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The Super Handyman: Keeping grout clean, protected

Tiles are great for floors and walls, especially in bathrooms and kitchens. They are impervious to stains. The “weakest link” is the grout. It’s porous and absorbs moisture, stains and will even grow mold and mildew! Here are the best ways you clean grout and protect it from future problems.

I know that bleach is problematic for some of you, so you can use vinegar or hydrogen peroxide, mixed with baking soda and lemon juice. You want to make a paste to spread over the grout. Allow it to sit there for several hours to remove any stains. You can use a stiff brush if you need some extra muscle to clean the grout.

If bleach is OK, you can mix it anywhere from half and half with water or full force. To use it on walls or surfaces that won’t “hold” the liquid, soak paper towels in it and slap them on these areas. Again, allow plenty of time for the chemicals to work.

Another option that actually works pretty well is to spread toilet-bowl cleaner with bleach in it, the thick kind, on the grout and let it sit there for some time. The squeeze bottles make it easy to “paint” on the grout lines, which can make this stuff more cost-effective.

If the grout is too stained to ever be clean or if it’s cracked or chipped, you may need to replace it. Use a hand-held grout saw to remove enough of the old grout to get rid of the damaged area. The area needs to be completely clean and dry before the new grout can be applied.

Once clean, you need to seal the grout. You can apply a liquid sealer to the whole surface, or you can use a special applicator to apply it directly to the grout lines. There are some paint-on sealers that are tinted white to really seal and make the lines look brand new again.

Keep in mind that both grouting and sealing need time to set up, cure and dry, so set aside a day or two where you can shower elsewhere. It will be worth it!


Q: My neighbors’ tree hangs over my roof, and every fall, my gutters get completely clogged with their leaves. What are my possible options? – N.R.

A: Well, you could talk to them and see if they are willing to trim the offending branches back. They also might allow you to remove the overhanging branches. After all, if these branches fall, they might be liable to any damage they cause your home. You also can protect your gutters with screen covers or downspout guards, both of which are an inexpensive, easy fix.


Speaking of leaves, they can be used to make super compost. You can make your own compost pile and be “greener” this winter. This is so easy to do, and once you know the basics, you can have a steady supply of free plant food and mulch for your yard year-round. It doesn’t cost much, and it’s a great way to get rid of vegetable waste from your home, as well as many other items destined for the garbage can. Learn how to build and manage your own compost pile with our instructions on our website,

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