Drab & Dingy Tile Grout? Here Are A Few Cleaning Tricks

Some of the recipes below contain ammonia, or bleach, or vinegar (I’ve also included other homemade solutions that are gentler).

TileThere are some who claim that these ingredients will degrade grout over time–what that amount of time is no one can say (5 years? 50 years?) or that they may affect it in a way that makes them more susceptible to future discoloration.

I can’t confirm the deterioration claims since I haven’t witnessed those problems myself.

These items will help kill bacteria and get rid of stains, but remember to rinse off well.

If you’re concerned about deterioration, dilute them a bit first (will reduce effectiveness), or use only in extreme situations, or choose an alternate method.

Tip: After you have brightened things up and everything is completely dry, apply a new coat of sealer so it is protected and harsh methods won’t be necessary on a regular basis.

Important: Test colored products first before using any batch to make sure it won’t be discolored.

Recipes & Tips

Here’s a list of homemade cleaners to help…

  • Try your favorite liquid dish detergent to brighten grout between tiles, just drizzle on a wet cloth and scrub. Toothpaste is also a good option. From: Bring Bathrooms To A Shine.
  • Use a mild soap and water solution and work it in with a plastic bristle brush.
  • Combine 3 C. bicarb and 1 C. water. Mix then dab with a sponge, leave for a few minutes.
  • Another option is 1/4 C. salt, 1/4 C. baking soda, 1/4 C. vinegar. Mix then work in with a sponge, leave for a minute.
  • Cleaner For Tiles Too: 1/2 C. of baking soda; 1/3 C. of ammonia; 1/4 C. of white vinegar; 7 C. of water. Combine all the ingredients in a labeled spray bottle and shake well to mix. Spray on then wipe with a damp sponge. Do not mix with bleach. From this page of recipes for Shower Spray.
  • Brightener: 1/4 C. bleach, 3/4 C. bicarb. Let soak in for a couple mins.
  • General Solution: 1/4 bleach, 1 C. water, sit for 10 mins.
  • Lemon Juice: Combine lemon juice and baking soda to make a paste. Apply with a toothbrush. Another trick: lemon & salt (just sprinkle salt on a wedge of lemon and rub with that).

Dealing With Mildew

These can also be treated as an all-purpose cleaner, but they’re especially good for lifting mildew. Reminder: rinse everything off with plain water unless otherwise directed.

  • First wash surface with plain water then use a toothbrush to work bleach into the stains. If they are especially tough, allow to soak in for a few minutes.
  • Rub vinegar into the spot with a toothbrush.
  • Dab on rubbing alcohol, wait for a minute or two then wash away with soap and water.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide: Full strength for about 5 mins.
  • Peroxide & Bicarb: Make a paste then slather on, scrub and rinse.
  • Borax & Water Paste: Apply, let it dry then scrub.
  • Bicarb & Liquid Dish Detergent: Leave on overnight, wash off in the morning.

Handy Helpers

  • To test if your sealer is still good, squirt a few drops of water over top. If it absorbs the liquid instead of beading up, you need a new coat of sealer.
  • After getting things nice & fresh again, keep at it! Maintain regularly to avoid having to pull out the harsh chemicals or treatments to remove buildup.
  • If stains are really bad and nothing you do lightens or gets them out, you can remove the grout then build up a fresh batch. Sound difficult? Not really, I found clear instructions here: ronhazelton.com.
  • For quick spot removal, attack it with a bleach pen (watch: will likely discolor colored product).
  • You can use old toothbrushes, a plastic bristle or a soft bristle nail brush, a nylon dish scrubber or a sponge with a nylon backing.

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    • polly

    I need advice on how to get mold off bathroom walls and ceiling(painted drywall). years of no vent have taken a toll!I’ve tried spraying with vinegar &am leary to use straight bleach.Also would love non -chlorine formula to effectively rid basement floors of mildew (bleach is harsh on the lungs.)Wonderfull site!

    • Michelle

    If bleach is no longer getting rid of the stain then most likely they are permenant. As a professional painter, I have seen this a lot in older homes. Your best bet is to Repaint. You will absolutely have to use an oil based primer (Zinsser Cover Stain works best, less odor and dries fast) otherwise the old mildew stains are going to bleed through your paint. After you’ve completely your Repaint and all the stains are gone install a vent or a fan. You’ve got to keep the air moving in order to keep the mildew away. Most of the home improvement stores have lights that have vent incorporated in them that don’t even look like a vent. If you wanted to go the economical route, then get you a small desk fan for your bathroom and turn it on after you’ve showered. Good Luck! I hope this helps!

    • Lee Gibson

    I have re-occuring mold on my basement walls even though I installed a large dehumidifier that has humidity at 70%. is that too high or what can I do to stop or reduce mold downstairs? Thanks and I enjoy your site.

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