Q&A / 

Easy Tile Grout Cleaning

DEAR TIM: I’ve tried tile grout cleaning on the floors of my home with little success. The grout just doesn’t come clean. The tiles themselves don’t look like they used to even though I’m using those newer pad-cleaner contraptions. Is there a miracle method that you know of for cleaning ceramic tile grout? Have you had this problem in your own home? Judith P., Forest Park, IL

DEAR JUDITH: Tile and grout cleaning was the bane of my existence for years at the last house I lived in. When I built that home, my lovely wife selected a pure-white tile for our kitchen with a light gray grout. I warned her that the grout would turn black, but my pleas for mercy fell on deaf ears. To this day, she says it was my idea. As it turns out, the grout did turn nearly black, especially around the refrigerator and sink, no matter how hard I tried to clean it.

Powdered oxygen bleach, a scrub brush and some water are all you need to make tile and grout look like new. PHOTO CREDIT: Tim Carter

Powdered oxygen bleach, a scrub brush and some water are all you need to make tile and grout look like new. PHOTO CREDIT: Tim Carter

It became crystal clear what the issue was one day when I decided to really scrub the grout. Small particles of dirt on the floor were getting dissolved in water that was spilled on the tile. This dirty water then soaked into the grout just out of reach of the bristles of the scrub brush. This was compounded by spills of liquids like red wine, cranberry juice, deep-purple grape juice, etc. Any colored liquid that came into contact with the grout soaked into the sanded grout just like it would a sponge.

Regular soaps seemed powerless as well as tile and grout cleaning equipment that I rented. I can see why you’re having trouble with the pad cleaning tools as I’m convinced that these get up some of the dirt, but they leave dirt behind if the pads are not changed with great regularity. The smooth pads are powerless to remove dirt from the grout because in most cases they never even touch the grout. Look closely at a tile floor and you’ll quickly see the grout is almost always recessed lower than the surface of the tile.

My tile & grout cleaning problems disappeared about 15 years ago while I was researching how to properly seal and clean a deck. I interviewed a chemist who exposed me to a product I had never heard of - oxygen bleach. This product is a powder mixed with water. The instant this happens, billions of oxygen ions attack dirt and stain molecules blasting them apart. When this happens, they lose their ability to absorb light and the stains disappear. Not only do they do this on wood decks, it happens on anything that’s water washable.

I tried some of this product and couldn’t believe what I saw. Following the instructions given to me by the chemist, I mixed the powder with hot water and stirred it until it dissolved. I then poured this solution on the tile floor in my kitchen making sure the grout was completely saturated and covered with the clear solution. Then I walked away for 15 minutes allowing the oxygen ions to work on their own.

After the wait period, I had to add some additional solution where it had soaked into the tile grout. I then used a stiff scrub brush and ran the brush along the grout lines between the tiles. With almost no effort, the tile grout looked like new. When the chemist told me this would happen on the phone, I didn’t believe him. It sure pays to have an open mind!

You can get nearly the same results using chlorine bleach, but there are some disadvantages using this chemical. First and foremost, the fumes are powerful and make many feel uneasy. The chlorine bleach is so strong that it can ruin the pigments in some colored floor grouts. If you splash the chlorine bleach on adjacent surfaces like cabinets or carpeting, it can take the color out of them. It’s a tough cleaner to work with.

CLICK here to order Stain Solver Oxygen Bleach

Once my tile and grout were clean, I discovered a way to keep them looking that way. I hated getting on my knees to scrub and didn’t want to do that ever again. One day, I decided to use the oxygen bleach powder in the mop water. I mopped the floor like normal, but instead of rinsing the floor right away, I let the cleaning solution dry on the floor.

What I discovered is that when the dirt has not yet soaked into the grout, the solution readily broke it apart and kept the grout perfectly clean. After about 30 minutes of waiting, I would then rinse the floor with clean clear water. My kitchen floor looked like new every week. The best part is the squabbles with my wife stopped and both of us had smiles on our faces. It doesn’t get much better than a happy wife and a clean floor!

You can buy oxygen bleach at stores and online. However, there is a vast difference in quality. Some products contain ingredients from offshore that may not be as pure as that made here in the USA. Not all of the products have the same amount of active ingredient. You’ll discover products that may have more filler in them than oxygen bleach. It pays to do research to get a product you can trust and really works well.

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40 Responses to Easy Tile Grout Cleaning

  1. I was wondering if you could tell me how to apply to stain solver mixture to walls. I see where it sits level on the floor, but if I put it on walls wouldn't it just run off? Any help would be appreciated

  2. Tim - are you talking about the produst called "Oxy Clean" when you say to use OXYGEN BLEACH to clean tile grout?? If not, then what exactly did you use, and where did you get it? Thanks, Patty of the dirty grout house!

    • Patty, NOPE!!! That product you mention is made with Chinese ingredients and I believe it has more filler that active ingredient. You want my Stain Solver!!!! It's made in the USA with USA ingredients. It's the strongest oxygen bleach I'm aware of.

  3. Hi! In was just wondering if the oxygen bleach, bleaches the clothes you're wearing? Reason I'm asking is in have 4 little kids and want to know whether I should try and do this at night while they're sleeping so no mishaps happen:) Thanks!

  4. $40 for 2 lbs?!!!!!!!!!!!! You've got to be kidding

    I use vinegar with lemon juice and baking soda, works just fine and much much cheaper.
    Being a divorced mom with 3 young adults still home, I can't afford your brand of clean.

    • Liz, How do you get $40?????? It's $24.97 for 2.2 pounds and that includes FREE SHIPPING. It's so highly concentrated that you'll discover it's far less expensive to use it than the ineffective cleaners you probably purchase at the grocery store.

  5. Can you give me the exact amount of each item (oxygen bleach & hot water) you used for grout cleaning/mopping?

    • To get the best results, mix one cup of Stain Solver per gallon of HOT tap water. Stir till dissolved. Flood grout. Let solution soak for 30 minutes. SCRUB with a stiff brush. Rinse and let dry.

  6. Would this product work on vinyl flooring? My kitchen floor has vinyl and it is still looks dirty after cleaning! However, I'm still going to get some of this for my bathroom shower!

    Thank you for sharing!

  7. Tim, once the grout is clean, does sealing it prevent it from getting dirty or as dirty as quickly? I'm just thinking that having to do this weekly (soaking the whole floor) sounds tedious.


      • Is that true for other Oxygen cleaners too (about not needing to reseal after cleaning with oxygen cleaners)? I bought a different brand at my local store.

    • Yes. My Stain Solver WILL remove dried blood. I need to tell murder mystery authors about it. The key is to mix it up one-half cup to a gallon of warm water. Stir until dissolved. Allow solution to get to room temperature. Then pour solution onto the dried blood stain and let sit for an hour or more. If it soaks in, add more solution. At the end of the hour, scrub.

    • No. If I ever said that somewhere, it's an error. You only need 1/2 cup for interior periodic mopping. I'd use one cup for a VERY DIRTY floor with VERY DIRTY grout, but once clean you don't need it that strong.

  8. Tim help I was putting grout on tile I had put on my wall for a back splash. When I got a call with an emergency and I had to leave. Is there anyway to get the grout off the tiles since I had not sponged them clean before rushing out the door!

    • Yes. Wet the tile with a sponge to lubricate it. Then take a paint stirring stick and start to scrape away the grout. Add more water as you do this to prevent scratches on the tile.

  9. Tim, since you are a builder, I would like to pass on an expert tip of my own. When installing new tiles, Installing new tiles, especially in
    areas where there is a lot of water such as in your shower and next to the bath or around your bath, insist that the tile adhesive and grout be mixed with bonding liquid. Yes, it is right, this will add to the cost, but it will reduce a whole lot of frustration later. The bonding liquid seals the tile adhesive and makes it waterproof. It also seals the grout which is a porous material. Although there should be waterproofing under the tiles in the shower, the bonding liquid is a second barrier that will reduce the risk of any water seeping through. I have done the for all my tiles - even those where no water is involved, and my grout stays clean, and cleans easily. Kind regards, Annemarie

    • Annemarie,
      I am in the planning phase of a major renovation, and I am considering using tile in the bathrooms. I have always avoided tile solely due to grout appearance and maintenance issues.

      Can you please elaborate on the specifics of the bonding liquid and the proportions in which it should be used? How does it affect installation and wait times? Does it alter the color of the grout?

      I've heard about installations using epoxy to prevent mildew issues, but one installer I spoke with said he would never do it again, as the process destroyed his tools.

      Any additional information would be greatly appreciated!

  10. Hi Tim, will this solution dull the tile itself? I have a beige color tile and I read using baking soda will restore a nice glare on the tile floor. Please help.

    • Nancy,

      Stain Solver has a nearly indefinite shelf life after opening IF you keep it cold, or even frozen. Heat is what degrades it. So just keep the container tightly sealed and pop it in your refrigerator. Make sure no one eats it or sprinkles it on ice cream. 😉 Tim Carter / Founder StainSolver.com

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