Effective Tile and Grout Cleaning: Tips and Techniques

Cleaning tile and grout in your home can be challenging, as the best approach will depend on various factors, such as the type of stain and grout material. However, with proper identification and targeted cleaning methods, you can effectively restore the cleanliness of your bathroom walls without causing any damage.

In cleaning tile and grout, prevention is key. Maintaining a regular cleaning schedule is the best way to prevent heavy stains or aging grout. David Mowery, a business manager of Tile and Stone Installation Systems for the MAPEI Corporation, advises keeping stains and soils from building up over time. The sooner you address grout stains, the better the results will be.

You’ll need a few essential supplies to clean tile and grout effectively. A suitable cleaning solvent is necessary, depending on the type of stain you’re dealing with. For mold and mildew stains, recommended options include Tilex Mold & Mildew or StoneTech Mold & Mildew Stain Remover. Rust and lime buildup can be addressed with products such as Bar Keepers Friend More Spray and Foam, Zep Grout Cleaner and Brightener, or CLR Brilliant Bath.

You’ll also require a damp sponge or cloth to apply the cleaning solution and a medium bristle brush designed for grout cleaning. However, even an old toothbrush with moderately stiff plastic bristles can be used effectively. Additionally, vinegar can be used as a mild acid solution against certain stains and lighter hard water stains.

The time required for cleaning will vary depending on the area’s size and the stains’ severity. Based on cleaning a full-size shower in two different apartments, it took approximately 15 minutes for each cleaning session.

Identifying the type of stain is crucial for determining the appropriate cleaning approach. Mold and mildew stains commonly occur in the damp corners of bathroom showers and porous concrete-based grouts. Alkaline or high-pH cleaners like Tilex Mold & Mildew, Scrubbing Bubbles: Bathroom Grime Fighter, and StoneTech Mold & Mildew are effective against these stains.

Rust or lime buildup, often caused by hard water with high levels of dissolved calcium or iron, can result in discolored stains in the porous tile and grout. Lower pH cleaners such as Bar Keepers Friend More Spray and Foam, Zep Grout Cleaner and Brightener, or CLR Brilliant Bath are recommended for these stains.

Vinegar can be used as a mild acid solution for light stains or small amounts of mold or mildew. It is a natural alternative to harsh commercial chemicals.

To clean tile and grout, apply the cleaner directly by spraying it on the wall or onto a damp sponge, cloth, or brush. If using vinegar, pour it into a clean spray bottle for easier application. Allow the solution to sit briefly, then scrub the grout with a brush, ensuring the bristles reach the grout lines. Thoroughly rinse the area and let it dry.

If the tile grout remains discolored or grimy after several attempts, it may be due to aging rather than staining. In such cases, applying a grout colorant and sealer is a more involved and careful process that can help refresh the grout’s appearance.

It is essential to avoid anything that may degrade or remove grout. Avoid using wire brushes or steel wool, as they can cause damage. Similarly, abrasive cleaners like Borax or Comet should be avoided, as they can scratch the tiles and harm the grout.

Special stones like marble need a different attention most owners of condos, tenants and landlords do not know you need to reseal your marble bath tile yearly. Tileclub gives the following instructions:

  • First off, seal your marble periodically with an appropriate marble tile sealer, to prevent recurring stains. You can check our blog post about how to choose the best sealer and sealing techniques to protect your shower tiles!
  • To remove mold-causing moisture before it can affect your tiles, wipe your tiles with a dry towel after each use. It’s a good idea to keep a clean cotton rag or washcloth ready for use. 
  • Depending on how often you use the shower, perform light touch up cleaning for all marble tile surfaces once a week or so. You can make your own solution with warm water and some dish soap, or just purchase a PH neutral tile cleaner for this purpose.  
  • Perform a deep periodic cleaning at least once a month, again using a PH neutral tile cleaner that is safe for marble. Check for any signs of staining and take quick action if you see any. 
  • If stains occur despite your regular cleaning and tile sealing efforts, talk to a contractor to check possible installation issues that may be the real cause. Unless you find it out, your tiles will keep staining!

By following these guidelines and using the appropriate cleaning methods, you can effectively clean tile and grout in your home, maintaining their appearance and prolonging their lifespan without causing any harm.

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