It's a fact that most of us have tile in many areas of our home, including the bathroom and the kitchen. They’re good-looking, long-lasting, water-resistant, and, overall, the flooring of choice among homeowners who want an easily maintainable floor.
However, tile is not immune to an enormous amount of dirt and grime daily. We transfer dirt from our shoes to the floor tiles, water, and soap scum accumulates on bathroom tiles, and the dirtier the tiles get, the dirtier the grout that attaches them will get.
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While tiles are usually easy to clean, when it comes to grout, that's a whole different story. Grout tends to get filthy quite easily, and I'm sure you've wondered more than once how to remove that dirt and make it look as good as new… And if you're here, I'm sure you've tried everything and need some help to answer that million-dollar question.
Well, guess what? Today is your lucky day! Because as a true supporter of eco cleaning, I've tried many methods to get rid of grout the natural and easy way, and I have a few tricks up my sleeve that will surely work for you. So keep scrolling, because today I'm going to show you the easiest way to clean grout without scrubbing! (Trust me, after reading this post your back, hands, and knees will be able to rest easy).
Why should you even bother cleaning grout?
If you stumbled upon this post by mere coincidence and you've never actually considered deep cleaning the grout on your floors or in your bathroom, you may be asking yourself, "why do I need to clean grout? Is it even a big deal?" And the answer is yes, it is a big deal!
Of course, it's not a life-or-death thing, but if you want to extend the lifespan of your tiles, you must clean that substance that binds them together. If a large amount of dirt and grime build up in the grout, it can hurt the seal and start working its way through the tiles. Repairing tiles is time-consuming, and it’s best to avoid this process rather than go through it.
Another — and most important — reason, why you should bother cleaning grout, is for hygiene. If there's one place in your home that collects bacteria like crazy, it's that little space between the floor tiles, not to mention the number of bacteria that live on the shower tiles. This environment is full of moisture and warmth, and if not cleaned frequently, it can develop mold and in the most extreme cases, dangerous black mold. But the real problem arises if the spores from black mold get into the air and you breathe them in, as, over time, exposure to black mold can cause respiratory issues. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
And last but not least, cleaning your home's grout will give your home a better overall appearance. Some people don't even know that the grout in their homes should be white, and when they successfully clean it for the first time, they are pleasantly surprised — everything looks 20 times cleaner! Been there, seen that.
What Causes Grout to get so dirty?
Between the toddlers toddling around with their lil' "no-spill" cups spilling whatever they're drinking all over the floor, the dog or cat rolling around in the yard making sure to leave a trail of dirt all over the kitchen, and your significant other walking inside the house with their shoes on, it's almost impossible to keep the grout clean, no matter how much you scrub… But why?
In a nutshell, grout is a dirt, mold, and mildew magnet because it's a highly porous material, and everything sticks to it too easily, especially in moist environments such as your bathroom and kitchen. Dust and liquids penetrate deeply into it and mix, which creates mud and causes the grout to lose its characteristic milky white colour.
It's also very common for dirty mop water to mess up the grout by mixing even more dust with liquids, and instead of getting the floor squeaky clean, it only makes it worse, spreading and settling the water into the grout since it's the lowest area of the floor. But don't let frustration get the better of you — here are some effective (and eco-friendly!) ways to get rid of that mess once and for all.
What's The Best Eco-Friendly Cleaner for Grout?
There are numerous methods for cleaning grout between tiles, but it goes without saying that most of them have toxic chemicals as their main components. However, as always, there are natural options for those who don't want to keep polluting the environment with highly harmful products. Chemicals work hard, but eco-friendly alternatives work harder:
Baking soda: in our previous post on how to clean a very stained toilet, I first mentioned baking soda as one of the most effective eco-friendly cleaning ingredients out there, simply because this powder actually cleans just about anything. Not only does it help to remove stains from your porcelain throne, but it also helps to remove caked-on gunk from grout and neutralizes bacterial growth.
Sodium percarbonate: if you aren't familiar with this compound's name, the word "OxiClean" will certainly ring a bell. The base of this famous cleaner and whitener is none other than sodium percarbonate, a cousin of sodium bicarbonate — a.k.a. baking soda —. When sodium percarbonate is mixed with water, it breaks down and releases elemental oxygen that then bonds to any type of filth going on in your grout, killing bacteria, mold, and mildew. Keep an eye on this ingredient, because it's one of my star eco-cleaners for cleaning grout!
Vinegar: if your eco-friendly cleaning kit doesn't have vinegar in it, it's not a true eco-friendly cleaning kit, period. This natural acid is a multi-purpose product that no matter how many years go by, will remain at the top of the list of the best natural cleaners thanks to its exceptional qualities for penetrating surfaces and removing dirt — exactly what we need when it comes to cleaning grout.
Lemon: Not only can you make lemonade out of lemons but also a good cleaner — that smells good, too! This fruit is high in citric acid, which, when combined with other components such as vinegar and baking soda, eats away stubborn stains and helps bring back the white colour of grout.
Hydrogen peroxide: as I always say, hydrogen peroxide is good for more than just sterilizing cuts. It's a safe, natural cleaning agent that has antifungal and antibacterial properties without being a strong acid. That means that it will get rid of the filth between your tiles, but it won't be as abrasive as other substances, yay!
While all of these natural ingredients work great for cleaning the grout on your floors and in your bathroom, be careful if your tiles are made of natural stones such as travertine, slate, or marble. Some stones can react negatively to strong or acidic substances such as vinegar or lemon juice which can permanently stain or even eat away those types of tiles. In those cases, the best thing you can use is baking soda and hydrogen peroxide.
IMPORTANT: Mixing hydrogen peroxide with vinegar creates peracetic acid, a corrosive acid that releases toxic fumes and can harm your skin, so DON'T MIX THEM! While you can use one after the other on a surface, never ever mix them in the same pot or bottle if you want to remain safe and sound while cleaning.
How to Clean Grout without Scrubbing
Once bacteria and fungi start to colonize grout, it can be difficult to clean it thoroughly without spending entire afternoons scrubbing… But not impossible. What if I told you that you can do it even without scrubbing?
Yup, you read that right! It is possible to clean the grout on your floor or any surface without scrubbing, and the easiest way to do it starts with one simple step: remove the dust and dirt accumulated on the tiles using a broom or, ideally, a vacuum cleaner. When we clean grout, the whole process tends to get pretty muddy, but if we remove as much dust as possible first, we'll reduce that factor a bit.
After sending the dust where it belongs, I suggest using hot water and a lint-free mop to wipe the surface, so the dirt softens before adding the main cleaning mixture.
- In a small bowl, add ½ cup of baking soda and ¼ cup of hydrogen peroxide
- Mix the ingredients until they become a paste
- Add 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap
- Spoon the mixture onto your grout and let it sit for 5-10 minutes
- Wipe the mixture off with a towel or a sponge and rinse the surface with some water
- Don’t disturb it – let it dry!
What makes this mixture so effective is how the ingredients interact with each other and with the dirt. Baking soda penetrates the porous surface of the grout without being overly abrasive and helps remove tough stains, hydrogen peroxide is basically a natural alternative to bleach that will clean and brighten almost any surface, and dish soap simply cuts through any type of grease or slime that may be stuck between the tiles. The perfect mix!
P.S: Before using any of the mixtures I mention throughout this post, make sure to do a small test area first. Apply the mixtures in hidden areas of your floor or shower, wait a few minutes, and see how the tiles and grout react. If you notice any discoloration of the tile, a new stain in the grout, or pieces of tile coming off, don't use the mix. As I mentioned earlier, some natural tiles and some very old grout don't react well with certain compounds, especially if they are acidic, be on the lookout for any unfavourable changes!
How to clean grout in the shower
Oh, grout in the shower… You see the black spots while you shower and ask yourself "when is the day I'll be able to clean this?" while remembering that you were scrubbing the surface for hours that very morning. Ideally, the only time you should notice black between your tiles is if you installed black grout specifically for that purpose, to create contrast or an all-black aesthetic, but let's be real… A wet bathroom is a breeding ground for mold, the main cause of dark, grout stains in showers.
Mold can grow even in the cleanest, whitest, best of bathrooms, and can seem impossible to remove, but don't worry, I've got your back. I found that the easiest way to clean shower grout without scrubbing is a slightly more concentrated mixture of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide.
However, I have an extra suggestion you can do before applying the mixture: crank the hot water for 3 minutes or so until steam builds, that way you'll be able to remove dirt, mold, and scum residue more quickly. Oh, and recollect the water with some buckets! Don't waste that natural resource, you can use it to water your plants or clean your car later. Now let's take a look at the recipe:
- Add 1 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide into a bowl
- Mix the ingredients thoroughly
- Apply the mixture between your shower tiles and let it sit for 10 minutes
- Wipe the mixture off and rinse the surface with some water
- Let it dry, don’t hop in to take a shower until it’s completely dry
Pro-Tip: The less humidity, the less mold, and stains. While the bathroom is a place that constantly gets wet, you can reduce that factor by drying the shower walls with a cloth after every shower, or if you don't want to look like a cleaning freak after the last person who showers at the end of the day leaves the bathroom. Believe me, after doing this you will notice the clear difference to when you didn't.
Now, if the above recipe does not work because you've got tons of build-up, you can also give this recipe a go:
- 1 tbs rubbing alchol or isopropyl alchol
- 2 cups cleaning vinegar
- 50 drops Tea Tree essential oils
- Simply mix them all into a spary bottle, give it a good shake
- Spary the solution direclty onto the probel areas
- Let it sit for at least 30 minutes
- Then wipe with a wet cloth
- You can leave this without wiping as well
- I recommend you wear a mask and open the windows when cleaning with tea tree oil
How to clean grout on floor tiles
The floor is the area of every home that gets dirty the fastest — for obvious reasons —, so what can you do when the grout between your floor tiles needs some TLC? Well, whip out one of the most widely used mixtures in the history of cleaning — vinegar, baking soda, and lemon:
- In a large bowl, combine 2 cups of water, ¼ cup of vinegar, and ¼ cup of lemon juice into ½ cup of baking soda
- Scoop the mixture over the grout lines
- Let it sit for 10-15 minutes
- If needed, lightly work the mixture into the tile grout using a toothbrush
- Rinse with a towel and warm water
- Let it dry completely
If your floor grout has particularly stubborn stains, sprinkle over some extra baking soda. It will enhance the effect!
How to clean stubborn grout mold
You may think the only way to deal with stubborn grout mold is by learning how to refresh your grout. However, it turns out that you only need one thing (a powder, to be exact): sodium percarbonate.
Sodium percarbonate is an alkaline substance, and mold doesn't like that — it likes to grow in slightly acidic environments instead. Also, when sodium percarbonate is mixed with water, it basically becomes a highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide that, when applied to the mold, breaks its bond to grout.
While you'll need to scrub the surface a bit since mold and mildew are two very stubborn things, the oxygen bubbles from the sodium percarbonate will help you clean it up easier:
- Dissolve 2 tablespoons of sodium percarbonate in 2 cups of warm water right before using the mixture
- Pour the sodium percarbonate solution onto the grout, making sure to cover all the lines
- Use a toothbrush and scrub to soak the mixture into the grout
- Let the mixture soak into the grout for 10-15 minutes.
- If you see a darker or more visible mildew stain, dip the brush into the sodium percarbonate powder and continue scrubbing.
- Rinse the surface and dry thoroughly.
This mixture will give your grout a bleachy clean look without resorting to bleach or other environmentally harmful whiteners, and the best part is that if you don't have this powder at home, you can easily get it on Amazon or Green & Frugal use code THEECOHUB150 (just make sure it’s 100% sodium percarbonate).
How to Maintain a Clean Grout
The best way to enjoy clean grout in your house is to prevent filth build-up in the first place. So, how do you maintain a clean grout? Here are some tips:
- On both the outside and inside of your house's entrance, place walk-off rugs or mats
- Take off your shoes before walking into the tiled area of your home
- Wipe off with a towel soiled pet paws before allowing them in
- Sprinkle some hydrogen peroxide on grout every 3 showers, or so. It will prevent mold from growing
- Leave the shower stall and windows open to help the tile and grout dry thoroughly between uses
- Last but certainly not least, do routine cleaning — once a week — and periodic maintenance, both of the floors and the shower. Periodic maintenance should include repairing leaky faucets and showerheads and applying sealers to grout lines.
Sealing the Grout
Once you clean the grout between your tiles, you have to seal your success.
Grout sealer is a product that is designed to be applied to tile grout (duh) to protect it from heavy traffic and moisture, so it becomes water-resistant and repels moisture, mold, mildew, and bacteria. It also makes it look better and, most importantly, lasts longer.
The procedure of applying the sealer is not difficult per se, but it is time-consuming and requires meticulousness. In addition, you'll need to search for the sealer that best suits your tile type, choose the specific sealer category for the location of your tiles — whether they are in the shower or dry locations —, and select your sealer applicator. If you want a specific guide on how to do all this and more, Bob Vila has an article that details the step-by-step procedure — go check it out!
However, there's one exception to all this, and its name is epoxy-based grout. If your tiles are bonded by this type of grout, you don't need to seal it, as this is a hard, water-resistant material, not as porous as the other types of grout.
In a nutshell, a grout sealer will act as a barrier between the grout and anything else, so if you don’t seal your grout at least once a year, it will absorb water, bacteria, and stains.
Grout can be a pain to clean, but it can be done, even without scrubbing!
There you have it, white, clean grout without having to compromise your hands, your back, your knees, or the environment! Nothing can ruin the look of your clean tiles faster than dirty grout, but now that you know how to clean floor and shower grout without scrubbing, the substance between your sparkling clean tiles will be whiter than a napkin in the blink of an eye.
What's great about all the methods I listed here is that every single ingredient is easily and quickly available, and I'm sure you already have some in your kitchen or bathroom cabinets. Ah, the many uses of common household ingredients like vinegar and hydrogen peroxide never cease to amaze me.
There is no doubt that the best way to clean dirt from grout is to use natural cleaning solutions. However, always remember that there's no point in cleaning your grout if you don't take care of it consistently. So after cleaning it and sharing this post with your fellow eco-cleaning enthusiasts, be sure to follow the tips above and leave some others that you've followed before in the comment box below — I'd love to read them!
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