How to Steam Clean Grout

Updated
Scouring and scrubbing grout are so 2000 — steam cleaning is in.

Cleaning grout is one of those chores that most of us dread. It’s usually tedious work that involves toxic detergents, elbow grease and lots of time. Sadly, after all your efforts, you may still find traces of stubborn grunge.

Steam cleaning can be an effective alternative in both respects — if done correctly. Our guide will reveal the nitty-gritty on how to steam clean grout.


Can Steam Cleaning Damage Grout?

The Tile Council of North America recommends steaming as a cleaning method for grout (1). So unless your grout is falling apart (e.g., ancient or poorly installed) you shouldn’t have any issues.

How to Steam Clean Grout

Grout is the paste-like substance that hardens to fill in the crevices between your tiles. The majority of homes have conventional grout, which is made of cement (2).

Cement is a tough material, but also a porous one (3). That means it’s more likely to absorb stains.

This can make it far more difficult to clean than slick surfaces. Muck that’s easily wiped off your tiles ends up sinking into your grout.

Heat, though, is an element that most stains succumb to. And water only vaporizes into steam at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. As a gas, steam can reach temperatures well over this figure (4).

For this reason, steam is recognized as one of the most potent and dependable sanitization methods. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends steam for sterilizing health facilities, so it should suffice for your home (5).

1. Choose the Best Steam Cleaner for Grout

Not all steam cleaners are compatible with all applications. A hefty wheeled model might be great for your floors, but impossible to use on your walls.

Portable handheld models are practical for small tasks. However, the small tank capacity could be aggravating for larger jobs, as you’ll need to stop frequently to refill it.

But what if you own one of these gadgets and don’t want to spend more money? See if the manufacturer sells accessories for targeted grout cleaning. For instance, extended hoses for heavier models or scrub brushes for handheld steam cleaners.

You can also rent a steam cleaner for a set period of time if you don’t want to buy one. Call up your local hardware store or a Home Depot for availability.

Here’s what you should look out for when shopping for a steam cleaner for grout:

  • Reach: Heavy-duty steam cleaners have their advantages, but may not work if you have tiled walls. So make sure you choose a device that can reach everywhere you need to steam.
  • Tank capacity: How much grout do you need to tackle? If most of your home is tiled, look for a model with a bigger water tank for a longer runtime without refills.
  • Accessories: Certain steam cleaners come with attachments for specific uses. Look for products that include or sell brushes for grout (although you can use nozzles too). The more accessories there are, the more versatile your steam cleaner will be.

Watch out for Metal Brushes

Stainless steel and brass brushes could damage your ceramic tile. You might want to choose nylon bristle brushes instead (6).

2. Clear the Area

Some items are not steam-friendly and need to be kept out of the way while you work. Plus, you don’t want to contaminate surrounding items with steamed-off gunk.

Remove delicate Persian rugs, take away toothbrushes, move kitchen utensils aside. You should also ensure that curious kiddos and pets won’t be near you when you begin.

3. Remove Surface Dirt

Don’t worry, this is low-effort preparation. There’s no arm-tiring scrubbing required at this stage:

  • Vacuum floors: Run your vacuum over your tiled floors to get rid of dust (or pet hair) for a clean starter surface.
  • Wipe away gunk: Are you steaming moisture-heavy areas like your bathroom or kitchen? Try to wipe off as much surface grime as you can. You don’t want to have to pause to clean your steam brush immediately after starting.
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4. Ready Your Steam Cleaner

Consult the manufacturer or rental guidelines to get your steam cleaner ready. Fill it with water as directed (e.g., distilled or tap) and let it heat up. Then attach the accessory you’ll be using on your grout.

5. Start Steam Cleaning Grout

Once your device is ready to steam, it’s time to get to work. Follow these steps for safe and effective cleansing:

  • Work top to bottom: Steam the highest areas first and work your way down. Otherwise, loosened-up dirt could drip down to your floors and you’ll have to redo them.
  • Cover small sections: Don’t start wildly steaming in random directions. Work on small sections and go slowly. Give the steam a chance to break down stubborn grunge in your grout.
  • Clean brush periodically: If you’re using a brush, examine it every so often. After all, if the bristles are thick with crud it won’t be very efficient.

Watch out for Scalds

Steam can cause painful burns known as scalds. Keep your hands clear of the steam-stream (7).

6. Rinse and Repeat (If Needed)

Rinse the steamed areas with plain water, or wipe them down with a wet towel. If they look brand new, you can pat yourself on the back for a job well done. But if you still notice discolorations, you may have to repeat the steaming.

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7. Sealing Grout After Steaming

Keep your grout looking great by sealing it once you’re finished. Cement-based grout should be sealed on a yearly basis, at a minimum (8).

Look for sealants that are recommended for your style of tile and grout. Applying it is straightforward: most amateurs should manage it easily.

Hiring a Professional to Steam Clean Grout

Are you wondering what options you have if you don’t want to go the DIY route? You can get quotes from professional cleaning companies in your area.

The pros use high-powered, industrial-grade machines. They’re often truck-mounted and include a built-in vacuum to minimize the mess (9).


Keeping Your Grout Pristine

Steam cleaning grout is nothing to be intimidated about. It’s a simple process that can make an enormous difference in how your tiles look.

Sealing your brilliantly clean grout will go a long way towards keeping it grunge-free. Aim to perform a maintenance steam every so often.

Finally, always take care to clear the area of vulnerable family members and sensitive items before you steam. And remember, you can always hire an expert if you’re not up to it.

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About the Author

Amy Anthony

Amy is a stay-at-home-mom, seasoned writer, and a home cleaning and organization aficionado. Amy enjoys having an absolutely spotless home and has worked hard to develop strategies to keep it that way, despite having 2 kids and 3 dogs!
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