Three Ways To Clean And Lighten Your Grout

Tiled floors, showers, and back splashes can look lovely -- but over time, the grout starts to look a bit dingy, discolored, and unattractive. Even if the tile itself is still in great shape, dirty and discolored grout really detracts from the look. Luckily, you don't have to go on living with it until you replace the grout and tile. Here are three ways to clean and lighten your grout.

Option 1: Vinegar and Baking Soda Scrub

This is a good choice for darker grout since it won't bleach the natural color out of the grout, but will remove any stains or discoloration on its surface. Plus, vinegar is a gently, natural cleanser, so you don't have to worry about inhaling the fumes or having a pet of child come into contact with it. Use plain, white vinegar -- apple cider vinegar contains some sugars, so it won't work as well. Follow these steps:

  1. Soak a rag in vinegar.
  2. Hold the rag over a portion of the discolored grout, and count to 20.
  3. Move the rag over to a new portion of grout, and count to 20 again.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until all of the grout has been treated with vinegar. Dip your rag back into the vinegar as needed.
  5. Wait 2 hours.
  6. Mix some baking soda with just enough vinegar to form a past. (It will bubble up -- just keep mixing.)
  7. Dip a toothbrush into the bubbly paste, and scrub the grout gently with the baking soda and vinegar mixture. Do not use too much pressure; you don't want to damage the grout.
  8. Let the baking soda mixture sit for 20 minutes.
  9. Rinse the tile surface with clear water.

Option 2: Bleach and Grout Whitener

If you have white or very light-colored grout, then this procedure is a good one to try as it will remove dark stains. Do make sure any children or pets are far away from the area you will be working on, and wear gloves to protect your hands from the drying bleach

Grout whitener is a substance you can find at most hardware stores. It comes in a special applicator container with a brush on the end. When you apply it, the whitener sits over the grout surface like a translucent covering, helping to obscure any stains the bleach has not quite addressed. 

Follow these steps for this option:

  1. Prepare a mixture of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. 
  2. Dip a rag into the bleach mixture.
  3. Hold the soaked rag over a portion of the grout for 10 seconds.
  4. Move on to a new section of grout, and soak it for 10 seconds.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you have soaked all of the grout.
  6. Wait 20 minutes.
  7. Rinse the entire tile surface with plenty of water, repeating until you have removed all of the bleach.
  8. Let the surface dry for at least at hour or until you do not see any lingering traces of moisture.
  9. Apply the grout whitener to one strip of grout at a time, according to package instructions.
  10. Let the grout whitener dry for at least 24 hours before using the tile surface.

Option 3: Hire a Professional

If you have very delicate grout or dark grout with stains that vinegar won't remove, then you may want to hire a tile and grout cleaning company. They can also often replace portions of the grout that are badly stained or starting to loosen. Usually, they can complete a project in an afternoon, though they might have to come back if your project requires some grout replacement.