Is professional tile/grout cleaning worth it?
August 14, 2020 9:40 AM   Subscribe

I’ve been in my little apartment ten years and likely to stay for the foreseeable future. All the floors are tile, plus the shower stall is tile. The grout is looking pretty ugly. I’m not a big DIY person and I googled and found that there is such a thing as professional tile/grout cleaning. Has anyone done this and in your experience, was it worth it? How much difference did it make? How long did it last?

The amount quoted for cleaning is doable for me and i think worth it if it makes a significant difference to the look of my floors and lasts at least a few years. The anointed quotes for replacing the grout is not sensible for me, but could be in the future if I prioritize it.

Most of what I’m finding online is cleaning companies saying it’s totally worth it and more-intrepid-housekeepers-than-I-am sharing tips for DIY.

(Anytime the building has addressed an actual issue, they leave things looking worse even if they are working better. Going to management on this doesn’t make sense in my context).

posted by Salamandrous to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I would say so. I have been surprised by the level of grime that gets in those cracks, and how it changes the whole look of a room to have the grout really shining.

Since you've noticed it, it may have reached a point where it is too gross to ignore (we all get there) and it probably took a good while to get there.

I'm not sure what a tile cleaner would do that's better than a good wet mopping but grout is a different story.

My feeling is you'll thank yourself and every time you see it after the cleaning you'll think, damn, that's so much nicer.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 10:03 AM on August 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

What color is your grout? Have you looked into using a grout pen instead of paying for a cleaning? I've never used one, but have looked into it and the reviews seem good (some of the pictures and videos show a pretty dramatic difference). I think you're supposed to do it in roughly the same color as your current grout. However I have also heard of people dyeing their grout darker (say, going from white to gray) - not sure if that's the same product or a different one, or if your landlord would let you.

Also, if you get the grout cleaned or dyed (either yourself or professionally), I definitely would seal the grout afterwards. You may have to wait a few days for the grout to dry out before sealing, to make sure no water is left in it. I just sealed my new grout recently, and used Miracle Sealants (both the 511 Impregnator Sealer and Porous Plus - I did multiple coats on both the grout and the tile as I'm nervous about marble!). I believe those are both silicone-based sealants and are apparently better at preventing many stains than water-based sealants. If you have tile that's at all porous (natural stone, I think, not porcelain or ceramic), those sealants also work on that too. The grout dramatically darkens temporarily when the sealer is applied, but mine went back to basically the original color, and water now seems to bead up on the surface rather than soaking in.

Also, if you replace the grout, consider a non-Portland-cement grout. There are grouts that are marginally more expensive (under $100 more, I think) that are much more stain resistant. Epoxy is the most stain resistant, but it's apparently tricky. There are others that are better than builder-grade grout that are easier to work with, though. I think Mapei makes a few. My tile guy refused to use them as they can be a little bit harder to do, but someone else who's a bit more flexible might be willing.
posted by ClaireBear at 10:12 AM on August 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'll second Claire's comment about sealing and say: professional cleaning will be worth the cost, ONLY IF you seal the grout.

Sealing is easy -- it's spraying something on, waiting some time, then wiping the residue off. And it keeps things clean; you shouldn't need a repeat cleaning for years. I used Tuff Duck.

With the amount of grout it sounds like you have, it's probably worth paying someone to do. It can be physically hard, and you're also paying for someone's expertise of what works (which as you've seen from your searches, varies a lot). But, definitely seal it.
posted by ashy_sock at 10:27 AM on August 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

If it's white, try a Chlorox Bleach Pen first. I used that in a past apartment and the grout looked like new.
posted by pinochiette at 10:30 AM on August 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

Bleach pens and toilet bowl cleaning gel work WONDERS, but bleach does degrade grout if used regularly. I clean the grout once a year with bleach, then use car wax on it. Water beads right off for months. Anything with bleach with eventually make the grout brittle and subject to easily chipping and flaking off.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:38 AM on August 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'll be a bit more specific about the grout sealing process, since I just did this procedure. (While I mostly sealed both the grout and the tile, I gave the grout one extra coat of sealant since the marble had already been sealed once before grouting, and I wanted the grout to have the same number of coats of sealant). Here is how I sealed grout without sealing the tile too:

1) I took a cheap plastic cup (actually, a MacDonalds XL soda cup cut down to about 4-5" height for ease of use), and filled it with Miracle Sealant.

2) I then took a foam brush with a chiseled tip that I had bought at Home Depot for under $1 in the paint brush section (may have been this exact one, but this tip was definitely pointed like this one). The chiseled tip is important.

3) I dipped it in the cup and held it there for a minute while the foam got saturated with sealant.

4) I ran the foam brush over the grout lines, pressing just hard enough to saturate the whole grout line without pressing so hard that sealant got on the tiles themselves too (you'll quickly figure out the right amount of pressure, and the chiseled tip makes this amount of precision possible).

5) Several minutes later (the bottle says 3-5 minutes later but I think I mostly left it longer), I went around with a clean cotton rag and absorbed the excess sealant. Any of these rags should do, or even a freshly washed towel that you're prepared to throw away (I bought a bag of painter's rags from Home Depot). Just avoid using anything polyester-based (it won't absorb well) or paper-based, like a paper towel (can disintegrate, leaving bits everywhere [ask me how I know!]).

6) Repeat this process at least once or twice (so, at least 2-3 times in total), ideally until the grout lines can no longer absorb any more sealant and until water beads up on the surface and doesn't absorb into it. You shouldn't walk on the grout for at least an hour after applying a coat of sealant. The whole thing is a bit time-consuming as you need to wait at least an hour - and ideally at least half a day - to apply another coat of sealant. The whole thing took me about a day and a half in total. It's also very stinky with fumes.

7) Note that this can slightly darken grout permanently. My grout lines were a light to mid gray, and are maybe a tiny bit darker - not much, but a slight tad. I called Miracle Sealant and they said it was some sort of "shading effect" from the sealant cover. It's not noticeable to anyone but me, I think.

8) The Miracle Sealant folks told me this sealing process should last 3-10 years. When the grout starts absorbing liquid again, that indicates it's time for more sealant.
posted by ClaireBear at 1:08 PM on August 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

I use scrubbing bubbles every few months and the grout in the shower looks good.
posted by theora55 at 2:42 PM on August 14, 2020

I did a large kitchen myself. I used a steam cleaner with a brass brush tip to clean 20 years of dirty mop water from white grout. I then bought the latex-based grout sealant and applied it on all the grout. It was hard work physical. It took several days and was hard on my back and knees. It looked pretty good. I value the learning experience but don't ever want to do it again.

For the rest of the house (bathrooms, shower, and entryway), I hired the local "Tile and Grout King". They did a great job.
posted by dum spiro spero at 3:52 PM on August 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

If you clean your grout, you may then be tempted, as I was, to freshen your caulk with a quick-fix product... so I'm just popping in with a data point that LePage ReNew Caulk Pen is total garbage, don't buy it- better to rip out all your caulk and re-do it.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:20 PM on August 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

Thank you so much everybody! This is happening and I'm excited :)

I will be using some of these tips to hopefully keep it looking better longer.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:27 AM on August 18, 2020

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