The best grout cleaner
The grout between your floor and wall tiles looks beautiful when it's brand new. But after a few months? Not so pretty. Grout is porous, which means if it's unsealed, it can absorb dirt, grease, stains, and the dirty mop water seeping into your floor's grout lines. Even sealed grout is only protected for up to two years until it needs resealing, which few of us remember to do.
Enter grout cleaners. Grout cleaners can be gentle or harsh depending on your needs. Our shopping guide discusses what cleaner is best and tips to get the job done right. We've included our top picks at the end of this article, such as our favorite, The Floor Guys Grout-EEZ, which is preferred by longtime cleaning professionals.
Considerations when choosing grout cleaner
Floor or wall
Most grout cleaners are fine to use for both floors and walls. If you're cleaning your walls, liquid cleaners tend to quickly drip down the walls without staying on targeted spots. A thicker cleaner, such as a gel that stays in place, is best for cleaning wall grout. Read labels to see if the cleaner is recommended for wall grout.
Cleaning vs. stain removal
Decide if you need to simply clean and brighten your grout or deep-clean the stains out. Your needs dictate whether you should buy a gentle non-acidic cleaner, or a harsher stain-removing acidic or bleach-based product you use less frequently.
Not all grout cleaners can be used on natural stone. Stone is just as porous as grout -- not only does it absorb the harshest acid- or bleach-based cleaners, the cleaners could mark or pit the natural stone surface. There are specific grout cleaners made for natural stone surfaces.
Some grout cleaners include hydrogen peroxide -- also known as oxygen-based bleach -- which is one of the ingredients used to bubble away some stains and soap scum. It won't harm the grout over time.
A grout cleaner with antimicrobial properties has an additive that sanitizes and inhibits the growth of bacteria, fungi, mold, and spores.
This harsh but effective feature of a grout cleaner is best used for deep-stain removal. It is not okay for everyday use.
Use a cleaner with bleach sparingly on grout. Though it can be effective at whitening and killing mold and mildew, it can also erode grout when frequently used.
Grout cleaner prices
The least expensive grout cleaners run from $7 to $11 for a 24- to 32-ounce bottle. They're basic, gentle, non-acidic liquids that can be used frequently on just about any material, from tile to marble. From $11 to $19, you'll find heavier-duty cleaners that also offer plenty of stain removal power. Over $20 are more acidic-based commercial cleaners that promise to deep-clean your grout. These more expensive products are harsh and can't be used on natural stone products.
Q. Should grout always be sealed after cleaning?
A. Absolutely, but know your sealants and your tile's material before attempting the job. Penetrating sealants are ideal for bathrooms. Membrane-forming sealants are best for kitchens, but not bathrooms where it could trap water. Apply sealant slowly and thoroughly and add a second coat if recommended.
Q. What type of cleaner should I used on colored grout?
A. Not all grout is white. Darker grout -- including gray -- actually hides stains best. If you have a lightly tinted or even darker jewel tone grout, use a bleach-free grout cleaner to preserve the color.
Grout cleaners we recommend
Best of the best: The Floor Guys Grout-Eez
Our take: This acid-based grout cleaner gets down deep into stains to remove them.
What we like: In addition to excellent and responsive customer service, this cleaner acts fast, but follow directions to the letter. It fizzes when it pulls up stains. There's no messy residue to clean up.
What we dislike: You can't use this product on natural stone and grout, but they do have another cleaner for that.
Best bang for your buck: Zep Grout Cleaner
Our take: A classic formula that safely works on colored grout.
What we like: There's no elbow grease necessary to clean grout. The formula has a mild smell.
What we dislike: It takes a little practice using the cap to target the cleaner where it needs to go.
Choice 3: TECH Grout Cleaner
Our take: A grout cleaner mild enough for frequent use.
What we like: This non-acidic formula is gentle enough to work on marble. It's also safe on colored grout. The formula is odorless.
What we dislike: It's more of a cleaner than a stain remover.
Marilyn Zelinsky-Syarto is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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