Tile Floors

Does Vinegar Damage Grout and Remove its Sealer?

Vinegar is a natural product that works well as a cleaning agent due to its germ-killing and bleaching capabilities. What’s more, vinegar’s leeching properties on colored surfaces have made it a popular surface brightening product amongst homeowners over the years. But does vinegar damage or remove grout sealer?

Grout sealer breaks down when it comes into contact with strong cleaning agents (acidic or alkaline). Vinegar is an acid and tends to accelerate the grout breakdown, dissolving the grout, and leaving it in a deteriorated state. It also contains acetic acid which gradually dissolves the protective sealer by changing its pH.

However, when used carefully white vinegar can be used to clean the grout as discussed below.

Is it Safe to Clean Tile Grout Using Vinegar? Will it Ruin or Dissolve Grout?

How safe it is to use vinegar on tile grout depends on whether the grout is sealed or unsealed/needs to be resealed. If the latter is the case, we’d recommend you totally avoid using vinegar as your grout cleaning agent.  

This is because vinegar – which is acidic- soaks into the airspaces between the grout particles and gradually dissolves the grout, leaving it in a deteriorated state over time. This results in loose grout matter- including sand particles- which when caught under one’s feet as you walk across the room, causes shallow scratches along the grout lines and tiles. These scratches are what we call ‘etches’.

On the other hand, if you use vinegar to clean your sealed grout regularly, beware that it’ll gradually wear away the sealer. As such, homeowners that use vinegar to regularly clean their tile grout should also undertake periodic grout inspections to determine whether resealing is necessary.

Will Vinegar Remove Grout Sealer?

Grout sealer protects your grout from damage by filling in the airspaces in the grout, which has a concrete-like capability to absorb liquids. However, vinegar isn’t just any other liquid. This natural germ-killer contains acetic acid which gradually breaks down the penetrating sealer by changing the pH of the grout surface.

The shift in pH triggers a reversal in the reaction process used for grout sealing, thereby leaving the sealer in its raw material state (liquid).

Washing and rinsing off the vinegar with water removes even more sealer and with time, the entire grout becomes unsealed. This leaves it exposed and thus absorbs dirt at a faster rate, more so, dirt particles from cleaning mops.

Once the dirt penetrates the grout and continually accumulates, your grout will increasingly bear a discolored appearance, the kind of which is unsightly. What’s worse, if the dirt is oil or grease, getting rid of it may be an issue.

How to Clean Grout with Vinegar

To properly clean your tile grout with vinegar, follow the steps in the methods below:

Method 1

  1. Pour a cupful of distilled apple cider vinegar (distilled white vinegar) in a small-medium sized container.
  2. Add two tablespoonful’s of lemon juice and stir the solution for a smooth mixture with a creamy texture.
  3. Dip the bristles of a scrubbing brush into the paste mixture and scrub along your grout lines. Alternatively, you can use an old toothbrush as they also have highly abrasive bristles. Repeat this process until you’ve covered the entire floor area that you needed to clean.
  4. Use hot water to rinse off excess paste and finish off by rubbing along the grout lines with a soft piece of cloth.

Method 2

  1. Use a spray can to spray distilled white vinegar along your grout lines until your grout is saturated. Then, let the vinegar stay on the tiles and grout for about 25 minutes.
  2. Add a little vinegar to some baking soda, then dip a scrubbing brush into the mixture. Then, gently scrub along the vinegar-soaked grout lines.
  3. Use clear water to rinse off your entire floor and use a soft piece of cloth to shine off your grout.

Method 3

  1. To properly clean grout on the patio and poolside tiles, use a baking soda- white vinegar mixture. The mixture should contain about two-pounds of baking soda and just about enough vinegar such that the texture is heavily creamy.
  2. Once you’ve soaked the grout lines with the mixture and let it stay for a while, use a pool brush with stiff bristles to scrub along the grout lines.
  3. Finally, rinse off the grout and tiles with a pressure hose.

Benefits of Using Vinegar to Clean Grout

For homeowners with white tiles, the floor- grout lines included- usually looks whiter and brighter after being cleaned with vinegar. However, this isn’t usually the effect of actual cleansing but rather due to the bleaching effects of the acidic vinegar.

Vinegar causes the colors and dyes in the grout to seep out. Therefore, if the bright cement gray-whitish color of bleached grout is the look you’re going for, consider using vinegar when cleaning your grout.

Another benefit of using vinegar is for removing old grout sealer when you’re looking to reseal. As earlier mentioned, the low pH level induced by the acidic vinegar causes the sealer to disintegrate into its pre-reactive liquid state.

The liquid sealer then floats on the water used to wash the floor and can easily be rinsed away after you’ve scrubbed the grout lines- in preparation for the application of a new coat of penetrating grout sealer.

Conclusion

For homeowners whose tile grout lines have assumed an unappealing shade due to continued use of vinegar for cleaning, not all hope is lost. There exist various chemical products that you can use to restore your grout to its original look. For prevention purposes, avoid regular use of vinegar on your grout and instead go for alkaline-based cleaners.

Dilute white vinegar mixed 2 parts to 1 part water will work wonders on your grout. However, care to need to be taken, Spray it on; and allow it about 15 min, wipe clean with a very damp sponge (using a mixture of baking soda/water solution) to neutralize the acidity of the vinegar. Wipe with clean water using a damp clean sponge.

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