How to clean grout: 6 methods to try and a product you might want to avoid

Grubby grout spoiling the look of your tiled surfaces? Here’s what the experts recommend.

Clean, crisp and precise grouting can transform your tiles into a work of art, but it doesn’t seem to take long before the daily dirt takes hold. Before you know it, you’ve gone from admiring beautifully bright grout lines to being distracted by dull, drab and grubby grout.

Even if your cleaning regime includes scrubbing your tiles on a regular basis, sometimes it feels like the grout needs more. And although it can be tempting to reach for the bleach – especially when your grout is white – is this always the best solution?

Credit: Shutterstock/Kazoka

We’ve spoken to the experts to ask them how to make your grimy grout gleam.

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1. Take a gentle approach

Head to the kitchen cupboard first

“As with any cleaning project, start with a mild cleaning solution, such as an all-natural homemade recipe,” says Nigel Bearman, CEO and founder of cleaning company Daily Poppins.

black wire basket, glass jar of bicarbonate of soda, lemons and a bamboo handled scrubbing brushCredit: Shutterstock/JPC-PROD
Lemons can be handy for grout – as well as gin

If hot water or your regular surface cleaner isn’t sufficient, “natural grout stains can be removed with lemon juice or white vinegar”, he suggests, adding that either can be applied directly to the grout. Allow the liquid to sit for 10-15 minutes and then brush with warm water.

Vinegar is acidic and therefore has the potential to corrode grout over time, so use sparingly if applying neat.

2. Use washing up liquid

Mix with baking soda for a foamy, fragrant solution

Jennifer Sharpe, chief fragrance officer at Fabulosa, offers up washing liquid as an alternative solution.

4 images of grout being cleaned with washing up liquid mixCredit: Fabulosa
Combine cleaning ingredients for a fresh approach

“If you want to achieve spotless grout, all you need to do is take your washing up liquid and mix with bicarbonate of soda to form a luscious-smelling foam,” she says. “Then simply take the mix on an old toothbrush and begin scrubbing. Leave the mixture to do its work for a few minutes and wipe away with a damp cloth to reveal a sparkling shine.”

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3. Use bleach with caution

It can stain as well as whiten

Although it’s tempting to assume the colour-removing properties of bleach make it the quickest fix for discoloured grout, you could be doing more damage than good in the long run.

“Over time, bleach breaks down the cement in the grout because it is highly alkaline, says Bearman. “As a result, the grout may become brittle and crack, allowing moisture and dirt to seep into the system, causing further damage.”

Bearman adds: “If not used properly, bleach can also cause discolouration or staining of the grout.”

If you do choose to use bleach, make sure you follow the instructions on the bottle, taking extra care to ensure you dilute it properly and don’t leave it for an extended period of time.

Bleach may not be effective at removing certain types of stains, such as those caused by oil-based substances or rust. For oil-based stains, use detergent. For rust you’ll need a specialist cleaning product.

4. Spray mouldy grout before you wipe it

Rubbing the stain will only spread the spores

Even if instinct tells you to scrub the mould away, it’s never the right approach. All you will do is extend the surface area for the mould to attack. Instead, spray on a specialist mould cleaner, leave it to work for the recommended time on the label and then wipe clean with a damp cloth.

green mosaic tiles with mouldy groutCredit: Shutterstock/Ksenia Shestakova
Spray before you wipe is essential to reduce the spread of mould

I speak from experience having used this method for many years. I admit to getting a small sense of achievement from watching the mould disappear in front of my eyes – without even wielding a cloth.

Although I’ve tried more expensive brands of mould cleaner, I find the Astonish Mould & Mildew Remover equally effective and more appealing in price.

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5. Clean the tiles before you start

Don’t add extra dirt to your grout

It may seem counter-intuitive to clean before you clean, but with lighter grout colours being so susceptible to staining, making sure the surface area of your tiles is clean before you start will save you undoing all your hard work.

white tiled walls being cleaned by person wearing yellow rubber gloves holding bottle of green cleaning fluidCredit: Shutterstock/Andrey Popov
Start clean to ensure you do the job properly

It’s something Bearman highly recommends. “To prevent additional dirt from getting into the grout, clean the tiles’ surfaces before you begin cleaning. Larger areas can be easily cleaned with an all-purpose cleaner,” he adds.

If you’ve got specific marks on your tiles that need tackling before you begin cleaning your grout, Dave Dunlop, technical expert at Johnson’s Tiles, recommends the following products.

Removing marks from tiles

Paint remover

Bleach or washing soda

Masonry cleaner

Aabrasive powder or liquid, unless the tile is glazed

Detergent or degreaser

Household bleach or specific category cleaner

Household bleach or specific category cleaner

Abrasive powders or cleaners should never be used on ceramic or glazed tiles as they will scratch and damage the surface. Always test an inconspicuous area of the tile before applying any specific cleaning solution.

6. Try one last tip before you regrout

Follow this method for really stubborn stains

If you’ve tried everything else and still can’t get your grout gleaming, Bearman has one last method to try, but make sure to wear rubber gloves.

person wearing black gloves kneeling and cleaning grout in floor tiles with red scrubbing brushCredit: Shutterstock/Joseph Steven
You’ll need gloves and elbow grease for this final tip

You’ll need:

  • Bucket, cloth and mop (for larger areas)
  • Multi-purpose cleaner
  • Cleaning brush for grout
  • An old towel or cloth
  • Bicarbonate of soda, 1/2 cup
  • Hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup
  • Washing up liquid, 1 teaspoon
  • Spoon

 Method:

  1. Clean the tiles and grout with your multi-surface cleaner and a microfibre cloth.
  2. Prepare a thick paste by mixing hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and washing up liquid together.
  3. Spoon the paste onto horizontal grout lines first, then vertical grout lines, scrubbing with the grout brush as you go. Let it work for 10-15 minutes.
  4. To remove any residue, rinse the treated area with clean water. You can use a cloth or a mop with a warm bucket of water.
  5. Wipe away any moisture from the surface using an old towel or cloth.

Consider regrouting

It might be less expensive than you think

If you’ve tried every trick and applied plenty of elbow grease, but still feel your grout has seen better days, regrouting can be a relatively low-cost and effective option according to Leigh Price, co-director of Real Stone, Tile & Bathroom.

“If you have the time to dedicate to it, regrouting is fairly low cost and can give your bathroom the look of an expensive makeover,” says Price – although he adds a word of caution…

“Before taking on your regrouting project,” he advises, “you ought to be aware that while it is something you can do yourself at home, it is a time-consuming job which must be done carefully.

Regrouting can refresh your bathroom completelyCredit: Shutterstock/Stockphoto Video
Regrouting can refresh your bathroom completely

“Opt for a decent quality powdered grout, which you need to mix with water as per the instructions on the bag,” advises Price, “and once you have gouged the existing grout out, smooth the new grout into the joints ensuring there are no air bubbles and the grout joints are full.

“Bear in mind also that if you get any excess grout on your tiles, better quality grout will be easier to get off the tiles – so don’t skimp on your grout choice, and definitely stay away from ready-mixed grout, which tends to be poorer quality.”

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Sarah Harley

Written by Sarah Harley she/her

Updated:

Since first picking up a paintbrush and experiencing the joy of re-decorating her bedroom in a questionable red, white and grey scheme as a young teenager, Sarah Harley was hooked on the world of interior design. This obsession even led to a real life ‘Grand Designs’ project in 2005 when she donned a pink hard hat and appeared on TV screens, project managing the renovation and extension of a Grade II listed 17th century Folly in South Wales.

Throughout her career, Sarah has gained an array of experience in several different roles, ranging from copywriting, PR, events management and photography to interior design and home staging. With her two passions being the written word and the joys of a beautifully designed home, Sarah’s mission is to open the door on the world of interiors, inviting readers in to help them work their way through the vast choice of products, ideas and trends so that their own homes can reach their full potential.

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