Cleaning Bathroom Tile and Removing Stains from Grout
How can this be? I have dirty tile and mold and mildew stains on my grout.
This slow moving process of grime accumulation snuck up on me- it's not really my fault!
Dirty tile and grout stains can creep up on everyone, one day the tile is clean and the next day the grime seemingly covers the entire bathroom.
No doubt you are thinking about hours of back breaking labor, scrubbing with a small brush into nooks and crannies-time slowly passing. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
Your bathroom tub, shower floors and walls start out in perfect shape and of course it would be nice to keep it that way. Cleaning tile and grout to bring back its former glow can be a hard job but with a little guidance the process will become less painful for you.
Here are my tried and true cleaning tips to help you clean up your dirty grout and tile fast.
So let's get busy cleaning!
What is Grout?
Grout is a mixture of sand and binders that hold it together. Grout comes in many different colors and is used to fill in the empty areas between tiles covering tub or shower floors and walls.
Grout is porous nature and small uneven surfaces not seen by the naked eye can trap all the dirty, grimy things in your shower.
Soap scum builds and mold and bacteria thrive on the debris. All mold mildew needs is an unventilated, warm, damp area and a place to cling. This grime builds up and hides the true color of the tile and make your white grout not-so-white.
Common Problems Affecting Tile and Grout
- Mold and Mildew
- Hard Water Spots
- Soap Residue
Tile and Grout Cleaning Precautions
1. Harder is not better. In order to avoid scratching the tile or damaging the grout when cleaning your bathroom, scrub the area in small circle with a soft bristle brush. Don't use a wire brush to clean it.
2. Sometimes stains will just wipe away! You don't always have to pull out the strongest cleaners and stiffest bristle brushes to clean tile remove stains. Try wiping the tile or grout using a rag first- if the stain is too tough then move up to using a brush.
3. Use the right product for your type of tile and grout. When using a product for the first time check the product label to see if this is safe to use both for your grout and tile. Whatever you use to clean the grout can affect the surface of the tile. These two areas are connected so there should be some consideration as to what cleaning product is used.
4. Test your cleaning products in a small inconspicuous area. The reason for doing this is to make sure that your cleaning solution doesn’t damage or discolor your tile or grout. This is especially true if you have colored grout, some products can cause the color to change or fade.
Vinegar is a natural product, acidic and a deodorizer to name just a few things. If you have simple stains or basic dirt from day to day use, it works well on ceramic or glass tiles.
Mix in a spray bottle;
- 2 cups warm water
- 2 cups plain white vinegar
- 1 tsp. liquid dish detergent (like dawn)
The vinegar cleaning solution leaves no residue and can cut through grease, soap scum or other stains. Acidic vineger is effective at removing hard water or mineral deposits formed on tile walls, floors and even shower doors.
- Loosen the dirt from the areas you want to clean with a soft bristle brush and rinse with clean warm water.
- Spray the area with the cleaning solution.
- Let the solution sit on the tile for about 15 minutes
- Use a soft bristle brush to clean in between the tiles to remove dirt. You can old toothbrush to clean tight areas like the corners and help the vinegar do its job.
- Make sure to rinse thoroughly.
Don’t use vinegar on any real marble, granite, travertine or other natural stone.
Vinegar can etch the surface and cause permanent damage. If you don’t know the material that is grouted double check with the manufacturer or installer. Some etching on natural tile looks good but only if it is meant to be there.
Baking Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide
If you are dealing with more than simple stains or day to day dirt, baking soda has some extra cleaning power that should do the trick.
Baking soda is a alkaline cleaner, deodorizer and a mild abrasive. It's a very effective way to clean many different surfaces
Make a paste;
- 3/4 cup of baking soda
- 1/4 cup household strength (3%) hydrogen peroxide.
- 1 Tbs. liquid dish soap or shampoo.
Don't make more than you need because it loses its effectiveness quickly. With the paste you can fill in the grout and let it sit to get rid of any hard stains that won’t come out with just a rub down from your cleaning rag.
Use a soft bristle brush or an old toothbrush (for detailed cleaning of grout lines) to avoid wearing away at the grout or scratching your tile. Through experience you will get to know your floors- what cleaners your tile work can take and what it cannot!
- Use a soft bristle brush and lightly apply the cleaner on the stained tile or grout.
- Use an old toothbrush to ensure that the cleaner is applied to cracks and crevasses in the grout.
- Let the baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and soap mixture sit for about 15 minutes.
- Rinse the tile completely with warm or hot water.
- Use a clean rag or washcloth to pick up any residue that remains on the tiles.
- Rinse one last time for extra shine.
Bleach is a great stain remover and will whiten and brighten grout. Make sure the area is well ventilated to avoid breathing any vapors.
Mix a simple solution;
- 1 cup of bleach
- 3 cups of water
- 1 Tbs. shampoo (since it's handy)
Spray this solution on the surface of the tile and grout and let it sit for about 15 minutes to remove deep stains from your tile work.
After sitting for a few minutes wipe down your tile with a wet cloth and use a brush on any areas that have not come clean from just soaking.
Rinse the area well to remove all traces of bleach. Bleach residue will make the tub or shower floor very slippery if it's not removed completely (I know that from experience!)
Don't mix any other cleaning product with bleach. Ammonia or acids will react with bleach and cause hazardous gases to form.
Cleaning Marble, Granite, Travertine or other Natural Stone Tile
Natural stone such as marble, travertine, limestone, slate or other calcite-based stone are delicate and must be cleaned with pH neutral cleaners. They can be damaged with cleaning solutions that are not made specifically for stone.
If you don't have a specific commercial product available I have a really great tip right from a professional marble installation service that our house cleaning company hired a few years ago:
So the story is, one of our house cleaners used a very harsh product (that she bought herself- I didn't supply it!) trying to remove the hazy white film from the travertine in a clients bathroom. Needless to say, she destroyed the travertine further and the client was naturally very upset.
Long story short- We were out over $1,500 dollars to pay a professional marble polishing company to regrind (hone) his marble back to it's original beauty.
So I asked the marble professional what product he recommended to clean and remove the stains from stone and he said that Murphy Oil Soap (it's a oil based soap that is made to be used on wood) was the BEST cleaner to use for stone!
You need to dilute the soap more than called for on the product label to make it suitable to make it pH neutral and safe for cleaning stone. But it removes grime and leaves a nice shine.
Mix in a spray bottle;
- 1/4 cup Original Murphy Oil Soap
- 2 gallons of warm water
Spray on the stone and use a soft cotton rag and some elbow grease to remove dirt, grime and any accumulated soap scum.
This is what we use at our house cleaning company and it's a great way to clean marble.
Keeping Your Bathroom Tile and Grout Clean
- Sealing the grout with a water repellent solution will deter mold, mildew and debris from forming in the grout itself.
- Wiping the shower dry after you use it will stop hard water deposits, mold and mildew from forming.
- Switch to liquid body soap instead of bar soap to eliminate soap scum from forming.
Hopefully these tips made short work of your stains and grime.
Spending some extra time, just a little here and there will halt the process of mildew, mold and soap scum forming in your bathroom- it will pay off in the end.
Clean tile and grout image courtesy of Laurel_Kate, CC BY-SA.