When freshly installed, tiles can feel like a dream to clean. On the floor, in the shower, or behind the kitchen counters as a backsplash, tile feels quick and easy to wipe down and keep gleaming. But after a while each room starts to take its toll on those seams that hold it all together: the grout. Mud tracked over the floors, mildew building up in the bathroom, or explosive cooking splatters in the kitchen can all make your grout start to look dingey—and grout stains do not wipe off quite so easily. In this month’s blog post, we look at why and how often you should have your tile and grout cleaned.
What is grout—and why is it so hard to clean?
While tile is typically a smooth surface, grout is porous, which means it can absorb spills, grease, or other grime that gets in there. Simple mopping or wiping just does not get into dirt that has settled into the grout, and in fact bad mopping technique can even make stains look worse. The grout can absorb dirty mop water or even be damaged if the mop hits it at the wrong angle. Bleach might sound like a sensible solution to turn that grout sparkling white again, but bleach will actually slowly break down grout and cause it to break apart (not to mention bleach can ruin your glossy tile sheen). Acidic mixtures can also cause grout to deteriorate, as can a vigorous scrubbing with a wire brush. Steam cleaners can soften the grout and/or loosen caulk, which in turn can let moisture seep in behind the tile and cause water damage behind the tiles.
Why is it important to have my grout cleaned?
As grout absorbs grime, it can start to discolor and give the room a dingey feel. On top of appearance, regular maintenance is important to keep it strong and in shape. In order to make sure your grout lasts, you need to keep it clean and sealed, so that dirt doesn’t break it apart. As grout breaks apart, the grit can even scratch your tile, which not only damages the appearance, but can create spaces that trap even more dirt and grime.
Dirty grout can also impact your health. As we mentioned above, grout is porous. If there is moisture or humidity present as well, you run the risk of growing the scourge we discussed in our last blog: mold. Fungus and mold can take hold in grout, and not in places we typically notice. As we talked about last month, contact with mold can provoke allergic reactions or cause asthma attacks and can be particularly harmful to people who suffer from chronic respiratory issues.
How often should I have my tile and grout cleaned?
Of course, wiping down your tile and grout on a regular basis is important, but on top of that having a professional cleaning and sealing can also extend the life of your tiles. As is often the case, the answer to “how often” is “it depends.”
So, what does that frequency depend on? A number of factors impact how much dirt and grime get tracked into a home or commercial building:
How many people live/visit/work there: foot traffic, frequency of showers, and how much cooking will all impact what’s getting into your grout.
Pets and children: try as we might, keeping the pets and the kids clean can be a challenge. They also both tend to move around a lot and are typically not too concerned with how clean their paws are before entering the house.
Frequency a stovetop is used: airborne food debris can settle into grout, causing a buildup of grease or oils you might not immediately notice
Dust and dirt: whether it be a production facility that kicks up dust, or living in a dry, dusty area and loving the feel of open windows, that dust can settle into grout, build up, and cause damage.
Many homeowners feel every other year is sufficient for a grout and tile cleaning, while others aim for an annual cleaning. If multiple factors listed above apply to you, then 1-2 times per year are recommended in order to keep your grout maintained.
A high-pressure professional cleaning will help remove stubborn dirt that has worked its way deep in the pores of your grout. In addition, the application of a clear or color sealant can help prevent the absorption of spills and grime and protect grout between cleanings.
An average sized room (approx. 300 ft2) typically takes 30-60 minutes to clean. For a more tailored estimate, call us at 217-351-4930 to schedule a no-cost assessment.