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How to Clean Grout in Floors
by: Steve Hanson

Restroom cleanliness is one of the most common complaints cleaning companies receive. When cleaning restrooms, keep in mind that they should not only look clean, but that they should feel and smell clean. An important part in maintaining a high level of cleanliness is making sure the floor grout is clean. Grout is porous, so over time, moisture, contaminants, and even dirty mop water can discolor it. These circumstances can lead to staining, odors, and aid in the growth of bacteria, mold, and mildew.

There are several reasons is it so difficult to clean floor grout:

  • Using a cleaner that doesn't float contaminates to the surface.

  • Using a cleaner that contains detergents that settle into the grout with dirt and oils.

  • Sealers may have been improperly used in the past. Instead of keeping out dirt and oils, these may now be trapped in the grout.

  • Acidic or high pH cleaners make grout more porous and fragile with the result being the grout re-soils faster.

  • Cleaners used in the past may have left residues that become dirt magnets.

Before starting to clean tile and grout it is important to analyze what dirt and contaminants you're dealing with. Then based on that information, select a cleaner designed for cleaning that type of soil and is suitable for the flooring being cleaned.

Using the right cleaner and using it correctly are important steps to keeping grout clean. To avoid soap scum, daily cleaners must be salt free. When deep cleaning, the cleaner needs to be free of high levels of potassium and sodium salts. The cleaner you use must be able to float contamination up as well as transfer it to the mop so the grout comes clean. Carefully consider the pH of the product you are using. Acidic based cleaners (low pH) bleach rather than clean and basic cleaners (high pH) tend to be high in salts. Be cautious about the use of citrus products. Many of these products leave unwanted residues that make floors feel sticky. It is important to use the right chemical as bacteria can get trapped into grout and tile. It may be necessary to use a germicide cleaner, especially around toilets and urinals, to kill bacteria and remove any urine that has dried into the grout or tile.

Cleaning grout is often labor-intensive at times even requiring scrubbing by hand, which may not be practical in a large restroom. There are procedures you can follow to help keep grout clean. First, use a chemical proportioning system to dilute chemicals accurately. When you use too much chemical, sealants break down faster. Second, have adequate ventilation to help prevent the build up of odors and speed up drying. Frequent changing of mop water and mop heads helps to make sure that contaminants are picked up and not pushed back into the grout. Consider switching to microfiber mops as they have proven to be the most effective at removing contaminants from floor surfaces.

When cleaning, liberally apply chemicals and don't allow the floor to dry before scrubbing. Always allow proper dwell time, which is typically between 5 and 10 minutes. The next step is to use the right tool to scrub the floor surface. To effectively clean the surfaces use floor brushes. After thoroughly scrubbing the floor, remove the excess liquid. A wet vacuum works well as it will pick up the excess water, dirt, residue and cleaning chemical used on the floor.

New and innovative equipment can also make cleaning grout faster. High-pressure water systems (up to 1200 psi) can effectively deep clean, loosen, and remove soil. Some systems also heat the water, which aids in the cleaning process. Grout cleaning systems also have auto-feed/auto-dump capabilities so you can use them continuously without stopping. The machines pick up loosened soil and leave no residue. Another option is using cylindrical brush technology. These machines do not use pads like rotary buffers, but instead use rotating brushes. These brushes penetrate and loosen the dirt in grout and tile.

To keep grout and tile looking their best it is important to train your staff and make sure they continue to follow the proper procedures when cleaning grout. Having written procedures and checklists can help to assure the proper cleaning techniques are always followed.

Lack of attention, carelessness, and the wrong types of cleaners used will lead to dirty grout and the entire floor looking dull and dingy. Paying attention and spending a little extra time when cleaning grout will keep not only the floor, but the entire restroom, looking and smelling clean.

Copyright (c) 2006 The Janitorial Store

About The Author

Steve Hanson is co-founder of TheJanitorialStore.com, an online community for owners of cleaning companies. Sign up for Trash Talk:Tip of the Week at TheJanitorialStore.com. Read success stories at http://www.cleaning-success.com.

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