steam cleaning grout bathroom tile

Does Steam Cleaning Damage Grout?

Professional cleaners will often resort to using strong chemicals to clean grout. At home, this is unsafe for kids, bad for the environment, and harmful to you! Many people are now realizing that steam cleaners are an excellent tool for cleaning grout. But many people are still scared that using their steam cleaner will damage their grout or tiles.

Does Steam Cleaning Damage Grout?

Steam cleaning will not damage your grout. Do not use your steam cleaner on damaged grout. Damage caused by steam cleaners is usually because steam cleaners were used on already damaged grout or were used with chemicals.

I seem to ALWAYS get these questions about grout from fans of my site. It seems to be one that plagues the internet.

So in this article, once and for all, I’ll be covering everything you need to know about steam cleaning grout and I’ll teach you how not to do it in a way that causes damage to it.

What Is Grout Anyway?

What is grout made out of?

Firstly, let’s get back to basics to understand what grout actually is.

Grout in house tile installations is usually composed of a mixture of both cement and sand. There’s also another type of grout called epoxy-grout. It’s a bit different in nature, more expensive, and is often used in the installation of glass tiles or in places like splashbacks. It’s also more water-resistant, and less prone to staining.

Folks generally depend on standard grout made from cement and sand because it is cheaper to make and readily available. Bathrooms usually use cement-based grout unless you have fancy tiles.

Kitchens might have cement based grout for the tiles on the floor, and Epoxy-based grout for the splashbacks where they get exposed to things like acids and oils.

Cement based grout is porous which means that it is likely to absorb literally anything. This ultimately causes grime and bacteria to accumulate. In moist areas like your shower, the grout between tiles most likely suffers from mildew and mold accumulation. 

Grout’s biggest enemy is constant dampness & dirty mop water!
Dampness allows mold to grow & dirty mop water causes discoloration of your grout. Instead of being pale in color, it just turns into an ugly brown, which is gross!

Cleaning Grout The Old Fashioned Way

Can I Clean Grout by Scrubbing?

Well, the answer is yes…. I guess… but don’t bother.

Yes, you can clean your grout by applying grout cleaning products and scrubbing with a brush. A special grout brush will make this easier. But no, it won’t give you optimum cleanliness, especially if your grout is really suffering.

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That’s because mold, mildew, and stains penetrate the surface of the grout.

As the grout is porous, stains get in below the surface so your superficial scrubbing will never be able to reach it.

Mold and mildew have a place to hide inside the surface of the grout which means that no matter how hard you scrub, there will still be some mold or mildew leftover that comes back annoyingly quickly!

Ways to Clean Grout Without A Steam Cleaner (How People Normally Clean Grout)

These are some of the most common methods to clean grout. They’ll work best for you if your grout is relatively new and hasn’t been damaged yet with repetitive cleaning.

Using Grout-Cleaning Products

One of the most recommended grout-cleaning products is Grout-Eez.

Wear some gloves and protective glasses, spread some on the grout between your tiles, leave for 5 to 10 minutes. Then scrub.

Scrubbing is done best with a grout-cleaning-specialized scrubber, which doesn’t damage your grout by pulling it out.

Using Homemade Mixtures

You can create a homemade mixture by combining the following ingredients:

  • ½ cup of Baking Soda
  • ¼ cup of Hydrogen Peroxide
  • 1 tsp of liquid dish soap

Spread that mixture on your grout, leave for a while, then scrub, scrub, scrub!

The Issue With Cleaning Grout With Cleaners

Since you’ll be using abrasive heavy-duty cleaners, there are definitely downsides to cleaning grout by hand. If you use these heavy-duty cleaners regularly, your grout will wear out. 

Some folks use other products, like bleach and vinegar. They both have good cleansing effects. However, bleach stains colored grout, and it’s not often recommended on regular grout either by the manufacturer.

Vinegar is a big no-no as well. The reason is that vinegar is an acid, whereas, the cement component in your grout is alkaline based. Acids react with alkaline creating a neutralization reaction whose products are salt and water. In simpler terms, using homemade solutions with vinegar causes grout’s cement to dissolve, which will cause its wear and breakdown.

Another thing you also shouldn’t add to your grout whilst hand-cleaning it is any oil/wax-based cleaner, like PineSol or Pledge.

Like we’ve mentioned, grout is porous. It’ll absorb whatever’s poured on it and Pledge/PineSol is no exception. Oil aids in dirt and debris accumulation so congrats, you’ve just made things worse. 

Steam Cleaning Grout – The Better Alternative!

The best method for cleaning grout is definitely steam cleaning!

What is a Steam Cleaner?

A handheld steam cleaner is a machine designed for deep-cleaning tasks. It heats water above its boiling point and then releases water vapor in the form of blasts through a nozzle. These gushes of steam loosen up any form of dirt, grime, and mildew.

Steam cleaner nozzles are equipped with nylon/brass stiff brushes, which you can use to scrub stubborn dirt in tandem with steam cleaning. The final result is wondrous.

Will Steam Cleaning Damage My Grout?

No, it won’t. There’s a big misconception plaguing people’s minds that steam cleaning will damage your grout but that’s nowhere near the truth.

Steam cleaning uses water vapor, which when released, comes in contact with the grout cement-sand mixtures surface. It sanitizes the surface of the grout, but the cement-sand mixture is much stronger than the steam. Steam cleaning doesn’t even damage your grout sealer if it’s applied.

What about people on forums who’ve said they had their grout really damaged because of it?

The only time grout may get damaged from steam cleaning and/or any other kind of cleaning is when the grout is already damaged, or if you mix a harsh cleaning agent in your steam cleaner.

You should avoid adding anything into your steam cleaner when cleaning your grout. Just water is enough to do the task!

We’ll later cover up signs and symptoms of grout damage which indicates that the grout’s time is up and that it will need to get replaced.

Types of Steam Cleaners

There are 4 types of steam cleaners, and while all of them produce steam to thoroughly clean anything. They come in various shapes and sizes to suit different cleaning sites.

A Steam Mop, which is one of the types of steam cleaners wouldn’t suit the grueling task of grout cleaning as it’s meant to cover a larger surface area for cleaning floors and tiles. 

Handheld steam cleaners, or ordinary steam cleaners with a hose are portable, easy manover and come with a nozzle accessory will work best for cleaning grouts.

3 Best Steam Cleaners for Grout Cleaning

It’d benefit you greatly if you’d invest in a steam cleaner. It’s an excellent method to maintain cleanliness and sanitization in your house with water as the only component. 

I’ve created a nice list of the 3 best grout steam cleaners available to aid you in choosing one that’d suit you. Take a look!

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1. Steamfast SF-370WH Multi-Purpose Steam Cleaner

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  • Loaded with 15 attachments, which make it extremely versatile.
  • You can attach the nozzle and clean your grout, or the mop attachment to clean your tiles.
  • Its water tank size is 45 ounces, which provides about 45 minutes of steam.
  • Equipped with a trigger, which releases steam on demand. This saves up water and the need to refill frequently.

2. DBTech Multi-PurposePursteam Handheld Steam Cleaner

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  • Handheld, compact, and easy to store
  • Budget-friendly
  • Perfect for grout steam cleaning
  • Includes 9 accessories for all kinds of cleaning purposes

2. Pursteam Handheld Steam Cleaner

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  • Portable and lightweight
  • Includes 9 different accessories
  • Only takes 3 ~ 4 minutes to warm up
  • Affordable price

How Can I Safely Steam Clean Grout?

The first thing you should do is to inspect your grout prior to cleaning. 

If your grout suffers from discoloration, cracks, holes and/or is literally falling apart, you’ll have to consult a professional about fixing it, or in more extreme cases, changing it entirely.  

After you’ve made sure your grout is fine, let’s start with the steam cleaning process. It’s simple; there’s no math at all.

Step 1

You’ll start your steam cleaning process by filling your steam cleaner with water if not filled, and preferably attach your nylon/brass brush if available. Heat the water up into at least 200 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Step 2

Lightly brush your grout. You’ll start noticing debris and dirt dissolving. Your steam cleaner will lift dirt off your tile completely. 

Step 3 

Once all residual dirt has been lifted off, and your grout is clean, you’ve achieved your task, but you’re now left with unclean tiles. 

You can either wipe tiles with a cloth or switch into a rectangular mop accessory or anything similar to wipe off the dirt. 

Congratulations! You’re done. Your tile should be as good as new. Wasn’t that easy!

Grout Sealing

After you’re done with cleaning grout, it’s always a plus point to apply a grout sealer.

A grout sealer is a coating applied over the grout to seal it off. This prevents moisture, dirt, and debris from penetrating the porous structure of the grout. 

If you’ve already had a grout sealer recently applied on your grout lines before steam cleaning, then you won’t have to re-apply it.

If it’s been a while or you haven’t got a grout sealer on, I advise you to apply it on your grout lines, as this will protect it from moisture and debris. It’ll save you the effort of cleaning your grout a multitude of times per week. 

Taking Care of Your Grout

Grout, especially shower grout, is in massive need of care. Yes, this seems troublesome, but it’ll save you a good amount of money and time invested in re-grouting due to improper care.

Use the squeegee to guide water to your drain when showering; you can wipe any excess droplets with a microfiber cloth or a sponge squeegee.

Make sure to keep your shower and bathroom well-ventilated. Stagnant water is not a grout’s best friend.

Finally, make sure to reseal your grout at least once a year. 

To Wrap It All Up

Grout is often neglected, that is till your tiles become dislodged and problems arise. It’s extremely important to provide good care for your grout. The best way is through steam cleaning. 

Contrary to popular belief, steam cleaning doesn’t damage grout in any way. It can deeply cleanse it from the inside ensuring its longevity. 

Get your steam cleaner and give it a try. Steam cleaners are amazing cleaning, disinfecting tools that all homes should have anyway, so there’s no harm in buying one at all.

You can use a steam cleaner in cleaning curtains, carpets, tiles, and even greasy ovens and BBQs.

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