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.

Grout Cleaning Machine

If you are serious about cleaning tile grout, or if you own a restaurant, daycare, or other establishment that gets high traffic but must maintain strict cleanliness standards, then you might want to invest in a grout cleaning machine. Grout cleaning machines come in many forms, but essentially, they are some combination of a high pressure water stream and brush. There are many vendors for these types of machines, but you will most likely find them online. If you are interested in professional grout cleaning machines, then you probably should use professional strength grout cleaners or grout cleaning chemicals that are recommended by the machine’s manufacturer.

Some grout cleaning machines look and behave a lot like a carpet cleaning machine. These machines work on the principle of steam cleaning. Steam is expelled out of the machine under high pressure and penetrates deep into the grout. Then a powerful vacuum uses suction to pull the dirty water into a basin in the machine. Steam cleaning grout can be very effective if the grout is not too stained and you clean it regularly. Steam alone will not work very well on tough stains or stains caused by mildew. Other steam cleaners like the Bissell Steam Mop use a very small amount of steam and no suction and are better for everyday cleaning than for major grout cleaning projects.

Other grout cleaning tools uses brushes to help get the job done. The most popular models have a circular bottom. There are usually one or two outlets for high pressure streams of hot water. The water streams are enclosed in a circular curtain brush. The water comes out hot and with a lot of force. The brushes then scrub the grout in the curtain. With these types of grout cleaning machines, you usually apply a cleaner to the floor first so that the hot water can activate oxygen bleach or other cleaning chemical. These machines usually require a water source and a tank to collect the dirty water. That is why they are most often used by professional grout cleaning services and are hooked up to a truck like in this video.

The best place to try to find grout cleaning machines for your own use is online. This type of cleaning equipment is not typically sold in home supply stores or to the public. It is fairly specialized and usually is bought by businesses. Another good place to buy equipment like this is from cleaning services that are going out of business. Cleaning companies will be looking to liquidate their assets and might be willing to sell you their used equipment at a good price.

Grout Cleaning Tips

Cleaning dirty grout is one of the most labor intensive and difficult cleaning projects in your home. Even though it is difficult, it is extremely important to keep your grout clean. There are health benefits to keeping grout clean as well as monetary benefits. If you ever decide to sell your home, having clean grout could make a difference in the decision of a prospective buyer. When your tile grout is clean, the whole room will look brighter and larger. Those are huge advantages when trying to sell your home. You might even be able to get more money for your home because the buyer will feel like they can move right in. Dirty grout poses a health risk because bacteria and allergy inducing molds can grow in the porous grout lines if you let them get too dirty. When it comes time to do some cleaning in your bathroom, kitchen, or any room with tile floors or tile walls, here are a few grout cleaning tips to keep in mind.

  • Grout clean often
  • Use the gentlest grout cleaner possible
  • Gels, pastes, and foams are better than liquid grout cleaners
  • Scrub with circular motions
  • Stained grout is not the same as dirty grout
  • You do not have to clean grout by hand
  • Apply grout sealer

Grout Clean Often

The number one key to keeping your grout looking clean and bright is to clean it as often as possible. The reason that grout gets dirtier than tile or other areas of your home is that it is more porous. The porous nature of grout surfaces means that dirt and stain causing spills can work their way deep into the grout lines. It is harder to clean stains and get out dirt that is deep into the grout rather than just on the surface. If you clean your grout often enough, you will never give the dirt long enough to work its way very deep and as a result the cleaning will be much easier and faster.

I find it is best to get on a schedule and work that schedule into your daily routine. The shower is the hardest tiled area to keep clean because of the wet ad warm environment. That is why I pay special attention to this tiled area. I spend an extra five minutes in the shower each morning cleaning a section of the tile and grout. I have broken up my shower into seven parts and a I clean a different section every day. That means that the entire shower gets cleaned once a week, but I only spend a few extra minutes in the shower each morning where I will be spending time anyway. Even if I miss a day because I am away or just in a hurry, I know that I will hit that area again in a week and the grout will never go long without cleaning.

Use the Gentlest Grout Cleaner Possible

It is possible to damage your grout or even your tile if you use a chemical that is too harsh or abrasive. That is why my next grout cleaning tip is to use the gentlest grout cleaner that you can in order to get the grout clean. If you are cleaning your grout for the first time, I would suggest starting with the mildest option, which is steam, and working your way up to the harshest option which is chlorine bleach products. When you find a cleaner that works, you do not have to go any farther and you know you have been as gentle on your grout and tile as you could be. If you start to clean your grout regularly, you may find that you can even go down a level or two for ongoing cleaning. For more information on the different types of grout cleaners, go here.

Gels, Pastes, and Foams are better than Liquid Grout Cleaners

My next grout cleaning tip is to try to use grout cleaners that have more substance like gels or pastes rather than liquid cleaners. The reason for this is that most grout cleaners are more effective if you give them time to sit on the grout and start to break down stains and grime. On vertical tiled surfaces especially, the liquid grout cleaners just run off and do not get a lot of time to do their work. Gels, foams, or pastes will stay on the grout lines and do a lot of the grout cleaning for you before you ever pick up a scrub brush or turn on a grout cleaning machine.

Scrub with Circular Motions

When you are scrubbing grout lines, it can be very tempting to scrub directly along those grout lines in a back and forth motion. It feels as though that scrubbing action is the most efficient use of your time and energy because you shouldn’t waste time scrubbing the rest of the tile. The problem with that approach is that the back and forth motion actually deposits dirt back into the grout lines. With every forward stroke you are dislodging dirt and grime, and then with every backward motion you are putting the dirt you just removed back into the grout. The correct scrubbing motion to use when cleaning grout lines is a circular one. Scrub along the grout lines in small circular motions so that you dislodge the dirt and grime and then deposit what you removed to the side on the tile before moving on to another section of grout. While it seems like you are scrubbing more area and taking more time, you will actually end up saving yourself effort and time.

Stained Grout is not the same as Dirty Grout

Another grout cleaning tip to keep in mind is that stained grout does not necessarily mean dirty grout. You may find as you progress in your grout cleaning project that there are particularly bad stains that you just cannot get out of the grout lines. One of the reasons we clean our grout is to remove bacteria and mold that could cause illness or allergy problems. These stains that are hard to get out are not saturated with bacteria or mold. They are harmless to your health and you should keep that in mind as you clean. You may never be able to remove a stain, but that does not mean that your family’s health is at risk. If you have a stain that cannot be removed with any of your cleaning efforts, then your only choice may be to remove that section of grout and start fresh.

You Do Not Have to Clean Grout By Hand

When most homeowners start to think about grout cleaning they immediately think about cleaning grout by hand, but that is not the only way to get clean grout. There are two other grout cleaning methods that are worth mentioning and giving a try under the right circumstances. The first is a grout cleaning machine. You can purchase steam cleaners are other grout cleaning machines at department stores or large home improvement warehouses as well as from online retailers. You may even be able to purchase industrial grade equipment from a professional cleaning service that is going out of business. Grout cleaning machines use the power of steam and powerful scrub brushes to clean your grout better than you ever could be hand. The second alternative grout cleaning method is hiring a professional grout cleaner. Professional grout cleaners have access to all the best grout cleaning chemicals and grout cleaning equipment. The best part about hiring a professional grout cleaner is that you do not have to spend any of your valuable time on grout cleaning. For information about hiring a grout cleaner for your home, go here.

Apply Grout Sealer

The last grout cleaning tip that I have to share is actually a preventative measure that every homeowner should take in order to avoid a lot of difficult grout cleaning down the road. Grout sealer is a product that is applied to grout after it cures or dries. The grout sealer will protect your grout from outside influences by creating a barrier that water or dirt cannot penetrate. There are different types of grout sealer to choose from depending on what kind of tile you are sealing, where the tile is, and what it will be exposed to. For more information on selecting the right grout sealer go here and for more information on how to apply grout sealer, go here.