as you scrub to make the job easy.
  8. For best results, use a nylon brush, and work in sections.
  9. In a grid, work from top to bottom, and left to right.
  10. Rinse the floor with water and wipe clean with a mop or rag.
  11. Repeat if necessary to get the results you want.
  12. For maintenance after you get it clean, add a smaller amount of oxygen bleach to your water every time you mop.

Use A Homemade Cleaning Solution

Want to make a similar substance with stuff you already have? A simple home remedy can do a pretty good job if you also have a good tool. It will be pretty tough to get grout clean without any effort, no matter which method you go with, but skipping a trip to the store will at least reduce the time it takes. When you use a simple list of ingredients you already have at home, you can be sure it is safe and non-toxic, and you can mix the exact amount you need at a very affordable price. When applied with a good scrub brush, the following solution has been proven to remove soap scum, mold and other stuff without much trouble.

  1. To get ready, mix your solution in a sink or bucket.
  2. Begin with warm water and then add in 1/4 cup of white distilled vinegar.
  3. Mix in some lemon juice for scent and acidity. 1/3 cup.
  4. Combine this liquid with about 1/2 cup of baking soda.
  5. The ingredients will immediately react and bubble. Wait until it settles.
  6. Once calm, add to a spray bottle for walls, leave in a bucket or apply right to the tile for floors.
  7. Once applied, let it sit for 5 or more minutes.
  8. Use a scrub brush to clean grout lines and remove grime.
  9. Clean one section at a time, and move from one location to the next in a methodical manner.
  10. Once finished, rinse clear with water, and use a mop or rag to remove any residue left over.

Use A Steam Cleaner

This method is probably the most expensive, but it also might be the easiest. For regular build up these machines can be quite effective, but when the grime is caked or on there for long periods, they may not provide the scrubbing power necessary to get the floor clean. No t many people could justify a outright purchase, but a one day rental may help you improve the look of your grout. Most home improvement stores offer rental machines that you can get your hands on locally. It won’t do you much good for tile on the wall, and it would be pretty silly to use in a small room. This method is best used for large sections of tiled flooring.

  1. Once you get the machine home, be sure to set up according to the instructions.
  2. Fill the machine with water, and then turn the power on.
  3. Allow it time to reach the proper temperature.
  4. Begin at one side of the room, and move toward the other. As you move make sure the brush makes contact and continue in a forward motion.
  5. As you reach the other side, turn directly around, and continue in a line parallel to the one you just made.
  6. Keep steaming until you get the results you want. It may be necessary to go over certain areas more than once.
  7. Use a mop or cloth to soak up any residual moisture and wipe clean any residue or debris.
  8. Turn off machine and allow to cool.

Extra Tips

  • Choose your tool based upon the durability of the tile.
  • Always use a good scrubber for fast and easy results.
  • Fresh dirt is easier to clean than old stuff. Clean regularly, and tackle tough stains right away to make the job easier.
  • Grout sealer can be applied to keep it clean longer. Put on according to direction once fully cleaned.
  • If using chlorine bleach, ensure that you open a window, turn on an exhaust fan or ventilate in some way.
  • Gloves should also be worn when handling chlorine bleach.
  • Using a steam machine on grout that is cracking or broken may cause problems. Avoid this.

Good Tool = Easy Cleaning

Using a better grout brush will save time, reduce effort, and make the job easier. It’s nearly impossible to thoroughly clean the lines between each tile without a brush of some sort, and all of them are not created equal. Shape, size, material and durability all play a role in making one tool better or worse than another. For the quickest job with the best results, you will want a tough scrubber that doesn’t wear out. A brush that works as a hand tool or one with a long pole will increase convenience and allow you to reach areas that are high up, or far away. You also make it possible to switch to floors or tiles without using something different, or resorting to awkward stretching or straining. We carry some of the best grout cleaning tools available, but anything similar will also work. Be careful when shopping elsewhere though because most other tools are flimsy and prone to bending or smashing to become ineffective.

Shark Grout And Tile BrushThe Shark Grout And Tile Brush

This red, gray and blue brush has some of the stiffest bristles you will find. It’s a commercial grade tool that features unique bristles angles to make it easy to use, and also allow it to clean the top of each tile as it removes everything from the lines. It points outward at each end, so you can scrub right up to the edges, and it has a triangular shape underneath to dig deep down into any size grout line. A swivel attachment at the top can be used to connect a mop or broom pole for added reach, but it folds flat for comfortable use when gripped with a single hand. Quickly lift up tough grime with a simple back and forth motion and almost no pressure. It’s safe for any cleaning solution, but it does most of the work for you, so the cleaner used is less important.

Demon Pro Grout BrushDemon Pro Grout Brush

Similar to the shark, but with more advanced bristles at the center, and longer bristles overall. Get professional looking results with little effort, and use a tool that doesn’t wear out. This brush is red, gray and black and features the same angles and shaping as the one mentioned above. This means that it will also clean tile and grout with one motion, and allow you to scrub right up to baseboards without extra effort. You can attach it to a pole in the same way also, so high sections of walls are easy to reach, and doing a whole floor does not require to get down on your hands and knees. Nylo-Grit bristles at the center are more durable and more flexible than regular nylon, and they have more cutting power thanks to the silicon carbide extruded throughout. Bend and flex to get every crack and crevice, and power through dirt with the high performance bristles.

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