What Is the Best Tile and Grout Cleaning Method?

March 12, 2019

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The right tile and grout cleaning method for your home's flooring and shower walls will ensure that those tiles always look their best and are protected from unnecessary damage. Built-up, ground-in dirt, grime, and mud can dull the surface of many floor tile materials in particular, and even cause eventual scratching. The longer you wait to tackle a home's tiles and grout, the harder it is to get those surfaces and materials thoroughly cleaned!

Consistent tile and grout cleaning by a professional is the best way to keep your home's tile floors looking their best, and you can also use homemade solutions of white vinegar and water, a paste of baking soda and water, and peroxide for whitening.

While the best way to clean tile and grout is to have a professional handle this job, you might note a few tips from the pros that will help keep your home's flooring looking its best in between those visits. Following this advice will also ensure you're not damaging your home's flooring with solutions not meant for floor tiles or with tools and equipment that are overly harsh and abrasive.

How Do You Clean Grout Between Linoleum and Vinyl Tiles?

There are a few different ways you can clean grout between tiles, using products you have at home. One of the best methods for how to clean tile and grout you might try is a combination of baking soda and vinegar, although you should only use this on linoleum and vinyl tiles and not tiles made of natural stone, as vinegar can dry or discolor many stone varieties.

  • Mix baking soda and warm water until you have a thick paste; three parts baking soda to one part water is usually the best formula.
  • Use your fingers or a dry cloth to press this paste into the grout lines between tiles.
  • Let the paste sit on the grout while you mix equal parts white vinegar and warm water in a spray bottle.
  • Spray the vinegar mixture onto the baking soda paste. You should notice the paste starting to bubble.
  • The paste might bubble for several minutes. Once this bubbling action has subsided, scrub the grout lines with a soft, nylon-bristled brush.
  • After scrubbing, use a mop saturated with warm water to remove the solution from the floors. Be sure to rinse the mop often, so you don't spread dirty paste around the floor!

What Is the Best Grout Cleaner for Stone Floors?

Oxygenated bleach is safe for cleaning stone and all other types of tiles. Note, however, that this solution can damage colored grout, so only use it on white materials.

how to clean stone floors

  • Mix two tablespoons of oxygenated bleach with two cups of warm water. Be sure that you mix this solution until the bleach is thoroughly dissolved.
  • Pour the bleach solution directly onto the grout between your home's tiles. Use a small measuring cup you don't splash the solution all over the floor and so to ensure you thoroughly cover all the grout as well.
  • Use a nylon-bristled brush to scrub the bleach solution into the grout lines. Dip the brush into more of the bleach solution as you work, for even more oxygenation and cleaning power.
  • Once you've scrubbed all the grout lines in your floor, mop up the solution with warm water. Be sure to rinse your mop frequently as you work.

How Do You Whiten Tile Grout?

Peroxide is an excellent choice for whitening tile grout. Consider a fast, homemade cleaning solution you might try for how to clean tile and grout:

  • Mix 3/4 cup baking soda, 3/4 cup hydrogen peroxide, and one tablespoon of dish soap together.
  • Use a nylon-bristled brush to scrub this mixture into the grout lines between tiles. You can even use a toothbrush if you don't have a proper scrub brush at home.
  • Let the mixture sit on the grout lines for a good fifteen minutes. The paste should start to bubble, lifting and loosening ground-in dirt and debris.
  • Use a rag soaked with hot water to remove this solution. Wipe the grout down several times, to remove all traces of the paste. It's good to mop the entire floor with clean water to ensure there is no residue left behind.

Can You Use a Tile and Grout Cleaning Machine at Home?

Commercial-quality floor cleaners are often very heavy and cumbersome and difficult to transport and use at home. Some tile and grout cleaning machines that you rent at a hardware or home improvement store can also be too harsh for floor tile and might also scratch grout, creating pits and pores that can trap even more dirt and debris.

carpet cleaning machine

A better option for homeowners is to rent a steam cleaner for tile and grout. For cleaning especially dirty floors, the best machine to clean tile floors and grout is a steam cleaner with a small brush attachment. Note, however, that most steam cleaners use only water and not any cleanser or detergent; don't assume you can fill the water reservoir tank of a steam cleaner with bleach or dish soap, or any other such detergent.

Follow the manufacturer's direction for how to clean tile floors and grout with a steamer, ensuring you don't hold the wand over any one area for too long. Once you've cleaned the floor with the steamer, use a dry mop or absorbent cloth to remove any residual water and as much dirt and debris as possible.

Can You Use Bleach to Clean Grout?

Applying bleach is not necessarily the best way to clean tile and grout. Note a few reasons why you might opt for a different solution when it comes to cleaning grout other than household bleach, so you know if it's the right option for your home:

  • Bleach releases noxious odors and can be harmful to the environment.
  • Spilled or residual bleach can ruin the color of carpeting, linens, and other fabrics in a bathroom and elsewhere.
  • While bleach can kill mold, mildew, algae, and other such contaminants, it might not whiten grout as you expect. You could then waste time and money using a bleach-based solution on the grout between your flooring tiles when a peroxide solution is faster and more effective.
  • Bleach might break down some of the materials in grout, causing it to discolor over time.

Tile Cleaning Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Note some mistakes to avoid when it comes to cleaning floor and wall tiles in your home. Avoiding these common mistakes will help prevent unnecessary damage to a home's tiles and grout, and will also help to avoid wasting time and money on ineffective cleaning solutions and tools.

  • Never use scrubby pads, steel wool, abrasive powders, harsh scrub brushes, or wire brushes on tile, grout, or caulk. Abrasive tools can scratch grout and caulk and pull it away from the tile, and also create deep gouges in many types of flooring. If you find that your cleaning methods are ineffective, try a different solution or call an expert to clean your home's tiles, rather than assuming it's time to scrub these surfaces!
  • Avoid using a vacuum cleaner with a beater bar on tile floors. As with abrasive brushes and tools, these beater bars are very rough and can easily scratch tile and grout. Some vacuum cleaners have a button to disengage the beater bar, or you might invest in a lightweight vacuum designed for carpets and tile floors.
  • Be sure you rinse your tile floors thoroughly after using any detergent or cleanser. A film of residual solvent is typically very sticky and will only attract more dirt and debris after you've finished cleaning those floors.
  • Repeatedly rinse a mop you use after applying a cleanser, to ensure it’s free of residual detergent as well.

One last mistake to avoid is the use of a carpet cleaning machine on tile floors. A steam cleaner meant for carpets might produce too much steam, so that grout gets soft and loses its adhesion. In turn, floor tile can come loose and lift off the home's subfloor! The brushes on shampooers meant for carpeting are also very thick and stiff and can cause tremendous amounts of damage to most types of floor tiles.

If you must use a machine to clean tile floors and grout, rely on a steamer or scrubber with a soft pad designed for these surfaces in particular. It's also important to note the type of detergent or cleanser that is recommended for the machine and for your floor's kind of tile as well, to ensure that you don't strip its sealant and cause the flooring to become dry and discolored.

How Do You Maintain Tile and Grout?

To keep your home's tile and grout looking its best, you'll want to ensure you maintain it properly. Proper maintenance can prevent dirt and grime from building up on the surface of tiles and can ensure that grout doesn't become overly soft or hard and brittle, and lose its adhesion.

  • Note if your tile needs regular sealing. Many stone tiles require the consistent application of a coat of sealant so that pits and pores in the stone are covered and won't collect dirt and debris. Sealant also keeps the stone from developing cracks that hold dirt so your floor tiles won't need as much cleaning over time.
  • Avoid adding a wax coating to vinyl and linoleum tiles. Many of today's types of tiles don't need such treatments, and a buildup of wax can trap and lock dirt onto the surface of tiles.
  • Inspect grout on a regular basis and check for chipped or loose areas, and note if any tiles on the floor or shower walls seem loose or crooked. Damaged grout and loose tiles often signal that the grout needs replacing; do this before those tiles come off the wall or lift off the floor, to avoid unnecessary damage to the flooring and the surface under it.

Remember, too, that it's good to have a professional tile and grout cleaning as often as you have your home's carpets shampooed, as a deep clean will ensure those tiles are in good repair and stay as clean as possible for as long as possible!

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