Tiles and Grout go together in many places where we live and work.
Tiles can be made of natural stone, ceramic or synthetic material like acrylic/vinyl, and are either glazed, polished to a shine, or textured for a more natural feel.
Grout is the material used to fill in the gaps between tiles when they are laid. Grout is usually a mix made of cement, sand, and water, but can also contain additives such as epoxy or urethane for making it a tough sealant.
In most homes, tile and grout can be found on floors, shower walls and the kitchen backsplash. Dirt, mold and mildew tend to accumulate quite easily on them.
As opposed to hard tiles, the surface of finished grout is rough and porous with a propensity to be moist and accumulate “stuff”, because it is a less exposed surface. This makes it a tougher cleaning job.
In general, most cleaning supplies use chemicals such as phosphoric acid, chlorine bleach or sodium hydroxide, which are all pretty harsh, both on our environment and on us!
In addition to that, they can also damage the grout, even if the tiles are resistant.
Fortunately, there are alternatives, in the form of household items. All it takes it a bit of elbow grease.
General Guideline For Cleaning Without Harsh Chemicals
- Sweep and clean the surface/grout of any debris. A dry brush, sponge or cloth works fine for this.
- Use water and soap, and scrub away using household scrubbers. ScotchBrite works well for this. If in doubt, testing on a small area to make sure there is no damage is a good idea. Another good idea is to use an old toothbrush, especially a motorized one if possible! Microfiber cloths and plain rags are your basic option, of course.
- Mix Vinegar, or lemon juice, with water, or club soda, in equal parts. Spray or sprinkle onto the tile and let it sit for 10-15 minutes, then scrub.
- Add baking soda into the above mix for tougher cleaning. You want to use just enough to reach a pasty consistency. Apply this to the surface and let sit for 15 min before scrubbing.
- Baking soda can be substituted with salt (like plain table salt), or with more exotic varieties like calcium carbonate (Bon Ami).
- Last but not least, the use of a steam cleaner is also excellent for cleaning and disinfecting. It’s basically water boiled to superhot steam.
A cheating tip to make grout look clean, is the use of darker colored grout. This will not show dirt as much as white or lighter colored choices.