Grout Steam Cleaner: How Well Does It Work?

McCullogh Steam Cleaner on Tile Grout
McCullogh Steam Cleaner on Tile Grout. via Amazon

Once your tile grout is too moldy and too embedded with soap gunk, often the only solution is to remove the grout and replace it.  

While this process is easier than one might expect, why go to all that trouble when you can effectively clean it in the first place?

Steam cleaners heat water to over 200 degrees F and have nozzles and brushes that direct blasts of steam onto grout.  How well do they work?

Bottom Line

  • Cleaning your grout with a steam cleaner only assists hand scrubbing.
  • Vigorous scrubbing is still required, as using a steam cleaner does not cause grout gunk to shed off by itself.  
  • If your vision is to eliminate scrubbing altogether, gentle power-washing of your tile grout is one way to do this.
  • Buy a steam cleaner only if you believe you can use it for other purposes in addition to cleaning the grout.  Do not buy it for grout-cleaning only.

Grout Steam Cleaning Tool

On the consumer market, there is no tool specifically made for cleaning tile grout.  

A general purpose canister style steam cleaner like the McCulloch Heavy-Duty Steam Cleaner heats up water past boiling point in a few minutes and maintains steam for about 30 minutes.

Buy on Amazon - McCulloch MC1275 Heavy-Duty Steam Cleaner

Your Enemy:  Unidentifiable Grout Gunk

What happens is that homeowners (or previous owners) let tile grout gunk up with soap scum, mold, mildew, and other unmentionables to the point that the tile appears to be past the point of help.

In a sense, they are right. This gunk works into the pores of the grout, and after years it cannot be removed with normal means, even scrubbing vigorously with a stiff bristled brush and using powerful cleansers.

In short, the grout gunk becomes stronger than the grout itself.  

You Begin to Damage Your Grout

This creates a secondary problem.

When you step up your game with stronger brushes, you risk chipping away grout and the fragile edges of the tile itself.0

Once that happens, you are forced to remove and replace the grout--you have no other option.

Or many homeowners look at their horrific tile gunk with despair and just jump right ahead to replacement.

How Well Does It Work?

Steam cleaning your tile grout is an middle option. While a more involved process than just using brushes and cleansers, it is less complicated and costly than removal and replacement of the grout.

This do-it-yourself project involves renting or purchasing a small machine and directing high temperature jets of concentrated steam at the offending grout. Even so, you will need to attach nylon-bristle brushes to the steamer to help dislodge the gunk.

Steam cleaning grout is a green cleaning activity. No harsh chemicals are needed. Water plus high temperatures plus rubbing are enough to eliminate most grout debris.

Tips

  1. Make sure you buy a canister, multi-purpose steam cleaner. Some steamers are floor-only and will not work for shower or bathtub tile. Multi-purpose cleaners have attachments for different surfaces.
  2. Before using any attachments, first blast the grout with a steam jet to remove the worst of the gunk.
  1. Start with nylon bristles, as they will not damage the grout, no matter how hard you rub.
  2. Use the wire bristle attachment with care.  The wire brush is your ultimate weapon, but it can chip tile. If you have smooth, glossy tile, a wire brush will almost certainly scratch it!
  3. Work from the the top downward. Every few minutes, liberally douse the steamed area with fresh water to move the gunk down to the drain. If you let liquified gunk remain on the surface, it will harden and your problems start all over again.
  4. After steaming an area, give the machine ample time to build up steam again.