If you just bought a home or installed tile, eventually it will get dirty. Knowing how to clean and seal grout on floor tile can really come in handy. Cleaning and sealing grout in floor tile is one of the most difficult tasks around the house. No matter how good a job you do applying grout or sealing it after installation, there comes a time when it needs to be cleaned. Understanding how to take care of the problem easily and effectively is important.
It doesn’t matter if you installed porcelain vs ceramic tile—or even another type like travertine. All tile uses grout, and grout picks up lots of dirt over time. Mold, mildew, food stains, and just plain old foot traffic causes most of the dirt. Keeping it clean is a necessity. Follow our How-to recommendations below to clean and seal grout and keep your tile floor looking beautiful.
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How to Prepare the Floor Before Cleaning and Sealing Grout
Thoroughly sweep the floor to make sure you don’t have any dirt or debris left on it. Follow that by giving it a good wash down with plain water. Make sure the water gets into the tile grout. Let the water dry before you move onto the next step.
Use Household Cleaning Products
While you can choose to purchase commercial cleaners, our favorite way of how to clean and seal grout uses what you likely have on-hand already. Yep, you can get good results just by combining some ingredients you have around your home.
Diluted vinegar combined with baking soda can be an effective grout cleaner. Make sure you wear gloves while dealing with the chemicals so they don’t cause you any skin irritation. Apply your mixture of baking soda/vinegar or your commercial cleaner to the grout. Let it sit for a few minutes.
Scrub the Grout
Use a sponge or floor brush to scrub the grout thoroughly. Again, this might take a little bit of effort because grout stains can be stubborn. If you’re having trouble, reapply the cleaning products and let them sit a little longer before starting to scrub.
Try Sandpaper on Small Areas
Small areas might require less work than you think. You might find you can apply a different approach to removing a small stain. Before you go through the trouble of applying a cleaner to the grout, try removing it by rubbing—with sandpaper. We recommend starting with 80-120 grit paper which has a nice rough surface.
Always rub in the same direction and concentrate on hitting just the grout line. You’ll need to use a little elbow grease to get the dirt or grout stain removed.
This method doesn’t always work, of course, and you certainly don’t want to sand a large area.
In the end, you may still end up cleaning and sealing grout. It can, however, save you some time and elbow grease if you simply spilled something on a specific area. On really tough stains, plan on using some type of cleaning agent. You may even need to try the more aggressive “nuclear option” we outline below.
Rinse After Cleaning and Before Sealing Grout
After the dirt is gone, use a wet mop and wipe down the floors. This will remove all of the cleaning products from the tile. Any time you engage in cleaning and sealing grout you need to get the chemicals up so they stop eating away at the material.
Apply a Sealer
Once the floor dries, you should apply a grout sealer. The sealer can prevent the grout from becoming as dirty in the future because it forms a barrier against dirt, debris, stains, and other things that might make it look grimy. Some of the sealants will also block out moisture to prevent the development of mildew. Carefully choose the right sealant for your tiles and follow the instructions on the container. Let the sealer dry before anyone has access to the floor.
Although the task of cleaning the grout may still sound pretty difficult, following the steps above will ensure that you get better results than you might with just a commercial cleaner alone. Once you apply the grout sealer, however, you’ll find that keeping the grout clean is going to be much easier. You will need to re-apply the sealer every couple of years to maximize the benefits of using it. Do your best to wipe up stains and dirt along the way, too.
How to Clean and Seal Grout – The Nuclear Option
If you absolutely cannot get your grout clean, using a manual grout saw is actually a fast way to remove a thin layer of grout from the surface of the tile seams. You will be surprised at how fast you can fly around the room, especially if the tiles have straight edges. Be prepared to go through a carbide-tipped blade every 100 square feet or so. Because of this, tools with removable blades are best.
For even faster removal, grab a diamond grout removal blade and an oscillating multi-tool. You can remove grout in short order using this method. We recommend this for grout replacement or any larger areas.
Grout removal then allows you to go back and re-apply a new layer of grout. After doing this your tile will look like it was freshly laid. Of course, when you’re done, don’t forget that cleaning and sealing grout will keep you from having to do this all over again in a few months!