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How to Clean Floor Tile Grout With Steam

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It is fairly easy to clean floor tiles themselves, since the surfaces are generally smooth and don’t offer crevices for dirt to stick to and hide in. The grout in between the tiles, on the other hand, are normally made out of porous materials that can collect dirt and grime.

To avoid having to spend too much time on your knees with harsh chemicals and stiff brushes, you should learn how to clean floor tile grout with steam.

Why You Should Clean Floor Tile Grout With Steam

Steam cleaners are fantastic for cleaning surfaces like grout that are porous and allow the steam to penetrate to the same level that water can. When steam is forced into these areas, the heat is able to kill microbes and bacteria, and the pressure helps push dirty particles from recessed areas to the surface.

Woman about to use her steam cleaner

In combination with an attached brush, steam can be the most effective way to clean floor tile grout.

Other options for cleaning grout include regular light floor cleaning, heavy scrubbing by hand, and chemical detergents.

  • Regular light floor cleaning can keep your grout looking good for a while, but after a period of time, the recesses and porous nature of grout will eventually collect gunk and debris.
  • Getting down close to the floor and scrubbing grout by hand can be effective, but is hard on the back and knees.
  • Harsh chemical detergents may discolor grout unevenly.

What You Need to Clean Your Floor Tile Grout With Steam

These are the necessary (and some optional) items you will need to clean grout with a steam cleaner.

  • Steam Cleaner that can reach at least over 180F. These are available for rental at most hardware stores. They are not exactly the same as steam carpet cleaners available for rent at the grocery store.
  • Brush attachment for the steam cleaner. There are generally two types, nylon and brass. It is best to have both available.
  • Wide attachment for the steam cleaner
  • Broom that can sweep up extra debris
  • Standard mop or sponge with floor cleaner for additional cleaning
  • Grout sealant (optional)
  • Disinfectant (optional)

Prepare to Clean Your Floor Tile Grout With Steam

In order to get the best results from using a steam cleaner for cleaning grout, there are some preparations you should take into account before getting started.

Get Familiar With Your Steam Cleaner

If this is the first time you have used a steam cleaner, or even if it is the first time you have used this particular model, it is important to read the user manual to be able to operate it correctly. Learn the different settings available, note the different attachments that are included or available, and it is especially important to learn the proper fill level and filling method.

Since steam cleaners are based on very high temperatures that can burn your skin, learning how they operate before trying to clean with them can save you a trip to the emergency room.

Fill and Pre Heat Your Steam Cleaner

Most home models do not take very long to heat up, but it is a good idea to get it started well in advance of your cleaning project.

Steam mop on a wood floor

Find the water canister and the fill opening. Fill water up to the proper level, normally indicated by a line on the side. While it may be more expensive, it is recommended that you use distilled water in a steam cleaner, especially if you live in an area with hard water coming out of the pipes.

A high mineral content can cause deposits that will clog up the steamer wand and possibly push debris into the area you are trying to clean.

Plug the steam cleaner into the most accessible outlet, and set it to “steam,” or whatever the highest setting is. Grout is a fairly strong material and will put up with a high amount of heat. Leave the cleaner alone to heat up while you get everything else ready.

Clean the Surrounding Area

Make sure the area you will be using the steam cleaner on it free of as much dirt as possible. You will not want to push additional dirt or grime into the grout.

Sweep the area you will be cleaning with a broom to remove any loose dirt, debris, hair, or anything else that may be on or around the grout you are about to clean. Using a mop or sponge with a mild detergent or floor cleaner, perform a brief surface clean of the tile to reduce the amount of dirty water that the steam cleaning process will generate.

How to Clean Your Floor Tile Grout With Steam

By this time, the steam cleaner should be heated and ready to release steam. Attach a steamer wand, or extension attachment, to the steam tube to be able to stand while using the cleaner. At the end of that, add the nylon brush attachment. There should be a brass brush attachment as well, but it is recommended that you start with the more mild nylon brush.

Turn on the steam, to full power if the cleaner is adjustable, and start cleaning the grout with a light scrubbing action. We recommend starting at the corner farthest away from the room’s exit and work in sections to keep track of the areas you have already cleaned.

You will notice dirt will start to lift off the grout. Feel free to continue scrubbing, but not too hard. If you are not seeing results that you are happy with when using the nylon brush, try swapping it for the brass brush. Brass is a much stiffer material and will scrub more of the surface dirt off the grout.

As you are cleaning, pay attention to the condition the grout is in. If there was originally a sealant on the grout that might be failing, you may need to add another coat. If there was never a sealer and the tile is in an area that might receive a lot of water, adding sealant might also be advised.

Person cleaning the floor tile grout with steam

Continue until the entire floor is complete. With large floors, or with a small steam cleaner, it is possible that you may need to refill the water canister and re-heat the water.

After Cleaning Your Floor Tile Grout With Steam

Using either a wide floor attachment for the cleaner, a mop, or a sponge, and lightly clean the area again with floor cleaner or a mild detergent. Steam cleaning can pull out a lot of dirt and grime from the grout, and since there is not a suction device on many commercial steam cleaners, that dirt is now sitting on the tile. Be sure to rinse the mop often.

Once the steam cleaning process is over, turn off the steam, unplug the steamer, and move it to an out of the way area to cool down. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on emptying the water canister and storage of the unit.

If the condition of the grout requires it, consider adding grout sealant.

Now that the floor and grout is completely clean, you may disinfect it if desired. In most cases, the steam will have killed off almost all bacteria, microbes, and viruses, but disinfecting is not a bad idea.

Conclusion

While there are other ways to clean tile grout that is on the floor, using a steam cleaner is the most efficient way of doing it. Harsh detergents may clean the grout just as well, but the possibility of injury, or even discoloring the grout is possible. Steam is the best solution to clean floor tile grout.