Chances are, no matter where you live, and no matter how big or how small your home is, it contains tile somewhere inside. Tiles are ubiquitous, can be aesthetically pleasing, and serve some important functions. However, with tile comes grout. This indispensable and humble substance can, over time, become stained and discolored, robbing the tiles of their good looks and even causing damage. So, what exactly is grout? What are some ways in which it can become stained or discolored? What are some of the best tips for cleaning grout, this necessary addition to tile? Lets answer these questions.
WHAT IS GROUT
When tile is laid it is a step by step process. First, the person laying the tile will usually apply some kind of mortar to the surface which is going to be tiled. This initial application of mortar acts as a kind of glue which secures the tiles to the surface the are being laid on. Next, the tile is laid in the desired pattern or motif. After the tiles have been laid, there is usually a space left between the individual tiles. Grout is the substance that is used to fill the spaces that are left after tile laying, and it is easily visible. The grout comes in a couple of basic varieties, sanded and not sanded. It is usually made from a kind of cement and serves some important functions.
Grout application after the setting of tiles will help to keep the tiles in place by securing their edges, a very important job. Grout also helps maintain the overall structure and integrity of the tile job. Just as importantly, properly applied grout will help to keep moisture out from under the tiles, helping to maintain the beauty and integrity of this important home investment.
WHAT ARE SOME WAYS IN WHICH IT CAN BECOME STAINED OR DISCOLORED?
Many grouts, when initially applied, are actually quite porous. Moisture of various kinds can and will penetrate unsealed grout, and this invading liquid over time will compromise the inner structure of the grout, weakening and disfiguring it. Tile is also frequently laid in areas that are exposed to moisture in varying amounts. This moisture is an open invitation to various types of mold, mildew and fungus which will do a number on the look and structure of the grout. These kinds of fungus are also notorious for finding their way under the tile itself, an event which can have serious long term consequences for the not inexpensive tiles you worked so hard to put into place. In addition, over time simple dirt and debris inevitably will penetrate the grout. These lurking dangers to the grout and tile make sealing the grout of the utmost importance. Sealers can be added to the grout pre-application or they can be applied shortly after installation, and they will greatly add to the longevity of the tile.
BEST TIPS FOR CLEANING THE GROUT
You will be glad to hear that there are several easy ways to clean and maintain your grout to keep it healthy and bright. Soaking with simple bleach of the oxygen variety is an easy and non-toxic method favored by many. The powerful oxidizing ingredients in the bleach will take apart many of the stain causing agents before you even start scrubbing, and a few minutes of applying a little elbow grease after about 30 minutes of soaking will restore grout to pristine condition. If the area covered by your tile is large you may want to steam clean it for efficiency. Tiles that are steam cleaned periodically are the easiest to keep in great shape. Another environmentally friendly method is to mix baking soda with salt and some vinegar, let the mixture sit on the grout for a short period, and gently scour and rinse. Finally, simply giving your tile a cleaning immediately after it becomes wet or dirty is another time tested method. Whichever method you choose, one thing is certain; if you take care of your grout it will take care of you, too.