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How To Clean Grout

Updated Jan 9, 2023

Updated Jan 9, 2023

Home > Flooring > How To Clean Grout

Very few things around the house are more frustrating than stained grout lines surrounding clean tile. Regardless of how clean your home is, dirty grout can make your clean floors look dingy and full of grime. Luckily, cleaning grout is simpler than you may have thought.

With a bit of time, elbow grease, and some common household products, refreshing the grout in the tiled surfaces of your home is straightforward. Read through our guide on how to clean grout to learn more.

Materials Needed

Cleaning the grout in your home will require a few specific tools and materials. Generally, starting with the most low-intensity cleaning product is best to reduce exposure to chemicals and irritants and avoid damaging your grout and tile. The best way to test cleaners is in small, inconspicuous areas — you’ll quickly discover whether or not you need to change cleaning methods. 

If using more natural methods doesn’t get the job done, you can increase the cleaner’s intensity. Below, we’ve compiled a list of cleaning tools and materials to have on hand.

Tools

  • Nylon stiff-bristle brush
  • Spray bottle
  • Steam mop

Materials

  • Baking soda
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Grout cleaner
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Oxygen bleach
  • White vinegar

Using a stiff nylon brush, like an old toothbrush, is important. Other abrasive tools or brushes may damage the tile surrounding the grout. It’s critical that, if using bleach, you don’t mix it with other cleaners. Doing so can create dangerous toxic gases. 

Things To Know Before You Start

moldy grout in a bathroom
Image Source: Canva

Before cleaning, it’s important to understand that not all grout is alike. You’ll need to consider the type of grout and its color before moving forward with a cleaning plan. We’ve outlined some of the most common types of grout and their differences below.

Epoxy Grout

Epoxy grout is made up of a filler and resin. It dries very hard, is waterproof, and is extremely durable. Because of its durability and repellent nature, it’s not as susceptible to staining as more traditional types of grout and makes a good choice in areas like a kitchen.

Pros and Cons of Epoxy Grout

Pros

  • Anti-mold and mildew properties
  • Easily cleaned
  • Resistant to stains and cracking

Cons

  • Chemicals can degrade the material
  • More expensive than cement-based grout
  • Yellowing from sunlight may occur

Sanded Grout

Sanded grout is a cement-based grout typically used outdoors or in high-traffic tiled areas. It’s applied quickly and easily, making it a popular choice. The grit and porosity are visible, equating to an easily stained surface. 

Pros and Cons of Sanded Grout

Pros

  • Can be sealed for bacterial resistance
  • Easy to install
  • Good choice for most applications

Cons

  • Low stain resistance
  • Susceptible to acidic products
  • Vulnerable to cracking

Unsanded Grout

Unsanded grout is cement-based. However, it doesn’t contain grit like sanded grout. Typically used in smaller joints, unsanded grout is slightly smoother than sanded grout, making it a good choice for polished stones and vertical surfaces.

The properties of the various kinds of grout help to determine how to clean and protect it. For example, epoxy grout is more durable against chemicals than cement-based grout but can’t stand up to sealants. The yellowing of epoxy grout is more likely due to sun exposure, while cement-based grout is probably the result of a stain and can be cleaned. Knowing the type of grout you have will save you from a lot of guesswork when you’re cleaning.

Pros and Cons of Unsanded Grout

Pros

  • Good for both dry and wet applications and vertical surfaces like a backsplash
  • Less expensive than epoxy
  • Suitable for protective grout sealer

Cons

  • Color can vary due to inconsistent drying
  • Low chemical and stain resistance
  • Porous, making it susceptible to mildew and mold

Cleaning Grout

cleaning grout with a toothbrush
Image Source: Canva

Once you’ve gathered your grout cleaning supplies and determined the type of grout you have, it’s time to get to work. Our research shows these are the best practices for cleaning tile grout:

1. Start with hot water.

Before turning to harsh chemical cleaners, start by spraying hot water on your grout and scrubbing in a circular motion with a stiff brush. Remember, using another type of brush or scrubber may cause damage to your tile or grout — if you don’t have a nylon brush, make sure you get one to preserve your grout and tile.

2. Get some help from your steam mop.

Steam mops are a great solution for deep cleaning, and grout is no exception. The hot steam can penetrate nooks and crannies in your grout while sanitizing and removing stains. Steam cleaners are safe to use on most types of tiles, making them well-rounded floor-cleaning tools.

3. Let hydrogen peroxide do the work.

A readily available and inexpensive solution to unsightly grout stains is hydrogen peroxide. You can use hydrogen peroxide on its own or in combination with baking soda for maximum cleaning effects. Usually, hydrogen peroxide is safe for use on both sealed and unsealed grout surfaces.

4. For sealed grout, try vinegar.

While using vinegar on unsealed grout may cause it to weaken and chip or crack easily,

a solution of equal parts warm water and vinegar can help eliminate stains in sealed grout. Spray the solution onto the grout, rest for five minutes, and then scrub gently with a stiff-bristled nylon brush or grout brush. 

5. Mix up a baking soda paste.

Baking soda is a natural cleaning powerhouse that can work wonders on grout. For a DIY cleaner, mix a bit of water or dish soap into baking soda until a paste is formed, apply to grout lines, and scrub. If your grout is sealed, you can spray the paste with vinegar or lemon juice for extra cleaning power, though it’s not critical to achieving impressive results.

6. For stubborn stains, try oxygen bleach.

An oxygen bleach, like OxiClean™, is a good solution for dirt buildup and tough stains, especially on tile floors with bright white grout. Before cleaning, ensure the room is well-ventilated, then apply according to package directions. For the best results, let the product sit for 15 to 20 minutes, then rinse with clean water and dry thoroughly with a microfiber cloth.

7. Use a grout-specific cleaner.

While commercial tile and grout cleaners quickly clean your grout, they often contain harsh chemical solvents, acids, or bleach. Before turning to one of these spray-and-wipe cleaning solutions, make sure you know what it’s made of — you don’t want to cause damage to your grout or flooring while trying to clean it.

8. As a last resort, use chlorine bleach.

Chlorine bleach can be extremely harsh and erode or damage grout. However, it’s an extremely effective product for whitening grout. If all else fails, chlorine bleach or a product containing it might be a solution to brighten grout. Just remember to use it sparingly to minimize potential damage.

Maintaining Grout

The best way to maintain your grout is to take preventative measures. While getting a professional floor cleaning every once in a while is a good idea, there are easier and more budget-friendly solutions.

If you have a cement-based grout, sealing it can help minimize the absorption of stains. When staining happens, refer to the cleaning tips above. Wiping up spills as soon as they happen and cleaning your floors regularly will also help to keep grout looking fresh. 

Final Thoughts

Cleaning grout can be a simple and effective way to refresh your flooring and bring the sparkle back to the tile surfaces around your home. Just remember to try mild approaches before harsh chemical solutions, as this will help maintain the longevity of your grout.

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