Fifteen Grout Cleaners That Will Make Your Tile and Grout Sparkle

Grout cleaning is an essential part of taking care of your home whether it is one you rent or own. Clean grout can mean the difference between healthy living and living with chronic allergies or the difference between selling your house or not. It is extremely important to keep your grout clean, but you need to know what the best grout cleaners are in order to do that effectively. If you are looking for information on grout cleaners, there are several different types of information available. This article will try to help you determine the best grout cleaners for your home whether they are a combination of chemicals and tools or a group of professional cleaners. Below is a list of the different types of grout cleaners:

Grout Cleaning Chemicals

As with most cleaning projects, you need some kind of cleaning agent or chemical in order to aid you in your endeavor toward clean tile grout. There is a wide array of grout cleaners available to help you. Some are very mild while others or more severe. A general rule of thumb when it comes to grout cleaners is that you should use the gentlest grout cleaner you can that will still get your grout clean. There is no need to use harsh chemicals if they are not necessary. When you are trying to decide on what grout cleaner is best for your home, start with the mildest choice and work your way up until you find something that works. With that rule in mind, we will describe your grout cleaner options in order from mildest to most harsh.

  • Water/Steam
  • Homemade Grout Cleaners made with Household Products
  • Over the Counter Household Cleaners
  • Professional Strength or Industrial Cleaners
  • Bleach Based Grout Cleaners

Water/Steam

The gentlest cleaner that you can use on your grout is steam. Steam will work well enough if the dirt and grime on your grout lines is not too deep into the porous grout and the stains are not too old. The heat will break up grime and soften caked on dirt. It will also start to break up and lighten stains. Generally you need steam instead of just plain water. The key to cleaning with steam is that is applied under pressure. If you apply the steam with enough force then you might be able to force dirt out of the pores as the steam is forced in.

Homemade Grout Cleaners

If steam is not enough, then you might think about concocting a homemade grout cleaner with regular household items like vinegar, baking soda, dish detergent, lemon juice, or hydrogen peroxide. Generally homemade grout cleaners are pretty mild and environmentally friendly. For example, a mixture of water and vinegar with a little bit of dish soap makes an excellent cleaning agent for almost any surface. Vinegar is an acetic acid solution with some vitamins and minerals added for flavor. The acidic nature of vinegar means that it can break down grease, kill bacteria and mold, and generally eliminate any mineral deposit that may build up on surfaces. It is a strong enough cleaning agent that it needs to be diluted with water. You add a drop or two of dish detergent to a fifty-fifty mixture of vinegar and water so that the solution will generate foam when you are cleaning with it.

Baking soda is probably the next most versatile household cleaning agent. Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate is a slightly alkaline or basic compound. Its alkalinity means that is works as a water softener and breaks down proteins. That makes baking soda very effective at breaking up stains from food or mineral deposits. In addition, baking soda acts as a deodorizer because it can neutralize the bacteria that cause odors. As a grout cleaner, the best way to use baking soda is as a paste. You can make a paste of one part water to three parts baking soda and spread it on the grout lines. As the baking soda sits on the stained areas, the carbon based substances that are staining your grout start to break up and the bacteria that may be causing odors will be killed. You can also make the paste with lemon juice or vinegar if you would prefer to add more stain fighting power.

Hydrogen peroxide is another household product that is an effective cleaner. You can use the 3% hydrogen peroxide solution that you buy at a drug store directly on dirty surfaces or you can purchase a 35% solution of food grade hydrogen peroxide and dilute it with some hot water. The hydrogen peroxide kills all kinds of bacteria, mold, and mildew. It is extremely effective at whitening as well. As long as you are cleaning white grout lines, hydrogen peroxide is an effective grout cleaner. You can even combine the peroxide with baking soda to make a paste.

Over the Counter Household Cleaners

If you cannot get the desired effect with these homemade grout cleaners, then your next step should be over the counter household cleaners like the ones you buy in the grocery store. Brands like Comet, Mr. Clean, or Lysol are popular choices. The ingredients on these household cleaners will include many of the items we described above in the homemade grout cleaners section, but also surfactants and other chemicals to aid in the cleaning process. Often they have special ingredients that will help kill mold or mildew specifically. These over the counter cleaners also have abrasives in them to aid in scrubbing and scouring. Unlike the gentle household cleaners described above, you need to be careful about these over the counter grout cleaners because the abrasive qualities could cause damage to your tile or grout. Make sure to test the grout cleaners on small unobtrusive areas to make sure there are no ill effects before proceeding.

Professional Strength or Industrial Cleaners

Professional strength household cleaners come in two varieties. First, there are general household cleaners that say something like “professional strength” on the packaging. This does not mean that these are the same chemicals that professional use for grout cleaning. Instead, it means that they are slightly more powerful than something you would buy in a grocery store. These grout cleaners can be purchased from large home improvement warehouses or online retailers.

You can purchase the second type of professional grout cleaners from these home improvement warehouses as well or from tile distributors. These industrial strength tile and grout cleaners are made especially for cleaning these porous surfaces and are usually manufactured by the same companies that make grout and tile sealer or enhancers. The chemicals in these industrial strength grout cleaners are more powerful than the products you buy from the grocery store and they are similar to the ones used by professional grout cleaning services. If you have a tough grout cleaning job, then this is probably the level of grout cleaner that you will need.

Bleach Based Grout Cleaners

Bleach based grout cleaners are the strongest and harshest type of grout cleaner that you can use in your home. There are two different types of bleach to choose between, chlorine beach and oxygen bleach. Between the two, oxygen bleach is preferable because it is less likely to damage or discolor your grout. In addition oxygen bleach grout cleaners are non toxic and do not pose a health risk. Chlorine bleach based grout cleaners require that you ventilate the area you are cleaning to avoid breathing in noxious fumes. Another advantage of oxygen bleach grout cleaners over chlorine bleach grout cleaners is that oxygen bleach is often sold as a powder that you can make into a paste. Pastes are better as grout cleaners than liquid because you can apply the cleaner directly to the grout line and it will not run off. If you are unable to get out grout stains with oxygen or chlorine bleach, then you might have to tear out the affected areas of grout and replace the grout.

Grout Cleaning Tools

The tools that are required to clean grout by hand are not very numerous or complicated. You probably have everything you need in your home somewhere already. Below is a list of grout cleaning tools that are necessary to clean grout effectively:

  • Mop
  • Broom or Swiffer® Sweeper
  • Scrub brush
  • Cleaning pad or Cloth

The mop and broom or Swiffer® Sweeper are necessary so that you are starting with tile and grout that is clean on the surface. It will be hard to clean your grout lines if your scrubbing motions are depositing dirt from the tile into the grout lines. You want everything around the grout to be as clean as possible before you actually start scrubbing the grout with you scrub brush. There are many features that make a scrub brush the best grout cleaner for the job which we will discuss below. The cleaning pad or cloth is so that you can wipe away any excess grout cleaner and dirt after you have scrubbed the grout lines. A clean white cotton pad is best because you do not have to worry about dyes or fibers coming off in your newly cleaned grout lines.

Characteristics of the Best Grout Cleaning Brush

There are four characteristics of a scrub brush that you need to consider in order to find the perfect grout cleaning brush for you and your tile. The first characteristic is the hardness or softness of the bristles. The perfect grout cleaner will have medium hard bristles. You want the bristles to be stiff enough so that they can penetrate the grout pores, but soft enough that they do not chew up the grout. If the bristles are too soft then they will simply bend and move aside as you scrub the grout rather than penetrate into the pores. If the bristles are too hard, they might break the grout up rather than just clean it.

The second characteristic is the shape of the bristle head. You want the bristles in the center of the brush head to be longer than the bristles at the edges if possible. The reason for this is because the grout is more porous that the tile and therefore the bristles should be able to penetrate the grout but not the tile. The bristles in the center of the brush will be the ones scrubbing the grout so you want them to be longer than the bristles at the edges so they can penetrate while the shorter bristles butt up against the tiles. If the bristles are all the same length the bristles on the outside will have to bend so that the interior bristles can penetrate. If the bristles on the edges are longer than the ones in the center than the center bristles may never even reach the grout.

The third characteristic that is important for the right grout cleaning brush is the size of the brush head. Some homeowners might feel that the larger the brush the better because you can clean more grout at one time and get the job done faster. Unfortunately, that is not the case because it is difficult to maintain an equal amount of pressure over the surface area of a large brush head. You will probably only be applying force on the area of the brush head that is under the handle. That is why grout cleaning brushes that are approximately the size of the handle are the best choice. Of course, you do not want the grout brush to be too small because then it will take far o long to clean a large tiled area.

The handle itself is the fourth brush characteristic that you need to consider. Most scrub brushes have a simple handle that is connected to the brush at the tip of the brush head and then rises up a few inches and extends back over the entire length of the brush. When selecting a brush, make sure that you hold it in your hand to ensure that there is enough space between the top of the brush head and the bottom of the handle for your knuckles. Some brushes are too tight and it becomes uncomfortable to hold the brush for long periods of time. When using a scrub brush you have to bend over your work, and that can be hard on your back. One alternative that you have is to find a brush with a long handle like a broom or mop rather than a brush you hold in the hand. You can use this type of scrub brush from a standing position. The only problem with this type of brush is that it is difficult to scrub with a circular motion which is the recommended grout cleaning technique.

Grout Cleaning Machines

If you do not have the time to clean your own grout by hand or if you have physical ailments that prevent you from working on your knees or bending over too often, then you might be interested in the possibility of using a mechanical grout cleaner or grout cleaning machine. All grout cleaning machines work in a similar way. The main idea is to apply steam to the tiled area, scrub with circular scrub brushes, and remove the resulting dirty water with powerful suction. The details are different depending on the brand and origins of the grout cleaning machine. When you are ready to purchase a grout cleaning machine, then there are several places that you might look. Below is information on how grout cleaning machines work and where to buy them.

How Grout Cleaning Machines Work

Steam plays an important role in two ways. First, hot steam will soften dirt and grime and help to prime the area for easy scrubbing. Second, if the steam is applied with enough force, the steam could actually be pushed into the pores of the grout resulting in dirt or grime being pushed out o the same spot. The hotter the steam and the higher the pressure with which it is applied the better.

The scrub brushes are almost always circular brushes that rotate like the bottom of a buffer machine. The advantage of the scrub brushes on a grout cleaning machine is that they rotate much faster than you can possibly move your scrub brush by hand. In addition, the grout cleaning machine applies much more force than any homeowner can generate with their own strength.

When the dirty wash water is removed by suction it can be sent to one of two places. The first option is more common for grout cleaning machines used by the consumer and the second option is more common for professional grot cleaners. Most do-it-yourself grout cleaners will have a reservoir for the dirty wash water just as they have a reservoir for the water that is turned into steam at the beginning of the process. Most professional grade grout cleaners will have two hoses connected to them. One hose will deliver clean water and the other will take the wash water to a tank in the back of a truck outside of your home.

Where to Purchase Grout Cleaners

If you are interested in purchasing a grout cleaner for your own use then there are several retailers that you might try as well as some other possibilities. Below is a list of possible retailers that could help you:

  • Department stores where appliances are sold
  • Home improvement warehouses
  • Online retailers
  • Professional grout cleaning companies going out of business

The same companies that make vacuum cleaners and carpet shampoo machines are the ones who make grout cleaning machines so the first place that you look for grout cleaning machines is at large department stores where these other appliances are sold like Sears. The selection will not be great because these stores cannot carry a large inventory, but there may be more selection from their websites. Home improvement warehouses like Lowes and Home Depot also sell this type of equipment. If you cannot find what you are looking for at a department store, this should be your next stop.

If you have trouble finding a grout cleaning machine in a brick and mortar store, then you next course of action should be to turn to online retailers. General retailers like Amazon are a good place to start, but then you can check out the websites of the specific brands and partner retailers that you discover on Amazon. Often home appliances like this are sold by third party vendors through the Amazon website. If you find one product sold by company A, then chances are they have other models and brands that they might sell on their own website. The main problem with purchasing a grout cleaning machine this way is that you will have to pay for the shipping charges to get the grout cleaner to your home. It is expensive to ship something so heavy and this might push the price out of reach.

Your last option for a place to buy a grout cleaner is from old grout cleaning companies that might be going out of business. When a cleaning company goes under they need to liquidate their assets so they might be interested in selling some of their equipment to an interested homeowner. Of course, most professional grout cleaning machines are designed to be hooked up to a water tank and waste water tank that sit outside the home, but you could purchase these items as well. I would only go this route if you had a lot of tile in your home. Below is a video showing how a professional grout cleaner works.

Below is a list of some grout cleaning machines that we have talked about on Home Cleaning Tips:

Professional Grout Cleaners

If the thought of spending any amount of time on cleaning your own grout gives you anxiety or if you have the disposable income to outsource these types of household chores, then a professional grout cleaner is probably the way to go. Professional cleaning companies will be able to clean the tile and grout in any room of your house. The price for this service depends on many factors including the size of the room, whether the room is on the first or second floor, how dirty the grout is, and whether or not you are combing grout cleaning services with other household services. There are pros and cons to hiring a grout cleaning service and you need to weigh those factors before deciding to hire anyone at any cost. You can find more information on the benefits and possible negative effects of hiring a professional grout cleaner here. You can also find information on how to go about hiring a grout cleaning service and what to expect when you do.

Colored Grout

When you are designing a bathroom, kitchen, or entry way where you are going to be using tile, you might spend so much time choosing the perfect tile that you forget about choosing the perfect grout color. The color of grout is almost as important as the tile itself. If you choose the wrong color, the grout might be more noticeable than the tile or the grout could get too dirty too quickly. However, if you do choose incorrectly or if you decide you want to go in a different direction later, it is possible to change the color of grout later. Grout stains and grout colored sealers are possible solutions. Once you do find the perfectly colored grout, you need to know how to maintain it. Taking care of colored grout is slightly more difficult that maintaining plain white or off-white grout.

Choosing the Right Colored Grout

The color you choose for your grout lines will depend on the type and color of your tiles as well as the location and application of any particular tiled area. In general, there are two ways to go with colored grout. Either you will choose complimentary grout colors or accent grout colors. One type is designed to blend in or fade into the background while the other is deliberately chosen to stick out. You want to choose complimentary colored grout if the tile is something visually striking like mosaic tile designs or bold tile choice with lots of character. If you cannot find colored grout to match the tile exactly then your best way to get the colored grout to fade into the background is to choose a shade that is slightly lighter than the tile.

Other times, you may want to select your grout color in order to serve as an accent. The perfect example would be a shower with very rich and dark colored tiles. If the grout was also dark colored, then that small space could begin to seem oppressive so it helps to break up the dark colored tiles with light colored grout. White grout lines in a dark blue tiled shower are visually stunning. Keep in mind that accent colored grout lines typically on lt work in situations where the grout color is light and the tiles are dark. Setting off lightly colored tiles with darkly colored grout tends to put emphasis on the grout rather than the tile which is not what you want.

There is another general grout color rule that might seem like an exception to the rules shared above. The rule is that floor grout lines should generally be slightly darker than the tiles. The reason for this is that floor tiles see a lot of traffic and the colored grout will be exposed to lots of dirt and grime so the grout is likely to get dirtier faster. Slightly darker colored grout will hide stains and dirt better. An example might be using gray grout with white tiles or almond grout with cream tiles. Another way to apply this rule is with marble tiles. Instead of choosing a colored grout that matches the body of the tile, you should choose colored grout that matches the veins instead.

Creating Colored Grout

Companies that sell colored grout sell many different colors, but most of them are variations on white, cream, and gray. Some sell basic darker colors like black, but a majority of them do not sell a rainbow of grout colors. If you are interested in colored grout that is customized, then you might have to make your own colored grout. The process of making colored grout is easy.

The first step is to buy the necessary supplies. You want to buy pure white grout, not snow white or off white or anything like that because it will not mix as well with your color choices. Pure white grout is necessary in order to get the truest color possible. Make sure to buy one more bag of grout than you think you might need because it will be impossible to match the color at a later date. You want to make an excess of grout so you are sure to have enough colored grout to do the entire job. You also want to buy acrylic paint which will add the color. You can purchase acrylic paints at any craft store. Keep in mind that the white grout will dilute the color of the paint so deep forest green paint will result in a sage colored grout. Or, a bright red paint will give you a light pink grout. One thing to remember is that you are never going to get really dark colored grout this way so if you are interested in dark blues or blacks then you have to purchase readymade colored grout.

The next step is to mix all of your grout powder together in one large container so that you get a consistent color. The hues of grout can change from batch to batch and bag to bag so it is best to mix all of your supplies together before hand to get a consistent color throughout the project. Then proceed to make your grout mixture as normal adding the paint to the mix.

Changing Grout Color

This ColorFast Grout Colorant Kit in Charcoal color, is a complete kit for use in changing the color of grout joints. Also an easy, low cost way to give old tile a new look without replacing the tile or re-grouting. Color Fast Grout Colorant also seals and protects grout from moisture and staining. It can be used on countertops, walls and floors. This water-based epoxy formula is durable and easy to use. It is excellent for use on glazed ceramic tiles and porous tiles which have been sealed. The kits are available in most popular grout colors. Each kit includes colorant, applicator brush and scrub pad. This 8 oz. bottle will cover approx. 95 sq. ft. of 4×4 tiles with a 3/16″ wide grout joint. Usually ships the same day!!

Often the decision to use colored grout is made after tile is already laid and there are already existing grout lines. In these circumstances, there is a way to change the color of your grout so that you do not have to remove the old grout and install new colored grout. The solution is grout colorant or grout stain. Grout stains and colorants come in both water based and oil based formulas and you apply them to the grout lines with a small paint brush. The colorant or stain paints on just like stain on wood and at the same time is seals and protects your grout from stains and dirt. Most grout colorant kits or grout stain kits come with some kind of scrub brush to remove any stain that gets on the tiles. Oil based stains are sometimes harder to get off the tile, but they work better in most cases because they penetrate deep into the hard grout better than water based stains. The process of applying the grout coloring can be slow and tedious, but you can get spectacular results with these products. It is a great way to give your tile an update without expensive renovations.

Maintaining Colored Grout

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Once you have colored grout you want to make sure that you take care of it so that it lasts for a long time. You have to be more concerned about fading and damaging colored grout than white or mostly white grout. Therefore, it is never a good idea to use chlorine based bleach products when grout cleaning and to always test harsh bathroom cleaners in small inconspicuous places to make sure they will not adversely affect the grout color. My favorite product for cleaning colored grout is oxygen bleach. Oxygen based bleaches are tough on stains, but do not fade or eliminate color like chlorine bleaches. Another benefit of oxygen bleach is that it comes in powder form so you can make a paste to apply directly to the grout lines. By letting the oxygen product sit on stains for extended periods of time, you may be able to remove the stain without much scrubbing which will also help keep your colored grout looking like new. In addition, oxygen bleach products are not toxic and are safer to use than other harsh bathroom cleaning products.