Q&A / 

How to Clean Grout

DEAR TIM: I have spent hours looking on the Internet for products to clean my floor tile grout. There seems to be lots of different answers at chat rooms and online forums about using chlorine bleach, baking soda, vinegar, peroxide, etc. My grout is colored and I do not want to harm it. I also do not want to spend lots of time scrubbing. Is there an easy way to clean floor tile grout? Is there a product that is non-toxic and doesn't produce fumes? Rose C., Dallas, TX

DEAR ROSE: Every now and then I lurk in some of the Internet home improvement forums and chat rooms to see what type of bad advice is floating to the surface at any given point in time. I am constantly amazed at how much bad advice is readily available. In fact, some of the advice is downright dangerous, especially when some people talk about blending household chemicals together to make a witch's brew of cleaning solution. I often wonder if some of the advice posts are malicious in nature.

Here is some gross tile grout in my own kitchen.  My kids constantly spilled iced tea here. The actual grout color is a light gray.  Look at the next photo to see the magic of oxygen bleach.

Here is some gross tile grout in my own kitchen. My kids constantly spilled iced tea here. The actual grout color is a light gray. Look at the next photo to see the magic of oxygen bleach.

Some of the chemicals you discovered in your search will work, but not the way you want them to. Chlorine bleach is a powerful oxidizer that can remove stains in floor tile grout. But it can also remove color. Chlorine bleach can damage nearby fabrics and rugs if it is accidentally applied to them. As you know, the fumes from chlorine bleach are highly irritating to many people and any pets you might have around your home. These fumes can be deadly to small birds as well. I have never had any luck with baking soda and vinegar only works well to dissolve hard water deposits that might buildup around sinks and dishwashers. Vinegar is not an effective floor tile grout cleaner.

The peroxide you mention is probably common liquid hydrogen peroxide. It can be an effective cleaner, but only if you can get the peroxide to release one of its extra oxygen ions. This is not always easy to do. Hydrogen peroxide has two atoms of hydrogen and two atoms of oxygen. If you can get it to release one of the oxygen ions, you get a free oxygen ion and regular water.

The free oxygen ion is a powerful stain remover as it acts much like a torpedo or a cruise missile to attack and split apart stain molecules. Once a stain molecule is split apart, the stain disappears.

There is a non-toxic product that does create the free oxygen ion you need to remove your stains. It is a powered product called oxygen bleach. This powder readily mixes with water and instantly produces billions of the free oxygen ions into the solution. As the solution is applied to the floor, it soaks deeply into the grout and starts to blast apart all of the stain molecules. The best part is there are no fumes and the oxygen ions will not harm the color in the grout. The solution will not harm any adjacent carpets or fabrics.

Here is a before and after of the same tile.  I left some of the grout untouched by the solution of oxygen bleach.  Look at the gray grout!  It looks new and the entire process took ten minutes.

Here is a before and after of the same tile. I left some of the grout untouched by the solution of oxygen bleach. Look at the gray grout! It looks new and the entire process took ten minutes.

It is best to apply the solution and let it sit for 30 to even 60 minutes. If the oxygen bleach solution soaks into the grout and the grout appears dry or just damp, simply mop on more so there is a standing layer of oxygen bleach solution on the grout. After the dwell period is over, lightly scrub the grout. The grout will look like new. Mop up the dirty water and rinse the floor with clear water and let the floor dry. You will be amazed at the difference.

Not all oxygen bleach powders are the same. The best ones contain the highest amount of active ingredient as allowed by law. These same products use raw materials manufactured in the USA. Many highly-advertised brands of oxygen bleach contain ingredients made overseas and they contain vast amounts of filler that do nothing but take up space in the bottle. The brands made with foreign ingredients are often priced far below those made completely in the USA.

What's more, the foreign ingredients might be of questionable quality and purity. It is easy to get confused as I have even seen highly-advertised brands of oxygen bleach powder that are mislabeled. The label says they are "Made in the USA". I think what they meant to say is the foreign ingredients were 'packaged' in the USA. Let price be your compass when buying oxygen bleach.

"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

I discovered oxygen bleach about 10+ years ago when I was doing research for deck cleaners. One night, I had dinner with Jef Morgan, a chemist of a company that distributed American-made oxygen bleach. We talked about how well it worked to clean wood. I then asked, "Tell me, can you clean anything else with oxygen bleach?" Well, the flood gates opened.

For the next hour, Jef told me about everything it could clean; clothing, rugs, roof shingles, patio furniture, and tile grout. I was so intrigued I started to test this product. It did everything Jef said it would and more. I then gave some to 3 friends and had them try it. It appeared to be a true miracle product. I was so impressed and felt so good about this wonder material I actually started to sell it under the registered name Stain Solver.

This column is not meant to be self-serving. The woman who asked the question lives in Dallas and is not a friend or relative. There are other companies that sell very powerful and high-quality oxygen bleach. If you want the best product that indeed is the most powerful, then look for the one that costs the most per pound. These are the ones that have the most amount of active ingredient in them.

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 with cleaning your grout. You will be amazed at the results!

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