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Cleaning

Don’t let dirty grout sully your shower—here’s how to clean it

Bring back the luster with a little elbow grease

A hand wearing a glove washes a tiled wall with a sponge. Credit: Getty Images / Steve Gorton

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No matter how sparkling and clean the tile you have in your kitchen, bath, and elsewhere, if the grout is dirty, then your wall, shower, or floor is going to look dirty still.

Because grout is porous, it captures and holds dirt, grime, and stains easily and visibly. You can’t get it clean by just wiping the wall down with a wet rag. Instead, you have to dedicate to tile and grout cleaning itself.

Fortunately, when it comes to figuring out how to clean grout, there are some pretty simple solutions that can return it to its original luster.

What you need:

Option 1: Use a brush and warm water

A person scrubs grout with a toothbrush inside a bathroom.
Credit: Getty Images / AndreyPopov

An old toothbrush can work just as well as any brush you find.

The most important tool in cleaning grout is a brush. A rag simply isn’t going to get into the pores to remove the gunk and stains. Most hardware stores sell specific tile and grout brushes, but if you have an old toothbrush, that can work just as well.

Add some warm water and elbow grease and this is often enough to get the grout clean.

Scrub the grout thoroughly, keeping the area and the brush very wet. When you’re done, rinse the grout lines and wipe them down with a rag to remove any residual gunk.

Option 2: Vinegar and water can attack tougher stains

A home cleaning kit with a spray bottle of water, a bottle of vinegar and a sponge.
Credit: Getty Images / Helin Loik-Tomson

A 50/50 mix of white vinegar and warm water can combat tough stains.

Mix a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and warm water in a spray bottle and stir it until it’s fully integrated. Then spray the solution liberally onto the grout.

Here’s the most important part: Let it sit for a few minutes. The vinegar needs time to work on breaking down the stains and grime before you scrub it.

After about five minutes of soak time, scrub the grout with your brush. Once you’re satisfied, clean the grout and tile with warm water to remove the vinegar solution.

Option 3: Baking soda brings extra cleaning power

Eco-friendly natural cleaners with baking soda.
Credit: Getty Images / JPC-PROD

Upgrade to a baking soda paste when vinegar alone isn't enough.

If vinegar alone isn’t enough, upgrade to a baking soda paste. Mix baking soda with some water until you have a toothpaste-like consistency. Smear it on the difficult-to-clear areas of your grout, and then spray the paste down with the 50/50 vinegar solution.

The baking powder paste and vinegar will foam for a minute or so; let it go until it stops. Then, scrub the grout thoroughly with your brush. Rinse with warm water and repeat as needed until the grout looks like new.

To take baking soda up another level, you can make the paste using hydrogen peroxide instead of water.

Option 4: Oxygenated bleach hits the hardest

A box of OxyClean against a white background.
Credit: OxyClean

Chlorine bleach is too harsh on grout. Opt for OxyClean.

For the very worst grout stains, grit, and grime, you’ll want to use oxygen bleach as your cleaner. Do not use chlorine bleach: it is too harsh on the grout. Oxygen bleach usually comes as a powder, with OxyClean as arguably the most recognizable brand and the one my family uses.

Pro tip: Before you apply oxygen bleach, make sure that you open the windows and thoroughly rinse all of your previous tile and grout cleaning attempts off the tile. You definitely don’t want any chemicals to have a bad reaction.

Dilute the powder according to the package instructions, and then spray it onto the grout liberally. Let it sit for a few minutes to allow the chemicals to work their magic. Scrub it down with your tile brush, and then rinse it away with warm water.

Option 5: Steam those stains away

A person cleans a floor with a steamer.
Credit: Getty Images / Manuel-F-O

If you're considering purchasing a steam cleaner, make sure it actually cleans grout.

If scrubbing with various solutions just isn’t working, then before you regrout your tile, try steam cleaning.

If you don’t have a steam cleaner, you can rent one at many hardware stores. If you’re interested in buying your own steam cleaner, make sure that it is set up to actually clean grout—not all of them are.

Follow the instructions for your specific machine. Generally, you’ll want to wet the grout down, steam clean and scrub it, rinse the dirt off, and then repeat until you’re satisfied with the results.

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