How to Clean Tile Grout

tile grout in a bathroom

The Spruce / Ruthie Darling

Overview
  • Working Time: 2 - 3 hrs
  • Total Time: 2 days
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

Whether it's floor tile or wall tile that's dirty with grease, soap scum, mold, or just plain dirt, cleaning grout requires two things: a grout brush and a suitable cleaner. A grout brush is a small, stiff-bristle nylon brush, available in handheld and long-handled sizes. You can substitute a toothbrush in a pinch, but its bristles are too soft to do much good. As for the cleaner, a lot of formulas work, so you can try different options to find the best performer for your tile. While there are commercial grout cleaners available, it is just as easy to do this with ingredients you already have on hand. The time it takes to refresh your grout will substantially increase if you choose to seal the grout after cleaning.

How Often to Clean Tile Grout

Tile grout should be cleaned whenever it becomes dirty or discolored with mold and mildew, but the frequency will depend on where the tile is located and how heavily the surface is used. Tiled wall surfaces may require this only infrequently, while tiled shower walls subject to lots of moisture and constantly humid conditions might require it weekly. The best rule of thumb: Scrub the tile grout whenever it is showing discoloration or dirt.

It is best to try grout cleaners in the order of harshness, beginning with an alkaline cleaner, then proceeding to oxygen bleach, then chlorine bleach, as necessary. It's always a good idea to reseal the grout after a deep cleaning.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Grout brush
  • Sponge
  • Safety glasses
  • Rubber gloves
  • Towel
  • Bucket or other large container
  • Safety glasses (optional for use with chlorine bleach)

Materials

  • Alkaline cleaner
  • Oxygen bleach, powdered
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Grout sealer (optional)

Instructions

materials for removing tile grout
The Spruce / Ruthie Darling

How to Clean Tile Grout With an Alkaline Cleaner

The Tile Council of America (TCA) recommends alkaline cleaners for removing stains from grout. Alkaline cleaners include Spic and Span, Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda, and Mr. Clean's liquid cleaners, among many others. These cleaners are particularly good for cleaning dirty, greasy grout joints in the kitchen.

  1. Mix the Cleaner

    Mix the cleaner with water in a bucket or large container, as directed by the package label. Do not exceed the recommended amount of cleaner, as it will not improve the cleaning power of the solution.

    mixing the cleaner
    The Spruce / Ruthie Darling
  2. Apply the Cleaner

    Apply the cleaning solution liberally to the grout lines, using a sponge. Let the solution sit for a few minutes.

    applying the cleaner with a sponge
    The Spruce / Ruthie Darling
  3. Scrub the Grout Lines

    Use the grout brush to scrub vigorously at the grout lines, until stains are gone. You will notice the original color of the grout return as you scrub.

    using a grout brush to scrub
    The Spruce / Ruthie Darling 
  4. Clean Away the Solution

    Sponge up excess cleaning solution, then apply fresh water. Sponge up the water to complete the rinsing.

  5. Dry the Surface

    Use a towel to dry the tile completely. Let the tile air-dry overnight before resealing the grout.

    using a towel to dry the tiles
    The Spruce / Ruthie Darling 
  6. Reseal the Grout

    The grout is now clean. Make sure to seal the grout properly before using the surface again.

    clean tile grout
    The Spruce / Ruthie Darling

How to Clean Tile Grout With Oxygen Bleach

Unlike chlorine bleach, oxygen bleach is non-toxic and safe for the environment, and it doesn’t have a harsh chemical odor. It also doesn't stain colored grout lines. Hydrogen peroxide is a form of oxygen bleach; however, it is typically sold in diluted solutions, making it a relatively ineffective cleanser for tile grout. A more appropriate product is Ajax Oxygen Bleach Cleaner or a similar powdered product.

  1. Mix Powdered Oxygen Bleach With Water

    Mix the powdered oxygen bleach with water to form a paste about the consistency of toothpaste. Normally this requires a ratio of about 2 parts powdered oxygen bleach to 1 part water.

  2. Apply the Paste

    Use a sponge to apply a coat of the oxygen bleach paste to the grout lines. Let the paste sit on the grout for 5 to 10 minutes. Make sure to use rubber gloves when handling the mixture.

  3. Scrub the Grout Lines

    Scrub the grout lines using a stiff grout brush. You will quickly see the grout brighten to its original color.

  4. Rinse the Paste

    Rinse away the paste with clear water, then wipe the tile down with a clean cloth. Let the tile air-dry overnight before resealing the grout.

How to Clean Grout With Chlorine Bleach

One traditional way to clean grout lines is using full-strength household chlorine bleach. Ordinary household chlorine bleach is an effective way to clean grout, but because you are using it full strength, caution is required when using it.

  1. Wear Safety Gear

    Wear safety glasses, rubber gloves, and old clothes that you don't mind damaging with bleach stains. Bleach is caustic to skin and can bleed the color out of clothing.

  2. Ventilate the Space

    Open up windows to ventilate the area. Bleach is toxic and releases noxious fumes. In a bathroom, running the vent fan at the same time you open the windows provides excellent ventilation.

  3. Scrub the Grout Lines

    Dip the grout brush into the pure bleach, apply it to the grout lines, and scrub vigorously to remove stains.

  4. Rinse the Tile

    Rinse the tile thoroughly with clear water and sponge it up to remove the bleach. Repeat this step. It is critical that all bleach be removed before you move on to resealing.

  5. Dry the Surfaces

    Dry the tile surface with a clean, dry towel. Let the tile air-dry overnight before resealing the grout lines.

Tips for Keeping Tile Grout Clean Longer

Tile grout is typically never fully flush and always a bit lower than the edges of the tile. That means whatever tile cleaner or method you use to wash your floors or walls may not effectively clean the grout lines and some dirty water can drip into and pool in the grout lines. Since that is inevitable, you can keep tile grout clean longer by placing floor mats where you can to collect dirt particles, taking off shoes before entering the house, using the correct cleaners, and resealing the grout after thorough cleaning.

Avoid Vinegar and Baking Soda

Do not use vinegar or baking soda to clean tile grout. Alkaline cleaners are a better choice than vinegar or baking soda because grout contains cementitious mortar that can be dissolved by acidic cleaners, including vinegar. Don't use any vinegar or acid-based commercial cleaners on grout.

Vinegar and other acids are also a bad idea for stone tile because the acid can etch the stone. Another widely praised household cleaner, baking soda, is alkaline (not acid), but it is not very effective as a grout cleaner.

Reseal the Grout Lines

Cleaning grout lines can be a difficult and physical process. Once you have the grout looking clean and stain-free, sealing the grout will create a protective surface that helps prevent future staining and makes it much easier to keep grout clean. It's important to follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully when applying grout sealer. The tile must be clean and completely dry, and you must let the sealer cure fully before using the tiled area. Use a penetrating grout sealer for most tile grout, including bath and shower areas.