How To Clean Ceramic Tiles And The Grout Between The Tiles

Tile and Grout Cleaning Tips

By Troy Cantini

Ceramic tiles are typically easy to clean but the grout between the tiles is usually much more difficult to clean.   Ceramic tiles are dense non porous products that will not typically be damaged by most tile cleaning products or scrub pads. Aggressive tile cleaning products combined with aggressive scrub pads can be used to scrub the grout without damaging the tiles.

before and after cleaning ceramic tile floor

The ability to use alkaline and acidic tile cleaning products makes ceramic tiles easy to clean and maintain.  In most cases simply using an alkaline tile cleaning product works best to remove the dirt and grime from the tile surfaces and the grout lines. For extremely dirty grout lines a systematic approach of an using an alkaline and then an acidic cleaning product will ensure that you get your grout lines to their cleanest possible state.

An aggressive scrub pad or scrub brush is often needed to scrub the individual grout lines if they have years of dirt, grease and grime on them. Most ceramic tiles are factory glazed with a coefficient of friction (cof) so they are will not easily scratch or dull when aggressive scrub pads or scrub brushes are used. You should still not use any type of metal based pads such as Brillo pads that could potentially scratch the tile surface.

cleaning ceramic tiles with alkaline cleaner

The first step in cleaning ceramic tiles is to scrub them with an alkaline tile and grout cleaning solution.  Generally ceramic tile floors have dirt, grease and grime on them that is most easily cleaned with an high pH alkaline cleaning product. product. Alkaline tile cleaning products will react with the acidic grease, dirt and grime and suspend these contaminates. The suspended dirt, grease and grime can then be easily extracted and rinsed away.

It is best to mix the alkaline cleaning solution with the hottest tap water available per the manufactures instructions.  You should then apply this hot alkaline cleaning solution to ceramic tile floor and allow it to dwell there for at least 20 minutes. Ensure that the grout lines are also thoroughly saturated with the alkaline cleaning solution. While the cleaning solution is dwelling on the ceramic tile surfaces you can begin scrubbing the tiles and grout lines with a stiff brush or an aggressive scrub pad.

You should scrub the ceramic tiles and grout until you are confident that all of the dirt, grease and grime have been loosened and dissolved.  Aggressive scrub pads will work much more effectively than scrub brushes for scrubbing the grout lines. A shop vac can then be used to extract the dirty cleaning solution. If you do not have a shop vac then you can use a mop and bucket to extract the dirt and excess cleaning solution.

Cleaning the ceramic tile surfaces is usually not too difficult but getting the grout lines clean is usually much more difficult.  You may notice that even after you have cleaning the ceramic tiles with the alkaline cleaning solution that the grout lines still may look dirty or have some remaining stains on them. A mild acidic tile and grout cleaner can then be use to make the grout lines look like new again. Ceramic and porcelain tiles will not be damaged with acidic based tile cleaners but you can not use acidic cleaners on stone tiles. Acidic tile cleaning products are especially effective on lighter colored grout lines to remove the stubborn stains that are embedded deep within the grout lines.

cleaning ceramic tiles with acidic cleaner

You can apply the acidic tile cleaner to the tile and grout lines just like you did with the alkaline tile cleaner.  You should see the grout lines "FIZZ" when the acidic cleaner reacts with the top layer of dirty grout.  A type of micro abrasion cleaning effect will take place as the acidic cleaning solution removes the top layer of dirty grout. Some light scrubbing of the grout lines may be necessary with the acidic cleaning solution to remove extremely stubborn stains from the grout.

You should thoroughly rinse and dry the tile floor and grout lines after they have been cleaned.  You will want to ensure that the grout lines are totally dry before sealing them with any type of sealer. In some situations with extremely dirty and damaged grout it may truly be impossible to get the grout lines looking totally clean and stain free. In these cases painting the grout with a grout colorant can restore the original look and color of the grout. If you do decide to paint the grout you will still need to thoroughly clean the tile and grout before applying the grout colorant to the grout.

clean ceramic tile floor with white grout

After deep cleaning the ceramic tile floor you should always seal the porous grout with a clear impregnating sealer.  Strong alkaline and acidic tile cleaning products will break down the sealers that were previously applied. Sealing the ceramic tiles themselves is not needed because the ceramic tiles are too dense and non porous to absorb any kind of tile and grout sealer.

For normal every day cleaning a non aggressive pH neutral cleaning product should be used.  pH neutral tile cleaning products can be used on a daily basis to mop away and rinse the dirt and grime from the tiles without having to do excessive rinsing and extracting of the dirty cleaning solution. Only about 2-4 ounces of the pH neutral cleaning solution is required in a gallon of hot water to clean the ceramic tiles on an everyday basis. PH neutral cleaners also will not break down the sealers in the grout lines and they will not damage any grout colorants that have been applied to the grout lines.

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