If you’ve got tile then chances are you need a effective grout cleaner. Rather than going to chemical way I’ll show you a way that I’ve used for years to clean the delicate grout and tile in historic homes where tile needs more precise care.
Whether you have a light grout or dark gout in your tile, this post will show you how to make a natural grout cleaner and how to clean dirty grout effectively.
I’ll preface this by saying that this is not a spray it and leave it method like some of the other cleaners promote. This is a deep cleaning using only natural products you’ll find in your pantry, but it is just as effective and much safer grout cleaner.
How to Clean Grout
You want to clean grout, but you don’t want to expose yourself or your children to hardship chemicals. Perfect. As a historic home contractor I have worked in hundreds of bathrooms to need cleaning and restoration and those vintage tiles required me to come up with a formula that is more gentle than the commercially available cleaners.
In historic homes the unique historic tile patterns and materials may not have had the same protective glazing coatings as modern tile. Some cleaners can cause discoloration or changes in the sheen of the tile. To avoid that and harsh fumes I came up with this recipe.
Step 1 Mix Natural Grout Cleaner
Below you’ll find my preferred recipe for making your own homemade grout cleaner using ingredients you can likely find in your kitchen cabinets. You’ll also need some white vinegar kept separately.
DIY Tile Cleaner Recipe
- One cup warm water
- 3-5 tablespoons baking soda (enough to give the mixture some grit)
- A couple of drops of dish soap
- Mix together well
Step 2 Prepare The Grout Lines
For this I like working in sections instead of tackling the entire tiled space all at once. After you have created your grout cleaner and have it on hand, the next step is to pour white vinegar along your first section of grout lines. You don’t want to overdo this: just a light layer of vinegar will do the trick.
Step 3 Apply the Tile Cleaner
Once the vinegar has sat for a minute pour some of your Natural grout cleaner mix onto the grout lines. Try to keep this as close to the grout lines as you can so you don’t waste any. To make it easier, you can use a bucket or cup with a spout for directional pouring. Again, you don’t want to overdo it with the mixture: apply enough to layer on top of the vinegar.
Step 4 Scrub
This is the step that requires the most elbow grease. You’re going to want to scrub the grout with a stiff-bristled scrub brush. Take your time, and try to move the brush in a direction that is cohesive with the grout line design.
If you want to use an old toothbrush to really get into the joints you can do that as well.
Step 5 Let It Sit
After you have scrubbed your section, let the mixture sit for about five minutes while you move on to other sections. This will let the grout cleaner and the vinegar really work their magic to help lift dirt and debris out of the tile grout.
Step 6 Wipe It Off
After about five minutes, you should wipe off the mixture from each section. I like using an absorbent towel or sponge to soak up any excess liquid and loosened dirt from the grout or if it’s in the shower you can simply wash it away.
At this point, your grout still may not be looking perfectly clean, and that is normal depending on how deep the dirt has settled into the grout lines. Allow your floor to dry for about 45 minutes after you have wiped off the mixture.
Step 7 Repeat
If necessary, you can repeat steps two through six until the tile grout has achieved your desired level of cleanliness. Remember that it is important to take your time when cleaning stubborn grout. You don’t want to damage any of that intricate tile work, so this method is really a labor of love.
Step 8 Apply Grout Sealer (Optional)
If you have lighter colored grout, over time, dirt and debris may build up and show more easily than a darker tile grout. If desired, you can apply a grout sealer along the cleaned grout after you’ve scrubbed it and let it dry for the appropriate amount of time. It is critical that the tie grout is completely clean and dry before you attempt to put any sealer on it.
In the bathroom especially, mold and mildew tend to flourish when it gets too humid. Using a dehumidifier or at the minimum a bath fan can keep moisture levels low enough that this is less of a problem. Along with maintaining a regular cleaning regiment that will help you avoid stained or dirty grout in the future.
Founder & Senior Editor
I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.