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How to Clean Grout

Updated on November 11, 2010

Grout cleaning is an important household chore, but it is often one that is overlooked and not completed because most people think it is particularly difficult. While it is time consuming and sometimes requires some physical exertion, it really is not a hard task to complete. If you have the right grout cleaning tools and you use the right grout cleaning techniques, then it can be done with the least amount of effort. The other key to making grout cleaning easy is to clean often. You need to clean your tile grout as often as possible so that it never gets too dirty. The dirtier it is, the more difficult it is to get clean. You should include grout cleaning in your weekly bathroom cleaning regimen.

Grout Cleaning Tools

The first step in how to clean grout is to gather the right tools and cleaning materials.  The tools needed to clean grout are minimal, but important.  You will need some clean rags so that you can wet one and wipe down the grout lines with some warm water before applying any chemicals.  You will also need a rag for the end when you are ready to wipe away the dirty cleaning solutions from the clean grout lines.  You will also need a good grout scrub brush.

There are several attributes that make a particular scrub brush good for cleaning grout over other scrub brushes.  First, a grout scrub brush should have medium hard bristles.  If the bristles are too hard, then your scrubbing motions could actually tear up the grout.  Grout is a porous and relatively soft material so it is easy to damage it if you do not use the right tools.  If the bristles are too soft, then your scrubbing actions will not dislodge any dirt from deep in the porous grout.  The soft bristles will just bend at the surface and push things around on the surface.  Medium hard bristles are hard enough to penetrate the grout for scrubbing, but not hard enough to chew it up.

The shape of the brush head is also important. You want the bristles in the center of the brush to be longer than the ones on the edges if possible. If you cannot find a brush like that, then the bristles should at least be the same length in all areas. If the bristles are longer on the edges, then it is not a good scrub brush for grout cleaning. You want the long bristles in the center to penetrate into the grout and the shorter bristles at the edges to carry away the dislodged dirt. If the outer bristles are longer than the ones in the center. The long bristles at the edges will be stopped by the tile and the shorter bristles in the center will not reach into the grout.

Once you have your scrub brush and your rags, you need to pick a grout cleaner. There are many different kinds of grout cleaner to choose from, so a good rule to follow is that you should choose the mildest cleaner you can and still get your grout clean. Harsh chlorine bleach products might be necessary if it has been a really long time since you cleaned your grout, but you should try to avoid them if you can because they are toxic. In addition to trying to use something mild, thick grout cleaners are usually better than ones that are only liquid. If you make a paste with baking soda and vinegar you can spread it on the grout lines and let it do some work while you wait. An oxygen bleach paste is another good choice.  You can purchase almost any kind of grout cleaner you want to use on janitorial supplies websites.

Grout Cleaning Techniques

Once you have all the tools and cleaners that you need, there are some techniques that will make grout cleaning easier. It might be tempting, but you should never scrub directly along grout lines in back and forth motions. Your instincts will tell you that this will mean expending the least amount of energy because you are not wasting motions cleaning the surrounding tile, but the truth is that cleaning along grout lines in this manner can actually make more work for yourself. If you scrub forward along a grout line, you will dislodge the dirt and grime with that motion. Then, when you come back in the back motion you will redeposit that dirt and grime back into the grout. A better method is to use small circular motions. That way, you will deposit the dirt and grime to the side before going back to the grout.

Perhaps the most important grout cleaning tip is that you have to clean the grout often. If you do not allow the dirt time to work its way down deep into the grout, it will be much easier to get out grout stains. The grout in the shower is the hardest to keep clean, so I have a schedule where I clean a small section of the shower tile grout every day. I spend an extra five minutes in the shower every morning and I clean the entire shower every week. Other parts of your bathroom cleaning should include cleaning the rest of your grout at least once or twice a week.  Keeping up with the grout cleaning will mean that you can avoid hiring a janitorial service to clean it for you when it gets really bad.

Finally, if you do not want to clean grout too often, you should use grout sealer. Grout sealers protect your grout form dirt, bacteria, and other offensive materials. There are some sealers that are topical and just are painted o top of the grout lines. That variety is best is areas that are not going to get wet. Penetrating sealers are best for shower stalls and other areas that are exposed to wetness often because they last longer.


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