How to Clean Shower Tiles

by Kim Causey

Cleaning Shower Tiles at a Glance

  • Step 1: Apply mild cleaner to tiles
  • Step 2: Scrub tile and rinse
  • Step 3: Repeat with stronger cleaner as needed
  • Step 4: Apply cleaner to grout
  • Step 5: Scrub grout and rinse
  • Step 6: Seal grout

Your shower is that area of your house where you go to wash away all the dirt from the day. You emerge sparkling clean, but your shower often gets the short end of the stick. Soap scum can build up on your tiles and in your grout. Mold and mildew thrive in the humid environment of your bathroom. If you don’t give it a good wash every now and then, your shower may start to look dingy and dirty.

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Thankfully, it’s not too difficult to get your shower back to a clean state — though it may take some intense scrubbing on your part. Here’s how to clean your shower tile and grout.

Tools and Materials

  • Sponge
  • Squeegee
  • Scrub brush
  • Rubber gloves
  • Dish soap
  • Tile cleaner
  • Grout cleaner
  • Optional: Vinegar, bleach, baking soda

What’s the Best Way to Clean Shower Tiles?

The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure you have the right cleaning solution for the tiles in your shower. Ceramic tile can hold up to bleach and other harsher cleaners, but you won’t want to clean natural stone tile with those same solutions. Bleach is also a no-go for marble tiles. In fact, even vinegar’s acidic properties can damage marble, so you’ll want to steer clear. Also, keep in mind that while cleaners may not harm the stone itself, they may dissolve the sealant that keeps stone like granite waterproof.

According to The Home Depot, you’ll want to start with the mildest cleaner you have and work your way up to stronger ones if the soap scum is particularly stubborn. Apply the tile cleaner to the walls and floor as directed on the package, then let it sit for a few minutes before you use a sponge or scrub brush to work it in. If your tiles are prone to scratching, use a gentle tool.

Cleaning Shower Tiles With Vinegar

If you don’t have shower cleaner on hand — or you prefer a homemade method — it’s time to bust out the vinegar. Use a half-vinegar, half-water mixture the same way you would use a commercial cleaner; let it sit for several minutes, then scrub.

This mild cleaner may not be enough for tough stains. In that case, mix these ingredients in a spray bottle:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dish soap

Spray the solution on your shower tiles and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Work it in with a scrub brush, then rinse.

Cleaning Shower Tiles With Bleach

When you’re working with bleach, always wear rubber gloves to protect your hands.

If your shower has heavy staining or is caked with mildew, you can try using oxygen bleach. Usually, you can purchase it in powder form, like OxiClean. Mix two parts powdered bleach and one part water to form a paste. Let the bleach paste sit on the tiles for 10 to 15 minutes, then sponge it away with clean water.

Cleaning Natural Stone Tiles

Just to reiterate: Don’t use bleach or acidic cleaners on your natural stone. According to LSI Stone, you can use a non-acidic soap scum remover to clean your tiles. You could also try a mixture of a half-cup ammonia in 1 gallon of water, but overuse of ammonia can dull the stone.

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How to Clean Grout

You can try the vinegar-water solution on your grout as well. If that doesn’t work, The Home Depot recommends using a paste of baking soda and water. Apply it to the grout lines, then spray it with the vinegar solution to cause a bubbly reaction. Scrub with a grout brush and rinse with water. Work from top to bottom, rinse in small sections and make sure to dry as you go so you don’t end up with dirty water in the grout you just cleaned.

For more cleaning power, spray hydrogen peroxide directly on your grout, or apply a paste of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. Scrub and rinse.

You can use chlorine bleach on your grout if all else fails. But beware: Chlorine bleach can discolor or even ruin your grout. Apply it sparingly and work in a well-ventilated area. If you have tried any of the above methods, make sure to rinse away any remaining vinegar or commercial cleaning solution as this can produce toxic fumes if mixed with bleach. Put the bleach on a rag or scrub brush, clean the area and rinse immediately.

Keeping Shower Tile and Grout Clean

If you keep your tile and grout clean in the first place, you won’t need to put in so much work when it’s time to deep clean ... Okay, no one likes to be lectured. But The Home Depot recommends wiping down your tile and grout two or three times a week to prevent soap scum from building up. Squeegee the walls and floor after every shower, then leave your bathroom fan running to get rid of the humidity.

After you put in all the work to clean your grout, you should apply a tile and grout sealer every year or so to help it stay clean.

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