Tiles are a popular choice for flooring because they are easy to clean, come in a wide variety of colors and materials, and are durable with minimal maintenance.
However, while the tile itself is pretty desirable, the grout between them can become unsightly due to dirt, grime, mold, and mildew buildup over time.
The good news is many inexpensive cleaners will work quite well on most grout. So, you can restore the original brightness of the grout if you have the right cleaning products and use the proper techniques.
Ready to explore more in detail? Let’s get started.
Why Grout Becomes Dingy and Dirty?
Grout is typically unsealed dense fluid which hardens to fill the spaces between the tiles.
The reason why it becomes dingy and discolored far faster compared to the tile is that unsealed grout is highly porous.
This allows dirt, oil, grease, and other contaminants to penetrate the surface, making grout discolored and darker with time.
Also, mold and mildew can grow in the damp environment created by grout in the shower or bathroom, leading to further staining.
To keep tile grout from getting very dirty, make sure to apply sealant on a regular basis. This creates a barrier, making it harder for dirt and other materials to get trapped in the pores.
As an added measure, you can also do regular cleaning to remove any dirt or debris embedded in the grout.
How to Clean Dirty Grout Between Floor Tiles?
To clean the unsealed tile grout, you can use one or more cleaning products you already have at home. Some of them that are pretty cheap and easily obtainable are…
- Baking Soda
In addition, you will need warm water, a bucket, a grout brush, a sponge, a wet vacuum, and dry towels.
As part of this process, it helps to know what is causing the grout to be discolored—the reasons why will help you choose the right cleaning product.
For example, to clean moderately dirty tile grout, professionals recommend mixing equal parts white vinegar and water, as they can effectively whiten old grout.
However, for heavily stained grout, ammonia and baking soda are more powerful alternatives. But, it is vital to use them cautiously in a well-ventilated area.
To clean filthy tile grout, below is a step-by-step guide you may follow that uses a combination of all three products.
1- Clean the surface
Floor and tile cleaning can be done by sweeping away the loose dirt or using a vacuum.
Once the floor is clean, mop the entire surface with warm water and mild dish soap to help loosen the dirt in the grout.
2- Mix & apply the cleaning solution
Mix ¼ cup ammonia, 1/3 cup vinegar, and ½ cup baking soda into 7 cups water.
Stir the solution until it is ready for use, then pour it into a spray bottle.
3- Start with a small area of grout that is dirty
Spray the prepared solution on the grout. Let it sit for about five minutes, then wipe the solution away with a sponge or clean cloth.
If that does not work, spray the solution again and then work it into using a grout brush. This should allow you to scrub out the stains that are present.
Finally, use a wet vacuum cleaner to extract the remaining dirt, residues, mold, or mildew that the cleaning solution has removed.
What if the above cleaning solution does not work on floor grout?
If the mixture of ammonia, vinegar, and baking soda does not work, you can always apply oxygen bleach, such as OxiClean.
It’s recommended that you mix the bleach with water, although if the stains are adamant, you can try straight bleach instead.
- Prep the surface as you would with the standard cleaning solution, and apply the bleach.
- Let the bleach soak in, then scrub with a grout brush.
- Once completed, rinse and lift the solution out using a wet vac.
During the entire process, be sure to wear gloves along with eye protection. Also, ensure the windows are open to allow fresh air into the room.
Steam Cleaning the Dirty Floor Tile Grout – Is It Safe?
If bleach also does not work, the most effective method is steam extraction which is usually performed by a commercial-quality steam extraction machine or a floor steamer machine. These can be rented easily or you can purchase one if you feel the cost is worth it.
With its high temperatures and deep-cleaning power, steam is an ideal tool for tackling grout stains. Just hold the steam cleaner’s nozzle close to the grout line and let the machine do its work.
In most cases, the grout will start to lighten up after a few minutes of treatment without any problems. Plus, there’s no need to worry about damaging your tiles as long as you keep the steam cleaner moving.
Other than that, steam cleaning is also beneficial because:
- It uses less water with minimal rinsing
- Unlike regular mopping, it offers longer-lasting, cleaner grout results
- It’s a versatile method that can be used on different types of tile floors
- It’s physically easier as it doesn’t require much scrubbing on your hands and knees
- Lastly, it requires no harsh chemicals or acids, so your grout won’t degrade fast with time.
But wait – before you proceed, you need to know a few more things, such as the ideal cleaner, optimum temperature, pressure, and distance from the grout.
a) Use the right cleaner
For grout cleaning, use a handheld steamer rather than a large floor-mounted model.
These avoid spraying tiles with too much water, apply the steam directly, and are less likely to damage grout line.
b) Use the correct settings
For most types of grout, a medium pressure and temperature setting should be sufficient.
If you’re unsure what settings to use, starting with lower settings is always best, and then increasing the pressure or temperature if needed.
c) Hold the steamer correctly
Hold the steamer close to the grout — about 1-2 inches away is usually recommended.
If you hold it too far away, the steam will dissipate before it has a chance to penetrate the grout and break up the dirt and stains.
Conversely, holding it too close can damage the grout or even cause it to break down completely.
With the above things in mind, let’s look at the steps to steam-clean tile floors and grout…
Step 1. Vacuum the floor to remove any loose dirt or debris. Pay special attention to the area around the baseboards and corners, where dirt accumulates.
Step 2. Fill your steamer with distilled water according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Step 3. Set the steamer to medium pressure and temperature settings.
Step 4. Hold the steamer about 1-2 inches away from the grout line and move it back and forth across the area. Continue until the entire area has been treated.
Step 5. Allow the area to dry completely before walking on it or placing the furniture items back in the room.
A Few Additional Tips for Regular Maintenance of the Grout Color
To prevent future staining, it is important to clean unsealed grout as soon as discoloration starts, rather than waiting for it to become too difficult to clean.
The sooner you apply the cleaning solution, the easier it will be to lift the dirt and brighten the grout color.
- Sweep the floors to remove any loose dirt 2-3 times a week.
- Then schedule regular cleaning sessions with a mild detergent (at least once a week) to help keep the grout in like-new condition.
- Avoid harsh cleaning products and chemicals that can damage the grout and make it more susceptible to staining.
- Avoid excessive moisture and standing water in kitchen and bathroom tiled floor areas – it can lead to mold and mildew growth, which can discolor the grout.
If your tiled grout is significantly stained or damaged, it may be time to replace it. Investing time fixing up the grout is always worthwhile, but if the damage is beyond repair, replacing it may be your only option.
The cost of replacing grout will vary depending on the size of the area and the type of tile grout you choose.
But in general, you should expect to pay between $0.50 and $5.00 per square foot for grout replacement. This includes the cost of materials, labor, and any other associated expenses.
The Bottom Line
While standard mopping can help to remove surface dirt and debris, it isn’t always effective at getting deep into the pores of tile and unsealed grout. This can lead to a build-up of dirt and stains over time.
Although a floor steamer is highly effective in cleaning and removing dirt from grout, it is also the priciest option. If you’re on a budget, you can opt for vinegar solution or bleach instead. These options are more economical and can be used to clean unsealed grout periodically to maintain its pristine condition.
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Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.