Grout Cleaning Tips
By Owen Whetzel
Grout between tiles often retains dirt and grime, because the grout hasn't been sealed or a sealer has not been periodically reapplied. Cleaning dirty grout usually involves scrubbing the grout, using a non-metallic stiff-bristle brush and a cleaning product. Avoid using a sponge or old toothbrush, as the sponge will be too soft to do a thorough job and an old toothbrush is likely worn and softened from brushing teeth. If the grout is below the level of the tiles, you may need to trim the bristles of the brush to form a V-shape or taper.
White grout can sometimes be cleaned by using a phosphoric acid based cleaner, such as Edfred Shower Stall and Tile Cleaner or another grout cleaner. (Do not use a phosphoric acid based cleaner on colored grout, as the acid can bleach colored grout.) Never use a toilet bowl cleaner as a grout cleaner, as it can etch and erode the grout. Colored grout can sometimes be cleaned by using an all-purpose cleaner, such as Simple Green. Simple Green, Edfred Shower Stall and Tile Cleaner and other grout cleaners are sold in the Housewares department of OSH stores.
When using any cleaning product, always wear chemical-resistant gloves and eye protection, and make certain there is adequate ventilation -- fresh air entering the space and stale air being exhausted. Always test whatever cleaning product you use in an small, inconspicuous area, to be certain the product and/or method doesn't do more harm than good. Rinse thoroughly and wait overnight to see, if there are any adverse effects. If you have tested in a dark corner, use a battery-operated flashlight or other light source to examine the test area. If you are satisfied with the results of your test, proceed to clean all the grout. Regardless of what product or products you use, be certain to follow the manufacturer's instructions and warnings carefully.
Try these cleaning tips:
- So that a cleaning solution is less likely to absorb into unsealed grout, soak the grout to be scrubbed with clean water. Wipe away any standing water using a sponge or absorbent cloth.
- Use a brush (an inexpensive paint brush works well) to apply an even coat of cleaner to a foot or two of the grout. Let it stand for about five minutes.
- Reapply the cleaner and scrub the grout using the non-metallic stiff-bristle brush. Small circular strokes will probably clean the grout better than scrubbing back and forth. You may find this first cleaning will require some extra hard scrubbing -- "elbow grease" as it was once known.
- Rinse thoroughly, then repeat the steps to the next one- to two-foot length of grout.
An alternative cleaning method, that often produces good results, is to steam clean the grout using a steam cleaner.
Once the grout is clean and well rinsed, it is probably time to reapply a high-quality grout sealer. Be certain to read the label on the grout sealer you choose to be certain it is for the particular area that is grouted (some sealers are made specifically for food preparation areas, others for a shower or floor).>
One final tip: If at some point you decide to re-grout, first remove the existing grout to one-half it's depth.