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  • Writer's pictureMike Roberts

How to Clean Dirty Tile Grout

If you haven’t cleaned your tile grout in a while, it may be discolored, moldy or coated in soap scum. Here’s how to get your grout squeaky clean and looking like new.

Types of tile grout

Grout is used between tiles on flat surfaces. There are three types. Two of the three are cement-based grout, which comes in either sanded grout or unsanded grout. As the name implies, the difference is the addition of sand.

Sanded grout is used for grout lines greater than one-eighth of an inch wide. The sand acts to properly fill wider lines. Unsanded grout is used for grout lines one-eighth inch wide or less, where no filler is needed.

With either sanded or unsanded, grout is mixed with water or a latex-based admixture before application. If your grout is badly stained, chances are it is water-based because the grout with latex doesn’t stain easily. Latex also limits gapping in the grout. If your grout has pulled away from tile in places, it’s likely water-mixed cement grout.

The third type of grout is epoxy. Epoxy grout is also resistant to staining and gapping.

Whenever tile makes a 90-degree turn, such as at the horizontal base turning upward on a wall, that juncture is filled with caulk, not grout. You can still clean the caulk with the methods below.

Cleaning grout

  • Before you begin, put on rubber dishwashing gloves.

  • Prep the grout by loosening dirt, soap scum and stains with warm water and a narrow grout scrubbing brush. Be sure to use a nylon bristle brush, not one with steel bristles. Dry the water off with a towel.

  • Spread a paste of vinegar, baking soda and water on the grout and leave it on for five minutes. Use your grout brush to scrub the grout lines, whisking away dirt, stains, mold and soap scum. Rinse with water and towel dry.

  • If you still have stains, mix a 50-50 paste of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda and spread the paste on the stubborn stains. Leave for five to ten minutes, scrub off with your brush, rinse and towel dry.

  • If these procedures don’t remove all stains, bring out the big guns. If the grout is white, use an oxygenated bleach such as Oxy Clean Powder. Do not use bleach on colored grout since it may fade the color.

  • If all else fails, try a chemical grout cleaner.

  • When finished, rinse all cleaned areas once more with warm water, then towel dry.

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