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Ceramic Tile Grout Removal

Ceramic Tile Grout Removal

How many 10 year old or older bathrooms do you know of that have pristine white ceramic tile grout? Does it look like the day it was installed? I can only think of two. Both of these bathrooms are used by people with no children. The rest of the house is also immaculate. Of course, I'm envious. I wish my life was so orderly to allow me ample time to keep everything so clean.

Grout is Really a Sponge

Do you know why it is hard to keep grout clean? It is because the material naturally absorbs water. Grout is basically cement with additives. If you look at grout under a microscope, the surface would look very rough and irregular. There are many places for small dirt particles, soap, mold and mildew to lodge. Bristles from scrub brushes and tooth brushes are much too coarse to get into these very tiny places.

What's more, certain cleaning techniques can actually create more problems down the road. For example, many people choose to use chlorine bleach products to clean ceramic tile grout. Chlorine bleach is a fantastic sanitizer. It can rapidly kill bacteria. It is also a very strong oxidizer. It will readily remove color from objects. However, it is a poor cleaner. It doesn't readily break apart dirt molecules.

One thing chlorine bleach does do, on a microscopic level, is to actually etch the surface of ceramic tile grout. This makes the grout even more porous! The chlorine bleach contains free floating chloride ions. These combine with free floating hydrogen ions that regularly appear in water. These two ions combine to form hydrochloric acid. The acid eats away at the grout! Want an alternative? I have found a non-toxic bleach called oxygen bleach. This is a powder that mixes with water. There are no harmful fumes as you experience with chlorine bleach.

The only drawback is that oxygen bleach does not work as fast as chlorine bleach. You may have to reapply it every 15 minutes or so over a period of hours. This is a small price to pay for using a product that is non-toxic. Remember, if you have a septic tank you can not use chlorine bleach. The chlorine will kill the beneficial bacteria in the tank that eats the waste. oxygen bleach is a good thing thing for septic tanks. The oxygen helps the bacteria multiply!

Starting Over

Often ceramic tile grout becomes so dingy that it must be replaced. Or, the grout crumbles because of poor initial installation. In either case, your only option to create a sparkling white grout is to get rid of the 'old' and bring in the new! However, it isn't as easy as it sounds.

You can't easily bond new grout over the old grout. Attempts to do this often end up as miserable failures. One of the things that causes grout to bond to tile is its ability to grab onto the sides of a piece of tile. When these spaces are filled with old grout, the new grout just barely holds onto the surface of the old grout, not the tile.

The only real solution is to take out the old grout. This is a challenge, as you must not harm the ceramic tile in the process. Chipped or scratched tile can not be easily replaced or even repaired. The grout removal process is slow, laborious and tedious. It should be attempted only by those with the greatest patience and persistence.

Over the Hump

If you possess the right stuff to get the old grout out, you are over 95 percent done with the job....seriously! Installing ceramic tile grout is really not that difficult. During the past six months, I have given seminars at home shows across the nation. One of the talks concerns installing and grouting ceramic tile. I do my seminars somewhat differently. I don't do the work - the people from the audience come on stage and do it! It is fun and the volunteers really do great, especially with grouting.

The process is so simple that I am convinced you will get professional, or close to professional, results if you do two things: 1. Follow my directions closely. 2. Muster up as much hand-eye coordination as you have. Don't worry, it doesn't take too much!

More Grout Information

Would you like more information about grouts and ceramic tile? Check out the web site of the Tile Council of North America and the publications they have available. For example, one of their publications - Handbook for Ceramic Tile Installation - is the bible for installing ceramic tile on just about any substrate. This booklet also contains information about different grouts.

"WOW, that's all I can say! I purchased your product last week to clean the grout on my 800 sq. ft. of tile, and it looks as clean as the day we moved in eight years ago. I must admit, I was a little skeptical when I ordered the Stain Solver, but after having used it, I know I will always have some on hand and look forward to cleaning my wood deck this spring. This is by far one of the best products I have purchased in many, many years. Thanks Tim!" - Ed, Macomb, Michigan
Message from Tim:

Years ago while researching a column about cleaning decks, I discovered the wonders of Oxygen Bleach. It is perhaps the 'greenest' cleaner I know of as it uses oxygen ions to break apart stains, dirt and odor molecules. There are no harsh chemicals, and it works on just about anything that is water washable.

I decided to create my own special blend using ingredients made in the USA. In fact, the raw materials in the active ingredient are food-grade quality registered with the FDA. I call my product Stain Solver. I urge you to use it to help clean your ceramic tile grout. You will be amazed at the results!

Column B150

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