Surfaces that look dirty can seriously detract from the beauty of tile, whether the surfaces are in your kitchen backsplash, floors or bathroom. When tile and grout cleaning is necessary, the offender causing most of the trouble is generally the grout between your tiles. However, with a little effort and the appropriate cleaning method, it is possible to get both your tile and grout looking like new again.
There are lots of ways that tile and grout can become dirty. When it is located in your bathroom, the problem is usually stained grout caused by mildew or mold. For kitchen tile and grout, cleaning may be necessary as a result of stains from food, general traffic, mildew and grease.
Surprising Ways to Control Mold and Mildew
Tile and grout cleaning can be the most difficult when mildew or mold is present because of the environment that usually supports them. Mildews and molds need a source of moisture, a warm environment and a source of food to grow.
If the problem is in your bathroom, you can see why mold and mildew may be difficult to combat. It’s not practical to eliminate warmth by taking cold showers for the rest of your life. In reality, your best bet for dealing with the problem is doing your best to control the food sources of the mold and mildew as well as the moisture that encourages it.
Surprisingly, the source of food for the mold and mildew growing in and around your tile and grout usually comes from the soap you use and your skin cells. A lot of soap contains phosphates, which can act as a fertilizer for mold or mildew. If you can keep soapy residue from accumulating in any area, you can effectively control the growth of mold and make your tile and grout cleaning much easier.
It’s not quite as easy to keep moisture at bay, especially in the bathroom. Here again, towel drying your floor or wiping down your bathroom walls with a squeegee every time you shower may be a little overzealous.
If that level of effort is not really practical for you, you can try leaving the bathroom door open after shower use. This allows some of the humid air to escape, rather than building up and creating the perfect environment for mold. You may also find that a bath fan can keep the humidity from getting too high.
Stay Clean and Green: Cleaning Non-Stone Surfaces
Regardless of the location and cause of your staining, your tile and grout cleaning methods will be different depending on the material that makes up your tile. However, it is always best to go with the least acidic solution that is effective, no matter what type of surface you are cleaning.
For non-stone tile and grout cleaning, something as simple as baking soda can work effectively as a cleaning agent. You can combine it with a small amount of water to produce a paste that will clean both your tile and grout surfaces very well.
Simply pat a bit of the cleaning paste onto your tile and grout and scrub the paste in a circular motion. This will clean your grout more effectively than scrubbing in an up and down fashion. Once you are done cleaning, rinse the area with pure water and remove any moisture that remains on the surface with either a sponge or towel.
Avoid Ruining your Stone Tile with a Common Cleaning Agent
While vinegar is often recommended as the best tile and grout cleaning solution, keep in mind that this “weak” acid is actually quite corrosive. When used on unsealed or natural stone areas, it has the potential to etch the surface of your tile, and it is also capable of gradually fading the grout over time.
Remember that acid works by dissolving dirt, and acidic cleaners don’t distinguish between dirty surfaces and stone. Other than pure water, anything you intend to use for tile and grout cleaning on stone surfaces should be specifically noted as safe for stone. Any manufactured cleaning agents that are not acidic generally make it known on their label.
It is important to be cautious even with tile materials that are not generally bothered by acidic agents, such as ceramic and porcelain. While they don’t tend to be naturally susceptible to acid damage, grout almost always is, especially if it hasn’t been sealed properly. Acidic agents can dissolve and fade out grout dyes, deteriorating the color and texture over time.
In general, follow these steps for tile and grout cleaning that involves natural stone of any kind:
- Use a neutral cleaning agent that is designated as non-acidic and safe for use on your natural stone surfaces, regardless of their location.
- Always use a clean towel or mop, and never use rough or grating materials that may scratch your stone or erode your grout.
- Avoid using more cleaning product than is recommended by its manufacturer to prevent a build-up or streaky film on your tile surfaces.
- Don’t use water that has become dirty for tile and grout cleaning. If the water you are using is not clear enough to see through, it is too dirty to be cleaning with. Using dirty water can result in a gradual build up of dirt on your tile surfaces and a progressive staining of your grout.
- Avoid acidic cleaners like vinegar on natural stone as well as cleaning agents that contain lemon or other acidic fruit extracts in their ingredients. These can degrade the surface of your stone.
- Avoid using scouring cleansing creams or powders because they generally contain abrasive materials that can also damage the surface of your stone.
Overall, the most effective way to keep your tile and grout cleaning from becoming a constant chore is to ensure all your tile and grout surfaces are sealed properly. In general, this is the best way to keep any surface from absorbing excess moisture or becoming stained by spills or dirt.
The Marble Polishing Experts, a local business in Denver, Colorado, can advise you on the proper tile and grout cleaning methods that will not damage your natural stone surfaces.