Tile can be a beautiful addition to any home. However, the pasty substance used to fill in the gaps between tiles can be a challenging area to clean. What we are referring to is grout.
Because it's porous and absorbent, grout is prone to staining, dirt, grime, mold, and mildew. But don't fret! Making it a point to include cleaning your grout as part of your regular tile cleaning routine can decrease the buildup of all that nasty stuff.
We put together these tips on the best way to clean grout which are also helpful with restoring grout that may look grimy or old.
Before You Begin
You can easily clean and restore your grout using everyday household products mixed with a little bit of good old-fashioned, elbow grease.
Before you begin, remember that it's always best to start with the mildest cleaning solution for any cleaning project. If you aren't sure about a product, it is wise to test it out in a hidden spot first. (i.e., under or behind an appliance, behind the toilet, etc.)
What Cleaning Tools Will You Need?
Depending on what area and the size of the room will depend on what tools you should use when cleaning your grout. Tools we recommend are:
- Stiff-bristled brush
- Spray bottle
- Steam mop
- An old toothbrush (this is great for those tiny lines and spaces!)
- Rubber gloves (especially if you are working with bleach or any other harsh chemical)
What Products Should You Use?
There are plenty of products on the market that say they can get your grout looking shiny, new, and sanitized. And while they may work, there are options amongst your everyday household cleaning supplies that you probably already have on hand that you should try out first.
If you are using a cleaning product made for grout cleaning, be sure to review its ingredients. Harsh chemicals in certain products can be difficult and irritating to use in an enclosed bathroom environment where ventilation and air circulation are already compromised.
Here are some common products you probably have on hand: (please see more below about what to mix together!)
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Warm water
- Chlorine bleach
- Baking soda
- Dawn dish soap
Getting Your Grout Squeaky Clean
Our recommendations are listed below from the mildest to the strongest cleaning products. Remember to spot-check!
Warm water and a stiff-bristled brush
You most likely can find a stiff-bristled brush at most hardware or big box stores if you don't have one on hand. Fill your spray bottle up with warm water, spray directly onto grout lines, and scrub in a circular motion.
While this option won't usually reach caked-on grime, mold, and mildew, it is great to use for regular, cleaning use.
Spray with equal parts vinegar and warm water
For more difficult dirt and mildew stains, vinegar is an excellent go-to. However, vinegar alone can be too harsh. Fill a spray bottle with equal parts vinegar and warm water. Spray on the grout, let it sit for 5-10 minutes, then scrub with a stiff brush.
Dawn dish soap and vinegar mixture
Dawn dish soap is also a good option for diluting vinegar. Heating the vinegar for a minute in the microwave before combining it with the soap helps ensure they mix thoroughly. Apply with a spray bottle and scrub using a stiff brush.
Apply a baking soda paste and spray with vinegar.
Want to up the cleaning power even more? Mix baking soda and water to create a paste, and cover grout lines with it. Then spray on the vinegar solution listed above. Once the mixture stops foaming, scrub with a brush and rinse with water.
Pour on some hydrogen peroxide
Moderate stains may require hydrogen peroxide. You can use the product alone or use it to replace the water in the baking soda paste above.
Apply oxygen bleach for up to 15 minutes
Often sold in powdered, best-selling OxiClean ( or any oxygen bleach) is tough on grimy, heavy stained grout. Whichever oxygen bleach product you choose to use, be sure the area is well-ventilated and carefully follow the manufacturer's directions for application. Generally, you will want to let the oxygen bleach solution work for 10 or 15 minutes before rinsing. Rinse with clean water so that the dirt doesn't resettle into the grout lines.
Try a commercial product
If the mold, mildew, and stains are hardcore, you might need to use something a little more powerful. Some of the best grout cleaners on the market can quickly remove mold and mildew and restore bright grout white lines. These often work in one of two methods:
- Spray and wipe
- Scrub with a brush
A few products claim to work without scrubbing, saving time and energy, but they may contain harsher acids, solvents, or chlorine bleach. Be sure to pay attention to the active ingredients and always follow the instructions as directed.
What about Using Bleach on Grout?
Because bleach is so powerful, you should only use bleach in extreme cases when cleaning grout (as there is a possibility it can bleach out the tile and cause staining, depending on its material). If you do need to use bleach, use sparingly and dilute with water before applying to grout.
It's important to note that bleach won't last as long on shower tiles because every time you run the shower, the water will wear away the effects of the bleach. Use it in spaces that don't get a daily soak.
Before you apply, rinse away
Before applying bleach, wash everything else away. Vinegar, especially when traces of it are mixed with bleach, will release a highly toxic chlorine gas into the surrounding air. (Long-term use of these cleaners will erode grout, so use on a limited basis.)
Steam clean the worst away
Steam mops can be an efficient and environmentally-friendly method of cleaning grout, especially tile floors or larger areas.
Grout can look beautiful, but it can become stained, mildewed, and even cracked without proper cleaning and maintenance. While a darker grout color can hide stains, it won't keep away mold and mildew. By using these tips in your regular cleaning routine, you can prevent discoloration and keep your tile looking fresh and new.