Are Steam Cleaners Good for Cleaning Grout

Cleaning grout isn’t a walk in the park. Unlike cleaning the smoother tile surfaces, grout usually needs extra attention because it’s where hard-to-remove dirt and mildew often sets in. Scrubbing them can make them clean, but this process is tiresome and time-consuming – you’ll be exhausted before you know it, and it’s often not worth the effort because of how quickly it can get dirty again.

But with the help of steam cleaners, cleaning grout can be simple. However, many people seem to feel or believe that steam cleaning isn’t appropriate for use in cleaning grout.

In this article, learn about steam cleaning grout, how to do it properly, and some tips to do it safely.

What is Grout?

A man cleaning grout using a brush

Grout is a composite material used to fill the spaces between stones and tiles during installation. Its composition varies but comprises mortar paste typically containing cement, water, lime, and color pigment. Sometimes, sand is added if the gap or crack to be filled is larger than usual.

Grout is used to keeping the tiles in place for years to come, adding rigidity and strength to the construction and installation. It also prevents debris from penetrating the spaces beneath your tiles.

Why Does Grout Get Dirty?

Grout attracts dirt easily because it’s permeable. It soaks up dirt and spills so that it can stain quickly. It usually sits lower than the tiled surface, so the dirt tends to pool in the grout and builds up over time. Eventually, you’ll notice your grout changing colors.

Are Steam Cleaners Good for Cleaning Grout?

While tiles are smooth and easy to clean, grout draws in dirt quickly, making it more challenging to eliminate dirt from routine cleaning. You can use harsh chemicals like bleach and some scrubbing on your hands and knees, but it can be smelly and exhausting.

This is where a steam cleaner comes in and quickly works an otherwise time-intensive task. Using pressurized steam, you can effectively clean grout and restore your tiled floors to their former glory, so they look like new.

Steam cleaning is an effective method of cleaning sealed grout. The pressurized steam, gentle scrub, and bristle brush can make your grout look new. It can help you scrub even the toughest spots and grime from your tiles. It can also help blast dirt off tile floors and even reach the grout to clean and sanitize.

Dirt particles, stains, and other debris can dull and wear down grout, so the cleaner you keep your floor, the longer the grout and tile will last. You can use steam cleaners on most types of tile flooring, including ceramic, porcelain, marble, terrazzo, and any tile surface.

The steam cleaner’s hot water effectively blasts off the dirt out of the crevices. The hot water makes it easier for dirt to be removed as it dissolves stuck-on dirt. Then, the brush heads allow you to gently scrub the grout and loosen dirt with the power of steam.

Depending on the steam cleaner you use, you’ll often choose between soft or stiff bristles. When using the steam cleaner for the first time, always start with the softest one and move to harder brushes if it’s not working. The stiffer brush heads are more effective, but make sure it doesn’t damage your grout as you continue. It’s normal to notice a bit of “grout grit” on the floor, but it should only be a little bit.

Some steam cleaners come with attachments designed explicitly for cleaning grout. These are very reliable when cleaning grout, especially brass bristle brushes. Most steam cleaners come with nylon bristle brushes, brass brushes, and sometimes, a stainless steel brush.

Does Steam Cleaning Cause Damage to Grout?

Because steam cleaners produce high-temperature levels, many homeowners wonder if steam cleaning can harm grout. But as long as your grout is intact and has been previously sealed, steam cleaning will not damage the grout.

If used correctly, you shouldn’t have any worries. Pure water vapor alone cannot damage grout because it only weakens dirt and mildew.

However, there are instances when a steam cleaner may damage grout, like when the grout has already started to erode from previous chemical use or if it’s damaged or cracked loose. This is why steam cleaning is not usually recommended for grouts with these conditions:

Previous chemical use

Harsh chemicals are harmful to grout, as they can ruin its adhesiveness. When you use harsh chemicals to clean grout, it can seep down the line because it’s porous. Over time, it loosens up the grout’s cement base.

Already damaged grout

If the grout is already damaged or cracked, it often has an insufficient amount of mortar. In that case, it can easily become loose, chip away, fall out, or crack. The cracked or loose grout may loosen when hit with steam pressure. Always check the grout before steaming to ensure there’s no pre-existing damage.

How to Steam Clean Grout Properly

Steam cleaning grout is a simple process, but as with other cleaning solutions, you have to do it right to prevent damage to your floor and the cleaner itself. Here’s how you can steam-clean grout properly:

1. Sweep or vacuum flooring

Remove any loose dirt and debris by sweeping or vacuuming. This will help you see what’s coming up out of the grout more clearly as you start steam cleaning.

2. Mop the tiles

Take a mop with a cleaner on it and start scrubbing the dirty parts. If your steam cleaner has special attachments, you can use it for mopping. It may seem useless to mop the floors first before you get them dirty again as you clean the grout, but it will help you get a clear picture of the grout and how much dirt is in there.

3. Set up your steam cleaner

Get your machine ready for cleaning. First, attach the bristle brush you want to use on the nozzle of the steam cleaner. Fill it with distilled water so you won’t add extra hard water and minerals into the grout. Then, attach the hose. Choose the proper brush that suits the grout’s size and level of dirt. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions on how to set up the machine.

The next step is to plug it in. Because the device uses steam, you must let it heat the water and gain pressure. It will need around eight minutes to heat up, depending on the size of your unit.

4. Steam and scrub

Start steaming your grout gently using a forward and backward motion. Do a small section first and complete it before moving on to the next. Avoid scrubbing too hard, or you may damage the grout and wear out the bristles on the brush. If you’re also cleaning your walls, consider cleaning them before moving to the floors. Keep an old towel at the base of the wall to absorb water runoff.

5. Stop and swipe

Stop and wipe the dirty water away as you complete a tile or two. Don’t let the dirty water pool on the grout, as it will soak back in and make it dirty again.

6. Repeat as necessary

Depending on how dirty your grout is, you may need a round two for cleaning it the second time.

7. Let it dry

After cleaning, you must give it some time to dry before letting anyone walk on the floors again. You may need to use a fan or a hairdryer to speed up the process.

8. Re-seal as necessary

Sealants can be applied after cleaning for added protection. Ideally, grout must be sealed annually to keep it from becoming too porous and to keep it looking fresh and clean.

Tips for Safely Cleaning Grout with a Steam Cleaner

Despite the potential risks, it is possible to clean grout with a steam cleaner safely. Here are some tips for doing so:

1. Use a low-pressure setting

When using a steam cleaner on grout, it is important to use a low-pressure setting. This will help to minimize the risk of damaging the grout by reducing the force of the steam.

2. Use a wide nozzle

Using a wide nozzle on your steam cleaner can also help reduce the steam’s pressure. This will allow you to clean the grout more gently and minimize the risk of damage.

3. Avoid direct contact with the grout

When using a steam cleaner on grout, avoiding direct contact with the grout is important. Instead, hold the steam cleaner a few inches away from the grout and move it back and forth slowly.

4. Test on a small area first

Before using a steam cleaner on your grout, testing it on a small, inconspicuous area is important. This will allow you to see how the grout reacts to the steam and adjust your cleaning method if necessary.

5. Follow up with a grout sealer

After cleaning your grout with a steam cleaner, following up with a grout sealer is a good idea. This will help to protect the grout from future damage and discoloration.