The Dirty Glove: Tile & Grout Edition

Cleaning thoroughly, efficiently, and greenly is the name of the game here at the Purple Fig, but we all have those areas of the house that- let’s face it -nobody likes to tackle. What better way to honor those dastardly, dirty crevices then to dedicate a post about how to scrub them until they shine?

Every other month, we’ll walk you through guidelines tailored for each unique mess (greasy stovetop? Moldy tub? Sticky sink?) and lend some valuable tips along the way. So strap on your gloves, because we’re about to clean the part of your bathroom that gets dirtier as you get cleaner: tub and shower grout.

Tools you’ll need

Spray bottle

Spray mix (a blend of water, vinegar, and lemon extract*)

Baking soda

Toothbrush tool and/or scrub tool

Hydrogen Peroxide


Optional: Liquid Castile Soap (or any eco-friendly dish soap)

Optional: Washing soda

Optional: Borax

Understanding Tile & Grout

Unfortunately for mankind, grime and mold do not discriminate based on tile type, texture, color, or size: if there are grooves of grout for them to snuggle in to, they will do it! Counterintuitively, the place where we scrub our bodies squeaky clean is usually the ideal hideout for grimy, moldy surfaces — thanks to the fact that bathroom tubs and showers are typically windowless, humid, dimly lit, and perpetually damp.

While the general quick-fix is to buy a gallon of bleach and let the chemicals do the fighting, bleach is merely another highly toxic, potentially lethal substance that causes health problems with over-exposure. Not only is it a dangerous liquid to have so close to your body (especially while bathing!), it does not permanently solve the issue. Not only can mold grow back after bleach treatment, even dead mold can continue to cause health issues!

Grappling Grimy Grout

It’s commonly believed that Serratia Marcescens, a naturally occurring bacteria that thrives in moist areas, is the source of that pink or light gray discoloration in your grout otherwise known as “grime”. This airborne bacteria is especially attracted to dust and phosphates (in this case soap, gels, and shampoo products), and although not toxic to humans or animals, is an eyesore to stare at while taking a shower!

Grime tends to settle where water builds up, usually on the caulk where the tub meets the tile, faucets and drains, and any section of grout that gets the most wet. The best way to prevent the pink stuff is to wipe down your tub or standing shower regularly after each bath/shower, but for more intensive maintenance (recommended every 3-4 days or so), try out these tips:

1. First, take your spray bottle and fill it with water, vinegar, and lemon extract (*the extract is optional, but leaves a wonderful aroma). The ratio of water to vinegar depends on the state of the grout in question, but half and half is a good gauge. For a less vinegar-laden smell, make it a 3/1 water to vinegar ratio, and/or toss in a couple of squirts of extract.

2. Spray the tile generously, letting the vinegar solution sit for a moment and sink into the grout. Meanwhile, mix baking soda and water in a bowl until it becomes a paste.

3. For lighter grime, take your toothbrush tool and dip in into the baking soda paste. Scrub the grout vigorously (you should hear it fizzing as the baking soda reacts with the vinegar), spraying the area in increments as you work the grout.

4. For stubborn grime, you have the choice of using a solution with a stronger vinegar ratio, but you can also try this recipe from Wellness Mama: Mix 1/2 cup baking soda with 2 tbsp of washing soda and 2 tbsp of Borax. Add 3 tbsp of Liquid Castille soap (or eco-friendly liquid dish soap) and stir. Spray the area with the vinegar solution, letting it sit for a moment, meanwhile applying the baking soda mixture to your toothbrush/brush tool. Vigorously scrub the grout with the toothbrush/brush tool, making sure the mixture and the vinegar react with each other.

5. Rinse the area with warm water and wipe dry. 

Taking On the Mold

Unlike grime, mold is a fungus that’s considered more of a hazard in the household, especially if it comes in contact with babies, the elderly, or those with asthma or immune problems. The dreaded Black Mold is a paramount example of how airborne spores clasp onto damp surfaces and decompose the material, and the urgency to purge the mold is spurred on by the risk of health problems including (but not limited to) respiratory weakness, dizziness, rashes, and sinus issues. Read more detailed information about mold identification and prevention here!

Sometimes a professional must get involved with severe molding, but if you’re prepping for a minor battle with mold, ditch the chemical cleaner and use these treatments that are friendly to both the environment and your body:

1. For a lighter clean, follow Wellness Mama’s recipe and make a mixture of 1 part Hydrogen Peroxide (3%) and 1 part water in a spray bottle. Spray the mixture on the grout until saturated and wait 45 minutes, afterwards rinsing the area with warm water and wiping it dry.

2. For tougher mold and tile scum, follow Pop Sugar’s easy recipe by mixing 1/2 cup of baking soda, 1/2 cup of hydrogen peroxide, and 1 tsp of eco-friendly liquid dish soap in a squeezable bottle. Apply the mixture to a cloth, sponge, or brush tool and rub it into the molded area, letting it sit for a few minutes before rinsing it off with warm water. Use a second application as needed.

**NOTE: Mixing vinegar and hydrogen peroxide can result in a potentially hazardous liquid known as peracetic acid. Although peracetic acid makes for a great sanitizer, it can cause health issues is applied in high concentrations. All in all, it’s recommended not to mix the two!**

Happy cleaning!