How to clean grout?

The Best Way to Clean and Brighten Grout and Tiles

Janelle Jones

With tile, the difference between dingy and dazzling often comes down to the grout in between. “Grout is incredibly porous-like a giant sponge-which means it will absorb any grease, grime, oils or spills it comes into contact with,” says Leslie Reichert, green-cleaning coach and author of “The Joy of Cleaning.” And while the culprit may vary from room to room (mildew in the bathroom, cooking splatters in the kitchen, mud stains on the foyer floor), you don’t need specialized systems to get grody grout-and surrounding tiles!-clean again. Here’s a fail-proof strategy to help your wall and floor tiles sparkle.

Clean the Tiles

For most types of tile, including porcelain and ceramic, warm water and dish soap will do the trick. “Diluted vinegar is a common recommendation, but vinegar is very acidic,” says Robb Roderick, a technical trainer at the National Tile Contractors Association. “If the solution is too strong, you’ll weaken and damage the grout, and vinegar can etch stone tiles.” Instead, spray the gentler solution of water and dish soap, then wipe with a damp microfiber or cloth.

Use Steam to Scrub Bathroom Tiles

In the bathroom, you’re probably dealing not only with surface dirt and debris, but also soap scum residue, which can be harder to remove. Make it easy on yourself by spritzing the tiled floors and shower walls with surface cleaner then cranking the hot water for five minutes until steam builds. Wait 20 minutes and the tiles will be noticeably easier to wipe clean with a cloth.

Scrub the Grout Lines

Time to turn your attention to the grout lines between those clean tiles. How grimy the grout gets may come down to what it’s made of: Traditional grout is a mixture of sand and cement, though more modern options include latex and other polymers to help boost their stain-resistance. No matter what stains you’re facing, water and patience will be your two best tools. Start by spraying the grout with hot water and scrubbing with a stiff bristle brush or a grout brush, to lift any dirt or grime on the surface. “If you have a steam cleaner on hand, that’s especially effective,” says Melissa Maker, author of “Clean My Space.” Apply steam directly to the grout, then use your brush to scrub in a circular motion. “Blot any moisture away with a rag, and once the grout dries it may look good as new.”

Why Water Works Best

Water has a neutral pH (at 7) and is particularly gentle and safe for grout, says Rodderick. That’s less true for highly acidic cleaners (such as vinegar, with a pH around 2) and highly alkaline cleaners (such as bleach, with a pH around 12), so you want to use them very sparingly.

Image zoom Shih Wei Wang / EyeEm/GettyImages

Attack Stubborn Grout Stains

If your grout still looks dull, grab a cleaner that’s pH neutral (such as Neu’s Tub & Tile Cleaner). Then grab that stiff brush again and give it another scrub. “Elbow grease really is the most important ingredient,” says Donna Smallin Kuper, certified house cleaning technician and author at Unclutter.com. A Magic Eraser can also make quick work of stubborn stains, but know that you might go through more than one to get a room full of tiles sparkly. After scrubbing, use a damp sponge or microfiber cloth to remove any remaining grout cleaner. Just make sure you’re using a clean cloth and fresh water, says Maker. “If the sponge is dirty or you’re using dingy mop water to rinse, the grout will soak it up and become discolored again in a snap.”

For super-stubborn stains, the Tile Council of America recommends alkaline cleaners (such as Mr. Clean or Spic and Span) over acidic options. For any non-neutral cleaner, Rodderick suggests doing a quick test in a small, inconspicuous spot. Wait a few minutes to make sure you don’t spot discoloration or damage before moving on to the rest of the grout lines.

Kill Mold

Hot, humid bathrooms with limited circulation are like dream environments for mold spores. While bleach does effectively kill mold on non-porous surfaces, like tiles and countertops, it’s not as effective on porous surfaces like caulk, drywall, wood and grout. Smallin Kuper recommends Zep Tile Mold Stain and Mildew Stain Remover to send mold stains packing for good. Then make it a habit to open a window or run the bathroom fan after showers, to lower the room’s humidity.

Seal Your Success

Sealers fill the grout’s pores, preventing grime, grit and mold from infiltrating the porous material. How often you need to seal grout depends on how high-traffic a tiled area is, but aim for at least annually-and for most areas in the home, twice a year is a solid goal, says Maker. Just be sure to wait at least 24 hours between deep-scrubbing and applying the sealer, to make sure the grout is completely dry. (DuPont Grout Sealer is one well-rated option).

Make Some Daily Tweaks

With your tile floors, if you notice certain areas are particularly grimy-say, by the back door or near the laundry basket-consider putting down a rug to better protect those areas from dirt and debris or make sweeping and mopping a more frequent habit, says Maker.

Bathroom Maintenance

In the bathroom, you’ll cut future grout-scouring time by half (or more!) if you keep a small squeegee or a clean microfiber cloth near the shower, to quickly wipe down the tiles after you turn off the water. “You’ll hardly have to deep clean, because there’s nothing building up on the tile’s surface,” says Reichert. Tell your family to open a window or run the exhaust fan for 10 to 20 minutes after a shower as well, to quickly pull humidity and moisture from the room and help prohibit mold growth on the grout.

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Need help cleaning grout? I tested 10 popular homemade grout cleaners to figure out which DIY tile and grout cleaner works best. The winning solution is an all-natural cleaner that brightens and whitens grout with only 2 simple ingredients. Learn the easy, healthy way to clean grout and tile today!

Our new-to-us house has a white tile entry and white tile in the kitchen. Between the kids, the dog, and my husband (who likes to walk inside in his lawn mowing shoes) it’s nearly impossible to keep the tile and grout clean.

Seriously, there always seems to be one mystery spot or blob of goo somewhere on the white tile floor.

The worst part? The brownish discolored tile grout.

The floor tile grout hadn’t been cleaned in so long that it was hard to tell what the original color was meant to be. Was it white? Was it tan? Your guess is as good as mine.

What’s Best for Cleaning Grout?

I love DIY green cleaning solutions so I set out to find the best homemade grout cleaner that uses safe, all-natural ingredients.

My Grout Cleaning Resume

Let me backtrack just a bit… I’m not a newbie at cleaning grout! Thanks to my husband’s career we’ve lived in 10 difference houses including one with light colored stone tile floors and one with white tile and teal grout (???). We’ve had tile bathrooms and tiled kitchens, tiled entry ways and tiled laundry rooms. It’s safe to say I have a lot of experience cleaning grout.

Scrubbing grout might just be my least favorite chore. To me a tile floor means means lots of scrubbing on your hands and knees to get (and keep) the grout spic-and-span.

(Anyone else feel like Cinderella when scrubbing floors?)

I wanted to see if there was a better way… a magical grout cleaner I was missing (or some some singing song birds that could help)… so I began to investigate homemade grout cleaner recipes –>

And I was totally overwhelmed. There were so many complicated recipes and many conflicting opinions.

The Great Grout Cleaner Experiment

I decided to test the 10 most popular DIY grout cleaners online to find the best homemade grout cleaner.

Methodology

I tested each cleaner on the same surface (grimy white grout and tile) and used the same process to test each cleaner:

  1. I divided the tile floor into 10 sections using painters tape and numbered the sections with post it notes. (Yes, I’m a green cleaning nerd.)
  1. I mixed a batch of one cleaner, applied it to one section of the tile and grout, gave the cleaner 10 minutes to start working, then scrubbed the grout with a clean, dry toothbrush and wiped the area clean with water and a clean white cloth.
  1. I repeated step 2 nine more times using a clean, dry toothbrush and different white cloth each time. (I’m a martyr for your green cleaning needs!)
  1. I waited overnight for the grout to dry completely and then recorded the results.

The differences between the tile and grout cleaners were mind boggling! Some of the cleaners made absolutely no difference, some worked okay, and two left the tile grout amazingly clean!

The Tested Grout Cleaners

Grout Cleaner #1

Ingredients: 3 cups water, ½ cup baking soda, 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, 1/4 cup white vinegar

Directions: Mix ingredients in a spray bottle. Spray floor, let sit for a few minutes, scrub.

Grout Cleaner #2

Ingredients: 1 cup Epsom salts, 1/2 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup liquid hand washing dish soap

Directions: Mix together the Epsom salts, baking soda, and dish soap. Scoop mixture onto grout and rub clean. Rinse.

Grout Cleaner #3 (Winner!)

Ingredients: 1/2 cup of baking soda, 1/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide, 1 tsp dish soap

Directions: Mix together the baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and dish soap. Spoon mixture onto grout, wait 5-10 minutes, scrub and rinse.

Grout Cleaner #4 (Winner!)

Ingredients: 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup hydrogen peroxide

Directions: Sprinkle baking soda onto grout until it is covered, spray with hydrogen peroxide until it is wet, wait 10 minutes, scrub, and wipe clean.

Grout Cleaner #5

Ingredients: 3/4 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 3 tbsp salt, 3 tbsp hand dish washing liquid, 1/2 cup vinegar, 10 drops essential oil (I used lemon)

Directions: Mix together is large bowl or bucket (mixture foams a lot), pour into spray bottle. Spray floor, let sit for a few minutes, scrub.

Grout Cleaner #6

Ingredients: 1 gallon water, 1/4 cup washing soda, 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1 tbsp dish soap

Directions: Combine washing soda, vinegar, and dish soap in a one gallon container. Slowly pour water into container. Pour mix into spray bottle, spray floor, let sit for a few minutes, scrub.

Grout Cleaner #7

Ingredients: 1 gallon hot water, 1/4 cup vinegar, 2 tbsp Castile soap, 8-12 drops essential oil (I used lemon)

Directions: Mix ingredients in a bucket and mop floor.

Grout Cleaner #8

Ingredients: 1.5 gallons hot water, 1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide, 1/2 – 3/4 cup white vinegar, 5-10 drop essential oils (I used lemon)

Directions: Pour all ingredients into the hot water. Stir to combine. Mop or spray on floor.

Grout Cleaner #9

Ingredients: 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1 tbsp hand dish washing detergent

Directions: Pour ingredients into a spray bottle and swirl to combine. Spray on floor, wait 5-10 minutes, scrub and rinse.

Grout Cleaner #10

Ingredients: 2 cups warm water, 1 tbsp baking soda, 2 tbsp Castile soap, 30 drops tea tree essential oil, 20 drops sweet orange essential oil

Directions: Pour ingredients into a spray bottle, shake to combine. Spray grout and wipe clean.

The Tile and Grout Cleaner Results

The Winners

The best grout cleaner was the most simple: hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. Grout Cleaner # 3 and Grout Cleaner #4 both use this combo and had equally great results.

Why this combo works:

      • Baking soda is mildly abrasive so it helps to remove the dirt that is stuck in the porous grout surfaces without causing any damage.
      • Hydrogen peroxide is a natural alternative to bleach that brightens and eliminates germs. Plus it is non-toxic and decomposes into water and oxygen.
      • Dish washing detergent (used in Grout Cleaner #3) cuts through the greasy grime that gets tracked onto tile floors.

I love using the cleaning combo of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide! It’s in my DIY Natural All-Purpose Cleaner that works great for all types of household cleaning and is perfect for laundry stain removal.

The Losers

The most disappointing homemade grout cleaners were the ones that mix reactive ingredients such as Castile soap and vinegar or vinegar and baking soda.

      • These combos create reactions that cancel out the cleaning power of both ingredients and leave your grout and tile dirtier. Read more in Green Cleaning Ingredients That You Should Never Mix.

I was also let down by cleaners that used expensive ingredients (such as 50 drops of essential oil) or took a lot of time to make (such as measuring and mixing 6 ingredients) and didn’t do much cleaning.

I’d rather stick with low cost ingredients that are easy to mix into a cleaner!

How to Clean Grout

Getting ready to clean? These grout cleaning tips will help you get the best results:

      • Give the grout cleaner some dwell time. You’ll get the best results if you allow your favorite cleaner some time to work (also called dwell time) before you start scrubbing. When cleaning tile grout, let the cleaner sit on the surface for 5-10 minutes then scrub out the dirt.
      • Use a small, firm brush to scrub grout lines. Grout is porous meaning it has minute spaces or holes that liquid can pass through. These tiny spaces are great traps for dirt and grime. Scrubbing grout with small firm brush will loosen this dirt making it easier to mop or wipe up. (I use a cheap toothbrush to scrub my grout.)
      • Scrub first then mop. After scrubbing the grout clean give the entire tile floor a final once over with a mop (or damp cloth). Use warm water with a few drops of dish detergent or a gentle floor cleaner. This final swipe will rinse off any remaining grout cleaner and leave the entire floor shiny.

Grout Cleaning FAQ

I get lots of emails from readers with grout cleaning questions. Here are some of the most common questions about cleaning grout:

What is grout?

Grout is the porous material that builders use to fill the spaces or cracks between tiles. It creates a smooth solid floor, wall, or backsplash and makes tile pop. The most common type of grout is cement grout. It is made from a mix that includes water, cement and (sometimes) sand.

How do you clean grout between floor tiles?

Apply grout cleaner, allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes, then get a small brush and scrub. An old toothbrush works great.

Is bleach bad for tile grout?

I do not clean with chlorine bleach because it is toxic and pollutes indoor air. You should not use bleach when cleaning grout and tile because:

      • Bleach is a base with a pH of around 12 meaning it is a highly alkaline substance that is caustic (can cause severe burns or injuries). Because of its high pH bleach can be corrosive and slowly destroy the materials it touches including grout and tile finishes.
      • Grout is porous so it absorbs the bleach and wicks it down to your subflooring and/or over to you baseboards (or carpet) where it can do even more damage and cannot be rinsed away. Yikes!

Is vinegar bad for tile grout?

Vinegar is an acid with a pH of around 2 (vinegar contains acetic acid). A popular cleaning vinegar manufacturer recommends never cleaning grout with vinegar because it can corrode the surface.

There are a lot of online cleaning tips that recommend mixing baking soda and vinegar to clean grout. This fun bubbling reaction is actually the baking soda neutralizing the acetic acid in the vinegar. The resulting mix cleans about as well as plain water.

How do you clean grout naturally?

Mix a thin paste of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, apply it to the grout, wait 10 minutes then scrub with a toothbrush, wiped clean with a damp cloth.

      • Baking soda is mildly abrasive so it helps remove the dirt that is stuck in the porous grout surfaces without causing any damage.
      • Hydrogen peroxide is a natural alternative to bleach that brightens and eliminates germs. Plus it is non-toxic and decomposes into water and oxygen.

How do you whiten tile grout naturally?

Let the cleaner “soak” into the grout for a few extra minutes (15-20 minutes). Giving the cleaner more “dwell time” allows it to brighten and whiten the grout.

What’s the best homemade grout and tile cleaner?

Mix together 1/2 cup of baking soda, 1/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide, and 1 tsp dish soap. Apply cleaning mixture onto grout, wait 5-10 minutes, scrub and rinse.

Do you have experience cleaning grout and tile? I’d love to hear your favorite method. Comment below with your favorite recipe or stop by my Facebook page.

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Sorting out grimy grout is an easy way to give your bathroom a makeover. Grout can get dirty very quickly, so it’s important to stay on top of cleaning it to keep your bathroom sparkling.

Cleaning grout in your bathroom might also have some other benefits, too. According to research by Checkatrade, 37% of UK homeowners choose to focus on their bathrooms when renovating their homes, with industry experts confirming the room most likely to give you the best return on investment is your bathroom.

Whether you’re looking to sell your home or just want to spruce up your bathroom, cleaning grout is an easy way to get this room sparkling again. The best part? It’s less effort than you’d think. Just follow these simple steps…

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Step 1

Mix together bicarbonate of soda and water to make a paste, then rub on to dirty grout using an old toothbrush.

An electric toothbrush with an old head will also work wonders and save your elbows! Work it well into the grout.

Step 2

Fill a spray bottle with vinegar and spray it over the bicarb mix. It should start bubbling up into a thick mixture that is perfect for tackling grout.

Step 3

Use your toothbrush to scrub away the grime. Rinse well with water.

GHI Tip: Grab yourself some whitening toothpaste, which acts as a mild abrasive, an old toothbrush or scourer and some elbow grease, to restore your grout’s colour.

The products we love…

Grout eraser

A less labour intensive – but more expensive – way of getting the same effect is to use a grout eraser. We like the JML Doktor Power Magic Eraser.

One wipe over the grouting and the grime lifts off. You will get through sponges pretty quickly with this method, so invest in a few! The Stardrops Pink Stuff also removes grout effectively.

Mould removers

The HG Mould Spray is effective at removing mould on grouting as well as sealant leaving them as good as new. Ensure you follow pack instructions.

If you have stubborn stains, a grout pen is the answer. We rate the UniBond Anti Mould Grout Pen. It doesn’t get rid of grime but covers it with a fresh white coat of grouting, leaving it looking as good as new.

Vinegar spray

To keep it looking good, spray down your shower walls with a mix of vinegar and water (equal amounts of each) several times a week. If you don’t want to make your own solution, you can always buy one, like the Wilko Original White Vinegar Spray.

Grout cleaning kit

HG Mould Spray, 500ml HG amazon.co.uk £5.47 Wilko White Vinegar Spray Wilko wilko.com £1.50 UniBond Grout Reviver Pen Unibond amazon.co.uk £3.92 Stardrops Pink Stuff Paste Stardrops amazon.co.uk £4.19 JML Doktor Power Magic Eraser JML wilko.com £5.00 Dri Pak Bicarbonate of Soda Dri Pak amazon.co.uk £3.19 Pearl Drops Whitening Toothpaste Pearl Drops boots.com £7.00 Marigold Cleaning Me Softly Scourer Marigold amazon.co.uk £2.22

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Stained grout can really sneak up on you. One minute you’re loving your fresh white grout in your picture-perfect bathroom and the next you’re wondering, “When did my bathroom start looking like the New York City subway?”

Thankfully, these tips will have your bathroom looking like new in no time!

Check out our interactive guide to learn how to clean your home from top to bottom.

Why is grout so difficult to clean?

Grout is made up of sand particles, making it easy for liquids to pass through and dirt to collect on the surface. According to The Grout Guy, Brian Mcauliffe, there’s actually a simple solution to keep your grout from staining in the first place.

“Cleaning is the first step to preventing the mildew from ever establishing. Water in the bathroom may evaporate but dirt does not and soap film is the biggest culprit as the dirt clings to the scum left on the grout. The key is to clean your tile two to three times a week with a cleaning product that is made for removing soap scum,” Mcauliffe told TODAY Home.

Some great products are available at your local grocery store and do a decent job at fighting soap scum, like dish soap, Clorox Bathroom Cleaner and Tilex Mold and Mildew Remover.

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Once the soap scum has been removed, it’s time to tackle the stubborn stains and whiten the grout. Becky Rapinchuk, from Clean Mama and author of the book “Simply Clean” recommends “a simple combination of cream of tartar and lemon juice.”

“This method takes a little more elbow grease but it works really well to remove some of those surface stains in the grout as well as naturally lighten the grout,” she said.

Surprising uses for cream of tartar

Oct. 21, 201601:04

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DIY lemon grout cleaner:

Ingredients:

  • Two teaspoons cream of tartar
  • Lemon juice
  • One bottle of hydrogen peroxide

Directions:

  • Combine the cream of tartar with the lemon juice to make a thick paste the consistency of runny toothpaste.

How to clean grout:

  1. Pour some hydrogen peroxide into a spray bottle and spray the grout to get rid of mold and mildew.
  2. Reapply if necessary, scrub and rinse.
  3. Use a small stiff-bristled cleaning brush and apply the homemade grout cleaner to the the area and scrub the grout. This is when your put some muscle into it.
  4. Let the solution sit on the grout then rinse and wipe dry.
  5. Repeat until you reach the desired level of brightness.

Now that the soap scum has been removed and the grout brightened, here’s how to keep it that way. Aside from cleaning the tiles once a week with vinegar, Mcauliffe strongly suggests that you treat the grout with a sealant to prolong the life of the tiles, “Reseal your grout every one or two years and you should be good moving forward.”

This article was originally published on TODAY.com on Nov. 28, 2018.

Hands up if you love scrubbing the tile floor or the shower? BOOOOOO!

Does trying to keep that previously white, once beautiful looking tile grout sparkling clean drive you crazy? Trust me, you are not alone!! The job sucks – but makes a huge difference when it’s done!

Tile grout is porous and susceptible to stains, so it does require some maintenance other than mopping as the grout joints collect all manner of dirt and debris under the feet of a busy family.

Now is as good a time as any to do what you have been putting off. Time to get down and dirty, summon up some elbow grease and hopefully the process will be a little easier with these helpful remedies to make and keep your tile grout clean and white.

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It will depend on how dirty or stained your tile grout is as to what will work the best for you and also what type of tiles will determine whether or not you can try all methods or not.

Natural Methods:

Method 1:

Pour 1/2 cup of Bicarbonate of Soda into a cup or bowl that you will no longer use. Add enough water to make a paste. Use an old toothbrush, dip it into the bicarb mixture and then scrub the grout well. Rinse after 10 minutes.

Place some pure white vinegar into a spray bottle and keep it in the shower (out of reach of children, but it is non-toxic). Once everyone has finished their daily showers, give the shower a quick spray with the vinegar. It will prevent the mould from forming.

If you have a steam cleaner, go over the grout weekly or fortnightly with the hot steam. It will remove any mould or mildew without the use of any chemicals at all. You need to do it regularly to keep the grout white and bright.

Method 4:

To keep the mould and mildew away from the grout for a longer period of time, once it has been cleaned, add 10 drops of Clove Oil to a small cup of water. Use a toothbrush to apply the mixture to the grout. Leave for 30 minutes or so (you might want to open windows or keeping the exhaust fan on as Clove Oil is quite potent) – then rinse clean. Clove Oil actually kills the mould spores. You can buy Clove Oil at your local Chemist or health food store.

Chemical Methods:

Method 1:

Pour a small amount of Domestos into a old cup. Grab a stiff old toothbrush. Wet down the grout, then dip the toothbrush into the undiluted Domestos and scrub the grout. Leave for 10 – 15 minutes, then rinse off. Your grout should be pure white!

Method 2:

Normal dishwashing liquid is so good for so many things. It also is great for cleaning grout. Add a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid to a cup of boiling water. Dip an old toothbrush into the hot mixture and scrub the grout. This is a great, inexpensive way to keep your shower looking squeaky clean.

Method 3:

Gumption is brilliant stuff – wet down your grout area, grab a toothbrush and dip it right into the Gumption, and scrub it right away.

Sealing Your Grout

Once you have your grout sparkling clean, sealing the grout will prevent future staining. The sealant will wear off over time, especially in areas of high traffic but will lengthen the time required between cleaning and can be reapplied as necessary after each major clean. Visit your local tile store to see what grout sealers they have available in your area.

What if it STILL Won’t Come Off???

If the grout is still stained after trying all the above, you might need to bring in the professionals. You can actually hire professional grout cleaners these days – or even have them replace the grout. Look for your nearest grout cleaners online.

Some quick tips:

  • Remember to use gloves to protect your hands
  • A small brush for scrubbing the grout will be easier to handle than a standard scrubbing brush. Use a nail brush or buy a pack of cheap hard toothbrushes from the $2 shop as you will probably go through a few if you have a large area to clean.
  • Test any method of cleaning on a small inconspicuous area first before proceeding with the big clean.

Do you have any other ‘secret’ remedies for whitening your tile grout which never fail?

We would love to know which method works best for you.