Clean Buildings and Healthy Environments 

The challenge of cleaning Tile and Grout

The challenge of cleaning Tile and Grout comes down to two problems. Tile is a Non-porous surface. While grout is a porous surface that is ruff and is below the floor line. When cleaning two completely different surfaces with two different compositions you must take this into consideration when choosing the cleaning method.

What is grout?

Grout is a material used to keep tiles in place for floors, walls, and counters. It is the line of hard substance seen between each tile. It has many similarities to mortar, but the aggregates used in the mix are not precisely alike. Although it is considered durable, it is prone to breaking down due to the porous nature. Running a finger over grout will show it has a slightly rough feel that is the perfect surface to allows dirt to cling. It retains a level of roughness even when sanded. It is sold in many colors to match the chosen tile.

Gradual grout stains

Regardless how good the floor is cleaned all grout is going to get soiled and stained. This is due to the porous surface of the grout; the grout will absorb liquid. The tile grout staining will not happen overnight. You will notice little by little that the floors and bathroom tile refuses to shine as it did before.
White grout will begin to turn grey or black. Bathroom grout is the perfect home for soap scum and mild mold growth. The areas of discoloration can be varied, which makes it embarrassing to allow visitors to use your bathroom or step into the kitchen. Some of the problem liquids are urine, oil and grease which will also cause an odor problem.

The grout will have to be deep cleaned to bring back the natural coloration and this should be done on a regular schedule. During the designing process you would be at a great advantage to choose a darker grout. You should be able to find a color that works will with the tile you select.

Tile Variations

There are many types of tiles, including unglazed quarry, high-fired ceramics, porcelain, granite, mosaic, dense stone, terra-cotta, and terrazzo. Seamless systems, ground-polished, and ground-polished stained concrete, all without grout lines, are becoming more prevalent. During the design process of a facility, it is vital to match the floor surface to the facility type, amount of foot traffic, and most common types of soils that need to be removed.

The surface density and texture of the tile can affect cleaning results. Adsorption is the chemical process soils use to stick to the tile surface and relates to the tile density. A highly dense tile will have less adsorption and soils won’t stick to the tile surface as easily.

Different tile surfaces have varying drying times and can also affect the coefficient of friction. Smooth tiles will dry at a slower rate than textured, unglazed tile and have a larger probability of being more slippery when wet.

Soil Variations

Soil deposits are created several ways. They can be physically carried in from outside of the facility or inside the facility between zones via foot traffic; soils such as kitchen grease and oils can originate inside the facility. Soils can also originate chemically from the saponification, which is a process that produces soap which then grabs on to any soil and holds on to it. Causing an increase in the soil load in the grout line.

Prevention? To seal or not to seal?

Grout will absorb liquids that are spilled on it. Light-colored grout on the floor will show dirt. You can't get around that. So, a lot of people think a clear sealer will make grout more resistant to moisture and make it easier to clean. Sealer soaks into the grout and supposedly makes your tile and grout waterproof. People who want to sell you grout sealer will tell you it keeps it easier to clean and helps prevent mildew from growing.

But I don't recommend that you seal your grout. In my opinion, grout needs to be able to breathe, so that any moisture that gets in behind your tile can escape. If you seal the grout, that can't happen. No matter what, moisture - steam and water - eventually will get through the grout, or through a crack in your tile. So, if your grout is sealed, how will that water evaporate back out? It can't. And that will lead to problems.

Should floor finish be put on tile and grout.

Many people have thought putting a floor finish on a tile and grout floor would be a great solution. Both surfaces would be covered by the same product, so both surfaces can be maintained the same way. Sorry but you just created a nightmare.

  • The tiles are very dense, and the finish does not adhere to the tile very well. Also, the tiles are alkaline in nature. Alkaline chemicals are used to remove floor finish. The combination causes the floor finish to powder on the tiles surfaces. This leaves the floor with a traffic pattern on the tile where there is no finish and floor finish on the floor where there is no traffic.
  • The grout on the other hand is very porous and allows the finish to penetrate the grout. Over time the finish gets soil ground in to it and must be removed. There is no way to remove all the floor finish from the grout. So, you end up with a spotted looking grout. The one way to fix it is to remove the grout itself.

Methods of cleaning tile and grout

Hand scrubbing the grout - Some people feel there is no better way then hand scrubbing the grout and tile. “There is no process that does as good a job cleaning grout as good old fashioned human powered grout cleaning done on hands and knees with an industrial strength cleaner utilizing a reciprocal or back and forth scrubbing motion”. This process insures that there will be no damage done to the grout, tile, or surrounding surfaces.

A brush for a rotary floor machine - is especially adapted to clean grout on tile floors. The brush has multiple length fibers, so the brush can go down into grout lines to remove the dirt.

Square Scrub tile and grout pad - Clean and polish your tiled floor using the orbital technology to agitate dirt and grime from grout lines. Each pad does a great job of scrubbing extremely dirty floors that are uneven, such as grouted bathroom tile floors. Ideal for use in restrooms and kitchen floors.

Steam cleaning - While a more involved process than just using brushes and cleansers, it is less complicated and costly than removal and replacement of the grout. Steam cleaners heat water to over 200 degrees F and have nozzles and brushes that direct blasts of steam onto grout. You will need to attach nylon-bristle brushes to the steamer to help dislodge the gunk.

High Flow Fluid Extraction - a key new feature of this unique machine is the adjustable 500-2100 psi pump for tile and grout. With 500 psi and instant 212°F water at the wand tip. With the SX-12 blasts soil and dirt from tile, grout, and smooth or rough hard surfaces. The rotary arm spins to create amazing soil blasting power working from 500 to 2,000 psi, while the vacuum ports pick up all the waste. Professional Maintenance of Michigan, Inc has all these systems available and our staff is trained to use them.