How to Clean Bathroom Tiles

The two most important places to clean regularly are the kitchen and the bathroom. Both of these places are high traffic areas and as I’m sure you know, each one can get dirty fast! But sometimes, even when you’ve scoured your bathroom, it still doesn’t look clean. Old, cracked or discoloured tiles can give a grimy, unhygienic appearance to your room and it can be really frustrating to scrub and scrub to no avail.

Bathroom tiles, particularly older bathroom tiles can be very tricky to keep clean. The damp atmosphere of your bathroom is the perfect habitat for mould and mildew to thrive. Grout can easily discolour and accumulate all kinds of dust, grime and bacteria and if your tiles are chipped or stained, it is often extremely difficult to keep these hygienic and looking clean.

Luckily, there are ways and means to clean even the nastiest of bathroom tiles. Here are some hacks to minimise your scrubbing time and get your bathroom tiles and grouting looking their best.

How to Clean Tile Grout

A word of advice: If you really want to get your bathroom looking perfect, don’t bother cleaning the tiles until you’ve thoroughly cleaned the grouting. Chances are, your grouting is far dirtier and once you start cleaning it, you’ll be spreading dirt all over your tiles.

There are lots of cleaning products which promise amazing results on grouting but in my experience, nothing can beat the good old-fashioned combination of baking soda and vinegar. This will effectively eliminate mould, mildew, and all kinds of dirt and grime that builds up in tile grouting.

The process for cleaning your tile grouting with vinegar and baking soda is simple.

  1. In a small bowl combine the two ingredients and mix into a thick paste. You’ll need a small abrasive brush like an old toothbrush or nailbrush. Or you can invest in a specially designed grout brush such as the Fuginator which is ideally shaped for this task.
  2. Using your brush, apply a layer of the paste to all of the grout you want to clean, scrubbing the paste into the grout vigorously. Don’t worry if it gets onto the tiles, the paste won’t do any harm and in fact, you can use this mixture to clean tiles as well (see below).
  3. Once you’ve covered all the grouting, you need to wait for about half an hour for the baking soda and vinegar mix to do its work.
  4. After this time has elapsed, simply rinse off the paste and things should be looking a lot cleaner.
  5. Avoid using bleach or harsh chemicals on grouting as these can fade the grouting and damage the surfaces of your tiles.

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Using a Grout Pen on your Bathroom Tiles

If the grouting on your bathroom tiles really is beyond remedy, don’t worry. There is one final option available to you. A grout pen, also known as a grout reviver pen is a clever tool which allows you to effectively paint over your discoloured grouting, making it look brand new.

Grout pens look just like markers, come in a range of colours and are available from larger DIY stores or from online retailers like Amazon. These are very inexpensive and will usually cover at least 100ft of grout. I have had great success with Grout Pen – Grout Restorer, which is non-toxic and has anti-bacterial properties to prevent mould from coming back.

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Cleaning Bathroom Wall Tiles

There are hundreds of commercial bathroom cleaners available in supermarkets and DIY stores around the country and the majority of these are perfectly adequate for general cleaning of bathroom wall tiles. But you can save your cash and use some products from your kitchen cupboard just as effectively. Baking soda and vinegar are great for all kinds of cleaning tasks in your home and just like grouting, you can use this mixture to clean bathroom tiles as well.

  1. To use Baking Soda for cleaning your bathroom tiles, simply mix a small quantity with distilled white vinegar to make a thick paste. The process is slightly different from that for cleaning grout as you shouldn’t use an abrasive brush or scrub in too vigorously. Your tile surfaces are far more delicate and especially with patterned, glazed or coloured tiles, you don’t want to risk scratching the surfaces.
  2. Using a sponge or soft cloth, apply a thin layer of the paste to your tiles and leave it for a minimum of 10 minutes.
  3. After this time has elapsed, using a mildly abrasive sponge or a soft brush, very gently scrub the tiles.
  4. Rinse off and you are done.

This mixture will remove toothpaste, soap, grime, and light staining. It will also penetrate cracks and chips in your tiles, removing any staining within these and making the damage less obvious.

For deeper stains which don’t respond to this method, you can use a stain removing product like Stardrops Pink Stuff Paste which is great for more stubborn marks.

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Removing Soap Scum from Bathroom Tiles

Soap scum can be so hard to get off! A simple way to cut down on your scrub time is to mix up a solution of distilled white vinegar and washing up liquid. I use Ecover’s Lemon and Aloe Vera washing up liquid as it doesn’t contain any nasties, does a great job on the dishes and to top it off, it smells lovely.

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  1. Make up a 1:1 mix of vinegar and washing up liquid and apply this to your soap-scummy tiles with a sponge, brush or cloth.
  2. Let the solution sit on the tiles for 30 minutes and then gently scrub with a slightly abrasive surface such as the rough side of a scrubbing sponge. Be careful not to scrub too hard on delicate tile surfaces.
  3. Simply rinse away and the soap scum should be gone!

For very thick scum, you might need to repeat the process a second time.

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Cleaning Ceramic Floor Tiles

Ceramic floor and wall tiles are very durable and when cared for properly, they’re also pretty stain resistant. Sweeping your ceramic floor and mopping it weekly with a weak solution of detergent and water or a mixture of vinegar or lemon juice and water should be enough to keep your tiles hygienic and looking great.

It’s important to avoid using very abrasive products on ceramic finishes as doing so can damage the water and stain resistance of the tiles, leaving them more prone to damage.

Just like wall tiles, the hardest part of keeping your ceramic floor tiles clean is usually the grout. It’s okay to use a weak bleach solution to clean your floors but never apply bleach directly as this will almost certainly discolour your grouting and can cause permanent, irreversible damage to your tile surfacing.

To remove stains from your ceramic floor tiles:

  1. Soak a soft cloth in a very weak bleach solution (10:1). Protect your skin by wearing rubber cleaning gloves throughout this process.
  2. Squeeze out the excess water and then leave the cloth sitting on the stain for approximately 10 minutes. This should lift the mark.
  3. Be sure to rinse off any bleach residue from your floor afterwards.

Never use harsh abrasives like steel wool or steel brushes on your ceramic tiles but wax cleaners are fine for ceramic floors. To clean the grouting of your floor tiles, follow the process for tile grouting as detailed above.

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Cleaning Polished Porcelain Floor Tiles

Polished porcelain tiles are enormously popular in kitchens and bathrooms for their high shine and durability. Porcelain has great resistance to staining and marking but just like ceramic tiling, it is important to treat it properly so that it retains its tough, moisture and stain resistant finish.

To protect your porcelain floor, it is best to avoid using harsh chemical cleaners or bleach and you should definitely stay away from wax or oil-based cleaners as these will streak and leave a gunky residue. Mopping your floor with a simple solution of distilled white vinegar and water is all you need to do remove dirt and grime from your tiles.

If the smell of vinegar isn’t really your thing, you can use a specialist product like HG Tile Cleaner. You simply dilute this cleaner in water and mop regularly. Always wring out your mop head well when cleaning porcelain and don’t leave pools of water sitting on the tiles as this can damage the water resistance of the tile surface.

HG Tile Cleaner leaves a fresh fragrance along with a high shine finish and the 1-litre bottle is enough for about 40 washes. Rinse the floor with water and polish it with a soft cloth for a sparkling shiny finish.

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You should always sweep or vacuum the floors before mopping as this will remove any sharp or abrasive debris which could scratch your tiles. Once again, to clean the grouting of your porcelain floor tiles, you can follow the instructions for cleaning grout at the top of this article.

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Keeping your Bathroom Tiles and Grouting Clean and Free of Mould and Mildew

Now that your bathroom tiles look like new again, you’ll want to make sure that they stay that way. In the wintertime when the central heating is on and windows are closed, it can be difficult to keep mould and mildew at bay. Keeping your bathroom adequately ventilated is an important step which can really help. Use an electric ventilator and try to open windows, even for a short time after long baths or showers.

Regularly wiping down or spraying your tiles with a solution of vinegar and water can help to prevent mould and mildew returning as vinegar has anti-fungal properties. If mould does come back, tackle it straight away as the longer it sits on a surface, the more difficult it is to remove.

By following these steps, your bathroom should stay clean and beautiful throughout the year. Enjoy!

Claire has been in the cleaning industry for over 15 years. She's worked numerous jobs including both domestic and industrial cleaning. Her most recent role has been head of product testing for a major cleaning supplier. Following the birth of her second child, Layla, Claire has set up Cleaning Mentor to help people become better at cleaning, saving time and money.

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