How to Clean Grout: 3 Simple Methods

By
Gladys K. Connelly
As a HouseKeeping Technical Writer, Gladys actively enjoys writing guides and tips about housekeeping for Thehousewire's audience. She's a professional housekeeping specialist with just shy of 9 years' experience to boast. That, combined with seven years prior experience in teaching, helps her create content that is both captivating and insightful.
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Updated April 12, 2022
Fact checked by
Jeneva Aaron
Jeneva Aaron

Fact checked by

Jeneva Aaron

Jeneva is the founder and CEO of thehousewire.com where she provides honest and objective reviews on home and cleaning products. She is a cleaning enthusiast. She got inspired to build her own cleaning blog when she realized how cleaning can make an impact on our lives and how a cleaner home can affect a person's mood.
Learn more about The Housewire’s Editorial Process

Removing these stains will refresh your bathroom tiles

Removing these stains will refresh your bathroom tiles

How to clean grout (700 × 355 px)

Cleaning grout is one of those dreaded chores. But you need to remove musky mold and mildew, grime, and staining from your kitchen and bathroom to keep it feeling fresh.

We’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves on the best way to clean grout and get rid of built-up dirt. Plus, there are some tips on the best grout cleaner to use and how to protect against future spills.

With a bit of elbow grease, your mudroom will look like new again. So let’s take a look at how to clean grout in a few simple steps.

How to Clean Grout on Floors

  • Mix dish soap and warm water rather than hot water and pour into a spray bottle
  • Spray onto a sponge mop or towel
  • Apply the solution to your grout lines and leave for a few minutes
  • The cleaning agents will start to break down the dirt and stains
  • Scrub the area with a grout cleaning brush until clean
  • Rinse with clean water and leave it to air dry

How Often Should I Clean Grout?

This depends on loads of factors, so it’s best to do clean grout as needed.

A bathroom that doesn’t get much use won’t need cleaning as often as grout around kitchen tiles with heavy traffic. But you can set up a grout cleaning routine to keep it looking its best.

Tile industry pros recommend sweeping and wiping areas with clean water once a week. But you should tackle grout stains straight away if you see anything like mold spots, discoloration, or dirt.

On top of these, you can deep clean a few times per year using one of the methods below. It helps to maintain the color and prevent further issues from arising.

How to Clean Grout With a Neutral Cleaner

A neutral grout cleaner with a pH level of 7 (the same as water) or thereabouts is what tile industry specialists suggest.

There are other types available, but it makes sense to start with the most gentle product and work your way up if you need to. Besides, water and other natural grout cleaners are the only ones recommended for colored grout.

So, let’s start with using a water-based product and see how you get on.

What You’ll Need

You can use this method with just a few common household items:
What You'll need clean grout with neutral cleaner

* : warm water rather than hot water.
** :like this Stanley Steemer.

Instructions

1. Make Your Solution

Make your own solution

First of all, you need to mix your solution. For a DIY version, mix ¼ teaspoon of dish soap per 1 cup of warm water.

If you’re using a commercial solution then follow the instructions on the bottle.

Pour into the bucket to make it easier to apply.

2. Apply the Grout Cleaner

Apply the cleaner

It’s best to use a sponge mop or a towel for this step, so go with whatever is easiest for you.

Pop some of the cleaning solution onto your mop or towel and then apply it to the areas of grout that you want to clean.

3. Leave it to Work

Leave it to work

A simple step, but it’s still important. You need to leave the grout cleaner to get to work for a few minutes.

4. Time For Some Elbow Grease

Time For Some Elbow Grease

Once the cleaning solution has done its thing, it’s time to scrub the grout with a scrub brush or old toothbrush. A circular motion is the best method to remove stubborn stains from stained grout.

You’ll notice the dirty grout starts to come off, so keep going until you see the area returning to its normal color.

5. Remove the Dirty Grout

remove the dirty grout

Using a wet/dry or shop vac makes this step much easier, but there is another option if you don’t have one to hand.

For the vacuum method, use the wet setting on your machine to remove the mixture of grout and solution.

Otherwise, you can wipe it off using a clean damp sponge mop or towel. Make sure you rinse away any residue though, or it could leave a dull finish on your floor tile grout.

6. Leave to Dry

Leave to dry

Make sure the room is well-ventilated and leave it to air dry. When it’s completely dry, you can use the shower, floor, or wherever else you’ve cleaned.

How to Clean Grout With a Mild Alkaline Cleaner

If a neutral grout cleaner hasn’t worked, then it’s time to try a mild alkaline cleaner. These have a pH of around 8.5 – 10, which is gentle enough to use on uncolored grouting.

However, it’s best to avoid using these if you’ve got colored grout. In particular, oxygen bleach (also known as hydrogen peroxide) whitens grout by pulling the color out, which you don’t want!

But oxygen bleach is a common mild alkaline cleaner to use on grout. To get technical, it’s a non-chlorine bleach that uses sodium percarbonate as the active cleaning agent.

Stronger chlorine bleaches use sodium hypochlorite as the active agent, so steer clear of these. If you’re in doubt, check the ingredients on the label.

You tend to find oxygen bleach in dry form which you then mix with water to make a paste. Or you can check your local hardware store for other options.

Keep In Mind

Always check the product label and customer reviews if you’re dealing with colored grout. Some products are safe, but not all of them.

What You’ll Need

What You'll need to clean with mild alkaline cleaner

This method only needs a few bits of kit:

Instructions

1. Mix Your Paste and Apply

Mix Your Paste and Apply

If you’re using a dry form, mix it with water to make your paste. Check the bottle for the instructions on how to do this and how much water to use.

If you’re using a pre-mixed solution, then just spray it onto the area you want to clean.

If you haven’t used these products before, it’s best to test this in an inconspicuous area first. And make sure any children or pets are kept out of the room where you’re cleaning grout.

2. Wait 5 minutes

Wait 5 minutes

Leave the paste or spray for around five minutes. You can leave it for less than this if you’re in a hurry, but you’ll get better results if you wait the full time.

Make sure any windows and doors are open so the fumes don’t overwhelm you.

3. Get Scrubbing

Get Scrubbing

Use a stiff grout cleaning brush for this cleaning step, or an old toothbrush if you haven’t got anything else.

You want to agitate the grime, so scrub the tiles in circular movements for the best results. For stubborn stains, like on shower walls, you’ll have to get vigorous with the brush!

4. Rinse the Grout Lines

Rinse the Grout Lines

A shop vacuum is ideal for this step, simply use the wet setting to remove dirt and any remaining grout cleaner.

If you don’t have a shop vac, use a clean towel or damp sponge mop and wipe clean.

After you’ve cleaned the grout, it’s important to rinse the area with clean water. This removes any residue that could otherwise dry and leave a dull finish or powder.

5. Let it Dry

Let it Dry

Air-dry the area until it’s completely dry. If stains still remain, you can try repeating this process or move on to the next method.

How to Clean Grout With a Steam Cleaner

If you’ve still got grimy grout after trying loads of different ways to remove the stains, steam is your next step. Steam cleaners get deep into the surface and lift stains back to the top, so you can wipe them away.

Seeing as grout is a porous material, it loses its seal over time and lets water and other debris in through the surface. Not only will steam cleaners release these, but they also kill any nasty bacteria growing in the area.

What You’ll Need

This method requires a few more items, but it’s worth it!
What You'll need to clean grout with steam cleaner

Instructions

1. Prepare Your Steam Cleaner

Prepare Your Steam Cleaner

Attach your chosen nozzle to your steamer ready for cleaning grouting. Make sure the water tank is full and select the “scrub” setting or highest steam level.

High heat is the best way to get your dirty grout clean.

2. Steam the Grout Stains

Steam the Grout Stains

Apply steam to the grimy grout lines in your bathroom or kitchen. The amazing cleaning power of steam should mean you don’t need to scrub too hard.

But if some areas of the tiles are dirtier than others, you can swap the steam nozzle for the scrubbing brush and try this instead.

If you’ve still got mold and grime, swap again to the more aggressive brass brush. This helps to break down any remaining soil better than the nylon brush.

3. Wipe the Tiles

Wipe the tiles

When you’re satisfied with how much mold you’ve removed, you need to rinse the dirt off the tile. To do this, attach a microfiber cloth to the rectangular tool and wipe it over the grout lines.

4. Wait for It to Dry

Let it Dry

When the kitchen tile or bathroom tile floors look squeaky clean, leave them to dry. Unlike with chlorine bleach or hydrogen peroxide, you don’t need to leave the area ventilated.

What to Avoid

Acidic Cleaners

You shouldn’t use anything acidic to clean grout. This includes white vinegar, lemon juice, and cream of tartar.

But why?

For starters, the Tile Council of North America warns against mixing acidic cleaners and grout. Anything acidic can dissolve the cement grout’s made from.

Not only does this mean it can reduce the lifespan of the grout around your kitchen floor tile, but there are other issues. The acid etches into the surface, eroding the top portion away and opening the pores in the grout.

This makes it easier for unwanted nasties and grime to soak deep into your bathroom grout. And then you’re left with even more mold that needs cleaning!

So put the white vinegar down and opt for one of the tile cleaner methods listed above.

These are a few other cleaning products to avoid:

  • Oxalic acid
  • Hydrochloric acid
  • Sulfuric acid
  • Muriatic acid
  • Sodium bisulfate

They’re great for removing hard water, soap scum, and rust. But also removing grout!

Professional cleaning companies often use these products when they’re ripping old grout out of your bathroom to replace it.

High pH Alkaline and Abrasive Cleaners

Anything with high alkalinity, like bleach, has a pH of at least 12. It makes the product caustic, which is great for cutting through grease, but harsh on your grout.

Baking soda is another alkaline to avoid. Its pH is somewhat lower than bleach, but it’s mildly abrasive.

The rough and gritty texture of baking soda won’t do your grout any favors when you scrub away at the surface. And besides, it’s not even effective for cleaning grout.

You can use bleach or baking soda now and again to tackle stubborn grime, but regular use isn’t advised. Bleach strips the sealant away, leaving your bathroom grout exposed and potentially meaning you need to replace the sealant more often.

If you do want to try it on your tiles, then it’s best to make a mixture of 1 part bleach and 10 parts water. Also, keep your house windows open to let the fumes out, and rinse the area well.

Rinsing will stop the bleach from drying into a white film and leaving a dull finish. The same goes for rinsing away any residue from the baking soda paste.

Oil and Wax Based Grout Cleaners

Seeing as grout is porous, it absorbs the soap and wax from this type of product. This includes anything like Murphy’s Oil Soap and Pine-Sol.

Unless you want a waxy film in your bathroom or an oily sheen around the kitchen tile grout lines, stay away from these.

Dishwashing Detergents

These won’t harm your grout as such, but they’re tricky to rinse off. Any thick cleaning solutions can leave residue, which then attracts more dirt and gives you more tile grout to clean.

So save yourself some time and avoid dishwashing detergents. The only exception is to mix a small amount with water and pop it into a spray bottle to avoid heavy application.

Don’t Forget to Seal Your Grout

Now your grouting is clean, you can protect it further by applying a sealant. Most grouts these days are self-sealing, in which case you don’t need to do this.

You also don’t need to seal epoxy grouts.

But if you’ve got a cement-based grout that isn’t self-sealing, this is the best way to protect it from stains, dirt, and moisture soaking into the porous material.

In an ideal world, you’d apply a sealant twice a year. But even doing it once will help extend the lifespan of any grouted sections around the house.

You can choose from two different types of sealer, and each has its pros and cons. So choose the best one for your needs:

  • Penetrating sealer bonds with the grout and repels water or water-based stains.
  • Topical sealer coats the surface and repels just about anything. But it does wear away over time with foot traffic.

Whichever you choose, make sure you leave the grout to dry for at least 24 hours after scrubbing it. You don’t want any excess moisture when resealing.

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