What is the Best Way to Clean Grout?

Y. Tolentino

There are a couple of different methods for cleaning grout, and choosing the best one is usually a matter of figuring out why the grout is so dirty in the first place and thinking about both what the tiles are made of and where they’re located. Experts usually recommend starting with the gentlest solution, often little more than soap and water. Steam cleaning is often really effective, too, particularly for tiles that see a lot of traffic and are generally clean to start with. Grout stains that are resistant or really tough might need a stronger approach, and oxygen-based chemicals are often a good choice in these cases. Professional cleaning companies often have some of the strongest products, and can also be an efficient choice for people with a lot of grout to get through. Anyone who decides to tackle the problem independently should usually take a number of safety precautions, including wearing gloves and making sure that the area is well ventilated.

Cleaning the grout between the tiles can be a challenge.
Cleaning the grout between the tiles can be a challenge.

Assess the Probable Cause

Stains in tile grout can develop in different ways. On bathroom tiles, mold and mildew may be the main cause, while on kitchen tile floors, grout stains may be the result of a combination of factors like heavy foot traffic, dirt, food spills, and mildew. In some cases, stains may also occur over time if the grout is either not sealed or is deteriorating. The best methods usually depend, at least in part, on the degree of staining and its cause. Spills and dirt will often lift with a mild cleanser and a scrub brush, whereas mold and mildew that have deeply penetrated the tile may need something stronger. Stains that are fresh are often also a lot easier to lift than those that have been sitting for weeks or more.

Vinegar, which can be used to clean grout.
Vinegar, which can be used to clean grout.

Tile type is also an important consideration when cleaning grout. Sealed tiles are usually the most durable and can resist staining, even staining that has penetrated into cracks and crevices. Depending on what the core material is, though, extra care may be required. Very porous tiles can absorb chemical cleansers, and fragile or thin materials might break or chip with excessive pressure.

Household cleaners may be used on grout.
Household cleaners may be used on grout.

Start Gently

Most tile experts recommend starting any grout cleaning project with the simplest cleanser possible. There are a number of reasons to begin small, but gentleness is often important to avoid damaging the tiles or degrading the integrity of the grout. It’s also usually a good idea generally to reserve strong chemicals for instances in which they’re really necessary.

Baking soda and water can be combined to create a cleaning paste.
Baking soda and water can be combined to create a cleaning paste.

For small stains on bathroom tiles, floors, or backsplashes, people are often advised to first use mild cleaning solutions. Basic dish soap and warm water often works well, particularly for “maintenance” cleanings — cleanings when there isn’t any real problem but may be some dirt or grime to lift. Spraying a small section of the stained grout with a solution of equal parts of vinegar and water and then scrubbing in a circular pattern with a stiff brush is another option. Likewise, forming a paste by adding water to a bit of baking soda and then using this mixture with a brush can also yield results. Afterward, it is important for people to completely rinse the area with clean water and allow it to air dry.

A bleach and water solution can be used to treat white grout that has a mold and mildew problem.
A bleach and water solution can be used to treat white grout that has a mold and mildew problem.

Consider Steam

Steam cleaners can also be a good choice. These are devices, often electrically powered, that use hot water steam to loosen dirt and penetrate cracks and crevices. Steam is usually best for tile floors. Depending on how bad the staining or discoloration is, users may need to either repeat the treatment or follow it up with a scrub or other topical cleanser.

Oxygen-Based Cleaners

For stubborn stains, people often have the best luck using a commercial grout cleaner or an oxygen bleach powder. Oxygen-based cleaners are usually highly concentrated and are able to attack the stain on a chemical level. Similar alternatives include hydrogen peroxide and chlorine bleach. Once the grout has been cleaned completely, re-sealing the grout is often the best way to keep new discoloration from appearing and to prevent future stains.

Tips and Precautions

People who elect to use a grout cleaner are usually wise to follow the instructions carefully to ensure good results. A number of common-sense precautions should also be followed. First, experts usually recommend testing the grout cleaner on a small area, preferably in an out-of-the-way spot, to ensure that it will not do damage or cause discoloration. Second, it’s important for people to work in a well-ventilated area and wear gloves and masks. Even chemicals that are generally safe can be harmful if breathed in, particularly when people are near the floor or working hard scrubbing, elevating their heart rates and increasing the frequency of their breaths. Making sure that doors and windows stay open is often enough.

For grout cleaning jobs that are too difficult or large for a homeowner to handle independently, hiring a professional cleaning service may be the best solution. A professional service can use special grout cleaning machines and steamers that can achieve more effective results, and most are really quick, too. They can be expensive, but if their work is thorough it’s often worth it — at least in areas that see a lot of abuse.

Rinse the grout area after brushing it with a paste made with baking soda and water.
Rinse the grout area after brushing it with a paste made with baking soda and water.

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Discussion Comments


Has anyone used a Stanley Steemer with their floor tiles being marble instead of ceramic? I need my grout cleaned and wanted to know if it is possible if the tiles are marble. -- Diane


I had a demo from Stanley Steamer to clean my grout while they were there to clean the carpets. They had a spray bottle and a brush and in less than a minute the dirtiest spot in my kitchen grout looked new. I was amazed and realized that whatever was in that bottle I wanted because they quoted me $796 to clean my grout with their machine and this amazing cleaner. I make good money but if I can save $796 by taking three hours to clean it myself I'm in. I also didn't know why I needed their machine, as the spot they cleaned was perfect with spray, scrub and wipe.

Well, I searched and found that Finazzle has that product but it's carried on their web site and very few stores. I found on their web site that a hardware store 25 miles from me had it, I drove and for $14 a bottle I took two (I know, pricey but I'm saving over $700, right?). I came home and did about 10 square feet in five minutes, and it looked cleaner but dark as it was wet. When it dried, it was like new. I used both of those bottles up today on about 1200 square feet of tile but have about 400 more to do.

So I just placed an order on Finazzle's web site for 4 bottles at $39.95. I'm a 45 year old guy and don't get excited about cleaning products but I am amazed and grateful that others posted about Finazzle.


We bought a house a few months ago and the tile floors were in horrible shape. The grout was so dirty. We tried everything to get it clean to no avail. My mom told me that I might have to get it done professionally. We called Stanley Steemer Carpet Cleaning Service.

I didn’t know until then that they did anything other than carpet. They did a great job and they even added a sealant to the grout to keep it clean longer.

You can check with your local carpet cleaning service and ask if they do tile grout cleaning.


@googie98: I have used the Oxiclean, too. I didn’t use a mop, though. I bought a plastic bristle deck brush. You can get them with a long handle so you are not bending over as much.

I use the same solution as yours. Brush the mixture on the grout and let it dry. It usually does a great job.


The oxygen cleaners worked great on the floor in my bathroom. I use Oxiclean. I tried regular bleach first but that didn’t work very well. I saw in a magazine where Oxiclean worked well on tile grout.

I mix 1 cup of the Oxiclean powder with two gallons of hot water. It is important to make sure the powder completely dissolves in the water. Use a mop and clean the whole floor.

Oxiclean doesn’t have the harsh fumes like bleach does.

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