How to Clean Tile Grout

Lead Image for How to Clean Tile Grout
  • 1-3 hours
  • Beginner
  • 10-50
What You'll Need
Vinegar or baking soda
Household cleaners
Chemical grout cleaners (heavy duty or otherwise)
Soft brush

Whether you've got tile floors or kitchen back splashes, the grout between tiles can get pretty grimy, and it can be tough to know exactly how to clean grout. However, with the right cleaning solution and a bit of elbow grease, you can get your grout looking fresh and brand new.

How Does Grout Get So Grimy?

Understanding how tile grout gets dirty in the first place can be useful when picking the best grout cleaner. In the bathroom for example, it's usually mold or mildew causing the grout stains. In the kitchen it could be a combination of food stains, general household traffic, and mildew. No matter what the cause of the staining, start off with the simplest and least acidic cleaning solution first, moving up to harsher chemical cleaners if you are unsuccessful in getting the grout completely clean.

Know Your Options

Depending on your type of stain, you may be able to get away with household products. Tougher stains and milew may need heavier chemicals. Know your options before you get started.

Household Solutions

For some stains, simple household items like vinegar or baking soda can be effective cleaners. Try either a solutions of equal parts vinegar and water or a paste of baking soda and a bit of water to clean the grout.

Spray or dab the cleaner onto a small length of grout and scrub with a stiff brush. Scrub in small circles rather than straight up and down to remove more debris from the grout. Rinse well with water, and mop up any remaining moisture with a sponge or paper towels.

Generic Grout Cleaners

Generic household cleaners such as Mr. Clean, Lysol, or powder-based cleaners can also work on tile grout. Use as directed above for vinegar or baking soda, and make sure to rinse the grout well after cleaning. Alternatively, if you own or have access to a steam cleaner, try using it on your grout work. The pressure of the steam cleaner can loosen debris and stains that cleaners can't dissolve on their own.

Commercial Tile Cleaning Products

If your grout hasn't come completely clean, the next step is to try a commercial tile and grout cleaner. These are available wherever home cleaning products are sold. Try to find a cleanser that is pH balanced so that the chemicals in the product won't erode the grout with continued use. To get the best result from a commercial cleaner, spray it on and let it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing. Follow the directions on the label of the product to clean effectively.

Heavy Duty Grout Cleaners

For heavy duty stains, use even stronger products such as oxygen bleach powder, hydrogen peroxide, or chlorine bleach. These products should be diluted before use. You can also find heavy duty cleaners at hardware stores or janitorial supply outlets.

If you go this route, you will need to read labels carefully and follow directions to the letter.

Never use bleach on colored grout, as it will discolor the grout. Overusing bleach these heavy duty cleaners can damage your grout over time. They are only recommended for tough stains, not for regular upkeep.

If you're using commercial cleaners, bleach, or other chemicals, make sure the room you're working in is well-ventilated. Remember, this is the strong stuff, so you need to use gloves and protective eye wear when working with any chemical-based cleaners, and never mix cleaners together. Chemical reactions can cause noxious fumes or burns if the mixture touches the skin.

Tips for Any Tile in Any Room

Regardless of what cleaning solution you choose, use a stiff brush for scrubbing. Old toothbrushes will be too soft, so even small spaces will require a heavy duty brush. Also avoid using metal bristles, as they will wear away the grout.

Make sure to test your grout cleaner on a small, inconspicuous area of tile first to make sure it won't erode or damage your grout work. This is especially necessary if your tile grout is old or damaged.

Keep Your Grout Cleaner for Longer

When your tile grout is completely clean, keep it looking fresh and new by applying a coat or two of grout sealer. There are various types of grout sealers available for different uses, such as floors or bathroom tile. Make sure you purchase the correct type for the room you'll be applying it to. Reapply the grout sealer at least once a year, or as necessary.