Tile and Grout Cleaning Tips

Once your tiles and grout are clean, seal them to make sure they stay that way!

Posted by Caryn Colgan | Feb 23, 2010
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Tile floors are designed to last for many years, but over time the tile and grout can get stained. Since grout and some tiles are porous, dirt and stains become trapped, making the floor look unsightly. In the bathroom’s shower and tub areas, mold, mildew, bacteria, and soap scum cause ugly stains and can even lead to health issues, particularly if the mold spreads to the backboard or drywall.

Normal cleaning methods, such as mopping and vacuuming, are not enough for tile and grout cleaning. Besides, regularly cleaning the lines of grout can be hard on the back and somewhat tedious. However, there’s good news. Once you invest some time in tile and grout cleaning -- or hire a professional cleaner to tackle the job for you -- you can then seal the grout lines for long-lasting results.

Tile and Grout Cleaning the Easy Way

Before sealing your home’s tile and grout, be sure to give the floor or wall a thorough scrub. This can be done with eco-friendly cleaning solutions containing either white vinegar or baking soda. It’s important to choose distilled water because it contains no minerals or chemicals that might otherwise stain the tile and grout. Avoid using soap to clean the floor, because it will leave a sticky residue that dulls the tile and attracts dirt.

Use your own DIY natural tile and grout cleaner. Here’s how:

  1. Mix equal parts vinegar and distilled water, or make a paste with distilled water and baking soda.

  2. Work the solution or paste into the grout using circular motions and then scrub back and forth. 

  3. Rinse with the help of distilled water and a clean sponge or mop.

For difficult stains, use chlorine bleach diluted with distilled water (1 part bleach to 3 parts water).

Clean Grout and Tile with Care

Although vinegar is excellent at cleaning ceramic tile, never apply it to natural stone tile, which can etch. Use bleach only on white grout, never on colored grout, as it will permanently fade.

When using bleach, always wear rubber gloves, eye protection, and work clothes that you don't mind staining. Test your mixture in a small, inconspicuous spot before applying to a larger area. Apply, rinse, and repeat. Hydrogen peroxide can be used full-strength instead of bleach, but NEVER MIX these two ingredients together. DON’T COMBINE EITHER OF THEM WITH OTHER CHEMICALS, EITHER – especially not acids (including vinegar or lemon juice!) -- because toxic gases, fumes, or even explosions may result.

Seal the Grout

After tile and grout cleaning, allow to dry and apply a grout and tile sealer. There are two basic types of sealer: penetrating and membrane. Penetrating sealers are absorbed into the grout and should be reapplied every 1-3 years. Membrane sealer creates a barrier to protect the tile and grout and needs to be refreshed every 1-2 years -- or sooner if the membrane fails.

Do not apply grout sealer to unsealed tile, since the sealer will stain the tile. Rather, apply the sealer using a pen-like applicator, carefully following the grout lines. If your tile is glazed or otherwise sealed, brush or spray the sealer over the surface. Allow to dry and apply a second coat.

This will keep your gorgeous tile floors looking their very best.

This article was updated November 10, 2017.

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