Steam Cleaning Tile and Grout, Does it Work?

The Dupray Tosca Steam Cleaner is a supreme tile floor machine.


By themselves, tiles can form striking floors that are durable and easily cleaned. But because the grout is porous and typically light-colored, over time it becomes slick with slime from soap, foods, and worse.

Many ask, steam cleaning tile and grout, does it work? It does! and simply involves spraying the tile and filled lines using pressurized steam.

Once too much mold and soap scum gets embedded in the grout’s surface, oftentimes the only remedy is to remove and replace the filling. But then, why bother with a total redo, when such floors can be cleaned well from the very beginning?

Steam cleaners give you the cleansing power of hot, high-pressure vapors anywhere around the house. It would be nice to know whether steaming provides a natural means of handling the gunk that builds up on tile floors, without resorting to hazardous chemicals.

We review the merits of the method here and describe how it is done.

Scummy Issue

Damp areas tend to develop a lot of offensive grime and growths. This cannot be helped much, for builders usually specify tiles wherever constant traffic in the wet is expected. Although tiles are impervious to elements such as water, the filling between each is hardly as robust.

As scum seeps into the material’s pores over the years, it eventually toughens and becomes hard to remove via regular means. Even vigorous scouring with bristled brushes and strong detergents may not be enough. This is why cleaning such floors can be so tedious.

A pressurized steamer is very useful for handling such problems. Users who purchase a unit frequently spend their first day looking for surfaces that can be steam cleaned. The first that usually come to mind are in bathrooms or kitchens, for these are the places that are challenging to maintain.

How Does Steam Cleaning Tile and Grout Work?

There are no consumer steamers that are specifically marketed for cleaning tiles and grout. Most designs normally comprise a wheeled base that contains the tank and boiler, along with a set of nozzles, hoses, and various attachments for the steam wand.

A steam cleaner works by getting its streams in-between the lines, dissolving gunk and blasting away the resulting sludge. The hot jets are produced by toggling a control switch on their handles.

Good designs generate loads of steam with temperatures of some 200F and typically include brush attachments that assist in removing loosened gunk. Popular models such as McCulloch’s MC-1275 and Steamfast’s SF-275 are built to continually spray large amounts of steam on demand.

It is the mix of high heat, heavy misting, and pressurized steam generated by the boiler that jointly produces the cleansing effects. However, attached bristle brushes are still very useful in dislodging slime and stains that hold fast.

Using Steam Cleaners

Before attaching accessories, steam blast the grout first so as to dissolve the nastiest crud. Then attach smaller brushes to the wand as you continue to steam along the lines. You only need to direct the nozzles along problematic areas.

Begin by using any included nylon-bristled brush, for the type will not cause chipping no matter how much you scour. Scrub lightly as you go and the loosened gunk should get lifted readily enough. Be careful when using wire bristles, these can chip grout and scratch tiles forcing you to possible replace your grout.

Remember to drench cleaned areas every few minutes so as to drain the sludge. Otherwise, the stuff will eventually harden and complicate the job. Be aware that steam cleaning usually has to be supplemented by vigorous scrubbing, as steaming on its own does not slough off everything.

After finishing a space, give the unit sufficient time to build up another head of steam. Most consumer models also need an initial warm up time. To reduce scrubbing effort, you could carefully power wash the tiles as well.

You will need to deal with the steamer’s loud operation, though. The noise that ensues comes not from the motor, but mostly from the roaring steam exiting the nozzle.

See the Dupray Tosca steam cleaner featured in this video

Summing Up

This can be a DIY job where you use a household steam cleaner to direct streams of high-temperature steam at slimy and stained grout. You will still need to carefully scrub the toughest stains, though. Try renting a commercial unit first, to see how it works out.

A versatile canister model is probably your best bet. Do note that some floor-type machines cannot be used on floors in baths or showers. The best multipurpose designs typically include a range of accessories for use on various surfaces.

Steam cleaning tiled floors and grout is a moderate option for most homeowners. Although it involves more effort than scrubbing by hand with water and detergents alone, it is less costly and quicker and easier to do than tile and grout replacement.


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