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How to Clean Stained or Dirty Tile Grout

Woman cleaning bathroom tile grout using a yellow toothbrush while wearing pink rubber gloves

Grout is essential to every tile installation to seal the gaps between tiles and maintain constant pressure to keep them in place without cracking. Yet since it’s a porous material, dirt and mildew tend to accumulate on the surface and resist your routine efforts to clean the floor or shower. Grout, in particular, needs deep cleaning on a regular basis once every few months to look its best. Unlike caulk, it’s a lot of work to remove and replace discolored grout rather than clean it. Try these tricks and tips for cleaning grout anywhere in the home without damaging it or the tile.

Easy-to-make Homemade Cleaning Mixtures

A lifestyle image of a spray bottle, blue and green sponge, and a glass bottle of vinegar to create a natural cleaning solution

Most of the mixtures you need for basic grout cleaning can be made with household ingredients. While these mixtures won’t necessarily provide the best results for stained or extensive dirt, they will do a passable job on the majority of the grout. This reduces the chances of damage to the tiles and allows you to save the more expensive cleaning products for the worst spots. Most tiled areas have a few heavily stained areas and plenty of grout lines that are only mildly dirty. On the less soiled lines, try a homemade mixture like:

  •  1/2 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide, and 1 teaspoon of dish soap
  • 1/2 cup washing soda, 1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide
  • White vinegar mixed 50/50 with water for spot treating light stains.

All of these homemade concoctions should be applied with a narrow brush and worked into the grout, then wiped or mopped away.

Store-bought Products worth Using

A close up image of a variety of cleaning spray bottles on a blue background

There are quite a few specialty products that aren’t even specifically grout cleaners that are worth investing in. Oxygen bleach, in particular, is a good option. Make a paste of it with water, or for additional stain-lifting power, hydrogen peroxide. Use just enough liquid to make the paste thick and easy to spread. For the most stubborn stains that remain after you use homemade scrubs and oxygen bleach, only chlorine bleach may work. Apply it diluted 50/50 with water to just the most stained areas and let it stand 10 to 15 minutes to lighten the grout before rinsing away.

Equipment That Makes Grout Cleaning Easier

A man using a steam cleaner to clean grout in a kitchen

Sometimes it’s not a matter of finding the right abrasives or chemicals to get the grout clean without damaging it. A steam cleaning mop or handheld device is ideal for treating grout that resists any other form of cleaning. Steam is one of the safest ways to clean grout without damaging it due to excessive scrubbing or extreme pH cleaners weakening the material. Aside from a tile-friendly steam cleaner, a long-handled brush built for grout scrubbing can help reduce how much you bend down to complete the cleaning process.

Busting up Mildew on Grout

Four white subway tiles with mold and mildew growing on the grout

Mildew can be the most difficult kind of stain to remove from grout. Since it’s constantly growing and spreading tiny root-like structures into the grout as long as there’s moisture, it needs an aggressive approach. Specialty mildew treatments that are grout-safe, coupled with plenty of elbow grease, are the two-pronged solution. Scrubbing and treating the grout to solve this problem may damage the surface of the material, but in that case, it will generally require replacement anyway due to the mildew growth. Using a grout designed for mildew resistance and cleaning regularly will go a long way to keep it from becoming a problem again in the future.

Keeping Grout Stain-free Between Deep Cleaning

A modern kitchen with white cabinets, gray marbled tile and dark wood accents

Handling your tiled areas with a little more care can reduce how grimy or stained the grout becomes between deep cleaning efforts on your part. First, make sure to dry out tile floors thoroughly as soon as the water is spilled or condenses out of the air. Indeed tile is relatively water-resistant, but letting moisture soak into the grout and keep it damp will only encourage dirt to gather and trigger mildew growth. Clean the tiles and grout lines at least once a week, even if they appear clean, to prevent dust build-up. Use plain water and a little dish soap as needed when cleaning on a daily basis since it’ll do the least damage to grout and tiles alike. A space heater can help dry out a tiled area quickly after cleaning or use to prevent mildew.

Don’t let dirty grout lines make beautiful tiles look less than their best. You may need to do a little scrubbing to loosen the dirt and work it free, but the results will impress you. Grout does need to be replaced after a few years of steady cleaning to refresh it, which also solves stain problems all at once.


While do-it-yourself projects can be fun and fulfilling, there is always a potential for personal injury or property damage. We strongly suggest that any project beyond your abilities be left to licensed professionals such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. Any action you take upon the information on this website is strictly at your own risk, and we assume no responsibility or liability for the contents of this article.