We saved some money during the building of our house by electing not to have the tilers seal the grout. “I can do that myself,” I said. Why pay someone to do something I can do? But one thing leads to another, and a year and a half later, our grout still wasn’t sealed. Our light grey grout was now uniform in colour with our dark grey tiles.
What is the best way to clean grout? Elbow grease has no substitute, but you still need a few things. Here’s your shopping list:
- Baking soda
- chlorine bleach
- grout brush
- rubber gloves
- old rags and towels
- grout sealer
- grout sealer applicator bottle
I tried using bleach spray cleaners, and CLR to clean my grout; neither seemed to be any better than the other.
What really worked the best was a grout cleaner recipethat my wife discovered somewhere:
- 3/4 cup baking soda
- 1/4 cup bleach
This grout cleaner recipe is easy and cheap, especially since you probably already have the ingredients. Simply mix these in a bowl and start scrubbing with a grout cleaning brush. Dip the brush into the mixture as you need to apply it to the grout. Don’t try to save money by using a nail brush or toothbrush, or a toilet bowl brush! They won’t work well. This brush is specially designed to be thin enough to get into the grout lines, and has very stiff bristles. It only costs a couple dollars at Home Depot.
After cleaning an area, the bleach will evaporate and the baking soda will leave a white residue.
dried grout cleaner
This must be rinsed and scrubbed again, and it is important to get it all up with a towel. I actually used a mini carpet cleaner to suck up the rinse water first, then rubbed it with an old towel. That did the trick. Alternatively, you could simply mop it, but if you don’t towel it up afterward, you will have baking soda streaks across your floor. You don’t know where they are until they dry.
Also, you will likely miss some spots that you won’t see because they’ve been hidden under the grout cleaning solution. But you’ll spot them right away when you rinse. Here’s the contrast:
clean and dirty grout
When you are all finished cleaning and rinsing, it is time to seal. Grout sealer is a bit pricey ($30 for a bottle), but it goes a long way. We only used about 2/3 of a bottle to do two coats on our 15×20 foot kitchen. Here’s what you need:
grout sealer and applicator bottle
You can see how the applicator works. It is a small wheel that gets coated with the sealer as you roll it along the grout lines. It rolls on wet, but dries invisible, so make sure you get each area well saturated and move in a logical sequence. Once it dries, you won’t be able to tell what you’ve sealed just by looking at it.
Two or three coats is all you need, and it goes pretty quickly. We did all the cleaning in one afternoon, and all the sealing the next afternoon. The results speak for themselves.