As grout breaks down with water contact and foot traffic, it is important to properly clean and replace it if needed. This will require having the best equipment and a little hard work to successfully treat the grout.
Grout cleaning can be achieved with at-home or store-bought cleaners. By using brushes and elbow grease to remove the grime, the grout’s original color is restored and its life extended. If a replacement is needed, use grout removal tools on small areas and oscillating tools on large areas.
We have compiled the most effective methods for both cleaning and removing grout. While grout maintenance may seem like a daunting task, it can easily be done with hard work and the proper materials.
How to Clean Grout
Cleaning grout is not only important to keep areas clean and free from build-up, but this maintenance can prevent premature replacement. There are many different approaches you can take to cleaning grout, many of which you can do with common items around the home. We will detail multiple approaches to most effectively clean it.
Cleaning Grout with Homemade Methods
Using a homemade grout cleaner is a great alternative to harsh chemicals. You may already have the items around your home to make a cleaner. The combinations detailed below have proven to be successful cleaning formulas that do not change the grout color. In all of these methods, use a brush or toothbrush to scrub in the mixtures.
Baking Soda and Vinegar
This is an easy cleaning option because these are ingredients that many people have at home. If you don’t have these supplies around the house, they are inexpensive to buy, even in large quantities.
Follow these steps to clean grout with baking soda and vinegar:
- Combine ingredients: Combine equal parts baking soda and water. This paste should not be able to drip off a brush, and if it does, add more baking soda.
- Apply paste: Using a brush, apply the paste to the grout. The paste should fully cover the area but does not need to be too thick.
- Add vinegar: In a separate spray bottle, fill with white distilled vinegar. White vinegar is colorless, so it won’t stain your grout or tile. It also has an acidity level similar to store-bought cleaners, which helps it cut through the grime. (Source: Healthline). Spray this on the surface and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.
- Scrub: With your brush, scrub the area so that the mixture makes thorough contact with the grout. After covering the entire area, you can wipe away the paste with water and a dry towel.
Baking Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide
This is touted as a highly effective remedy for cleaning grout. We recommend this method for tougher stains.
Follow these steps to clean grout with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide:
- Create paste: With two parts baking soda and one-part hydrogen peroxide, you will create a paste to apply to the grout. Hydrogen peroxide is a powerful disinfectant and works to break down the surface dirt (Source: CDC). Other oxygen bleach products will also work as a good substitute for hydrogen peroxide.
- Apply paste: Use a brush to apply your paste to the grout, making sure that the entire area is covered.
- Scrub: Scrub the ingredients onto the grout’s surface. The grout may absorb a portion of the mixture.
- Clean up: Make sure you rinse the area with water and completely dry after application.
While unconventional, toothpaste can be used on white grout to help maintain its color. Make sure the toothpaste is specifically ‘whitening toothpaste’. Do not apply it to colored grouts.
There are four simple steps for using toothpaste on grout:
- Apply toothpaste: Add a thin layer of toothpaste to the surface of the grout. You do not need to use much toothpaste to achieve effective results.
- Scrub: Use a brush (even a toothbrush) to massage the paste into the grout’s surface. This will also help to remove debris and grime.
- Cleaning: Rinse with soap, preferably dish soap, and water. Make sure all toothpaste is removed to avoid stickiness. Dish soap is a good application for all grout cleaning because it is designed to break down greases and mix oils with water to remove them from surfaces (Source: The Washington Post).
- Rinsing and drying: Wipe any remaining excess soap with a wet cloth and follow with a dry towel. Drying the area will help extend the life of the grout.
Regardless of the technique you use, you must remove all of it entirely after cleaning. These various cleaning methods can emit chemicals that are unsafe after extended inhalation, but you will also wear down the grout. Intense cleaning should be done sparingly to avoid breaking down the grout.
Cleaning Grout with Store-Brought Products
Store-bought products can be just as effective and are often more powerful than homemade cleaners because they use stronger chemicals. You can purchase specific grout cleaners, but most products will be general bath and kitchen cleaners. You can find them in both vinegar-based solutions for eco-friendly choices and bleach-based options for tougher stains.
These are some of the best grout cleaners available on the market:
- Clorox Tilex Mold and Mildew Spray: This product is the best for breaking down germs and tackling really dirty grout. Because it contains bleach, it will help to remove stains. We recommend only using it on light-colored grouts to avoid discoloration.
- Soft Scrub Gel: The Soft Scrub brand is a gel that is applied similarly to the paste technique mentioned in the homemade cleaner section. You will need to scrub the grout with a brush. It includes both bleach and disinfectant to remove germs and stains.
- CLR Bath and Kitchen Cleaner: This spray is versatile enough to be used for other cleaning jobs and contains less harsh chemicals than other cleaners on the market. It’s also easy to use: just spray and wipe for great results.
What Cleans Grout the Best?
Baking soda and hydrogen peroxide are our recommendations for the best homemade grout cleaner because of its deep penetration and effectiveness. If you choose to use a store-bought product, a bleach-based tile spray for mold and mildew removal will keep your grout very clean. Bleach-based products should be used on white or light-colored grouts to avoid discoloration.
How to Replace Grout
Grout is sturdy and long-lasting but will inevitably wear over time. The top reasons you should consider replacing your grout are due to stains, cracks, or mold. When these situations do arise, replacing it can be easily done by removing the old grout and replacing it.
For light grout removal, you can use a grout removal tool. For larger areas, you can use an oscillating tool with a grout removal blade; this will help you remove the grout quickly and efficiently. We recommend the oscillating multi-tool for any grout project. You can use this tool for nearly any other home project involving cutting, grinding, or sanding (Source: Popular Mechanics).
A manual grout rake can easily remove grout in smaller spaces by placing the tool into the joint and moving in an up and down motion from different angles. This can be challenging with large joints, which is why an oscillating multitool is often much easier and more effective. You should wear glasses and cover your face to avoid inhaling any grout debris.
These are the steps you should follow to remove grout with an oscillating tool:
- Hold blade perpendicular to grout: Form a 90-degree angle between the grout and blade so that the blade is applied straight into the grout. If the blade is leaning in either direction, it could come in contact with the tiles and break them. Follow the joint line to remove all grout. Here you’ll find a video that shows this process (Source: eHow Home).
- Carefully apply at an angle: After removing most of the grout from the joint, you will likely have grout chunks touching the tiles. Apply the blade at an angle to remove this grout slowly and carefully. Closely watch your angle to avoid direct contact with tiles.
- Remove any remaining grout: After you have removed as much grout as possible with your grout or oscillating tool, use a flathead screwdriver or a utility knife to remove the excess grout. Because you may encounter spots that are difficult to remove, apply force on the tools away from your body to avoid accidents.
- Clean area: All of this grinding will leave you with plenty of grout dust. Make sure you vacuum the area, including the tile joints.
- Rinse joints: Use a wet sponge or cloth to remove any final debris out of the joints. This will provide you with a clean surface to put new grout in.
Cleaning and Removing Grout
The goal of caring for grout is to maintain it and clean it regularly to extend its life and avoid having to replace it prematurely.
Finding the right cleaner is important to keep your grout from staining, molding, or cracking. By using any of the techniques above for proper upkeep, you will save yourself time, money, and hassle.