Need help cleaning grout? I tested 10 popular homemade grout cleaners to figure out which DIY tile and grout cleaner works best. The winning solution is an all-natural cleaner that brightens and whitens grout with only 2 simple ingredients. Learn the easy, healthy way to clean grout and tile today!
Our new-to-us house has a white tile entry and white tile in the kitchen. Between the kids, the dog, and my husband (who likes to walk inside in his lawn mowing shoes) it’s nearly impossible to keep the tile and grout clean.
Seriously, there always seems to be one mystery spot or blob of goo somewhere on the white tile floor.
The worst part? The brownish discolored tile grout.
The floor tile grout hadn’t been cleaned in so long that it was hard to tell what the original color was meant to be. Was it white? Was it tan? Your guess is as good as mine.
What's Best for Cleaning Grout?
I love DIY green cleaning solutions so I set out to find the best homemade grout cleaner that uses safe, all-natural ingredients.
My Grout Cleaning Resume
Let me backtrack just a bit… I’m not a newbie at cleaning grout! Thanks to my husband’s career we’ve lived in 10 difference houses including one with light colored stone tile floors and one with white tile and teal grout (???). We’ve had tile bathrooms and tiled kitchens, tiled entry ways and tiled laundry rooms. It’s safe to say I have a lot of experience cleaning grout.
Scrubbing grout might just be my least favorite chore. To me a tile floor means means lots of scrubbing on your hands and knees to get (and keep) the grout spic-and-span.
(Anyone else feel like Cinderella when scrubbing floors?)
I wanted to see if there was a better way… a magical grout cleaner I was missing (or some some singing song birds that could help)… so I began to investigate homemade grout cleaner recipes –>
And I was totally overwhelmed. There were so many complicated recipes and many conflicting opinions.
The Great Grout Cleaner Experiment
I decided to test the 10 most popular DIY grout cleaners online to find the best homemade grout cleaner.
I tested each cleaner on the same surface (grimy white grout and tile) and used the same process to test each cleaner:
- I divided the tile floor into 10 sections using painters tape and numbered the sections with post it notes. (Yes, I’m a green cleaning nerd.)
- I mixed a batch of one cleaner, applied it to one section of the tile and grout, gave the cleaner 10 minutes to start working, then scrubbed the grout with a clean, dry toothbrush and wiped the area clean with water and a clean white cloth.
- I repeated step 2 nine more times using a clean, dry toothbrush and different white cloth each time. (I’m a martyr for your green cleaning needs!)
- I waited overnight for the grout to dry completely and then recorded the results.
The differences between the tile and grout cleaners were mind boggling! Some of the cleaners made absolutely no difference, some worked okay, and two left the tile grout amazingly clean!
The Tested Grout Cleaners
Grout Cleaner #1
Ingredients: 3 cups water, ½ cup baking soda, 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, 1/4 cup white vinegar
Directions: Mix ingredients in a spray bottle. Spray floor, let sit for a few minutes, scrub.
Grout Cleaner #2
Ingredients: 1 cup Epsom salts, 1/2 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup liquid hand washing dish soap
Directions: Mix together the Epsom salts, baking soda, and dish soap. Scoop mixture onto grout and rub clean. Rinse.
Grout Cleaner #3 (Winner!)
Ingredients: 1/2 cup of baking soda, 1/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide, 1 tsp dish soap
Directions: Mix together the baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and dish soap. Spoon mixture onto grout, wait 5-10 minutes, scrub and rinse.
Grout Cleaner #4 (Winner!)
Ingredients: 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup hydrogen peroxide
Directions: Sprinkle baking soda onto grout until it is covered, spray with hydrogen peroxide until it is wet, wait 10 minutes, scrub, and wipe clean.
Grout Cleaner #5
Ingredients: 3/4 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 3 tbsp salt, 3 tbsp hand dish washing liquid, 1/2 cup vinegar, 10 drops essential oil (I used lemon)
Directions: Mix together is large bowl or bucket (mixture foams a lot), pour into spray bottle. Spray floor, let sit for a few minutes, scrub.
Grout Cleaner #6
Ingredients: 1 gallon water, 1/4 cup washing soda, 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1 tbsp dish soap
Directions: Combine washing soda, vinegar, and dish soap in a one gallon container. Slowly pour water into container. Pour mix into spray bottle, spray floor, let sit for a few minutes, scrub.
Grout Cleaner #7
Ingredients: 1 gallon hot water, 1/4 cup vinegar, 2 tbsp Castile soap, 8-12 drops essential oil (I used lemon)
Directions: Mix ingredients in a bucket and mop floor.
Grout Cleaner #8
Ingredients: 1.5 gallons hot water, 1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide, 1/2 – 3/4 cup white vinegar, 5-10 drop essential oils (I used lemon)
Directions: Pour all ingredients into the hot water. Stir to combine. Mop or spray on floor.
Grout Cleaner #9
Ingredients: 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1 tbsp hand dish washing detergent
Directions: Pour ingredients into a spray bottle and swirl to combine. Spray on floor, wait 5-10 minutes, scrub and rinse.
Grout Cleaner #10
Ingredients: 2 cups warm water, 1 tbsp baking soda, 2 tbsp Castile soap, 30 drops tea tree essential oil, 20 drops sweet orange essential oil
Directions: Pour ingredients into a spray bottle, shake to combine. Spray grout and wipe clean.
The Tile and Grout Cleaner Results
The best grout cleaner was the most simple: hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. Grout Cleaner # 3 and Grout Cleaner #4 both use this combo and had equally great results.
Why this combo works:
- Baking soda is mildly abrasive so it helps to remove the dirt that is stuck in the porous grout surfaces without causing any damage.
- Hydrogen peroxide is a natural alternative to bleach that brightens and eliminates germs. Plus it is non-toxic and decomposes into water and oxygen.
- Dish washing detergent (used in Grout Cleaner #3) cuts through the greasy grime that gets tracked onto tile floors.
I love using the cleaning combo of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide! It’s in my DIY Natural All-Purpose Cleaner that works great for all types of household cleaning and is perfect for laundry stain removal.
The most disappointing homemade grout cleaners were the ones that mix reactive ingredients such as Castile soap and vinegar or vinegar and baking soda.
- These combos create reactions that cancel out the cleaning power of both ingredients and leave your grout and tile dirtier. Read more in Green Cleaning Ingredients That You Should Never Mix.
I was also let down by cleaners that used expensive ingredients (such as 50 drops of essential oil) or took a lot of time to make (such as measuring and mixing 6 ingredients) and didn’t do much cleaning.
I’d rather stick with low cost ingredients that are easy to mix into a cleaner!
How to Clean Grout
Getting ready to clean? These grout cleaning tips will help you get the best results:
- Give the grout cleaner some dwell time. You’ll get the best results if you allow your favorite cleaner some time to work (also called dwell time) before you start scrubbing. When cleaning tile grout, let the cleaner sit on the surface for 5-10 minutes then scrub out the dirt.
- Use a small, firm brush to scrub grout lines. Grout is porous meaning it has minute spaces or holes that liquid can pass through. These tiny spaces are great traps for dirt and grime. Scrubbing grout with small firm brush will loosen this dirt making it easier to mop or wipe up. (I use a cheap toothbrush to scrub my grout.)
- Scrub first then mop. After scrubbing the grout clean give the entire tile floor a final once over with a mop (or damp cloth). Use warm water with a few drops of dish detergent or a gentle floor cleaner. This final swipe will rinse off any remaining grout cleaner and leave the entire floor shiny.
Grout Cleaning FAQ
I get lots of emails from readers with grout cleaning questions. Here are some of the most common questions about cleaning grout:
What is grout?
Grout is the porous material that builders use to fill the spaces or cracks between tiles. It creates a smooth solid floor, wall, or backsplash and makes tile pop. The most common type of grout is cement grout. It is made from a mix that includes water, cement and (sometimes) sand.
How do you clean grout between floor tiles?
Apply grout cleaner, allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes, then get a small brush and scrub. An old toothbrush works great.
Is bleach bad for tile grout?
I do not clean with chlorine bleach because it is toxic and pollutes indoor air. You should not use bleach when cleaning grout and tile because:
- Bleach is a base with a pH of around 12 meaning it is a highly alkaline substance that is caustic (can cause severe burns or injuries). Because of its high pH bleach can be corrosive and slowly destroy the materials it touches including grout and tile finishes.
- Grout is porous so it absorbs the bleach and wicks it down to your subflooring and/or over to you baseboards (or carpet) where it can do even more damage and cannot be rinsed away. Yikes!
Is vinegar bad for tile grout?
Vinegar is an acid with a pH of around 2 (vinegar contains acetic acid). A popular cleaning vinegar manufacturer recommends never cleaning grout with vinegar because it can corrode the surface.
There are a lot of online cleaning tips that recommend mixing baking soda and vinegar to clean grout. This fun bubbling reaction is actually the baking soda neutralizing the acetic acid in the vinegar. The resulting mix cleans about as well as plain water.
How do you clean grout naturally?
Mix a thin paste of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, apply it to the grout, wait 10 minutes then scrub with a toothbrush, wiped clean with a damp cloth.
- Baking soda is mildly abrasive so it helps remove the dirt that is stuck in the porous grout surfaces without causing any damage.
How do you whiten tile grout naturally?
Let the cleaner “soak” into the grout for a few extra minutes (15-20 minutes). Giving the cleaner more “dwell time” allows it to brighten and whiten the grout.
What’s the best homemade grout and tile cleaner?
Mix together 1/2 cup of baking soda, 1/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide, and 1 tsp dish soap. Apply cleaning mixture onto grout, wait 5-10 minutes, scrub and rinse.
Do you have experience cleaning grout and tile? I’d love to hear your favorite method. Comment below with your favorite recipe or stop by my Facebook page.
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