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8 Popular Cleaners People Use That Damage Your Grout (and Grout Sealer)

Here’s the popular tile and grout cleaners that can actually damage your grout or the grout sealer. And, which cleaners work best on grout!

Does Cleaning Grout Ruin It?

As long as you use cleaners that are safe for grout, cleaning grout doesn’t ruin the grout or sealer.

Cleaning hacks and tricks are always popular on the internet. BUT, some of those super popular DIY cleaners damage grout and/or the sealer on the grout.

And, you generally can’t actually see the grout damage. Using the wrong cleaners on tile grout causes small porous areas in the grout. Those small openings let dirt, grease and oil penetrate your grout.

Image of someone holding white vinegar for a post about popular cleaners that damage your grout and floor tile.
Image from the video I shared on YT about cleaners that damage grout sealer and grout paint. I recorded this video in my kitchen.

Some links on this post are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. 

Once dirt and stains seep into your grout, it can be very difficult to remove those grout stains.

You can see how this dirty grout problem can snowball…

Your grout gets stained and dirty. Someone tells you about their favorite grout cleaning hack (like vinegar or bleach). But using it causes tiny holes in the grout or grout sealer, opening your grout to easier staining.

Then you repeat the grout cleaning cycle, making those tiny holes in the grout larger. Then the grout stains faster, and you end up having to clean your grout more frequently.

So, in this post I’m going to go over which cleaners damage your grout, which cleaners are safe on grout, and the easy way to protect your grout after using the wrong cleaners.

After reading this, check out my posts on How to Whiten Grout to see how to make your stained grout look new again.

AND REMEMBER: Natural stone tile, like marble, slate, and travertine, should always be cleaned with a stone tile cleaner. Many homemade cleaners can permanently damage stone tile.

Image of someone holding Murphy's Oil Soap for a post about popular cleaners that damage your tile grout and grout sealer.
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8 Cleaners That Damage Your Grout

Will BLEACH Clean Grout?

Chlorine bleach might make your grout look cleaner. BUT, bleach is too corrosive it should not be used on tile or grout. Chlorine bleach is a strong alkaline with a pH between 11 and 13.

Actually, there are 3 main reasons to avoid using chlorine bleach on tile and grout. First, bleach can discolor your grout. Or cause uneven whitening on your grout.

Second, bleach is corrosive. Repeated use of bleach on grout will start to erode the grout and dissolve the grout sealer. Leaving your grout more open to dirt, oils, and stains that can hide in the grout.

Third, bleach can penetrate the grout moving into the thinset and subfloor. If bleach causes corrosive damage to the thinset or subfloor, your tiles might eventually pop.

Will VINEGAR Clean Grout?

Using vinegar to clean grout and tile might make it look clean. But, vinegar has a pH level of 2. Vinegar is too acidic to safely use on tile, grout, grout sealer, and grout paint.

Vinegar will slowly dissolve the sealer on the grout, allowing dirt, oils, and stains to penetrate deeper into the grout.

Using Vinegar on grout can also cause the grout to breakdown overtime. And, that strong acid could damage the finish on the tile too. Making the sheen on the tile look different and uneven.

Image that says "Skip These Cleaning Hacks" for a post about cleaners that damage tile grout.

AMMONIA Can Damage Grout

Ammonia is highly alkaline, which makes it corrosive on grout. Using Ammonia on tile grout can also dissolve the grout sealer and cause damage to the tile finish.

LEMON JUICE Can Damage Grout

Lemon Juice and other citric acids can damage grout and grout sealer. The acid in lemon juice can erode grout over multiple uses, causing permanent damage.

And lemon juice can dissole the sealer on the grout that’s designed to protect it from stains and damage.

Lemon juice has a pH between 2 and 3. That means that unless you are just using a small amount, like a teaspoon, heavily diluted in water, the pH of your homemade cleaner will be too acidic.

Image of someone holding toilet bowl cleaner, explaining how toilet bowl cleaner is bad for grout, can damage grout, and/or stain grout.

Can I Use TOILET BOWL CLEANER On Grout

It is not safe to use toilet bowl cleaner on grout. Toilet bowl cleaners are corrosive, they can permanently damage your grout, grout sealer, and tile.

Toilet bowl cleaner can erode your grout, eat away at your tile, and damage the finish on some tiles. It will also dissolve the sealer on your grout.

Some toilet bowl cleaners also have blue dyes in them that can permanently stain your grout.

DYES IN CLEANERS Can Permanently Stain Grout

In fact, some of the popular grout cleaning hacks I see online include using other cleaners that weren’t made for cleaning grout.

A lot of those cleaners contain dyes that can settle into grout causing permanent stains. A good example of this is the blue dye in many toilet bowl cleaners.

If you have accidentally stained your grout, I recommend using Grout Renew to restore your grout color and seal your grout.

OIL-BASED and WAX-BASED CLEANERS Can Permanently Stain Grout

Oil-based cleaners, like Pine-Sol, and wax-based cleaners, like Murphy’s oil soap, can leave oily or waxy residue in the grout that attracts dirt and stains, making them harder to remove.

Pine-Sol might be a popular floor cleaner, and it smells great, but I’d avoid using it on tile floors with grout.

Image someone holding a floor cleaner that can actually cause dirt and grease to be trapped in the grout, making it harder to clean.
Oil and Wax based cleaners attract and trap dirt and stains in your grout, making grout harder to clean.

Can You Use MURIATIC ACID To Clean Tile and Grout?

Muriatic acid should not be used on floor tile. Muriatic acid is a strong acid that can corrode tile grout, damage the finish on tiles, and cause permanent damage to the tile and the grout.


Here’s a few more answers to common questions about cleaning tile grout.

Can Water Damage Grout?

Using hot water steam or water-based cleaners on grout is fine. Just be sure to keep your grout properly sealed to prevent the water from penetrating the grout and settling under the grout or tile.

If enough water settles under the grout it can lead to mold growth, damage to the subfloor, or popping of tiles.

Check out Is A Steam Mop Good For Tile Floors to see everything you need to know about using a steam mop on floors.

Image of 4 household cleaners that are bad for tile grout. These cleaners can damage tile grout.
Four of the popular “cleaning hacks” that can actually damage grout and/or dissolve grout sealers and grout paints.

Does Vinegar and Baking Soda Damage Grout?

Mixing vinegar with baking soda causes a fizzy, bubbly chemical reaction that looks cool. Once that quick chemical reaction completes, you’re basically left with a somewhat salty water.

That salt water isn’t really going to clean better than just plain hot water.

You’re probably better off cleaning grout with just hot water mixed with baking soda. Or a mix of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide.

What Does Acid Do To Grout?

Acidic cleaners can corrode and damage grout. Anything with a pH under 7 is acidic.

Examples of acidic cleaners that are not safe for grout are vinegar, lemon juice, and toilet bowl cleaner. I see all 3 of these as recommended great grout cleaners all the time.

BUT, they are bad for grout, grout sealers, and grout paint. Avoid using those cleaners or any cleaners that contain citric acid on your tile grout.

ADDING water to these acids doesn’t give them a neutral pH unless you use MOSTLY (like 95%) water. When they are diluted that much, they won’t clean as well as the neutral and alkaline cleaners listed below.

Ex. 25% Household White Vinegar (5%) and 75% Tap Water still has a pH of less than 3.

You can test the pH of any of your household cleaners with cheap pH testing strips or a pH meter.

You can sprinkle Baking Soda on a wet, non-scratch scrubbing sponge or pad before scrubbing grout.

Which Cleaners Are Safe On Grout?

Examples of cleaners safe on grout and tile are Hot Water, Baking Soda, Dawn Dish Soap, and most Hydrogen Peroxide.

Similar GENTLE dish soaps that DON’T contain citrus or other additives will probably be safe on grout too.

Cleaners specifically made to clean grout and tile are also safe. I like Black Diamond Ultimate Grout Cleaner and Grout-Eez Heavy Duty Grout Cleaner if I’m buying a store-bought cleaner.

Stone tile floor cleaners are also formulated to be neutral. So, they are safe on stone and grout.

How I Use Dawn Dish Soap On Shower Grout

I use a little Dawn Dish Soap mixed with hot water as the primary cleaner in my marble shower. It’s safe on stone, like marble, and great at removing dirt & grime in the grout.

After rinsing off the Dawn, I spray on a Mold & Mildew Spray made for stone tile. That kills any of that gross pink mildew that tries to grow around bathtubs and showers.

I have used this simple cleaning routine on my shower for almost 4 years now. The grout still looks exactly like it did when I installed the tile.

You can read more about how I clean marble tile & grout in a previous post.

More Tips For Cleaning Tile and Grout

Watch this video for more tips on how I clean my grout and which cleaners to avoid.

Popular Floor Cleaners That Damage Your Grout, Grout Sealer and Grout Paint!

That’s it for 8 Popular Cleaners That Damage Your Grout. I hope these grout cleaning tips helped!

See more of my Best Cleaning Posts

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That’s it for popular cleaner that damage your grout. Good luck with your dirty grout!

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