Grout Cleaning

One of the most unpleasant cleaning chores that any homeowner must endure is grout cleaning. Not only is it hard to clean grout, but it is hard on the body. Grout is a porous substance so dirt and liquids that cause stains can get down into the pores and really discolor or damage your grout. Then, it is difficult to get the dirt and stains out of the deep pores. In order to scrub grout clean, you need to kneel on hard tile floors which are hard on your knees and back. There is nothing pleasant about grout cleaning, but it is something that is very necessary for several reasons. This article will give you some information on how to clean grout by hand, alternative grout cleaning methods, why grout cleaning is important, grout cleaning tips, and preventative grout maintenance.

How to Clean Grout

  1. Prepare the surface
  2. Wear the appropriate personal protective equipment
  3. Apply grout cleaner
  4. Scrub grout
  5. Rinse and wipe clean

Prepare the Surface

You want to make sure that there is nothing on the tile floor that could make your grout lines worse if you scrub it into the porous substance. For that reason, you want to make sure to sweep the tile surfaces you will be cleaning before you start grout cleaning. Remove as much dust and debris as possible before you apply any grout cleaners or do any scrubbing. I find it best to run a vacuum over the tiled area before I start in order to remove hair and other dust that might settle in corners. If you leave dust on the tile or grout lines, the dirt could get pushed down into the grout when you start scrubbing and make things worse.

Wear the Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment

Many homeowners do not think about the possible health risks of working with household cleaners or the contamination you might find in your grout. Nevertheless, there are things that you should protect yourself from by wearing the right pieces of personal protective equipment. For example, you should wear gloves when cleaning grout so that you do not come into contact with any of the bacteria that might be growing in your grout lines and to protect your skin from getting dried out by the chemicals you use to clean your grout lines. If you happen to be using a harsh chemical grout cleaner like chlorine bleach then you should also consider wearing a face mask so that you do not breathe in harmful fumes. However, the best respiratory protection that you can give yourself when grout cleaning is proper ventilation. Make sure that you open a window and have air moving through the room when cleaning with harsh chemicals.

Apply Grout Cleaner

Your next step will be to apply your chosen grout cleaner to the grout lines. There are many different kinds of grout cleaners to choose from and the method of application and the amount of time you let the cleaner sit before scrubbing depend on that choice. You can get more information on the best grout cleaner here. The best grout cleaners will be thick enough to stay on the grout lines for ten to twenty minutes without running off. That time gives the cleaner time to penetrate the porous grout and start to break up grime and stains. If you choose not to use a thick grout cleaner, then you will spray or pour your grout cleaner on. With these types of grout cleaner, you should saturate the tiles area so that there will not be many places for the grout cleaner to migrate to. The object is to have the grout exposed to grout cleaner for as long as possible.

Scrub Grout

Once you let the grout cleaner seep in, you next step will be to scrub your grout lines. You want to make sure that you choose the right kind of scrub brush. Click here for more information on the best grout cleaning tools. The most important thing to remember when scrubbing grout lines is to never scrub along the grout lines in back and forth motions. Instead, you should use circular scrubbing motions as you move along the grout lines. If you scrub back and forth straight along the grout lines your forward scrubbing motion will dislodge dirt from the grout and then your backward scrubbing motion will deposit the dirt right back in the grout. If you scrub in a circular motion, each scrubbing action will dislodge dirt and the dirt can be deposited out on top of the tiles before you move on to a new section of grout.

Rinse and Wipe Clean

The last step in grout cleaning is to rinse the cleaned area and then wipe away any residue. I usually rinse first with plain water and a mop and then use a cloth cleaning pad to wipe away any cleaner residue and dry the tile. Once the tile and grout are rinse and dry you will be able to see if there are any areas that need more attention. If you have used a lot of cleaner, it is probably a good idea to rinse the mop in a sink or bathtub rather than a bucket so that you are not contaminating the tiled floor over again with each pass of the mop.

Alternative Grout Cleaning Methods

The steps described above are if you want to scrub your grout by hand. Cleaning grout by hand is probably the most effective way to make sure that the grout is really clean, but it is hard on the body because you have to spend a good deal of time on your knees on hard tiled floors. In addition, hand cleaning of tile grout is quite time consuming. Therefore, some homeowners look for alternative grout cleaning methods that allow them to clean their grout from a standing position and in less time. There are two alternative grout cleaning methods that we will discuss here including grout cleaning machines and professional grout cleaning services.

Grout Cleaning Machines


If you do not want to work on your hands and knees and are looking for a faster way to clean tile grout, then you should consider using a grout cleaning machine. These floor cleaning machines can be purchased from various retailers. The first step when using a grout cleaning machine is to apply the grout cleaner to the floor. The next step is to bring in the floor cleaner. These machines usually work similarly to the way a carpet shampooer works by applying a stream of hot water or steam under a circular curtain brush. Rotating brushes inside the curtain scrub the tile and grout lines and the waste water is sucked into a collection tank. The powerful force of the mechanical brushes and the hot steam both contribute to the power of grout cleaning machines. In addition, the brushes are large and you can scrub multiple grout lines at one time cutting the time it takes to clean an entire tiled room drastically.

Professional Grout Cleaning

If you do not want to take even the small amount of time that is required to use a grout cleaning machine, then you might be interested in grout cleaning services. Professional cleaning companies offer services that will clean both the tile and grout in all types of rooms and situations. The cost of paying a professional will vary depending on the size of the room, the type of room, and how dirty the tile and grout are to begin with. Bathrooms with many nooks and crannies will be more expensive than a large open room with no obstructions. Rooms on the second floor will be more expensive, and rooms that are particularly dirty might cost more as well. When hiring a professional grout cleaning service, be sure to check references and ask if the company is insured and bonded. Any reputable grout cleaning professional will not have a problem with providing you with the names of former customers and proof of insurance. For more information on specific questions to ask when hiring a grout cleaning service and the potential costs of the services go here.

Special Considerations for Cleaning Colored Grout

While most tiled areas have grout that is white or slightly off white, there are certain situations where the grout might be a more vibrant color. Black grout with white tiles is one popular configuration. Other rooms will have lightly colored tiles and darker shades of the same color for the grout. When cleaning colored grout, there are a few details that you should be aware of. Colored grout gets dirty just as easily as white grout, but you cannot always use the same grout cleaners. You always need to test any cleaner that you plan to use on colored grout in a small inconspicuous area so that you can make sure that the cleaner will not fade the colored grout. Bleach products especially run the risk of fading or damaging colored grout. Unfortunately, bleach based grout cleaners are often the most effective. For more information on colored grout and how to clean colored grout, go here.

Why is Grout Cleaning Important?

Grout cleaning is unpleasant, so you may be tempted to not put the time and effort into the task that is required. That is, until you hear all the reasons that grout cleaning is so important.

  • Health benefits
  • Aesthetics and decorating considerations
  • Brightens and enlarges a room
  • Increases resale value

Health Benefits

It is sometimes disturbing to think about the germs and bacteria that are on every surface in your home, but they are there and any conscientious homeowner and family member would want to minimize our exposure. If every hard surface can host bacteria and germs, imagine what a porous substance like grout can host. If you have children or pets, they spend a lot of time on the ground and they are constantly being exposed to those health risk factors. That fact should keep you motivated to clean your grout on a regular basis. In addition to the common bacteria that might find their way into your grout, mold is another concern. The pores in grout can stay wet and get warm which is the perfect environment for growing mildew and mold. Family members with allergies can have serious allergic reactions to mold and a dirty grout line poses a great health risk to those individuals.

Aesthetics

When the contractor or interior designer that built your house chose the tile and grout for the kitchen and bath areas, those choices were conscious ones. The color of the grout was chosen to compliment that color or pattern of the tile and vice versa. If you let your grout get too dirty, the aesthetics of the room are compromised and you are not getting the full affect of the decorating choices. In addition, clean grout just looks better than dirty grout. Whenever you have guests in your home, you will not be ashamed to show them into a bathroom or let them use your kitchen. Clean grout makes you feel better about the cleanliness of your home and how it looks to others who visit.

Brightens and Enlarges

Another benefit of regular grout cleaning is that the lighter color of clean grout makes any room look brighter and larger than if the grout lines are allowed to blacken. If you want to make it seem like your bathroom or shower area is larger, then one quick fix is to lighten the color of the walls and specifically the grout lines. The same holds true for any tiled area in your home like a foyer or sun room. This benefit of grout cleaning can be important if you are showing your house to prospective buyers. You want the spaces to seem as large as possible when a prospective buyer is walking through and the subtle difference between clean and dirty grout lines can make a big difference in their impression of the size of a room.

Increases Resale Value

Taking that a step further, clean grout lines can help to improve the resale value of your home and your success in selling in general. By making rooms look larger and giving a better first impression, clean grout lines help to get people interested in your home. But they can also help when a prospective buyer starts to get more serious about buying. If they notice that the grout lines in your home are dirty, then that tells them you do not care very much about the appearance of your home. If you care so little for something so obvious that everyone can see, then you are more likely to avoid and ignore problems that people can’t see like water damage in a basement, roof problems, or clogged gutters. Dirty grout lines give a generally bad impression to a prospective buyer and they will be less likely to buy your home than if there were no obvious problems like dirty grout lines.

Grout Cleaning Tips

Now that you have some information about how to clean grout and why grout cleaning is so important, I thought I would share a few grout cleaning tips that I have learned through my years of grout cleaning experience. First, the key to getting clean grout lines is to never let them get dirty in the first place. In other words, regular grout cleaning is imperative. Your grout will suffer if you let the grout cleaning go for weeks and weeks and then have a marathon grout cleaning session. It is much better to clean on a regular schedule so that no area of tile grout in your home ever gets too dirty. For example, I have a grout cleaning schedule for my shower which is the hardest area of tile grout to keep clean in my home. I spend an extra five minutes in the shower each morning cleaning a section of the tile grout so that the entire shower gets cleaned once a week. The other tiles surfaces in my home get cleaned on a weekly schedule. As long as I stick to these schedules, no grout I my home every gets to dirty and it is never too hard to clean it. The longer dirt and grime sit on your grout, the deeper it gets into the pores and the harder it is to remove it later.

A second tip would be to use the mildest grout cleaner that you can in order to get the job done. There is no reason to use a chlorine bleach grout cleaner when a mixture of vinegar, water, and dish soap will do. Vinegar is a wonderful grout cleaner and inexpensive so it encourages you to keep your regular grout cleaning schedule. I find that once you have a clean slate, you can keep your tile grout clean with relatively mild chemicals. The mild grout cleaners will cause less damage to your grout and will wear off the grout sealer at a slower rate.

Grout Cleaning Preventative Measures

As I have said before, the best way to keep your grout clean is to never let it get dirty. There is some preventative grout maintenance that you can do to this end. Grout sealer is the number one defense you have against dirty grout. Sealer should be applied as soon after your grout cures as possible so that the grout is exposed to the elements for as short a time as possible. Whether the sealer is a topical sealer that sits on top of the grout or a penetrating one that fills in the pores, the sealer prevents dirt and grime from entering the pores and making the grout appear dirty. However, just because you have grout sealer on your grout that does not mean you can stop grout cleaning. You still want to clean the surface of the grout to make sure that it looks good. Of course, sealer does not last forever and needs to be reapplied occasionally. For more information about selecting a grout sealer go here and click here for more information on how to apply grout sealer.

5 thoughts on “Grout Cleaning

  1. Thanks for this article. It is really lengthy and dense-I would have broken it up a little more-but the information is very thorough and detailed.

    I am ready to get started on this hideous task now.

  2. Hi M.,

    Thanks for your comments and suggestion on how to improve the post. It really is a big block of text. I think I’ll go through it and add a picture of a tile and grout cleaner or two. Anyway, good luck with your cleaning project. -Jerry

  3. I want to buy or rent a professional equipment for tile cleaning but can’t find one. Good article.
    Thank you.

  4. Although this article has good basic information its premise dates prior large houses with LOTS of tile and grout and/or animals. I have almost 300 sq ft of tile our house and basically have to get on my hands and knees yearly as well as the weekly cleaning.

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