If you look at architectural trends over time, it’s hard to find anything more consistent and timeless than stone tiling. Whether that be for flooring, showers or a stone tile wall, it has been a staple design choice through the ages. However, for all the glory that beautiful stone gets, the grout holding everything together doesn’t get much attention.
Many people only give their grout a once over or skip it entirely when cleaning their stone — that is until things start to get really bad. So, yes, it makes sense that ignoring your grout just makes for more of a headache later. However, even if you do clean your grout regularly, falling into one of these common pitfalls can lead to even worse problems than if you just ignored your grout completely.
The road to ruined grout is paved with good intentions. That’s how that saying goes, right?
Here are five things to avoid when caring for your grout and the surrounding stone:
1) Don’t Use Too Much Water
This is an easy one to overlook; after all, water is basically synonymous with cleanliness, right? Well the issue here is that grout is a porous material, and too much water making its way into the grout can compromise its structural integrity. Too much water being allowed to sit and soak into your grout can eventually cause it to disintegrate. Plus, there is potential for water to settle underneath the tile itself, making its way through the adhesive holding the tile in place. Loosening part or all of the adhesive under the tile can lead to cracking and more separation from the grout as it’s walked on.
As if the tile and grout falling apart wasn’t bad enough, this also sets you up for mold and mildew issues underneath the tile, which can be detrimental to you and your family’s health. This mold growth can open you up to respiratory infections and can be very difficult to track down as the cause.
2) Don’t Use Harsh or Acidic Chemicals to Clean Your Grout
No one likes to scrub grout. That’s just one of those universal truths. Because of that, it can be really tempting to want to grab the most heavy-duty industrial cleaner you can find in order to make quick work of things. However, this again can lead to bigger problems.
The problem is that these harsh chemicals can weaken and dissolve your grout, and they can damage the stone tile itself. Vinegar and other acid-based chemicals will eat away at your stone’s seal (more on that later), and ultimately dull the professional finish and cause etching on the surface of the stone. Other cleaners to avoid are solutions that are oil, wax or organic based, as these can soak into the grout and just end up attracting and collecting more dirt.
Instead ,what you should be using is an effective, non-acidic cleaner that can help get your grout clean and back to its original color while maintaining its structural integrity. Granite Gold Grout Cleaner® was formulated specifically for effective grout cleaning while being safe on natural-stone, porcelain, ceramic, glass and colored grout. Also included is a nylon scrub brush to help agitate and remove any grime build-up.
For stains in the grout, you can mix one part laundry bleach with one part water and spray it onto the surface (the mixed solution won’t harm stone). Scrub with a safe-on-stone scrub sponge, such as Granite Gold Scrub Sponge® or a blue Scotch-Brite pad (other pads are too harsh on stone), or nylon brush (similar to the one we include with Granite Gold Grout Cleaner®). Let sit for 15 minutes and rinse with water. Mold and mildew thrive off moisture, so be sure you have proper ventilation and dry stone and tile surfaces.
3) Avoid Using Colored Chemicals
Another common pitfall that some homeowners fall into is using chemicals that can discolor your grout. One example is bleach, as your grout can (and will) absorb it, and become oxidized, turning a chalky white. Pure bleach on darker shades of grout is a recipe for discoloring your grout and weakening the structure.
For a lot of people, bleach is a go-to for anything in need of disinfecting, but there are less caustic and damaging solutions to get the job done. In a pinch, bleach diluted 50/50 with water can be an effective solution in your stone showers. Just be sure to avoid contact with metal fixtures, wood surfaces and even porcelain.
If you do have colored grout and aren’t quite sure what to use, it is best to stick with a cleaner that is specially formulated for use on any color grout.
4) Be Careful With Coarse Scrubbers
With grout generally being a pretty tough material, and some grime being so hard to get out of it, it might seem intuitive to use steel wool or a rough scouring pad to scrub between the tiles with, but this isn’t a good move. To be fair, they are effective at scrubbing away stains, but that’s because they’re scraping away a layer of grout to do so. You also risk damaging the surrounding stone.
Instead, it would be smarter to use a stone-safe sponge or nylon bristle brush and can scrub out dirt effectively without being abrasive enough to damage the grout or tile around it.
5) Don’t Forget to Seal Your Grout Along With the Tile
There are many guides around on how to seal your natural stone, but not many people think to seal their grout as well. Being that grout is so susceptible to taking on fluids, it’s paramount to seal your grout when you seal the stone tiles. This sealer creates a layer of protection, preventing water from seeping into and underneath the grout and tile, which in turn prevents bacteria from setting up camp and really taking hold.
In general, it is recommended that you seal your stone every 6-12 months, but high-trafficked areas and ones that have undergone a thorough cleaning might need it sooner than that. If you’re not sure on when and how to seal your grout, please be sure to check out our guide on the topic here. For a pH balanced and 100% non-toxic cleaner that is sealer safe, check out our Granite Gold Daily Cleaner®.