The Best Grout Cleaners for Backsplash and Shower Tile
Restore the grout lines between kitchen and shower tile to their original color with one of these top-rated cleansers.
Grout isn’t something we usually notice until it becomes grimy, dark, and dingy. Fortunately, with the right cleaner, it’s easy to restore its former glory.
Grout serves as a space filler between laid tile. A cement-based material, grout is made of natural minerals mixed with water. Since it’s slightly porous, dust, dirty water, and soap scum can coat it and even soak into it over time (especially when it’s not properly sealed). This dirty, moist environment provides the perfect foothold for mold and mildew to take root.
While it’s possible to make your own homemade grout cleaner, store-bought cleaners save you time and energy, making it that much easier to get the job done.
We’ve rounded up the best of the best grout cleaner options out there, as well as the key considerations to keep in mind when deciding which product to use. Read on!
- BEST OVERALL: CLR Bath & Kitchen Cleaner
- BEST ECO PICK: Seventh Generation Professional Tub & Tile Cleaner
- BEST FOR STAIN REMOVAL: Bar Keepers Friend Soft Cleanser Liquid
- BEST FOR HEAVY DUTY: Grout-EEZ Super Heavy Duty Tile & Grout Cleaner and Whitener
Key Considerations for Choosing the Best Grout Cleaner
Grout cleaner should be gentle enough to polish tile without scratching it, but strong enough to eliminate grout discoloration due to mold, mildew, and dirt. Whether cleaning a floor, kitchen backsplash, or shower stall, the best results will depend on the following factors:
To be effective, grout cleaners must lift dirt, erase mold, clean soap scum, and brighten tile with ease. Choose a product based on the desired result.
- Mold and Mildew Removal: Depending on how bad your mold situation is, you’ll want a grout cleaner with one of the following ingredients: an acid, hydrogen peroxide, or chlorine bleach. A mild acid-based cleaner (containing citric or oxalic acid, for example) is the least harsh of these formulas and typically won’t damage chrome, stainless steel, or tile. An oxygen bleach (containing hydrogen peroxide) is moderately strong, while chlorine bleach is the strongest and most caustic. Bleaching formulas should only be used on grout you wish to whiten, as they can also lift color from dyed grout. All these ingredients will also kill germs and bacteria, which, when applied in low doses, can be helpful, especially in bathroom and kitchen areas.
- Whitening and Brightening: While chlorine bleach is often a go-to ingredient in whitening products, it is not necessarily the best or only option. Bleach is associated with health concerns (respiratory damage, for example), and it can also release harmful airborne particles when mixed with other cleaning substances. That said, it can have a place in a cleaning regimen if used in small doses. Beyond bleach, citric and oxalic acid can also lift soap scum and surface staining. The right abrasive product can really get the dirt out, restoring grout and tile to an almost-new appearance. Look for products containing feldspar. This naturally occurring mineral is crushed into a fine powder, which works wonders on hard surfaces, including grout and tile.
There are two ways to apply grout cleaner: (1) spray and wipe, or (2) scour with a brush. Spray-on products claim to work without scrubbing, which can save time and energy. On the downside, these cleaners may contain harsher acids, solvents, or chlorine bleach. Therefore, it’s important to weigh the benefits of saving elbow grease versus potentially releasing toxins into the home environment.
Scouring with a brush and cleaner does require a little work, but this method can be especially effective on floors and heavily soiled grout. For tools, a toothbrush can be used on small grout lines. A brush or scrub pad is best for floors and backsplashes. Some brands provide both the liquid cleaner and a scrubbing tool or broom head. To prevent scratching the surrounding tile, use gentle pressure and avoid overly vigorous scrubbing.
Health and Surface Safety
A variety of harsh chemicals can be found in some commercial grout cleaners, with bleach and ammonia often playing a key role. These active ingredients can be efficient at scouring away surface stains, soap scum, and mold, but they can also impact your health adversely as well as harm the environment.
- Chlorine bleach and ammonia can be caustic and poisonous if improperly used. Both chemicals can cause skin and eye irritation, as well as respiratory damage. At the same time, their whitening powers are almost unbeatable, especially where tough grout stains, mold, and mildew are concerned.
- High levels of phosphates have been linked to irritation in humans, as well as having an impact on water systems and aquatic life. However, they are also useful in softening water, cutting through soap scum, and improving cleaning products’ efficiency. Since the 1960s, the U.S. has been increasing regulation on phosphates, which has removed this additive from many cleaning products and detergents, though not all. This is why “phosphate-free” still appears on the label of some grout cleaners.
Before ramping up product strength and turning to bleach or manmade chemicals, try a healthier, plant-based option first. They are still effective in most situations. Look for products with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Safer Choice seal, as well as a list of active ingredients. If the brand does not disclose all its ingredients on the label, you can search the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning, a database provides independent research on product toxicity and safety.
For our recommendations, we’ve prioritized the safest options on the market today. The two exceptions are bleach and industrial-strength grout cleaner, which are still useful in certain circumstances. Any formulas labeled heavy-duty or containing these chemicals require careful handling and protective gear: rubber gloves, face mask, goggles, and good ventilation.
Most grout cleaners will also coat surrounding surfaces, so make sure the product is formulated for safe contact with those materials. Always double-check the label, as most grout cleaners list the surfaces they are designed for. In the case of granite, marble, and unsealed natural stone, find cleaners designated safe for these materials.
Before spreading grout cleaner over an entire backsplash or tiled surface, spot-test it on a small, unnoticeable area. This is especially important for industrial-strength cleaners. Formulas labeled heavy-duty or containing bleach require careful handling, good ventilation, and protective gear like rubber gloves, face mask, and goggles.
Top Picks for Best Grout Cleaners
1. BEST OVERALL: CLR Bath & Kitchen Cleaner
It’s hard to find a tough cleaner that doesn’t contain loads of toxins and harsh chemicals. So we’re thrilled to see the EPA’s Safer Choice Program label proudly displayed on CLR’s spray bottle. This certifies that CLR contains no ammonia, bleach, or phosphates. And you won’t sacrifice cleaning power, either. This foaming spray is formulated to cut through dirt, calcium, lime scale, hard water stains, and soap scum. It is safe for use not only on grout, but myriad other surface types as well, including tile, glass, and stainless steel. Application is super easy, too: simply spray on and wipe clean. For stubborn grout stains, let the formula soak in for a few minutes before wiping or rinsing clean. No scrubbing required.
2. BEST ECO PICK: Seventh Generation Professional Tub & Tile Cleaner
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. With Seventh Generation Professional Tub & Tile Cleaner, both prevention and cure come in one concentrated solution. This eco-friendly liquid is formulated with citric acid, plant-based ingredients, and essential oils—without chlorine bleach, artificial fragrances, dyes, or solvents. It is safe for use on a range of surfaces, including ceramic tile, shower doors, plastic, chrome, fiberglass, porcelain, stainless steel, and more (not advised for marble or brass though). While this tub and tile cleaner doesn’t include fake fragrances, it is scented quite heavily with essential oils, so people with sensitivity to smells should take note. Still, the product works great to remove soap scum and to prevent mold and mildew before it gets out of hand.
3. BEST FOR STAIN REMOVAL: Bar Keepers Friend Soft Cleanser Liquid
Bar Keepers Friend is the secret to thoroughly clean tile and grout. With active ingredients including feldspar (a mineral abrasive) and oxalic acid (a stain remover), Bar Keepers Friend is best known for its powdered formula. But we love this cleansing liquid formulation, which comes with a grout cleaner brush. Free of ammonia and silicone, Bar Keepers Friend Soft Cleanser Liquid is safe to use on many hard surfaces, including porcelain and ceramic tile, chrome, stainless steel, fiberglass, copper, and brass. Because of its abrasive qualities, spot-test Bar Keepers Friend first, and use the brush with light pressure to prevent scratching. (For grout between stone or granite tiles, choose Bar Keepers Friend Granite and Stone Cleaner instead.)
4. BEST FOR HEAVY DUTY: Grout-EEZ Super Heavy Duty Tile & Grout Cleaner and Whitener
As much as we love a good, earth-friendly cleaner, we know that some tough jobs require specialized formulas. For moldy, stained grout that won’t respond to everyday cleaners, we recommend Grout-EEZ. This “super heavy duty” solution is designed for maximum whitening power, especially on floors and large surfaces. No more bending and scrubbing: This double pack comes with a brush head, which can attach to any standard broom or mop handle. Grout-EEZ promises to suck up dirt, grease, and stains in about five minutes. Safe for most tiled surfaces (but not natural stone) the active ingredients include urea monohydrochloride (a strong acid) and nonylphenol ethoxylates (a chemical detergent). Due to these chemicals, Grout-EEZ does create fumes, so always wear protective gear (goggles and gloves). Open your windows or turn on a ventilation fan if working in an enclosed space.