How to clean shower grout
Updated: Jun 3
Can you smell something musty in your bathroom? You’ve looked everywhere and can’t find the source. Did you think to look at the ceramic tiles, especially those lining the shower area? You’ve probably got tiles just above the washbasin and bath too, or the entire room might have tiles. If so, you’ll use grout to seal the joint between each tile.
Most shower cubicles use ceramic tiles to prevent large amounts of water spray from damaging the wall plaster. Unfortunately, although ceramic tiles are smooth on their waterproof, glazed surface, grout isn’t smooth. As such, mould and mildew grab hold and establish a colony very easily on the surface.
Why does tile grout become dirty?
Shower tiles get wet, many times a day, especially if you have a family of teenagers. Unfortunately, many people forget or don’t even know that it’s a good idea to wipe the tiles dry after having a shower. They, therefore, end up with a water film clinging to the grout and turning stagnant. Similarly, microscopic particles of rust, bacteria and limescale collect on the surfaces. This is a wonderful breeding ground for mould and mildew, which grow in the warm and damp, humid conditions and feed off the nutrients. If this sounds familiar to you, have a look at the grout lines. If you can see black dots or smears as well as the other coloured dirt, then you’ve got a thriving colony of mould spores. The only thing you can do now is to get rid of them. But first, are they dangerous to your family?
Are mould and mildew harmful to humans?
Mould and mildew spores live everywhere and float in the air all the time. They continually fall onto surfaces where they sometimes collect when conditions are favourable. The only way you can prevent the spores from growing is to clean surfaces regularly with a good household bleach-based cleaning material. It doesn’t matter if the cleaner is chlorine or hydrogen peroxide-based as both will kill mould and bacteria. Of course, you could use a home-made cleaning solution, they’re simple to make and very effective. But, we’ll get to that later.
But are the spores harmful? As they’re everywhere all the time, we get used to them and our immune systems can usually repel the invaders. However, if we are susceptible to breathing problems, immune system deficiencies, or suffer from allergies such as asthma, we will certainly react to high concentrations. Also, heavy concentrations of mould provide a breeding ground for many types of bacteria, some of them can be toxic or cause infections. Even if the mould and bacteria aren’t harmful, the room will have a stale, musty and very unpleasant odour.
So, we owe it to ourselves and our family to get rid of the mould and mildew found within our shower cubicles.
But, to do this, we need to know how to clean our shower tiles effectively and maybe more importantly, how to clean the shower tile grout?
How do we clean tile grout?
First, it’s much easier to tackle dirty tile grout if you have a go in the early stages. If you leave it for a long time, the grout will stain and you’ll never get it clean. If this happens, you may as well remove the old grout out of the joints and refill with new grout.
Let’s assume you’ve caught it at an early stage, shall we?
Most homes use an effective bleach-based household cleaning product, such as Cif. And this is ideal for cleaning tiles and grout. All you need is a bottle of cleaner, a scrubbing brush or old toothbrush, a sponge and a clean drying cloth.
Apply the cleaning liquid to the brush and scrub the grout to remove all traces of mould.
Rinse the grout with clean water from the showerhead and use a sponge to remove stubborn marks.
Dry the tiles and grout with the clean dry cloth.
How do we clean mould from shower grout naturally?
However, not everyone likes to use bleach products. Although they are probably the best way to remove all traces of mould, mildew and bacteria from your home’s hard surfaces, many people dislike the idea of using chlorine bleach for ecological reasons. These people need not worry. Hydrogen peroxide is a good bleaching agent and you can buy it from pharmacies (ask for food grade hydrogen peroxide). It’s also available for sterilizing baby’s feeding bottles. ‘Milton’ is a popular brand name. The liquid decomposes into oxygen and water, both completely harmless, in themselves. And, it doesn’t leave a chlorine smell. For this reason, we often use it for disinfecting food preparation surfaces.
If you don’t even want to use hydrogen peroxide, you can always try a mixture of vinegar and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).
Vinegar and baking soda are two traditional cleaning materials that are effective and have been used for hundreds of years. One thing to remember, however, is that it is very abrasive so don’t use it on old and loose grout, you might end up with nothing left!
Steam is another good method of killing mould. If you have a steam cleaner (you can buy them relatively cheaply online) you can kill up to 99% of mould and bacteria. You can even use steam on upholstery and other surfaces too. Mould just can’t cope with the high temperatures involved. Combine this with a scrubbing brush and you’ll dislodge the most stubborn mould colony. Using steam has the added advantage that you won’t have the bleach odour either.
Even though vinegar and baking soda are relatively harmless ingredients, you must still protect your eyes, skin etc. Finish reading this article and we’ll cover all the safety aspects in the next section.
Mix baking soda and white vinegar in a bowl until you have a paste.
Dip an old toothbrush into the paste and scrub each grout line in turn. Don’t forget to get the bristles into every crevice.
Leave the paste to work for about 10 minutes.
Rinse with clean water and rub with a damp sponge.
Dry the surface.
Remember that you’re using substances to kill living things, even if they’re just bacteria and mould. You are also a living thing, so these cleaning materials probably won’t do you much good in large concentrations or over a long period.
If you’re using a bleach-based cleaning material (chlorine or hydrogen peroxide)
Remember to wear protective rubber gloves. Standard dishwashing gloves are good enough. You need to protect your skin and fingernails.
Be careful you don’t splash the bleach into your eyes. Not only will your eyes hurt, but you may also do irreparable damage. Wear eye protection whenever you use these substances.
Make sure you ventilate the working area. The fumes can burn your lungs and any other mucous membranes they contact.
Always keep these materials away from children.
If you’re using vinegar and baking soda
You might decide that these are harmless because they are edible. Wrong! Vinegar (acetic acid) is corrosive, like any other acid. If it’s in contact with your skin or any mucous membrane, it will damage your skin cells. Use rubber gloves or you might end up with dermatitis or something similar.
Baking soda is alkaline and just as corrosive as vinegar, so skin protection is just as important.
Protect your eyes against accidental splashes.
Vinegar fumes can damage your lungs and mucous membranes too so keep the working area well ventilated.
Keep children away.
Never use two cleaning solutions at the same time. If you decide that one isn’t working as it should, make sure you rinse the area so there’s no trace left, before trying something else. If you mix vinegar and bleach or ammonia and bleach you will create a toxic gas. Don’t do it!
Check your grout regularly
Finally, let’s just say that it’s important to clean the grout lines in your shower area for a fresh-smelling bathroom. Looking after the tiles and grout is definitely the right thing to do. It will not only stop bad smells and unsightly stains but will also give your bathroom walls many more years of life before you have to replace tiles and grout.