Does steam cleaning damage grout? Is it the real scenario?
Professional home cleaners use a variety of specialized cleaning materials to clean grout but they’re expensive and not ideal for day to day needs.
Having a steam cleaner can come in handy while you need to clean the dirty grout easily but many on the internet forums complain about these not being so good with cement grouts. Is it really bad? This writing will clear all your confusions.
Some basics On Grout
Grout is, for the most part, cement and a mixture of sand. Although there are other grout varieties available such as epoxy-based grouts, cement-based one is the most used.
Cement grouts can be bought or easily made at home. They’re cheap and simple to use. On the other hand, epoxy-based grouts need to be bought as a pre-made mix and can fetch a big price depending on the quality of the mixture.
These grouts are very porous, meaning they have very small scale holes that water or any liquid can penetrate through. For dry places, this isn’t a problem at all but if used in a shower or toilet where air is mostly damp, things can take a wrong turn.
Epoxy grouts are less prone to the problems mentioned above. But since they are expensive, they’re not an ideal option for most of us. As epoxy is less porous than cement, it doesn’t allow water and bacteria to reside in it thus keeping it clean.
In case of cement grouts, water isn’t the problem. It is dirty water that creates the brown marks. Dirty water gets inside the cement and leaves the dirt after drying out. Also the wet environment is helpful for mold to grow.
The mold, along with bacteria, thrives very well in a humid environment. Places like showers or anywhere where water is used on the tiles is vulnerable to mold and mildew growth. And in cases like these, simple cleaning won’t do much good.
Cleaning Grout with a Brush
There are special grout cleaning brushes available that make the scrubbing and cleaning process easier. But if they’re used with normal water then you’re probably wasting your time and energy. This process is tiring and not very effective.
If you use grout cleaning mixtures available on the market with the brushes then this will be a whole lot easier and you can whiten up the grouts very easily. But the color and mild will come again within a few weeks because the process is wrong.
You can also use homemade grout cleaner. The recipes are available online. But these are almost the same and have similar problems with the store bought ones. But the process of applying and scrubbing is the same.
The problem with grouts is that they’re porous and allow water, mild and bacteria to go inside so scrubbing on the top surface with the most effective cleaner won’t be much good because the insides will stay the same. This needs a different fix.
Some Issues with Cleaning Grout with Regular Cleaners
One problem caused by hand cleaning grouts is that you cannot clean the insides and another problem is that the cleaners are heavy and can easily make the grout wear itself out within several clean cycles.
There are some oil based grout cleaners available on the market. People buy them thinking they can do the job but that’s a mistake. Oil will get inside the grout as it is porous and stay forever. You know how hard it is to clean oil right?
Many people unknowingly use vinegar thinking that since vinegar can be used to clean many household items and remove stains from utensils, it can be used to remove grout stains as well. But there’s a catch.
Vinegar contains a high level of acid whereas grout is made of cement, which is anti-acidic or alkaline. These two are just opposites of each other.
As you apply vinegar on cement grouts, a chemical reaction is created to balance the two negatives. Cement starts to dissolve and form into dissolved salt. After using vinegar several times you’ll start to notice holes and cracks in the grout.
Another popular cleaning option is bleach. Bleaches clean very well and remove the mild and water stains easily but they can also create more stains that clear out the old ones if used on grout that is already colored brown from dirty water.
Steam Cleaning Grout
How does a steam cleaner work?
A steam cleaner works on a simple principle. It heats up water to a temperature enough to vaporize it and then shoots through the nozzles below the machine.
You can apply the steam on the grout and the heat will swiftly soften up the mold, mildew, stain or any kind of dirt inside. Some steam cleaners have different types of nozzles and some have special brushes around the cleaner to make the process easier.
Is it true that steam cleaning damage grout?
No. Against the common idea that steam cleaning will damage grouts, it won’t do it.
The case with this misconception is some people use steam cleaners with grout cleaners, thinking that will be of extra advantage. But normal water vapor is enough to soften up any dirt accumulation. There’s no need for cleaners.
Using a harsh cleaning agent with water vapor may cause the cement bond to break and cracks to form on top of the grout. This can be the case with common complaints about using steam cleaners.
But if people still complain that steam cleaning their cement grout is creating problems, then the problem might be something else. Regular water vapor can’t damage something solid such as cement.
One issue can be that the grout is already cracked and steam vapor is entering and making the crack weaker. Occasionally sealing grout can be a good idea in this case. As a rule of thumb, seal the grout when minor cracks appear.
If there are major cracks in the grout, it’s important that you replace the cement. Old grout cannot be cleaned well and will make the cleaning more hassle.
Knowing how to clean grout well with a steam cleaner can save you time and money in the long run. Hopefully, after reading through this you have cleared all your past confusions and can feel at ease working with a steam cleaner from now on.