Grout cleaning: Expert unveils why you should ‘avoid’ baking soda & vinegar hacks

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Mrs Hinch shares tips for cleaning tile grout

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Whether it’s between the tiles in your bathroom shower or the floor of your kitchen, grout can become easily stained over time – especially if you haven’t had it correctly sealed. As a result, the internet is rich in anecdotes about how to clean using homemade organic substances.

These range from baking soda and white vinegar to lemon juice, all of which are said to work wonders when it comes to refreshing your grout.

Sharing to Reddit, an anonymous user described using a thick paste of baking soda and water as “more effective than bleach.”

However, Mark Atkins, technical director at natural stone and tile cleaning and aftercare product supplier LTP, is urging homeowners to avoid these hacks.

He told “Many people recommend mixtures of vinegar, soda crystals, bicarbonate of soda, water and lemon to make all-purpose cleaners and these ingredients are either very acidic or have high alkaline levels.”

Not only could these substances damage your grout, slowly wearing it away over time, but they could also cause problems for your tiles if they are made from certain materials.

Mr Atkins explained: “A lot of natural materials, like limestone and marble, are very sensitive to acid and alkaline, as are grout joints.

“All of these can damage the natural tile and the grout joint.”

Using white vinegar, for example, to clean around tiles made from marble could result in dull white marks on your tiles, often referred to as etch marks.

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Citric acid, in lemon juice, with a low pH of between two and three, can also lead to similar damage for natural stone tiles.

Baking soda, though it is not acidic, can also result in serious damage to natural stone tiles.

In its dry form, baking soda has a pH level of around 8.4, which means it veers into the alkaline base territory.

This high pH level means baking soda can be described as caustic, meaning it is able to burn or corrode organic tissue by chemical action.

Mixing baking soda and vinegar together can result in a volatile combination, particularly for porous stone surfaces.

In some cases, this can result in discolouration or stains.

Highly acidic or alkali cleaning detergents can “affect the surface of the grout, making it slightly coarser and more likely to hold onto dirt”, according to Mr Atkins.

And it isn’t just your tiles that are at risk.

The grout itself can be damaged over time by the use of highly acidic or alkaline substances, even if you have applied sealant.

Mr Atkins said: “Repeated use of the unsuitable products and ingredients can also remove any protection that was put in place to help prevent deep staining.”

Instead, Mr Atkins recommends researching the specific qualities of the tiles used, to find out how to clean them correctly.

He said: “Always use a good quality pH-neutral detergent to clean your tiles; this should help ensure that the protection is not compromised and that dirt is easy to remove.”

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