When cleaning tile and grout, whether the tiled areas are an area that is flooring, a counter area or a shower area, the cleaning of the tiles is going to be the easy part. Tiles, whether they are ceramic, porcelain, marble, granite or some other exotic material, are going to be the easier part to clean compared to cleaning the grout. Tile can usually we wiped clean with a mild detergent solution. Tiles will also typically respond well to agitation without becoming damaged.
The grout is the more difficult issue to clean because it is 1) recessed, and 2) because it has sand in it’s mixture which makes it porous. For these reasons, grout stains can be difficult to remove.
Grout often has a sealant applied when new tile and grout are installed. If grout sealer was not applied when it was first installed, then after it has been properly cleaned is a good time to apply it. Check with your flooring representative for what sealer is best for your situation. Marble and Granite for example are sensitive to certain chemicals. Usually 2 or 3 applications of sealant are better then one.
There are different products that can be tried for grout cleaning, some readily available in the home, and others that can be purchased from a general store (see below). If you are going to be cleaning on your hands and knees then wear knee pads to protect your knees because the tile is going to be very hard to kneel on; if using harsher cleaners, wear a particle mask and safety glasses.
To clean grout try first clean the grout with water and soap (such as diluted liquid dish soap) to remove loose debris and surface soil, and allow to dry, to determine what you now have to work with; to further improve the appearance of the grout you can then proceed to try the following:
- baking soda – dampen the grout with a wet sponge and then sprinkle with baking soda; let it sit for a few minutes then scrub with a small stiff nylon brush (old tooth brushes can work but never use brushes with metal bristles on grout) and use the sponge to wipe down – if you are happy with the results, use this process as part of your regular cleaning maintenance program.
- white vinegar – vinegar has many cleaning uses but it has a low pH (it is acidic) compared to most cleaners which work by having a higher pH (which is alkaline); some grout cement is alkaline, and some natural stone tiles have alkaline properties, so to be safe, test the vinegar in an inconspicuous place; if there are no adverse affects, then proceed to your main work area; dilute 2 parts vinegar with 1 part water; spray it on the grout lines and let sit for 15 minutes; wipe with a damp sponge of baking soda mixed with water to neutralize the acidity of the vinegar; then rinse again with clean damp sponge.
- hydrogen peroxide – hydrogen peroxide can weaken and discolor fibers but it is a very effective disinfectant (and will keep mold and mildew from growing in shower stalls, etc.) and will lighten the grout as it works (so test in an inconspicuous area); dilute 50/50 with warm water and spray on; let sit 15 minutes; wipe off with a clean wet sponge; don’t mix it with anything else;
- oxygen bleach time – oxygen bleach time won’t effect colors compared to chlorine bleach; however it takes more time for the oxygen reaction to work, so the longer you let it sit, the better it will work and the less agitation with brushes you will have to do; fill the grout lines with the oxygen bleach powder diluted in warm water; let sit for 30 minutes and then scrub lightly as you apply more solution to the grout lines; the oxygen ions will continue to work for up to 6 hours and will attack the most stubborn stains including red wine and beet juice; when you feel the job is complete, rinse the grout with a clean wet sponge.
- steam cleaning – steam cleaning with pressure can dislodge particles and debris embedded in the grout that might not be dislodged with wiping; for smaller areas use an held hand iron on the steam setting about an inch above the grout; wipe off with a clean wet sponge when finished; because steam with pressure can dislodge bacteria from grout, it can be an effective and efficient method for large areas such as athletic locker rooms, etc. by a professional with large steam cleaning equipment.
It the case that grout is loose and chunks are coming out as you clean, you should be able to match and blend in new grout, that is fairly easy to mix up and apply, and can be purchased from a tile or hardware store.