How to clean grout

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Applying a mixture of baking soda and white vinegar to clean grout lines on a tile floor.

Applying baking soda and white vinegar mixture to grout lines on tile floor.

Grout lines on tile floors can become dirty and discolored over time. To clean either light or dark colored grout lines, try the following methods using common household cleaners.

To clean dark colored grout lines on tile floors:

  1. Mix baking soda and white vinegar in a cup to a paste like consistency.
  2. Use a small brush to apply the mixture to the grout lines.
  3. Allow the mixture to remain on the grout lines for a little while.
  4. Use a small scrub brush or an old toothbrush to scrub the grout lines.
  5. Clean the floor with water to remove the baking soda and vinegar solution.

Cleaning tile grout with old toothbrush.

Using an old toothbrush to clean tile grout lines.

To clean white or light colored grout lines on tile floors:

  1. Sprinkle dry oxygen bleach on the grout lines.
  2. Spray the bleach with water in a spray bottle to wet it down.
  3. Allow the oxygen bleach to remain on the grout lines for a few minutes.
  4. Scrub the grout lines with a small scrub brush or old toothbrush.
  5. Clean the floor with water to remove the oxygen bleach.

Watch this video to find out more.

Further Information

Video Transcript Danny Lipford: If you have dark grout, like this, in order to get it looking a little cleaner and more consistent in color, this is a great solution to clean it.

Get some baking soda, mix it just in a cup. Then, at the consistency of kind of a paste, add white vinegar—just a little bit or it’ll really foam up on you. Then, mix it up like this. That’s just about perfect. Of course to do a whole floor, you’ll need a lot more than this, but just as an example here.

And then you can apply it right to the grout. Put plenty on there, you can do the whole entire floor. Then, let it sit there a little while, soak in, and start working. Then get your little brush, like this. Just brush it out. And then come back and thoroughly clean the floor. Now, like I say, it’ll make it a lot cleaner and a lot more consistent look on the darker grout.

Now, if you have lighter colored grout or white grout, you’ll want to try oxygen bleach. A lot of people use oxygen bleach for a lot of different things, but you’ll approach it a little bit differently.

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Basically, you’ll take some of the oxygen bleach, and just sprinkle it over the grout joints. Then take a water bottle and spray all of the joints down to kind of activate the bleach.

Then let it sit there a little while, again come back with your brush, brush it out. Let it sit a little longer, and then wipe everything out. And that will certainly brighten up that white or lighter colored grout. And that should really make a big difference in the cleanliness and the look of your grout.

The Big Idea

If you’re like me, you’ve been dreaming of clean grout for quite awhile. Perhaps you imagine about walking across your floor with bare feet and not a care in the world. [photo from Absolute Resurface]

Gleaming floor with clean groutGleaming floor with clean grout

Or you’ve seen images on the websites of professional tile cleaning services and wondered if your grout could ever look this good. [photo via Seal Systems]

Grout cleaning and sealing can make a big differenceGrout cleaning and sealing can make a big difference

So you decide to take matters into your own hands, especially if you’re on the hunt for budget-friendly alternatives to professional cleaners. For some, the thought of scrubbing the floor with a toothbrush can be therapeutic. For others, it sounds like back-breaking work. I tend to enjoy physical labor, so taking a toothbrush to the grout intrigues me. Weird, I know! [photo from Town & Country Office Cleaning]

Cleaning tile grout with toothbrushCleaning tile grout with a toothbrush

Baking soda and vinegar are often used as home cleaning agents, especially since they’re affordable and non-toxic. Put them together, and you have a fizzy reaction that is particularly helpful when it comes to residue and dirt build-up. Continue reading for instructions on how to clean your grout with baking soda and vinegar.

The DIY Steps

So just how does this baking soda and vinegar method work? Below you will find a list of steps, complete with helpful tips. [all photos below by Kate Simmons]

Grout cleaning suppliesGrout cleaning supplies

Step 1: Gather your supplies.

You will need baking soda, vinegar, a spray bottle, water, a measuring cup, a toothbrush, a small container, and some rags (or some paper towels).

Below we see a close-up of the grout in my powder room. Looks like it needs a little work, right?!

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Dirty grout in need of cleaningDirty grout in need of cleaning

Step 2: Make a paste using baking soda and water. Apply the paste to the grout.

I actually used the toothbrush to stir the paste mixture and apply it to the grout. Looks messy, right? It was!

Make a baking soda pasteMake a baking soda paste

Step 3: Concoct a mixture of equal parts vinegar and warm water in a spray bottle. Spritz the mixture onto the baking soda paste.

And you’ll have a fizzy mix like the one below. It’s like a science experiment in your powder room!

Spray vinegar onto your pasteSpray vinegar onto your paste

Step 4: Scrub the grout with a toothbrush.

Give the baking soda and vinegar a chance to fizz before you start scrubbing, and then work on that grout with determination. I thought it was fun to see the dirt scrub away with ease! Definitely a great activity for those who get satisfaction from eliminating dirt and grime!

Clean your grout with a toothbrushClean your grout with a toothbrush

Step 5: Wipe away the mess with a water-soaked rag.

Paper towels also work. I actually used a sponge and paper towels to wipe up the excess baking soda and vinegar, but if I’d had some old rags, I would have used them instead.

Clean groutClean grout

Step 6: Mop to give the floor a gleaming finish (optional).

While this step is optional, note that there will likely be some baking powder residue on your floor. You can wipe it all up by hand very diligently, or you can wipe it well enough, then finish off the space with a mopping session. The choice is yours!

Cleaning grout with baking soda and vinegar works!Cleaning grout with baking soda and vinegar works!

Troubleshooting

Now that I’ve tried the process for myself, I want to share a little more about what you can expect when you clean your grout with baking soda and vinegar. Below we see my dirty bathroom floor, before the cleaning session. [all photos below (except for the last photo) by Kate Simmons]

Grout floor before shotGrout floor before shot

And here’s the after shot! I did not attempt to manipulate these photos, but I will note that there was more sunlight coming into the powder room when I took the photo below. With that said, you can still see that the grout is visibly cleaner after the scrubbing, with the dirt and grime gone. The bottom line: Cleaning grout with baking soda and vinegar really works.

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A floor with clean groutA floor with clean grout

But it’s not a perfect process. You can see in this next image that there are still stains in the grout that were not removed by the first scrubbing. Or a second more intense scrubbing of the area. But don’t lose heart! There are other things you can try, such as using hydrogen peroxide to clean the grout, or even getting a steam cleaning service to help with a particularly difficult section of the floor. I found this Bob Vila article to be helpful in terms of listing different cleaning options.

Some staining remained on the floorSome staining remained on the floor

Also note that cleaning floor grout with baking soda and vinegar is messy and a bit tedious at times. But it’s totally doable. I would suggest breaking up the task into parts. For example, I tackled the powder room today, but there is still the kitchen, the master bath, the hallway and the laundry room flooring to clean. To save myself from sore muscles and frustration, I plan on breaking up the process into one or two rooms per day, as I have time (rather than tackling everything at once).

Floor after shotFloor after shot

The bottom line: using baking soda and vinegar to clean floor grout is great if you don’t mind manual labor, you’re on a budget, and you have the time to break up the process into steps. It’s also a great way to spot clean or to clean in between visits from the professionals. If manual labor makes your skin crawl, or if you need to clean the floor of your entire house quickly, you might consider getting a professional out to steam clean the grout in order to avoid burnout!

Adventures in grout cleaningAdventures in grout cleaning

Since the floor of my bathroom isn’t that cute, I’ll leave you with a gorgeous photo from Boyer Building Corporation. Because what’s more inspiring than a crisp powder room with a beautiful, clean floor?!

Dream bathroom with clean groutDream bathroom with clean grout

Wishing you well on your home cleaning endeavors! If you try this method at home and have additional tips to share, leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!

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