Grout is a material used to fill voids or seal joints between tiles. After a time this grout becomes stained or starts to grow mold and mildew and can be very difficult to clean. Here are some tips to aid in the cleaning and sealing of grout.
When first putting tile down, it is a good idea to use an off-white or gray colorant in your silicone or water-based grout sealer. These colors are less likely to show stains than would white or black. Mold and mildew love to grow in areas, such as bathrooms, that have poor air circulation, are damp and wet, and have poor or no lighting. To prevent mold and mildew from growing try heating the bathroom or running a fan after you take a shower. Mold and mildew will not grow in lighted conditions. Leave a light on for about 15-20 minutes after you shower.
There are two basic types of grout that are commonly used in homes. Cement grout consists of burned lime and clay. It is very porous and is easily penetrated by stains, mold, and mildew.
Lime is alkaline so it can be cleaned with acetic acid or vinegar. Create a mixture of 5 parts water to 1 part vinegar and apply it to the tile with a stiff brush. Let this mixture sit for a few minutes but don’t let it dry or it can burn the grout. It is better to do small areas at a time. Rinse well when finished. Epoxy grout consists of a resin, hardener, and filler.
When it cures or sets, it forms a hard plastic compound. Sand is added as a filler to give it strength and to give it a nice appearance. Epoxy grout is used mainly in kitchens because it is not porous like cement grout and prevents the harboring of bacteria that causes Salmonella, Staph, or E. Coli.
Epoxy grout can be cleaned with a spray bottle mixture of 50% bleach and 50% warm water. Spray the grout, saturating the area to be cleaned, and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. In hard to get to areas, like corners, soak a rag in the solution and pack into the area. Rinse and repeat if needed. When using bleach always wear gloves and have an open window for air circulation.
If bleach is too strong a chemical for you there are plenty of other on hand’ materials you can use. Make a thick paste with baking soda, water, and vinegar. Apply and lightly scrub with a toothbrush. Baking soda acts as a whitener and will keep your grout cleaner, longer. A vinegar and water solution can be applied after each shower. This will kill bacteria and mildew as well as remove body oils and soap scum. Vinegar is also a great odor remover.
Hydrogen peroxide is a great solution for areas that aren’t too badly stained. It is used to keep an area clean on a regular basis. It can be applied in any way. It can be sponged on, mopped on, or sprayed on. Be sure to rinse after about 10 minutes. Hydrogen peroxide even works as a disinfectant.
Peroxide will stain fabric so be sure to keep those shower curtains out of the way. If you don’t have children rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle will kill mildew on a regular basis. Many people have found that a simple liquid car wax, applied to tile and shower stalls will keep the area moisture and mildew proof for 6 months to a year.
Warning: Vinegar can burn cement grout and can damage some tile glazes if left on for too long: make sure you rinse it well. Always test a small area before doing an entire project to check for damage. Be sure to re-seal grout after heavy cleaning. This will keep it resistant to stains, mold, and mildew for a longer period of time.