Tile is beautiful, durable, and generally easy to clean, but cleaning grout? That's a different story. Because of its typically light coloring and porous composition, grout is prone to staining. In a tiled entry or mudroom, dirt and grime are the usual culprits, while in the kitchen, spills are more likely to blame. In the bathroom, homeowners must contend with mold and mildew.
Fortunately, it's possible to clean and restore your grout using common household products and a bit of elbow grease.
Before you begin, remember that with any cleaning project, it's always best to start off with the mildest cleaning solution. When in doubt about a grout cleaner, test it in a hidden spot-under an appliance in the kitchen, say, or behind the toilet in the bathroom.
The following suggestions for cleaning grout are listed from the mildest to the strongest.
- Scrub dirty grout using plain warm water and a stiff-bristled brush.
If you don't already have a brush for the job, most home centers and hardware stores carry an assortment of options specifically designed for the purpose of cleaning grout. Simply spray warm water on the grout lines and scrub in a circular motion, then let dry.
- Spray with equal parts vinegar and warm water for several minutes.
For heavier dirt and mild stains, turn to vinegar, a trusty old standby for many household chores. Fill a spray bottle with a half-and-half solution of vinegar and warm water. Spray on the grout, let it stand for five minutes, then scrub with a stiff brush.
- Apply a baking soda paste and spray with vinegar.
To bring even more cleaning power to the party, cover grout lines with a paste of baking soda and water, then spray on the vinegar solution listed above. Once the mixture stops foaming, scrub with a brush and rinse with plain water.
- Pour on some hydrogen peroxide.
Moderate stains may require you to use hydrogen peroxide, which is available in most drug stores. You can use the product straight, or apply a paste made from baking soda and hydrogen peroxide.
- Apply oxygen bleach for up to 15 minutes.
For tougher stains and really grimy grout, use oxygen bleach as a grout cleaner. You'll find this cleanser is most often sold in powdered form; best-selling brands include OxiClean, Clorox OxiMagic, and Biokleen Oxygen Bleach Plus. Whatever product you choose to clean grout, make sure the area is well-ventilated then carefully read and follow the manufacturer's directions for application. Generally, you will want to let the oxygen bleach solution work for 10 or 15 minutes before rinsing. Always rinse with clean water so that the dirt doesn't resettle into the grout lines.
- Use chlorine bleach sparingly on grout.
Chlorine bleach (and commercial cleansers containing chlorine bleach) can be used sparingly in extreme cases to clean grout. One of my go-to products, when all else fails, is Clorox Clean-Up spray (available on Amazon). Before you apply, rinse away all of the above attempts-especially the vinegar, because traces of vinegar mixed with bleach will emit a highly toxic chlorine gas into the surrounding air. And don't make this a routine: Long-term use of caustic cleaners will erode grout, so these products should be used on a limited basis.
- Steam clean the worst of grout stains.
Steam cleaners can be an effective and environmentally-friendly method of cleaning grout-or, for that matter, many hard surfaces throughout the house. Bissell, Oreck, and Hoover all make steam cleaners for residential use.
To keep your grout clean and stain-free, it's a good idea to spray it with vinegar and wipe it down once a week. You can also wipe grout with alcohol to keep mold and mildew at bay. In any case, just a few spritzes and wipes a week can save you a lot of time and effort cleaning, preserving the attractive appearance of your home in the process.