How to clean grout

Cleaning grout on a tile floor — or backsplash or wall — isn’t something most of us look forward to. But it’s a task that can transform a space!

Why does grout get so grubby and hard to clean? Well, most grout is made from cement; it’s a mixture of water, cement and sand. It’s very porous, so it absorbs dirt, oil, grease, soap scum — you name it. While that sounds — and often feels — impossible to clean, you usually just need the right combination of ingredients alongside some elbow grease.

Using a good, non-toxic recipe specifically for cleaning grout, let’s make that grungy tile sparkling clean!

closeup of wet, white tile covered in water droplets

You’ll need:

  • Spray bottle
  • Hydrogen peroxide. Peroxide will clean and brighten and help eliminate mold and mildew.
  • Dishpan
  • Baking soda. Baking soda is mildly abrasive, so it’ll help with the scrubbing. At the same time, it’s gentle enough for tile.
  • Liquid dish soap. Soap is always a good bet for removing grime and dirt.
  • Sponge or cloth
  • A good brush. You can use any brush with stiff bristles or a special grout-cleaning brush. There are even electric grout cleaners with spinning brushes specifically for cleaning grout. 
  • A toothbrush for hard-to-reach areas 
  • Gloves (If you want to protect your hands)

Directions:

  1. Fill a small spray bottle with hydrogen peroxide.
  2. Spray the grout with the peroxide. The peroxide will help eliminate any mold or mildew, as well as clean and brighten the grout.
  3. In a small dishpan, make a paste of baking soda and dish soap. Baking soda is mildly abrasive, so it can help scrub out dirt without damaging your tile. The dish soap will cut grease and grime.
  4. Spread the paste onto the grout using a sponge or a cloth. 
  5. Let sit for 10 to 20 minutes. (During this time, clean the paste from the dishpan and fill it with hot water.)
  6. Scrub the grout with the brush. 
  7. Rinse grout with the clean, hot water. 
wood kitchen counter with red tile backsplash, a black teapot, and hanging mugs

This method works for most any grubby grout. If yours is really stubborn, you might consider renting a grout steamer or hiring a pro to tackle the task for you. (Most pros use grout steamers for the job.)

Grout sealing

Once you have your grout nice and clean, you might want to consider sealing it, to protect it from deep dirt, grime, mold and mildew — and make grout cleaning easier the next time around. There are many grout-sealing products on the market. Most are one of two types, penetrating or topical. Penetrating provides longer-lasting protection.

Search for a non-toxic option with no VOCs (volatile organic compounds) or other toxic solvents and additives. 

(Note that you don’t need a sealer on epoxy-type grout because it sheds water and other substances rather than absorbing them.) 

A few more tips about cleaning grout:

shower tiled with light blue tile and white grout
  • Enlist the help of steam. If you’re cleaning grout in a shower, you can apply the peroxide and the paste and then turn on the hot water to build steam. (Direct the shower, if you can, so that it doesn’t spray off the solution.) It’ll be easier to scrub clean when you turn off the water. 
  • Change your cleansing water often. Because grout is so porous, it will readily absorb dirt from dirty water or a dirty brush.
  • Test. The first time you use any product (natural or not) on your grout, it’s a good idea to test it on a small area before applying widely. Some ingredients may work better than others for you, and that’s good to know before you tackle a large area. 
  • Be careful what you use on your tile. Some surfaces can handle a vinegar and water cleanser (sometimes recommended to remove “grout haze,” leftover on the tile from the process of grouting). But other surfaces  (porous stone, for example) can’t handle the acidity. Use plain water or water and a mild liquid soap on them. 

Have you cleaned grout lately? What did you use (besides elbow grease)?

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