Steam cleaners are the power tools of grout cleaning (and other types of deep cleaning). They make quick work of an otherwise tedious and arm-killing job. Steam cleaners heat water to more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit and have nozzles that direct blasts of steam onto the grout. The nozzles can hold special nylon or brass brushes made specifically for grout cleaning, so you scrub while you steam. The process creates a dirty slurry of grime and water that you simply rinse or mop away.
Equipment / Tools
- Broom and mop
- Steam cleaner with grout brush attachments
- Sponges (optional)
Clean the Tile
Start by cleaning the entire area where you will steam clean. This gets rid of dirt, grit, and excess gunk that will only hamper your steam-cleaning efforts. Excess dirt or soap scum also can clog the steam cleaner brush. For floor tile, sweep and damp-mop the tile. For walls, sponge-clean the tiles, using a mild detergent, if desired, then rinse.
Set Up the Steam Cleaner
Fill the steam cleaner with water, then turn on the unit and set it to steam, as directed by the manufacturer. Typically, it takes just a few minutes to create the steam. Attach the hose to the steam cleaner, as directed. Choose an appropriate brush for the size of your grout and the type of tile, following the manufacturer's recommendations. As a general rule, it's best to start with a nylon-bristle brush, which is effective on most grout and will not damage the tile. If necessary, you might move to a brass-bristle brush for stubborn dirt; just be aware that brass brushes may damage some types of tile.
Begin Steaming and Scrubbing
Turn on the steam with the recommended rate of spray. Scrub the grout directly with vigorous back-and-forth strokes. Work one small section at a time until it is clean, then move on to the next section. If you're cleaning walls, work from the top down so that all the dirty water runs down onto uncleaned areas.
Rinse and Repeat
Stop scrubbing periodically to rinse and/or mop or sponge each cleaned section. It's important to clean up the dirty water before it settles back into the grout and dries. Refill and reheat the steamer as needed, and continue the same process until the job is complete. Finish with a final cleaning of the entire area.
Sealing Cleaned Grout
Steam cleaning can be done on sealed and unsealed grout; it won't hurt the sealer. But once you've cleaned your grout and restored its original color, the best way to keep it clean is to seal it with a high-quality grout sealer. Sealers come in two basic types: penetrating and topical. Both have their pluses and minuses, so compare the options relative to your tile (including how the sealer might affect the grout color and sheen) to choose the best sealer for your needs.