Welcome to our most recent edition of “Tips from the Pros,” where we feature the best professional advice from Bradenton’s top experts! This week, we’re exploring the ins and outs of grout care — as told by Brian Dougherty, owner of SunCoast Flooring Solutions. Here’s what he had to say…
What is Grout, Anyway?
Grout is simply the material between your tiles. This mixture of sand and water is a porous, sponge-like material that can easily turn dirty over time. It’s PURELY decorative and has no practical value at all. It doesn’t hold anything in place, and it doesn’t bond anything. So why is it so hard to maintain?
Have you ever tried cleaning your tires with a sponge? If you have, you know that the blackness quickly becomes embedded in the sponge. No matter how many times you squeeze and twist to rinse out the tire residue, a hint of dirt remains.
The same thing happens with grout! It sucks in dirt, making it very difficult to clean and even harder to maintain. Once your grout gets dirty, the mess isn’t just topical — it has actually sunk down through the surface.
How Does Grout Become Dirty?
The number one culprit of dirty grout is, ironically, cleaning your tile floor. When you mop your floor, you’re likely using a sudsy or soapy product. The soap and suds get trapped in grout, attracting dirt like a magnet. Also, when you mop your floors and ring your mop back into the bucket, you’re making your cleaning solution dirty. While the soap and suds clean your tile, the dirty water is soaking into your grout. Even worse, every time you sweep or mop dirt off your tile, you push it right into your grout.
Kitchens and high-traffic areas typically have the biggest problem with stained grout. There are two reasons for this. One is that heavy traffic brings in more dirt and the other is that you tend to clean these areas more frequently. It’s a true CATCH-22.
So What Do You Do…
If your floors have been in place for more than a year, cleaning your grout is definitely a challenge. However, there are still a few things you can do.
1. Steam, Don’t Mop
The first thing I’d convey is do NOT mop. For the reasons stated above, mopping makes your grout worse. It’s a method that’s been used for hundreds of years, but it does not do what you want it to do. Instead, I recommend using a steamer.
This machine uses just water, avoiding chemical or toxic solutions that further trap dirt in grout rather than releasing it. The best steamers have what I call a “scrub” button that vibrates the head of the steamer. Instead of gliding over the “valley” of the grout line, the vibration actually gets into the grout line and loosens the dirt. Steamers that have the “scrub” button will pull DOUBLE the dirt off the floor than those that do not vibrate.
2. Seal Your Grout
Sealing the grout with color is now a very popular method of grout restoration. However, you need to be careful about the method you use. There are basically two kinds of colored sealers, topical and penetrating. Topical sealers “paint” your grout. You can pick any color and it will give uniformity to all your grout lines. However, these sealers wear off with cleaning. Because they are limited to the surface of your grout, over time they WILL fade, peel, and crack. Many topical colored sealers available in the big box stores are made to do the job… but they are also made to be bought AGAIN. Durability and long-lasting results are not their strengths.
Penetrating sealers go on just like topical sealers but, as the name suggests, they penetrate deep into the grout. This is a much longer-lasting solution. The colored penetrating sealers work their way through the grout and change the color from top to bottom. These do not chip or peel and they typically provide years of protection and vibrancy. However, because of their durability, penetrators are more expensive.
3. Look to the Pros
If your tile and grout floor is more than a year old (with standard traffic patterns), there is really NO way to clean your grout back to its original color. Normal cleaning methods handle the surface, but what’s under the surface always rears its ugly head.
This can feel like a giant pain in the you-know-what! Applying sealer on your hands and knees is taxing, and choosing the right sealer can be intimidating. Luckily, the tile and grout restoration business has exploded in recent years. However, like all businesses, there’s the good, bad, and the ugly. Knowing what to look for will help ensure that you get the long-lasting results you’re looking for.
How to Choose a Professional Tile and Grout Restoration Company
When you’re looking for a dependable tile and grout restoration company, the first thing you’ll want to do is spend some time exploring the company’s reviews and testimonials. Second, you’ll want to make sure you choose a company that uses the best technology, equipment, and materials. Lastly, make sure you take a close look at the company’s overall business model.
Comparing Business Models
There are generally two ways tile and grout companies grow their business. This first is those that do just enough of a good job and use just enough materials for the job to look nice, but not last. They DEPEND on you using their services again. Typically, these are not true specialists but hired labor. These companies are generally less expensive, and they SHOULD be — because they’re counting on you hiring them again many times over the next 10 years.
The second type of company provides long-term-solutions. These companies go out of their way to impress customers with results that are made to last and are backed up by a warranty. They’ll use the most updated cleaning technology and penetrating sealers that are designed to hold up for years.
They grow their business through referrals from happy customers and outstanding reviews. They also typically employ skilled professional flooring technicians who can handle cracking grout, hollow tiles, chips, cracks, and other common flooring problems.
SunCoast Flooring Solutions: Service You Can Trust
If you’re looking for the second type of tile and grout company, SunCoast Flooring Solutions is an excellent option. We’re an award-winning company and are true specialists when it comes to flooring. We can install a new floor for you or restore your current tile, wood, engineered wood, laminate, or vinyl flooring.
SunCoast Flooring Solutions serves the entire SunCoast and uses all green materials (no toxicity). We offer free estimates and demos so you can see what your grout will look like before you agree to anything. For any flooring need, installation or restoration, call SunCoast Flooring Solutions at 941-201-1149.
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