What Are the Best Homemade Grout Cleaners?

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Tiles make spaces like bathrooms and kitchens look polished and beautiful, but keeping those tiles polished and beautiful is one of those household chores that really requires some extra elbow grease. One big reason for that? The grout that holds the tiles safely in place. Grout is porous, so it readily absorbs dirt that you track in on your feet and liquids and other substances that you spill onto it. Over time, this leads to staining and an overall dingy appearance that detracts from the look of your tile.

Fortunately, you don’t have to hire a professional cleaning service to get your grout looking great again. You can whip up a variety of different homemade grout cleaners with basic supplies you might even have around your house already. As an added bonus, these top grout-cleaning solutions are safe, easy to use and inexpensive to mix up.

Baking Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide Tackle Tough Stains

This effective grout cleaner isn’t even really a cleaning solution you mix up; it’s a quick technique that takes advantage of a basic chemical reaction to get your grout looking bright again. To clean between tiles using these supplies, start by sprinkling baking soda along the grout, making sure to cover the grout completely. Then, spray on hydrogen peroxide until all the baking soda is wet. 

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Let this mixture sit on the grout for about 10 minutes, or longer if the grout is particularly dirty or stained. Then, scrub the grout lines and wipe or wash them clean. An old toothbrush works well for scrubbing because the bristles are gentle enough that they won’t flake or chip away the grout material or scratch the tiles, which would be a risk if you were to use a wire brush.

Dish Soap Adds an Extra Boost

If you need to clean grout in a high-traffic tiled area or in a spot — like your kitchen countertops — where there’s likely some greasy residue or buildup in the grout, this blend packs an extra punch of polish. That’s all thanks to the addition of dish soap, which is formulated to pull grease and dirt up off a surface (whether that’s your hands or, yes, grout) and suspend it in water. Hydrogen peroxide breaks down into water and oxygen, making this an effective solution for lifting grime from grout.

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You’ll see some now-familiar ingredients here, too, but in a different formula. To make this cleaner, stir together a cup of baking soda, a half-cup of hydrogen peroxide and 2 teaspoons of dish soap to create a paste. Scoop out and spread the paste onto your grout using a spoon or a toothbrush, which you can use simultaneously to work the cleaner into the layer of dirt on the grout. Let this sit for 10 minutes or longer before scrubbing again with the toothbrush and rinsing with warm water to remove any soap residue, which, ironically, can attract dirt if it remains behind.

Plain Water Is a Secret Savior

We know what you’re thinking. You tried washing the grout already, and if it was as easy as using plain water, you wouldn’t be here right now. But it actually does work, even though it’s more of a technique than a recipe for a cleaning solution. The key to this method’s success lies in the temperature of the water — and the resulting change of state that that achieves. To get your grout clean, steam it instead of washing it.

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You’ll need a steam cleaner machine for this, but it’s a good investment if you have a lot of tiled areas in your home or have mobility limitations that keep you from getting down onto the floor and scrubbing. You can also use it to sanitize the tile itself and clean other types of flooring, so it’s an effective tool to have. Some steamers even come with nozzles that are specially designed to concentrate the steam directly on thin grout lines.

To steam-clean your grout, you’ll simply fill the machine’s reservoir with clean water and follow its operation instructions to run it, making sure to focus your attention on the areas where the stains are deepest. You don’t need to add any special cleaners or soaps for this process. When you’re done, remove any excess moisture with a clean, dry towel.

Tips for Getting Grout Bright and Brilliant

Now that you have some effective cleaner recipes to put to good use, implementing a few extra tips can help you make the most of your homemade cleaners and see your floors all the way through to total sparkle. 

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When you’re ready to get started, make sure your floors are relatively clean — they don’t have to be spotless — before proceeding with your grout scrubbing. Vacuum them to get up any pet hairs, dust, dirt and other loose detritus that can mix with your cleaner and make more of a mess than you intended. Wash the floors to get up that top layer of grime that can prevent the grout from penetrating as deeply. When you’re done treating the grout, give the entire section of tile flooring a thorough mopping to rinse off any cleaner that may have been left behind.

If your grout is heavily soiled, give your cleaner some extra soaking time. It’s okay to leave the cleaner on for 15 or 20 minutes instead of 10 so it can fully work its magic. Keep in mind that you don’t need to clean your grout this way on a weekly basis. These methods are intended for deeper cleaning, which you should do every four to six months or whenever you notice that the grout is looking dull, darker or dingy.

To maintain a fresher look, consider applying sealant to your grout. This is a product that fills the porous holes in the grout (without changing its look) to prevent dirt, bacteria and staining liquids from settling into those holes and spaces instead. Grout sealers can also repel stains and allow you to go longer periods of time between deep cleanings. They’re somewhat tedious to apply, but if cleaning grout is a task you dread, they may be worth the initial hard work in exchange for less scrubbing in the future.