How to Clean Bathroom Grout the Right Way

two mirrors over sink in bathroom

Design: Emily Henderson Design, Photo: Sara Ligorria-Tramp

Dirty grout can make the rest of your bathroom look unclean, but keeping it a nice, pristine white can be a challenge. Because it's so porous, it seems to attract every speck of dirt in your bathroom, and it can be hard to clean.

But unlike other seemingly minor chores, this isn't one you should ignore when grandma comes to visit. Keeping grout clear of mildew and mold does require a little time and effort, but a small bathroom can usually be done in under an hour.

Here's what you'll need before you tackle that grout.

Materials You'll Need

  1. Vinegar
  2. Baking soda
  3. Hydrogen peroxide (optional)
  4. Commercial cleaner (optional)
  5. A toothbrush
  6. Spray bottle
  7. Rag
  8. Steam cleaner (optional)

Mix Up Your Solutions

To start, make a paste with baking soda. Try a couple of tablespoons with enough water to create a thick paste. At the same time, prepare a mixture of vinegar and water (1:1 ratio) in a spray bottle. Gather a hard-bristled toothbrush and a rag.

Gloves and old clothes are optional, but you'll probably spend a good amount of time scrubbing away, so we recommend being comfortable.

Apply the Paste and Scrub

Once you've mixed up the baking soda paste, apply it directly to the grout and scrub. Using a circular motion, work the paste into the grout. Once you've loosened up the dirt, spray the vinegar mixture directly onto the grout.

You'll see it begin to bubble (this is exactly what you want). Leave it on for about 30 minutes so it can really work its way into the grout.

Rinse and Repeat

Using warm water and a rag, rinse the solution off the grout. Patience is a virtue here. You may need to repeat the same steps as above or move on to other solutions to really clean deep, set-in stains.

Try Hydrogen Peroxide

If you have really badly stained grout, sometimes you'll need to pull out the big guns. Hydrogen peroxide can be a great tool to cut through stains and mildew that have been there so long they feel like an old roommate.

Make sure the vinegar and baking soda are completely cleaned off, and spray hydrogen peroxide directly onto the grout. Allow it to work for 5-10 minutes. Then, using a scrub brush or toothbrush, work it into the grout.

You can also create a paste with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide if the liquid alone isn't cutting it.

Use a Commercial Cleaner

If you'd rather go the store-bought route, there are many grout cleaners on the market that you can try. An oxygen bleach product can help lighten badly stained grout, but be sure that the solution you buy is safe for your tiles. Some handpainted or delicate tilework cannot stand up to harsh chemicals.

It's a good idea to test any store-bought cleaner on your tiles in an inconspicuous area so you can monitor for discoloration before you go all in.

Consider Using a Steam Cleaner

If you own a steam cleaner, now is the time to bring it out of deep storage. Using the pointed attachment, aim the steam cleaner directly at the grout, following the lines carefully. Take a toothbrush and gently clean the grout as you work the steam cleaner over it.

This method likely won't get your grout entirely clean, but it's a great tool to loosen caked-on dirt without having to use a lot of elbow grease.

Create a Grout Solution

Now that your grout is sparkling clean, you'll want to work on keeping it that way. Mix equal parts vinegar and water and create your own "grout solution" to spray down the tiles after you use the shower. This will prevent mold and mildew from developing in the first place and save you a lot of time in the future.

Keep it Dry

Mold loves moisture, so we also recommend keeping a small microfiber towel in your shower to wipe down grout lines after every use. This takes a little more effort, but it's a good practice to keep those grout lines pristine.

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