How to clean grout – so the lines between tile are good as new

Discover how to clean grout and remove the stains and marks that compromise its appearance

bathroom cleaning tips
(Image credit: Jan Baldwin)

Being in the know about how to clean grout is essential whether we’re talking floor or wall tile. The tile itself is easy to keep looking its best, but grout can prove more tricky to deal with.

The issue with grout is that it can be porous and prone to staining. Add to that the fact that in the bathroom particularly the humid atmosphere provides mold with the conditions in which it thrives, so it can speckle grout. Not only does this look ugly, but the spores of this nuisance can be bad for the family’s health.

To restore grout to whiteness, or its alternative original shade, we’ve put together a guide with cleaning tips so you can tackle grout with expert advice from the professionals.

How to clean grout

If you’re asking how to clean grout, the grout in question is likely cementitious grout – something to bear in mind the next time you come to tile a bathroom wall, or indeed one in the kitchen. Epoxy grout is ‘virtually as stainproof as the tile’ according to the Tile Council of North America (TCNA). These are the methods to use for grout stains.

1. Clean grout with a dish soap solution

The answer to how to clean grout can be a remarkably simple one. It could be sufficient to clean it along with the tile itself simply using water. However, it may need a little more than this and, if that’s the case, make up a solution of water and dish soap and apply using a microfiber cloth or microfiber mop in the case of floor tile. Remove any residue by wiping with hot water. 

2. Use a brush to scrub grout

If the stains on grout remain, it’s time to put in some work. Dampen the grout with warm water and then use a stiff brush – you can buy grout cleaning brushes on Amazon – to work along the lines to clean the grout. If effort alone is not enough, use an alkaline cleaner combined with the stiff brush or a specialist grout cleaner – we like Grout Eez – plus a brush according to the instructions. Make sure to rinse thoroughly afterwards.

For a less effortful alternative, you might want to take a lead from house rehab specialist Bill Samuel of Blue Ladder Development and get a drill bit brush. ‘This will do a much better job of scrubbing the grout clean than you could ever do by hand,’ he says.

3. Clean floor tile grout with a shop vac

If you’re the owner of a shop vac, this can be a great answer to how to clean grout in floor tile. Apply an alkaline cleaner according to product instructions, then use the shop vac to lift the dirty water, recommends the TCNA. As well as getting rid of the water, the vac will lift the dirt from the grout.

Follow that by rinsing, then use the shop vac again so no soap film is left behind, the experts say.

4. Clean grout with steam

A steam cleaner can be an effective method when the problem is how to clean grout. Steam the grout then it’s a matter of elbow grease once more as you use the stiff brush to lift the dirt from the surface.

5. Deal with mold on grout

Mold can thrive in the damp conditions of a bathroom and is most often found on grout. If after cleaning the grout as above you’re left with black areas, this is likely to be the culprit. To tackle this, use a specialist mold removing product for grout. 

Thinking about using bleach? Be aware that bleach can discolor grout. It can also weaken it over time, so it’s not the answer.

How do professionals clean grout?

The pros tackle grout with special equipment. ‘We professionally clean grout by first inspecting the grout, then pre-spraying heavily stained areas, and then using a high pressure, hot water cleaning process to remove dirt and ground-in soil,’ says Diana Rodriguez-Zaba, president of cleaning company ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba

‘We follow this up with a gentle clean water rinse that also extracts excess water. Once the grout is fully cleaned and dried, we typically apply a sealer to make the grout resistant to spills and stains and easier to clean in the future.’

Wondering if you should call someone in for grout cleaning? ‘Hiring a pro can be helpful when your grout is particularly dirty or when you just don’t have enough time to do it yourself,’ says Bailey Carson, home care expert at Angi. ‘Pros also have access to more specialized cleaning tools, like steam mops, that can clean your floors more deeply than you can when doing it by hand.’

Does vinegar hurt grout?

Cleaning with vinegar isn’t the best choice for grout. The reason is that grout contains cement, which is dissolved by acids, and vinegar is acidic. A strong vinegar solution could therefore be detrimental to the grout – and bear in mind that it can also damage stone tiles. 

If you’re using a store-bought cleaner, an alkaline version is what you need – the TCNA suggests products such as Spic and Span or Mr. Clean, or use one of the methods, above. Cleaners to avoid, according to the TCNA, are oil and wax-based versions which leave a film that can attract dirt.

Sarah Warwick
Sarah Warwick

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.