Can Vinegar Ruin Grout? How To Clean Grout With Vinegar


Cleaning grout is not always an easy task, because you have to balance between doing a good job with the cleaning and keeping your grout intact. There are several methods you can try to clean it, but not all of them are equally effective. Today, we are going to talk about using vinegar for cleaning your grout.

Vinegar can actually damage your grout, but only if it is not properly sealed. If the grout was installed properly and sealed, you can use vinegar to clean your grout.

In the following paragraphs, we are going to explain what grout actually is and what it’s made of, also what it’s used for. Then we are going to explain how you can clean your grout using vinegar and whether the vinegar will actually damage it. Plus, some more practical advice if you keep reading until the end!

Understanding What Grout Is

Grout is actually a very specific, dense fluid made out of the water, cement, and sand that is used in construction to fill gaps between different materials or to reinforce preexisting structures.It is commonly used as a filler between tiles to maintain an even surface, and to bind the edges of the tiles to one another thus forming a seal.

Grout is often compared to a very similar substance – mortar, which is stronger and thicker as it can support more than its own weight. Also, grout generally has a lower viscosity and does not contain lime, which is added to mortar to increase pliability.

Grout comes in several varieties, but since it isn’t the focus of our article, we won’t be discussing each type individually.

How To Clean Grout – A Few Methods

Like all surfaces, grout can also get filthy after a while and needs regular cleaning to look nice and pleasantly colored. Although it can be a nuisance to clean due to its small, usually rough surface, it is something that has to be done as part of a complete cleaning regimen.

Grout is often cleaned with specialized cleaners designed for the purpose, but if you want to use more natural methods and avoid all the extra chemistry, you have probably done a little research online on this. You can use baking soda, oxygen-based bleach (never chlorine!), hydrogen peroxide, and – vinegar! Since the latter directly concerns the main question of this writing, we are going to show you how you can clean your grout using vinegar.

How To Clean Grout With Vinegar (The Right Way)

White vinegar is a very specific chemical compound that has many applications. Actually, it is a solution of acetic acid, with about 5-8% of vinegar being acetic acid. Alongside its use in cooking, vinegar can also be a useful cleaner in certain instances. It is fairly well known that white vinegar is recommended for cleaning grout, but let us see how it all works.

The first thing you need to know is that you cannot use vinegar to clean all the grout in your home. You can use vinegar only on completely sealed grout in your home, because it can do a lot of damage to unsealed grout, but more on that later. If you consistently monitor and regularly seal your grout, you’ll be able to use vinegar as a cleaner. Vinegar should not do any harm to the surface such as corroding or ruining and it. So, how do you do it?

You can prepare a simple solution where you dilute two-parts vinegar in one-part water. Then, you need to spray the solution on the grout and let it stand for 15 minutes or so until it moistens the surface. After that, use a wet sponge to wipe it all off and to neutralize the acidity of vinegar that may corrode the surrounding surfaces and leave a bad smell. Water is good here (or baking soda) since they neutralize the acidic characteristics of vinegar.

And that’s it – this is how you clean grout with white vinegar. Simple? Yes, it’s a very simple and effective method, but be sure to use it only on sealed grout, as it might do significant damage to unsealed grout.

It is important to note that you will want to be aware of what kind of stone or material the surrounding tiles are made of as certain stones – like marble and travertine – can be dulled and eaten by the vinegar.

Cleaning Grout With Vinegar – What Not To Do!

Now that we have established that vinegar is good for cleaning properly sealed grout, let us examine what happens when you apply vinegar to unsealed grout.

As you know, grout wears off with the passage of time and after some time – cracks often start to appear. This is the nature of unsealed grout. Unsealed grout has a lot of small spaces that you might not see with the naked eye, but are there and if you apply any liquid – it will certainly penetrate the cracks and usually soak into the grout. Vinegar is one of those liquids and this is why it is not good to use vinegar on unsealed grout.

What happens is that the vinegar will enter the cracks and manifest its acidic properties by corroding the grout from the inside. This will not happen in an instant, but after some time – you will see your grout wear off or disintegrate. So, in order to prevent the deconstruction of your grout, don’t use vinegar on unsealed grout, as it will certainly corrode it from the inside out and eventually remove it.

Other Substances Not To Use On Unsealed Grout

Along with not using vinegar on unsealed grout, there are also several other compounds and substances that you should not use to clean your grout. Here is a short list:

Chlorine-Based Bleach

This is a very acidic compound that easily penetrates the pores of your grout and, alongside corroding and damaging it from the inside, can also do a lot of damage to nearby surfaces.

Too Much Water

Although water is a good cleaner in general, you wouldn’t want it to be counterproductive, would you? Well, using too much water on grout can cause damage to its structure, thereby weakening its adhesive properties, which is when the grout will lose it main function of bonding tiles and creating a solid surface, and will have to be replaced. You definitely don’t want stagnant water on grout for long periods of time.

Harsh Chemicals

Similar to acidic compounds, strong and corrosive chemicals can do a lot of damage to your grout and, although they may be good cleaners, they should be used with a lot of caution to avoid damaging the material.

Related Questions

Does Vinegar Damage Tile?

A big question is also whether you can clean your tile with vinegar. Tiles are usually made of ceramic, stone, metal, baked clay or even glass, but the first couple of materials are usually the most frequent. Tile surfaces are very specific and the materials used usually require special care. Can vinegar help?

Actually – it cannot. An important thing to know is that vinegar damages the protective layers on tile surfaces, leaving the actual material dull and open to other forms of damage. This is due to vinegar’s acidity, which doesn’t react well with these protective layers. Still, this is not a rule and there are some materials used to make tile surfaces that can be cleaned with vinegar. One of the materials notoriously incompatible with vinegar is marble, so you should never use vinegar to clean it.

Will Vinegar Damage Porcelain Tile?

Although vinegar damages all sorts of different tile materials, porcelain is one exception that rarely reacts negatively to vinegar. Just be sure to mix it with a lot of warm water to neutralize the effects as much as possible, and make sure that the tile is well finished.

Will Vinegar Damage Travertine?

Travertine is also a type of stone, actually calcium carbonate (CaCO3), that is used in decorating interiors. Travertine should always be cleaned using hot water and a sponge, with vinegar and other acidic compounds being avoided because they can damage the surface and corrode the tile. Like marble, travertine can be quickly dulled and even eaten away by vinegar.

Can You Use Vinegar To Remove Grout Haze?

Because grout is hazy when it dries up, it can leave a lot of residue known as grout haze. Haze can come from construction work directly or from the grout wearing off with time passing, but whatever the cause, you’ll likely want to clean it.

To clean the haze off, dilute your vinegar with a lot of water to reduce the acidity and then use it to clean the haze. It is important to be careful as it can really only be used on porcelain and ceramic surfaces; other surfaces may still be corroded or dulled. Then, after you’re done, you can wipe the surface off with a cloth and you’re done.

Is Hydrogen Peroxide Bad For Grout?

Hydrogen peroxide is safe for cleaning grout. One thing to keep in mind is that you have to dilute hydrogen peroxide before using it. A common practice is to dilute it with baking soda to get oxygenated bleach. Then, it is generally safe to use it to clean the grout.

In Conclusion

This covers everything you need to know about cleaning your grout with vinegar. To summarize, vinegar is good for cleaning grout, but only if the grout is completely sealed; in this instance, the acidic properties of vinegar won’t damage the grout.

On the other hand, if you have old, unsealed grout, vinegar is definitely not advised as it will do even more damage and corrode your grout from the inside.

Always remember to consider the type of tiles around the grout as these are susceptible to damage when cleaning. Have other natural ways for cleaning grout? Let us know!

Sources:

Beall, Christine (1987). Masonry Design and Detailing for Architects, Engineers and Builders. McGraw-Hill. p. 103. ISBN 978-0-07-004223-0.

https://web.archive.org/web/20150907161713/http://www.maconline.org/tech/materials/grout.html

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/vinegar/.

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