Bathroom Tile & Grout: A Love-Hate Relationship

Grout-Cleaners-300x300Do you have a love-hate relationship with bathroom tile and grout in your home?.  You may love the look, but hate the thought of becoming a lifelong slave to cleaning grout.  Here is a proven D-I-Y remedy for cleaning and sealing heavily-stained grout, so you can enjoy your beautiful bathroom tile for a long time.

How to Clean and Seal Bathroom Grout So You’ll Love It (Again)

Most bathroom grout is porous, easily stained by everything we do and use.  It needs to be sealed so you don’t have to spend hours cleaning it.  Non-porous epoxy grouts are available, but these products are best for new and remodeled bathrooms.  It’s a BIG job to replace existing grout.

Most stains can be removed with non-toxic home remedies like baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, or vinegar.  Try these first, before investing in heavy chemicals.  If these everyday cleaners don’t work on deep stains, then it’s time  to get and use products that will clean the grout, so you can seal it and be free of the drudgery.

Words of caution before you begin:

>  Read the labels and instructions, and follow them.

>  Ventilate the bathroom every time you’re cleaning, and ventilate it during the entire grout cleaning/sealing process.  If you have an exhaust fan, use it!  If you don’t have an exhaust fan, an open window with a fan blowing out is okay.  If you don’t have an exhaust fan or a window in your bathroom, invest the money in a good, quiet fan (see “Bathroom Exhaust Fan: Why?“).  Cleaning your bathroom grout may require you to use dangerous chemicals.  Achieving clean grout is not worth risking your heath.

>  Keep children and pets away from the bathroom while you’re working (difficult to do if you only have one bathroom!)

>  Test an inconspicuous corner to see how the products may affect the grout and tile.  Cleaners and sealers may change the colors.  Your goal is to improve the situation, not make it worse!

>  Protect adjacent surfaces from accidental splashes and spills, especially wood and metal.


Tools:  Collect all of the tools and products you’ll be using.  There’s nothing more frustrating than having to interrupt what you’re doing to get something you’ve forgotten.  Here’s a list of the tools you’ll need:

>  Safety goggles

>  Cloth mask (or respirator mask, if you have one)

>  Heavy-duty rubber gloves

>  Rubber knee pads

>  Selection of brushes (tooth brushes are best for small, hard-to-get-at areas)

>  Clean rags (lots of them!)

>  Bucket with water for rinsing the tools*

>  Bucket with water for rinsing your skin, with a clean washcloth*

*Do NOT use the same bucket/water for both!

> Work clothes, including a long-sleeve shirt (a protective suit is good, but not necessary)

>  Wet-dry vacuum (plugged into a GFCI outlet)

Use extreme caution when selecting the grout-cleaning product, to ensure compatibility with your tile.  Acidic cleaners (including vinegar) should not be used with limestone, marble, or travertine.  Removing deep stains left by permanent hair coloring, tinted shampoos and conditioners, requires heavy-duty cleaner containing phosphoric or hydrochloric acid.   The Laticrete “Mushroom” grout we used for the shower floor had become a blotchy Pepto-Bismol pink and mushroom “Dalmation” until we used a hydrochloric acid cleaner.  Afterwards, the grout looked new again, and was ready for sealing.  Here’s how to use an acidic grout cleaner:

1.  Apply the cleaner directly to a small area, using a brush (you may have to keep rubbing the brush on the surface, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions).

2.  Leave the cleaner on the area for the minimum-maximum time required (the directions will have specific information).

3.  Rinse the area thoroughly with clean water and remove residue with a wet-dry vacuum before moving to the next heavily-stained area.

4.  After all stains have been removed to your satisfaction, let the area dry completely for at least 24 hours before applying the sealer.

5.  Don’t forget to keep the bathroom well-ventilated until you’re finished cleaning and sealing.   According to the Tile Council of America, the fumes from hydrochloric acid (also known as  miuratic acid) are harmful and very corrosive.

6.  Don’t dispose of any acidic cleaners (including vinegar) without first neutralizing with baking soda.


Tools:  Again, collect everything you’ll need to complete this part of the project.

> Spray applicator (must be thoroughly clean and free from residue of other chemicals)

> Cloth mask or respirator mask

>  Heavy-duty rubber gloves

>  Rubber knee pads

>  Nylon brush and/or lambswool applicator

>  Clean rags

>  Bucket with water for rinsing your skin, with a clean washcloth

>  Work clothes

There are several types of grout sealers, but it’s worth your time and money investment to apply a top-quality penetrating sealer.  Non-penetrating sealers stay on the surface and  protect the grout as long as they remain intact. Regular wear and tear, and cleaning can break the protective shell and allow stains  to penetrate the grout within weeks.   Surface sealers may be less expensive than penetrating sealers, but they are more labor-intensive because they require thorough grout cleaning before reapplication.

Before you choose and purchase the cleaners and sealers, compare the products for:

>  Ease of use (this includes easy-to-follow instructions)

>  Coverage (will one container fulfill your needs?)

>  Price (think about shipping and handling costs if you’re ordering products online)

>  Availability

>  Warranty and guarantee (especially important for sealers)

Cleaning and sealing grout is hard work, but the reward is pride in your accomplishment, and renewed love for the appearance of your tile and grout!


Cleaners: (full line of cleaners and sealants)


“See the Possibilities. Create a Positive Difference.”

Diane Plesset, CMKBD, has been a Kitchen and Bathroom Design Specialist for 31 years, and a D-I-Yer for over 35 years. She understands the challenges associated with home repair, maintenance, and remodeling. To talk with her about your challenges, call her at 503-632-8801.

© Copyright 2015 D. P. Design “See the Possibilities. Create a Positive Difference.”