How to Clean Shower Tile
Time Required: Under 2 hours
Mold, mildew, and soap scum can build up on shower tiles and grout, making your bathroom look dingy and dirty. Mold and mildew can be unhealthy, too. A little elbow grease and some shower cleaning products can give your entire bathroom a facelift, so shower tiles and grout look clean and bright again.
Use this guide to learn how to clean shower tile and how to clean shower tile grout.
It’s a good idea to start with the mildest cleaning solution first and work your way up to stronger products, if needed. Always wear rubber gloves when using products with bleach or products that tell you to protect your hands. Work in a well-ventilated area.
Read the label to be sure the cleaner won’t harm your tile or grout. If you can’t tell, test it first in an inconspicuous area, such as behind a toilet.
Many commercial cleaning products can help clean shower tile without scrubbing. Most are sprayed on, left to work for the time indicated on the label and sponged or rinsed off. However, you’ll probably need to do some scrubbing with a stiff scrub brush if the build-up on your shower tiles or grout is heavy or it's been there for a long time.
To clean a shower with vinegar, fill a spray bottle with equal parts white vinegar and warm water and spray the solution on the grout. Don't use vinegar on travertine or stone. Use old towels on the floor to absorb any runoff. Let the solution stand for a few minutes and then scrub with a stiff brush. Old toothbrushes aren't usually stiff enough to do the job.
For stubborn shower stains, soap scum and grime, mix one cup of warm water, two cups of white vinegar and one teaspoon of a vegetable-based dishwashing soap in a spray bottle. Spray the solution on the shower walls, let it work for 15 minutes and use a sponge to scrub off scum and grime. Be careful not to slip in the mixture. Rinse the shower tiles with clean water and use a squeegee to dry them.
To clean shower grout with white vinegar, mix one part vinegar to two parts water and scrub with a stiff brush. Rinse with clean water and mop or towel-dry the grout. Rinse and dry in small sections, so the dirty water doesn't settle back into the grout.
If white vinegar doesn’t clean the grout, step up to a paste made of baking soda and water. Apply it to the grout lines and then spray them with a solution of equal parts vinegar and warm water, as described above. The mixture will foam. When it stops, scrub with a stiff brush and rinse with clean water.
For another way to clean shower tile grout, pour some hydrogen peroxide into a spray bottle. Spray it on the grout or make a paste of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda in a bowl. Scrub, rinse or sponge with fresh water and repeat if needed.
Again, wear rubber gloves when working with bleach or bleach products.
For bad stains and heavy grime, use oxygen bleach, which is often sold in powdered form. In general, mix two parts of powdered oxygen bleach to one part water to make a paste the consistency of toothpaste. Let the oxygen bleach work for 10 to 15 minutes and then rinse or sponge it off with clean water.
For extremely dirty grout, use chlorine bleach and cleansers containing chlorine bleach. Apply these products carefully and sparingly. Before you use chlorine bleach or a cleaner made with chlorine bleach, use plain water to remove any of the above cleaners that you tried. Make sure you’re working in a well-ventilated area. Also, be safe and do not let any trace of vinegar mix with the bleach, as that produces a highly toxic chlorine gas. Use this cleaning method only as needed. Chlorine bleach and chlorine bleach-containing products can damage or ruin grout.
A steam cleaner with a grout-cleaning nozzle that holds a scrub brush is an environmentally-friendly way to clean grout. Scrub brushes made of nylon are generally safe for grout and tiles, but brass scrub brushes for steam cleaners may damage them.
Before you start steam cleaning, damp mop the floor tiles or sponge clean the wall tiles with a mild detergent to remove loose dirt and anything else that might clog the cleaner.
Some steam cleaners work only on floor tile, so be sure your model will work on wall and shower tiles. Then follow the manufacturer’s directions to clean the grout. Stop every now and then to rinse and mop or sponge up the dirty water, so it doesn’t settle back into the grout.
To keep your tiles looking clean and bright, clean them two or three times a week with a product designed to remove soap scum.
- Squeegee the shower walls, floor and shower door to dry them. If needed, wipe them down with a towel to remove any drips or spots.
- Run the bathroom fan for about 20 minutes or open a window to remove humidity.
- Leave the shower door or curtain slightly open for air circulation.
- After cleaning the grout and letting it dry thoroughly, treat it with a tile and grout sealer every year or two to help it last longer and stay cleaner.