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How to Steam Clean Tiles and Grouts?

steam cleaner

Steam cleaners are effective tools for tackling grout cleaning and other deep-cleaning tasks. These machines heat water to over 200 degrees Fahrenheit and use specialized nozzles and brushes to shoot steam onto the grout, effectively loosening and removing dirt. Please continue reading to learn how to select and employ the right steam cleaner for your most stubborn grout cleaning issues.

Our article Grout vs. Caulk: Which Is Better for Your Project may help you on this, too.

Table of Contents

Why Does Grout Accumulate Dirt?

When tiles are installed, grout is applied between them to fill the gaps and provide stability. Unlike the tile, which has a smooth surface that’s easy to clean, grout sits lower and contains sand, making it a magnet for debris. In bathroom settings, this usually means hardened soap scum, mineral deposits, and general filth, sometimes even mold, due to the humid conditions. The grout for tile floors mainly traps embedded dirt and can collect detergent residue.

Over time, this debris penetrates the grout’s pores, making it increasingly challenging to clean using conventional methods. Even aggressive scrubbing with a stiff brush and potent cleaning agents may yield different results than you want.

Steam cleaning offers a more effective solution, combining steam’s power with scrubbing action, eliminating the need for harsh cleaning chemicals.

How to Choose the Right Steam Cleaner?

Regarding steam cleaners specifically designed for cleaning tile grout, options on the consumer market are limited. A versatile canister-style steam cleaner is a good choice. It heats water beyond its boiling point in just a few minutes and can sustain steam for approximately 30 minutes. If your project involves cleaning bathroom wall tiles, consider a multi-purpose canister steam cleaner.

Some steam cleaners are designed only for floors and are ineffective on shower or bathtub tiles. Multi-purpose models come with various attachments suitable for different surfaces.

Steam cleaners are available for purchase or rental at home improvement stores and rental centers. Most rented units are well-suited for tile cleaning, so people rent them. However, consulting with the rental outlet is an excellent way to ensure you get the appropriate brushes designed for cleaning grout.

tile-grout-cleaning

What Tools and Materials Will You Need?

Tools

  • Steam Cleaner With Hose and Brush Attachment
  • Broom
  • Vacuum
  • Cleaning Cloths
  • Sponge

Materials

  • Tile Cleaner
  • Grout Sealant
  • Distilled Water

How to Steam Clean Tiles and Grouts?

Step 1: Prepare the Area

Clear your workspace. If you’re working on a floor, sweep or vacuum it thoroughly. In the shower, remove all personal care items like shampoo bottles. Clear the counter and move any appliances out of your way for a backsplash. Keep children and pets out of the room to avoid accidents or burns.

Tips

Before you start, read your steam cleaner’s manual to understand its operation and whether you should use distilled or tap water. Distilled water is often recommended to prevent mineral and calcium deposits in the machine.

Step 2: Clean Off Surface Dirt

clean off grout dirt with sponge

Begin by dusting the area. Then, use a clean cloth or sponge and a tile-safe cleaner to remove the surface dirt and deeper grime from the tile and grout. If you’re cleaning a wall or backsplash, start at the top so that dirty water will flow downward. For floors, a mop will be effective for this initial cleaning.

Step 3: Get Your Steam Cleaner Ready

Fill the steam cleaner with distilled or tap water, as specified in the manual. Please switch it on and give it time to heat up and build steam pressure. Smaller tank models will heat up quicker but need refilling more often. Choose a steam cleaner that suits the size of your cleaning area. If you’re cleaning wall tiles, remember that you may have to lift a larger machine onto a step stool.

Attach a small brush with soft bristles to your steam cleaner’s hose. Avoid using stiff or brass bristles, which can damage some tile and stone surfaces.

Step 4: Start Steaming and Scrubbing

grout-and-tiles

Start the cleaning process at the top of walls and backsplashes, moving downwards as you steam and scrub the grout. Focus on a small area rather than attempting to clean an entire row at once. This prevents the loosened dirt from resettling into the grout as it cools and dries. For floors,  begin your cleaning in one corner.

Start with gentle scrubbing pressure and intensify as needed for more stubborn dirt. If your current brush isn’t effective, consider switching to an attachment with firmer bristles.

After you’ve cleaned a small section of grout, use a damp cloth to wipe it down and assess your progress. Continue this method until you’ve cleaned the entire wall, backsplash, or floor.

Tips

  • Clean your brush bristles occasionally to keep them from collecting grime.
  • Always keep your hands away from the steam to avoid burns.

Step 5: Wash Down the Area

Rinse the scrubbed area with clean water. A clean mop will do the job if you’re working on a floor. You can use the showerhead to spray down the area or a cup, bucket, or cloth for shower walls. For backsplashes, a damp cloth works well.

Step 6: Revisit the Grout

With the grout visibly cleaner, quickly go over it again, paying special attention to spots still with embedded dirt. Follow the same steps as before to get rid of any remaining grime.

Step 7: Optional Grout Sealing

grout sealing

Apply a grout sealant after ensuring the grout and tile are fully dry. This sealant fills the grout’s porous surface, making it easier to clean in the future and helping to keep out dirt.

If your grout was previously sealed, you probably found it easier to clean. Some types of grout, like those made from cement, should be sealed annually. There are convenient products; some even come in a pen-like applicator for precise application.

When Should You Look for Professional Help?

If your consumer-grade steam cleaner isn’t doing the job due to its limited tank size and pressure, it might be time to call the experts. Commercial-grade steam cleaners can tackle larger areas and offer more powerful steam pressure, making them more effective for stubborn grime.

Other Options for Grout Cleaning

If steam cleaning isn’t doing the trick, you can take a couple of other routes: tint the grout or replace it altogether.

Changing Grout Color

You can alter the color of your grout to conceal stains. Typically, you’ll go from a lighter shade to a darker one. Even tint pens are available that make the process as simple as using a marker.

Replace the Grout

Though it might sound like a big undertaking, replacing the grout is often less challenging than you’d think, especially if you have the right tools. Electric oscillating multi-tools can help remove the old grout without damaging the tiles. Once the old grout is out, applying new grout is straightforward.

how-to-clean-grout
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