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Clean and Seal Grout

A Bathroom With Tiles and Clean Grout

Bring floors and walls back to their original beauty with a good scrub and a protective coating on the grout.

Tools & Materials

Use this checklist when you go to the store and purchase your items.

Know Before You Shop for Grout Cleaning Products

  • Check the grout for cracks or loose patches. For tips on repairing grout and tile, see link to replacing a tile story.
  • Some cleaners and sealants can be potent enough to require special precautions. If you don’t have protective gear, invest in a set of splash-proof goggles, chemical-resistant waterproof gloves, and a respirator (a paper mask is insufficient).
  • This job doesn’t require special skills, but it does require patience. So load some fresh tunes and podcasts on your MP3 player, invest in a pair of knee pads for working on tile floors, and give the job the time it takes.
  • If your grout is new and has had several days to harden, skip the cleaning step -- or spot-clean as needed -- and go straight to the section on sealing the grout.
  • Create plenty of ventilation to carry away cleaner and sealer odors.
  • Some commercial cleaners and bleach mixes can damage fabrics, so don’t wear your best blue jeans for this job.

Clean Dingy Grout

Step 1
Clean the Grout

Clean the entire floor as you normally would and remove any loose dirt and dust. If your grout has an old, worn coating of grout sealer that still causes water to bead up, use a flooring finish stripper to remove it from the surface. Rinse the floor with clean water and allow it to dry.

Step 2

Apply a commercial grout cleaner according to the manufacturer’s directions and start scrubbing with a nylon-bristle brush or old toothbrush. Work in small areas and thoroughly rinse the cleaner from the floor with water before moving on to a new section.

Mildew needs to be killed before you can tackle the stains it leaves behind. Put on your gloves and eye protection, and saturate mildew patches with a mixture of 3/4 cup bleach in a gallon of water. Let it work for about a half-hour before rinsing with clean water.

Step 3

To check your progress, compare the sections you’ve cleaned with grout in low-traffic or protected areas. Stains often come from different sources, so not all stains respond to one particular cleaner. If you’ve tried one method that didn’t quite work, switch to another, such as scrubbing with full-strength white vinegar. Let the vinegar solution penetrate the grout for about 15 minutes, then rinse with plenty of cold water to neutralize the vinegar acid.

Cleaning grout can be a frustrating experience when it doesn’t come completely clean on the first try, but resist the temptation to use super-strong cleaners. Muriatic acid, for example, may break down stains, but it’ll also damage grout.

Step 4

When the grout comes clean to your satisfaction, rinse the floor once again with buckets of clean water to remove or neutralize any cleaner you missed.

If you rush the cleaning stage of this project — who wouldn’t want to do that? — and start sealing the grout, you may turn a fixable problem into a permanent one. In addition to sealing the grout, you’ll also seal in the stains.

Seal the Grout

Step 1
Grout Sealer

The trick to applying sealer is to cover only the grout. So use the widest applicator or brush that spans the grout without getting sealer on the surrounding tile. When your tile is thoroughly dry after cleaning, test the sealer on a few lines of grout in a partially hidden area until you get the hang of applying it.

Step 2

Follow the manufacturer’s directions and plan your work to avoid walking on the grout sealer before it dries. Be generous. Apply as much sealer as the grout will absorb, but don’t allow it to collect on the surface. Once the first application dries, add a second coat as needed.

So, you never could color between the lines, and now there’s grout sealer on the tile. No problem. If the sealer is still wet, wipe it off immediately with a clean, moist cloth. If the sealer has dried, try wiping only the smeared area with a moist cloth, and clean off the residue with a non-abrasive nylon cleaning pad or sponge.

Step 3

Follow the manufacturer’s directions and avoid foot traffic for several hours while the sealer cures. After the last application dries, test the grout by dripping water on it at different locations. You should be able to see it puddle on the surface.

Sealer helps keep dirt and spills out of the grout, but it’s not a miracle product. You still need to clean floors regularly and immediately wipe up spills before they end up deep inside the grout.

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