If you like beautiful tiles in your bathroom, one of the downsides is the grout. It keeps the tiles together (yay!), but because it's porous and light-colored, it's quite prone to stains and damage from water. (Which makes you wonder: is there no other material we could use that isn't so not-water-friendly?)
Fresh grout looks beautiful, but without proper cleaning and maintenance, it can become stained and mildewed, and even cracked.
And when grout starts cracking and falling, water can seep behind the wall and cause major damage.
From daily maintenance to grout replacement, here's your go-to, Ultimate Guide to grout cleaning and maintenance. Keep your grout clean, extend its life, and avoid premature time- and money-wasting grout replacement.
A daily wiping-and-spraying routine after your bath or shower is essential to keep your tiles clean and prevent premature staining and damage. Sure, it might seem a little annoying, but it'll save you tons of work in the long run.
The first thing to do is to get a good squeegee. This OXO Good Grips squeegee is easy to hold and works great. Every time you shower or take a bath, run the squeegee on the tile and glass walls and doors to remove excess water.
Then, you should lightly spray your tile and glass with a mild, daily shower cleaner. You can make your own by mixing a 4:1 water to vinegar solution, or get a green cleaner like Method Daily Shower Spray.
I love the Method products in general because of their great scent and excellent cleaning power. But if you can't find that specific product, many cleaning brands have a daily shower cleaner, so try and see which one you like best.
This daily routine will keep your shower or bath clean on a daily basis and will reduce the amount of time you'll need to spend scrubbing.
But it doesn't mean you get away from...
Even though you will definitely keep your walls and glass cleaner with the above routine, you'll still need to give your shower or bath a deep clean at least every week (or at worst, every 2 weeks). Despite your daily efforts, body oils and soap scum will still cling to the surfaces.
So, weekly or bi-weekly, give your grout a nice preventative clean with a water and baking soda paste. Rub it in the grout with a grout brush or a used toothbrush and rinse with clear water. If your grout seems a little more stained than usual, use hydrogen peroxide instead of water---but be careful not to mix hydrogen peroxide with vinegar. If you have used vinegar as your daily spray before cleaning the shower, make sure to rinse it off thoroughly before using hydrogen peroxide in the grout.
For seriously stained grout
Sometimes, either through laziness or simple lack of attention, grout becomes stained and grimy to the point where your daily shower cleaner or baking soda paste can't quite do the job anymore. In this case, you need to break out the bleach to get rid of the stains.
One easy way to focus the power of bleach where you need it is to use a bleach pen.
A bleach pen is great for smaller surfaces and just a little grout work, and minimizes potential contact with your tile---but I wouldn't use it for cleaning your entire grout. It's amazing for a little extra strength where the weekly or bi-weekly cleaning just isn't quite enough, but you don't feel like bleaching your entire tile wall.
However, if you do think that your grout could use an overall disinfection and stain treatment, start with an oxygen-type powdered bleach like OxyClean. This kind of bleach is gentler on your grout than the liquid, chloride-type stuff, and it's usually sufficient to take care of your stubborn stains. Just make sure to mix it according to the manufacturer's instructions in a well-ventilated area (that's really important). Apply with a brush, let stand 10-15 minutes, and rinse with clean water.
If all else fails, yes, you can use a chloride bleach spray, although it's a bit harsher and harder to control. Test it on a small, inconspicuous area of your tile to make sure that it doesn't damage it. Again, follow the directions and open a window, and rinse off with clean water too.
Grout renewal for permanent stains
And when the above doesn't work to remove the stains, there's one more thing you can do short of changing the entire grout: grout renewal.
Polyblend Grout Renew comes in a variety of different colors so you can either renew the original color or change it to something darker. The product adds a layer of color and protection against future staining and can extend the life of your grout for quite a few years.
You can also use Polyblend Grout Renew to simply change the color of your grout---darker grout looks cleaner (stains are less visible) and more vintage. Try it for an interesting change of contrast between pale tiles and dark grout!
When you need to change your grout
Signs that your grout needs changing include flaking and breaking and tiles coming off. It's especially important to take action as soon as you see this kind of breakage in your grout, because water can seep into your wall and cause much worse damage.
If you have some DIY skills, changing grout by yourself is possible. See this video on About.com Renovations to learn how to lay out grout and install tile like a professional.
If you can't be bothered, hiring a professional to redo your grout is your best bet. And while you're at it (and if you have the budget), why not change your tile as well? Today's tile styles fit every budget and decor ideas, and you might find yourself inspired by a new look or a colorful mosaic.
Grout it out
I'd love to see a constructions material company come up with a water-resistant alternative to grout, but in the meantime, we all have to do our best to keep it clean and stain-free. The better you take care of your grout, the longer you can enjoy your beautiful tile in your shower or bath.