The Basics of Grout Cleaning and Care
Keeping your tile looking its best doesn't just mean cleaning and caring for the tile itself, the grout in between needs some love too - and not just for aesthetic reasons. Sure, you want to prevent stains and discoloration, but there are some practical concerns that affect the longevity of your tile as well. Mildew and bacterial build-up are another major concern, along with liquids seeping beneath your tile. A lot of people don't realize, but grout is an incredibly porous material that can and will soak up liquid, grease and grime. That goes for cooking spills in the kitchen, mud being tracked on the front door and mildew in the bathroom. But don't worry, it's all preventable! On top of that, it's pretty easy as long as you keep up on it and follow the guidelines for grout cleaning below.
The Basics of Grout Cleaning
We see so many recommendations floating around the web and by word of mouth recommending vinegar or other acidic solutions for cleaning grout and tile, but this should really be avoided. Acidic chemicals will break down and weaken the grout structure, causing premature failure. Plus, acidic cleaning solutions can etch and damage the stone around it as well. What you should be using instead is a pH balanced cleaner that is tough on dirt and grime to get your grout back to its original color while still maintaining structural integrity. Granite Gold Grout Cleaner® is specifically formulated for use on grout while still being safe for natural-stone, ceramic, porcelain and even colored grout. As an added bonus, a nylon scrub brush is included in the kit to help agitate and remove any grime build-up. This is important because too harsh of a scrubbing material can also damage and wear down your grout. That means no steel wool or harsh scouring pads, as they will not only damage the grout, but will strip the protective seal on the grout and the tile around it.
How to Seal Your Grout
That's right, just like your natural stone, your grout should be treated with a proper sealant as well. This will give the surfaces a protective coating to help prevent liquids and mildew from making its way below the surface, as well as help to prevent stains and make your clean-up job just that much easier. In general, it's recommended that you seal your grout and natural-stone every 6-12 months, but high-trafficked areas and spots that have been through a deep cleaning might need it sooner than that. If you're not sure on when and how to seal your grout, please be sure to check out our guide on the topic here. Water seeping beneath the surface can not only provide a breeding ground for bacteria, but can lead to the breakdown of the grout as well as the adhesives holding the tile down to the floor.
How to Deal With Tough Stains
If a stain does set in, you have a few options available to you if a grout cleaning solution isn't enough to get the job done. Steam used in conjunction with a stone-safe cleaner can make quick work of this build-up. For instance, for bathroom tile, you can spray your stone-safe cleaner on the grout and then crank up the hot water in the shower for 5 minutes with the door closed.
You might be surprised at how easily soap scum and grime comes up this way. It's also important to not discolor your grout - especially with darker shades. Overly alkaline solutions like bleach can absorb into the grout and oxidize, causing a chalky white appearance.
With that being said however, for really tough grime and mildew, bleach can be used if diluted to a 50/50 mix with water. Always make sure to rinse this solution away completely, and be sure to keep this mixture off of metal fixtures, wood surfaces and porcelain. After a cleaning as thorough as this, it's highly recommended that you seal the surface again, as this process is assured to damage that protective barrier.
Always Wipe Away and Soak up Spills
Like outlined above, even leaving standing water on your tile and grout can lead to some serious headaches by creating a breeding ground for mildew and compromising the structural integrity of the tile as a whole. Cooking grease can lead to similar issues while also being harder to clear out once it has seeped into the surface. Soap scum is another common offender, with the added risk of discoloring your grout where it is left to sit.
For stone tile showers, it's recommended to give the wet surfaces a quick once over with a squeegee to prevent standing water from doing any damage, or becoming a small scale primordial soup science project. A lint-free microfiber cloth can work well for smaller spills. It's also important to maintain proper ventilation to prevent these issues on bathroom tile. It's not a bad idea to open a window or run the bathroom exhaust fan for 10-15 minutes following a shower. This should allow for fast evaporation of water on the tile, limiting the time bacteria has to grow and take hold.
As you can tell by now, a major theme of this guide is that small amounts of regular maintenance over time is really key to freeing you up for more labor-intensive work in the future. If let go for too long, it can be quite a costly venture to bring in a professional to fix damaged grout and stone. Diligence is key! Want to learn more about proper stone care? We have tons of helpful guides on how to clean, care for and maintain natural stone and related areas.
From countertops and flooring to stone shower care, we've got you covered. If you have more specific questions or concerns, please feel free to give our Stone Care Experts a call at 1-800-475-STONE and be sure to take a look at our full line of stone care and other related products from Granite Gold®.