It’s one of the most common enemies of bathrooms and kitchens. Tiles with dirty, discoloured grout. Even the word seems to have a military-style personality all of its own. It’s tough and immovable so you need to know the best way how to clean grouting.
Grout is a porous material, most commonly cement, that fills the cracks and spaces between tiles. It makes your walls, floors or backsplash solid and smooth and enhances the appearance of your tiles. The downside? Because it is porous and often light in colour, it stains easily from kitchen spills and bathroom soap. It collects dirt, likes mould, and it’s hard to clean.
Don’t be intimated. With the right approach, strategy and materials, and a fair bit of elbow grease, we can take on the grout and win. The end result? Clean grout keeps our homes healthy. It can also dramatically improve the look and feel of our kitchens and bathrooms, especially if the grout was highly noticeable.
All types of house cleaning will benefit from using the least harsh chemicals available. Where possible, totally natural ingredients and common household products are even more preferable. Fortunately, removing dirt and stains from grouting can usually be achieved with these, depending on the extent of cleaning required.
If you or your kids have played video games then you know about the different levels of gameplay. Cleaning grout has its own levels, from mild staining that’s easily dealt with, to the extreme level that requires us to be even more stubborn and determined than the grubby grout itself.
It’s always best to start out using the mildest cleaning solutions, and progress from there. For health and safety, we should ensure we’re wearing gloves and that our arms and legs are covered.
Let’s get started: how to clean grouting
Here is a checklist of useful materials. We will need one or two of these, possibly more, depending on the extent of the problem.
- Bicarbonate of soda
- Hydrogen peroxide
- A spray bottle
- A scrub or grout brush (in the lightest of cases, a toothbrush)
- A small bowl
How to clean grouting that’s fairly mild
Just spray warm water on the grout lines. Use a scrub or grout brush or even a light nylon brush and then scrub the surface in a circular motion. A toothbrush could even work here. We should then keep an eye on these grout lines and repeat this on a regular basis. If we do that, we will never have to resort to the harder and longer work of removing much more difficult dirt and mould, which would be a win in itself.
How to clean grouting that’s stubborn and tough
This is the most common kind as it doesn’t take long for grout that hasn’t had regular cleaning to reach this level. Don’t despair, armed with the right materials and following these simple steps, we can show the grout who’s boss.
Method 1: Vinegar with warm water
We fill our spray bottle with half vinegar and half warm water. Give the dirty area a generous spray and then allow it five minutes to settle. Now we take hold of a stiff-bristled scrub or grout brush and go to work, scrubbing in a circular motion. Once we’ve thoroughly cleaned the area, we rinse it with warm water. If our tiles are made of natural stone, we won’t use this method as vinegar could be damaging to the stone.
Method 2: Bicarbonate of soda
We’re still getting resistance from these stains, so our next step is to make a paste, mixing water and bicarbonate of soda in a small bowl. We dip our brush in the paste and then apply it to the grout, gently working it in.
Now we spray the area with the water and vinegar solution we prepared in the previous step. The vinegar will react with the bicarbonate of soda, causing it to bubble up as it attacks and loosens the build-up of dirt and scum in the grout lines. We’ve taken charge to declare we’re tougher and more stubborn than the enemy.
Now we use our brush to dig into those grout lines, cleaning away the loosened scum. Finally, we rinse the grout with warm water.
Method 3: Grout eraser
A grout eraser is a less labour intensive way of tackling the build-up of grime that can work in some circumstances. One or two wipes over with a sponge will generally clean away the grime.
Method 4: Mould sprays
Mould removal sprays can also be effective and they also act as a sealant.
Method 5: Lemons
Don’t dismiss the idea of simply using lemons, particularly if you have a few extra in the house. The high acidity in lemon juice eats away at the grime and discolouration in grout and we can possibly avoid the use of any other household items. Wipe clean after 10 minutes and if it works well enough, we’re done. Added bonus: the smell of fresh lemons beats that of most cleaning products.
How to clean grouting that’s extreme
Method 1: Hydrogen peroxide
Deeply embedded dirt, mould or mildew that still won’t budge, means it’s time for us to pull out our secret weapon. Hydrogen peroxide. This is available from most chemists. It is a natural alternative to bleach as it is non-toxic, decomposes into water and oxygen, and kills bacteria. We spray the hydrogen peroxide onto the grout and after letting it stand for a few minutes, we apply our scrub brush. We may need to repeat this step a few times as we’re up against stains here that have taken hold and mean business. That’s okay, we mean business too.
Method 2: Bicarbonate of soda
If we’re still not getting the squeaky clean result we want, the next step is to grab our bowl and make a paste, this time taking our hydrogen peroxide and mixing it with our bicarbonate of soda.
This is our game-changing play when we’re up against the hardest and most resistant dirt. We apply the paste to the grout lines, go to work with our brush and, as always, rinse off with warm water. This is often the most effective method in a large number of cases.
Method 3: Oxygen bleach
Another approach with this exceptionally grimy grout is the use of commercial oxygen bleach. It’s usually sold in powdered form and is available from major manufacturers. Usage can vary, so following the manufacturer’s instructions is a must and we should always make certain the area we’re working in is well ventilated. In most cases, we’ll be allowing around 10-15 minutes for the oxygen bleach solution to work, before rinsing the tiles.
Method 4: Steam cleaners
Steam cleaners can be an environmentally-friendly and effective method of cleaning grout as well as many other hard surfaces in the home. There are several on the market for use in residential properties and these appliances are worth considering for particularly difficult tasks.
How to clean grouting that’s chronic and seemingly immovable
This is rare and hopefully not a level that most of us will ever have to face. Even so, we don’t have to throw up our arms in defeat. Confronted with this deeply ingrained type of staining, we can once again make a paste, this time mixing two-parts bicarbonate of soda and one-part bleach.
We spread the paste onto the affected areas of the grout. Only use bleach on white grout otherwise it will distort or wreck your colour scheme. After five minutes, we use our strongest brush to scrub. Once finished, we wait another five minutes and then very carefully and thoroughly rinse the area with warm water.
The combination of bicarbonate soda and bleach can improve the cleaning abilities of both these substances. However, this step is not suitable in all circumstances and if you’re not familiar working with bleach or you have sinus or allergy conditions, then it can pose health and safety concerns. Consulting with a professional may be the better option at this point.
Once we have our grout in tip-top shape, we can apply the following tips on keeping it that way.
How to keep the grout in crisp and clean condition
Unless it is maintained, our white and sparkly clean grout won’t stay that way for long. What are the best ways to keep the grout clean and to avoid another of those difficult, dreaded and tiring scrub-clean jobs?
Here are the most effective techniques for keeping it spotless:
- When you’re in the shower, spray it with your bottle of water and vinegar mix. Keep it within easy reach but make certain it’s clearly labelled so as not to confuse it with soap or shampoo sprays. Just two or three times each week is all that’s required to make a big difference over time.
- Dabbing alcohol into the grout lines on a regular basis can help prevent mould and mildew.
- Spray kitchen and bathroom tiles with vinegar and wipe down once per week. Just a small amount of time here can save us a great deal more time in the long run, while keeping the areas clean and appealing.
- With general house cleaning, vacuuming the floors before mopping will minimise any dirt soaking into the grout lines. The less dirt accumulating in these areas, the easier it is to clean hard-to-reach spots like grout.
- Whenever we have new grout going into our homes, we should wait up to 10 to 14 days after it has cured, and then apply grout sealer. This will play a much-appreciated role in protecting the grout from stains.
It doesn’t take long to find which of these methods will work in our homes. After some blood, sweat, and tears, our squeaky clean bathrooms and kitchens will lift the appearance of the whole home, taking it from tired to terrific.
If you’ve enjoyed this article on How to Clean Grouting for Squeaky Clean Bathrooms & Kitchens, then perhaps you’ll find our other ‘How To’ articles useful too.