Q&A / 

Cleaning Tile Floor

DEAR TIM: Cleaning a tile floor is my next big project. The grout lines are filthy, and I’ve not discovered an easy way to restore the tile. Is there a magic product that will clean floor tile? Once they are clean, what’s the easiest way to keep the floor grout clean? Should I invest in one of the tile floor cleaning machines? Michelle S., Corvallis, OR

DEAR MICHELLE: Cleaning tile floors used to be a nightmare for me, as we had a boatload of them in our last home. To make it worse, we had brilliant white floor tile with light-gray grout in our kitchen and breakfast area. I knew when I was installing each piece that it was going to be a challenge to keep it clean. Add to the mix three small kids and soon the grout around the refrigerator, stove and kitchen sink was nearly black.

It took me years to discover how to clean tile floors the easy way, and one that didn’t harm my family, pets and the colored grout. Little did I know that I was way ahead of the current Green Movement, as the solution I made was perhaps one of the most eco-friendly products out there. I experimented with different products, but finally settled on using powdered oxygen bleach.

Stain Solver oxygen bleach is a fantastic product to use when cleaning a tile floor. PHOTO CREDIT: Tim Carter

Stain Solver oxygen bleach is a fantastic product to use when cleaning a tile floor. PHOTO CREDIT: Tim Carter

Oxygen bleach is non-toxic, doesn’t produce harsh fumes, is color safe and fabric safe. It removes all food and grease stains with no or minimal scrubbing. The oxygen ions in the solution attack the stain molecules breaking them into pieces that rinse away with little effort. I was so impressed with this product I started to create my own formulation, that I trademarked as Stain Solver, and still use to this day.

To clean floor tiles, all you need to do is mix my Stain Solver powder, or any high-quality oxygen bleach, with warm water. You stir it until it dissolves. The next step is to pour the solution onto the floor tile so the grout lines are flooded with the solution as if you had spilled a glass of water. It’s best to apply the oxygen-bleach solution to dry grout so the solution soaks deeply into the grout. You let the solution sit on the grout for at least 15 minutes, allowing the oxygen bleach to work on its own. If it completely soaks into the grout, you add more solution making sure there is always plenty of the cleaning liquid on the grout.

Cleaning floor tile grout doesn’t have to be a battle. The longer you let the solution sit on the grout, the less work you have to do cleaning tile flooring. You can let the solution sit on the grout for hours, as the oxygen ions work for up to six hours. To get maximum cleaning results, it helps to scrub the grout lightly after 30 minutes. Always pour new solution onto the grout as you scrub. Most of my friends who have used my secret Stain Solver powder for cleaning floor tile get perfect results within a half an hour.

My stuff is as close to magic as you can get. It will remove red wine stains in minutes. Beet juice is not a problem. I’ve not discovered one stain it can’t remove. Friends have tried the tile cleaning machines, but they say my Stain Solver oxygen bleach does a much better job. You have to always scrub a little, but that’s how anything gets clean. Mechanical agitation of any surface is almost always necessary. You rub your skin when you shower, clothes rub against each other in the washing machine, and you rub a sponge across your car when you clean it. It’s just the best way to clean things.

Once you have clean floor tiles, you can keep the grout looking like new by just adding Stain Solver oxygen bleach powder to your mop water. Apply a liberal amount of mop water to the floor scrubbing the tile surface with the mop. But leave the mop water in the grout joints without rinsing the floor. The oxygen ions clean the light dirt in the grout without scrubbing. Come back 30 minutes later, and rinse the floor with clean water. If you do this each time when cleaning your tile floor, you’ll never be on your hands and knees again with a scrub brush.

The best thing I discovered about my Stain Solver oxygen bleach is that it’s an all-purpose emergency cleaner. In the past, I freaked out if one of my kids spilled grape juice or cranberry juice on the floor. But now I just shrug my shoulders and wipe up the spill. After we’re finished with the meal and people are relaxing, I mix up a little bit of the solution and pour it on the freshly stained grout. Within minutes the grout looks like new with no scrubbing. It’s always best to work on stains while they’re fresh if at all possible. But tile floors that have been dirty for years will come clean in no time if you use Stain Solver oxygen bleach.

Cleaning floor tile grout makes most people grimace. I clearly remember scrubbing and scrubbing seeing little improvement. That’s why years ago I gave up and threw in the towel, just letting the grout get dirtier. When I used the oxygen bleach for the first time, I couldn’t believe it. After soaking on the grout by itself, much of the grime and stains came up with little effort. A second soaking and a little scrubbing in the worst areas made the grout look like the day I installed it.

Some tile floors are installed adjacent to carpeting. If the Stain Solver oxygen-bleach solution gets onto the carpet, there will be no problems. It will actually clean the carpet. What you may discover is that you have to clean the carpet as there is often a dirt pathway from the tile onto the carpet. To clean carpeting with oxygen bleach, you simply mix up the solution and use a sprayer to saturate the carpet fibers. Let the solution soak for 30 minutes, and then use a regular carpet shampoo machine to finish the job.

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14 Responses to Cleaning Tile Floor

  1. Dear Tim,
    My husband and i recently bought a house that has two major problems. The first one is that the woman that owned the house before we purchased it wanted the kitchen and all three bathrooms in tile. Which is very beautiful when done properly. The problem with the tile is that she wanted the grout to be way lower than the tile and now my grout lines are like dirt rutts and is very very hard to clean. I usually have to use a vaccuum to clean the floors. I know that the tile will have to be regrouted but my first question is is how can i clean them without using the vaccuum cleaner until we can get the floor regrouted? The second problem is the rest of the house is 100% pecan hardwood. The color is very light and picks up EVERYTHING!!! I have scrubbed and scrubbed the floors but the floor still looks dirty and stained. How can I clean the floor without ruining my hardwood? And without wanting to cut my arm off from pain after I get through cleaning it?

  2. Can I use this on dark brown tile floors? I have a problem cleaning my tile floors because it always leaves streaks or build up and I have tried almost everything and nothing makes my dark tile floors look pretty and shinning

    • You can use my Stain Solver to clean your floors. It will make them STREAK-FREE. If you're using other cleaners that contain a polish, THAT'S why you're getting streaks. Also, you must RINSE floors with lots of CLEAR CLEAR water to make them streak-free.

  3. Hi Tim, I was wondering how I can purchace your solvent cleaner for my white floor tiles, I am unable to keep the grout clean, the grout lines are putrid black

  4. Hi Tim
    I need to clean commercial type with tile that we have in our apartment. Will the oxygen bleach work on this type of tile. We do not have grout. Our floors are like the floors in a department store. Thanks

  5. What sort of floor mop do you use to mop up all this water (with oxygen bleach in it) on the floor? A sponge-type mop? The old fashioned string mop? Surely there is something efficient without too much back-work involved--or should I purchase some sort of machine that sucks up the water? Thanks! Your column gave me the first advice on oxygen-based bleach. (Hou could I have lived for so many years thinking Clorox and Bleach are synonymous??)

    • You can use a sponge mop or a traditional string mop. It's not hard work. Clorox *chlorine* bleach and bleach are indeed synonymous!

      The point is that many feel that there's just one type of *bleach*.

      Glad I was able to introduce you to OXYGEN bleach. It's so much better and safer than chlorine bleach.

  6. We have recently had new tiles installed: black and white tiles and dark gray grout. Will oxygen bleach cause the tiles or grout to lighten?

  7. Hello Tim,
    My problem is with my tiles on the bath tub.The grout is way lower than the tile and now my grout lines are like black dirt rutts and is very hard to clean them. I tried with brush and bleach but It is too low the gout. I need to regrounted the tiles Did you know someone excellent and decent price.

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