OK, so you have a tiled shower. Do you want the good news or the bad news first? Well, the bad news for your grout is that mold and mildew thrive best in moist and warm places with minimal air circulation. The good news is that this is easily prevented by getting into a smart routine with your shower maintenance, as well as the rest of your bathroom and anywhere else your tile is subjected to wet conditions.
A lot of people don’t realize that grout is a very porous material and can be damaged by many common household cleaners. That means not only can water seep into the grout and get under the tile, but that it can harbor mildew as well. But don’t worry, it’s easy to prevent as long as you follow these guidelines:
How to prevent mold and mildew from growing:
Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. Staying proactive here will save you a major headache down the line in trying to clean mildew and stains out of your grout. The key to preventing mold growth is to deprive it of as much moisture as possible. With this being shower or bathroom tile, that may sound a little impossible, but there are some steps you can take to keep moisture out of your tile as much as possible:
Make sure your bathroom has proper air circulation:
It’s a good idea to open a window and/or run the bathroom exhaust fan for 10-15 minutes following a shower. Good airflow helps with fast evaporation of water on the tile, drying before mildew has a chance to grow and start to cause a problem. Leaving the shower door or curtain open will help cut down on this time as well.
Wipe down or squeegee your shower after use:
This is a good habit to get into, and only takes a few moments. You can use a hand towel or a squeegee to wipe away excess moisture, pay attention to where water naturally wants to pool and be sure to get these spots as well.
How to clean your grout:
One recommendation we see being thrown around a lot is to use a vinegar-based solution for cleaning grout, but this is not the best idea. Like previously mentioned, vinegar and other acidic substances will eat away at the structure of the grout. Over time this can lead to the structure deteriorating and breaking apart, allowing water, dirt and grime to get in underneath the tile.
What you should use instead is a pH balanced cleaner that is formulated specifically for use on grout, like Granite Gold Grout Cleaner®, which is safe for use on natural stone, porcelain tile and colored grout. Overly abrasive scrubbing tools can break down and damage your granite as well, which is why the cleaner comes with a nylon scrub brush to agitate and dislodge dirt in the hills and valleys of your grout.
How to remove tough grime:
For particularly stubborn grime or mildew, you have a few options. It’s important to avoid discoloration, especially with darker shades of grout. Overly alkaline chemicals (opposite of acidic) like bleach can absorb into the grout and oxidize, leaving a white stain.
However, for really tough grime and mildew, bleach can be used if diluted to a 50/50 mix with water. Just make sure to rinse this solution away completely, and be careful to keep the mixture off of metal fixtures, porcelain and wood surfaces.
Have natural stone tile? Seal your stone as well as the grout:
Stone like granite, marble and travertine require sealing to resist moisture and staining, as the natural stone is also a porous material. A good quality sealer will form a protective barrier over these pores to prevent moisture from seeping in, and to protect the surface from harmful chemicals at the same time.
It’s recommended to seal your stone once every 6-12 months, but this time greatly depends on the kind of use the stone is seeing in any given area.
How do you know when it’s time to reseal?
You can check the integrity of your seal with the water test. Pour a small spot of water (about 3 inches in diameter) on the surface of the stone in multiple spots and let it sit for half an hour before wiping away. If the stone darkens in those spots, it means water is penetrating your stone and needs to be sealed again.
Just remember, the name of the game when it comes to maintaining your grout is to stay on top of your routine! Keep excess moisture off your tile, and cleaning will be a breeze. Let things go and… well, it’s not pretty.
For more grout and natural stone care tips, we have a massive catalog of helpful content and guides just like this on our blog. Be sure to check out our full line of stone and household cleaning and care products!