We’ve all been there.
Scrubbing the shower on hands and knees, with bleach in one hand and a toothbrush in the other, desperately trying to clean in between the tiles. Only to find those pesky grout stains don’t look any different.
If you’ve ever seen professionals clean grout, it looks like magic. The tile is brand new!
But how do they do it? And can you do the same at home?
With these tips and tricks, you’ll be able to clean grout and tile like professionals, without using expensive machines and harsh chemicals.
What is grout, and why is it so hard to clean?
Grout is a mixture of cement, sand, and water that comes in the form of a paste and is used to seal joins and reinforce other structures. You will most likely see it used between tiles in your home as it creates a buffer between them, allowing them to bond together and set naturally.
The primary purpose of grout is to create a more aesthetic filler material between the tiles; this is why grout is often combined with a colourant to match the surrounding tile. If grout is applied correctly, it should form a water-resistant seal. However, some forms of grout also have a sealant applied on top.
Grout is so hard to clean because it is extremely porous, meaning it contains many tiny little air bubbles and gaps where dirt, mould, and grime can creep into. Standard cleaning products and tools often fail to reach these tiny gaps and usually only push more dirt and grime into the grout.
How do the professionals clean grout and tile?
Professional cleaners have access to speciality machines with built-in vacuums and high-pressure water pumps. They also use speciality chemicals formulated with a specific PH balance designed to clean without doing damage to other surfaces.
The professional grout cleaning process typically consists of:
- Preparing the area: Masking off surrounding areas and surfaces, checking for popped, cracked, or loose tiles and grout.
- Dry Soil Removal: Vacuuming the area and drying all residual moisture.
- Pre-spray and Agitate: Use a high pH solvent to spray the stained areas to disturb the mould and grime before the deep cleaning. The solvent is left for a few minutes to soak into the grout and penetrate all the small holes and gaps.
- Extract away soils and oils: A high-powered steam and vacuum tool is then used to simultaneously spray water and lift away any residual dirt and oils.
- Finishing and drying: Professional cleaners use a special heater to quickly blow dry the surface to ensure the grout is prepared for the sealer and to prevent dirt from re-entering the grout.
- Seal Grout: A water-based sealant is then applied to strengthen the grout and repel any dirt and oils from seeping back into the gaps.
As you can see, professional cleaners have all the right tools and chemicals at their disposal, which makes things a lot easier. But can you do the same job at home?
How to clean grout and tile like the professionals?
- Vacuum and clean: The aim of this first step is to remove any surface-level dirt and grime from the tile and grout.
- Use a vacuum and a simple surface cleaner to remove any dust, hair, and dirt from the surface.
- Scrub as much as you can off and leave to dry out completely.
- Spray with vinegar: You may not have a special cleaning solution with high acidity. But do you know what does? Vinegar.
- Mix warm water and distilled vinegar in equal parts into a spray bottle.
- Spray the grout generously and leave it to sit for at least 5 minutes.
- Use a grout brush (or any small-sized medium-bristle brush, like a toothbrush) to scrub away any surface-level grime and oil.
- Use baking soda: Baking soda, or bi-carb soda, mixed with water, causes a reaction that agitates the dirt and oil that has seeped into the grout.
- Mix baking soda and water into a spray bottle and spray liberally to cover any stained areas.
- Once the mixture stops foaming, scrub again with your brush.
- Rinse with water and wipe dry afterwards.
- Use hydrogen peroxide: For more stubborn stains, you may need to apply a more corrosive substance like hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide can be found at most supermarkets, chemists, and in other commercially available household cleaning products.
- Apply the hydrogen peroxide to the worst areas and leave it to react for a few minutes.
- Wipe away with water and again ensure that the area is dry.
- Use oxygen bleach: Oxygen bleach is a crystalline form of bleach that doesn’t contain any chlorine, common examples are Harpic Oxi Action Bleach Crystals and Napisan Oxi Advance.
- Ensure the area is well-ventilated and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on mixing the oxygen bleach and applying it.
- Leave to soak and foam for at least 10 minutes and wipe away with water.
- Dry the area thoroughly.
- Use a steam cleaner: A professional cleaner has high-powered steam cleaners with vacuum filters to contain the hot steam and excess dirt. But commercial steam cleaning mops can be very effective against porous surfaces like grout lines and tiles.
The hot steam vapour can penetrate the small holes and gaps in the grout and disturb the ground in dirt and oil.
As always, wipe down and dry the area thoroughly to prevent the dirt and mould from resettling into the grout.
If you have tried all the above methods and the grout is still stained, you may have to consider contacting a professional cleaner. It’s possible that the grout has deteriorated and needs to be resealed or perhaps even redone.
Is it worth calling the professionals?
This really depends on how serious the grout stains are, the condition of your tiles, and how much time you can dedicate to the problem.
As you can see, the process of cleaning grout can be time-consuming, expensive, and hard work. If your grout and tiles are old and worn, and the area is poorly ventilated, you may find it difficult to clean the area without speciality tools completely.
If you have tried cleaning your tile floors and the grout remains stained, it would be much cheaper and easier to call the professionals to sort the problem out in a couple of hours.
We have over ten years of experience in professional cleaning, and we have seen the worst cases of grout stains you can imagine. We will happily send our expert team to help bring your tile surface to life.