How to Battle Dirty Tile Grout and Win

Recently, I decided to clean the tile grout in my master bathroom. It used to be a bright white color, but it had deteriorated over time. That was true for the grout throughout the rest of my home too: the other bathroom, the kitchen, and the mudroom. My plan was to work my way through each room and finish the entire house by the end of the day.

Ha! How naive I was! I had to sit on the floor in an uncomfortable position while vigorously scrubbing each individual grout line, and it took forever. By the end of the day, my arms hurt, I was exhausted, and only a handful of grout lines were clean.

Disgusted with my meager progress, I decided to find out how to tackle this project properly. As it turns out, there are a few key tips that make cleaning tile a much easier, far less defeating task.

Here’s what I learned:

Before you start
Before your battle begins, make sure you follow these precautions:

  • Open nearby doors and windows so the area you’re working in is well ventilated.
  • Use a stiff brush, but avoid metal bristles; they’ll remove the grout along with the stains.
  • Pre-test each cleaner on a small, unnoticeable area to check for damage or discoloring.
  • Never mix cleaning products. The chemicals can react dangerously, causing serious injuries.

Take your time
Cleaning grout requires a nearly excruciating amount of time and elbow grease, which can easily destroy a fragile ego like mine. Fight back by working for just 30 or 60 minutes at a time, and then cursing at the remaining tile to be cleaned before taking a break or stopping until the next day.

Use mild cleaners
Grout has many tiny pores that slowly absorb dirt and debris, which is why it gets so dark over time. It also means the grout can be damaged or discolored by harsh cleaning agents, so always use the mildest cleaner needed to do the job. It’s like your grout is a teenager’s acne-prone skin!

Avoid using bleach
You can also use bleach-based products, especially if you want lots of tiny, permanent bleach marks all over your clothes, the tiles you’re working on, and even your dog’s fur. (Not now, Fido! Mommy said she would rub your tummy later.) Avoid all this potential damage and skip the bleach cleaners.

Seal and protect
After you’ve won the battle and your grout is finally clean, apply a sealer. (Or, as I call it, a grout defeater!) It adds a protective barrier that prevents everyday dirt and debris from being absorbed. Sealed grout stays cleaner and lasts longer than unsealed grout, so the extra step is worth it.

I hope these tips help you avoid the odyssey of pain and frustration I endured when I first tried to clean my bathroom’s dirty tile grout. Remember, only by standing together and sharing our knowledge can we hope to defeat the cruel, powerful foe known as grout!

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