The Best Steam Cleaners for Grout

Smaller tiles mean more grout to clean, making a large-tank steam cleaner ideal.
Smaller tiles mean more grout to clean, making a large-tank steam cleaner ideal. (Image: Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Chemical-laden and fume-heavy bathroom cleaners aren’t the only way to clean tile and grout. Hot steam at a high pressure kills bacteria, eliminates grime and restores grout to a like-new condition. Steam cleaners come in an endless array of styles, from small handheld to heavy-duty cylinder units. The best ones feature specific attributes that ensure your grout gets as clean as possible with little to no scrubbing on your part. If grout is exceptionally discolored, scrub it down with low-fume oxygen bleach diluted in water, and then use your steam cleaner regularly to keep stains and bacteria at bay.

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Power and Temperature Matter

Outside of removing dirt, grime and stains, one of the benefits of steam cleaning grout is the ability to disinfect it, which is especially important on tile countertops and floors. But if the steam cleaner doesn’t reach the optimal temperature at the tip of the nozzle, it’s impossible to sanitize or disinfect. Choose a product that reaches at least 158 degrees Fahrenheit at the tip, the ideal temperature for sanitizing. To disinfect, purchase a steam cleaner that reaches 212 degrees. Keep in mind that while the tank may heat the water to 212 degrees, steam cools rapidly as it flows through the hose and out of the nozzle; therefore, the tank needs to heat the water higher than the desired temperature. But hot water can only do so much. The best steam cleaners use a combination of high temperatures and high pressure to restore grout. Look for the highest wattage possible when choosing a steam cleaner; the more power the unit has, the more pressure it produces.

Save Time With a Large Tank

Base the size of your steam cleaner on how much tile you have in your home. If it’s only present on the bathroom counter, a steam cleaner with a 6-ounce tank is best, lasting about 10 to 12 minutes. But if your kitchen features a tile backsplash and counter, tile covers your shower enclosure from floor to ceiling and grout lines the floor of your mudroom, a larger tank is best. Household steam cleaners with 48-ounce tanks work continuously for 45 to 50 minutes, providing ample cleaning time before you need to refill. Duration of use varies by manufacturer; one 48-ounce steam cleaner may work for more or less time than another same-size unit.

Opt for Multiple Attachments

When purchasing a household appliance, ensuring that it tackles more than one cleaning task to give you the biggest return on investment. Even if you only plan to steam-clean your grout, you may find the product suitable for other projects, including disinfecting upholstery, spot-treating carpet and releasing wrinkles from clothes. For steam-cleaning grout, opt for a product with a floor nozzle and a detail nozzle. The former will clean the entire floor and the surface of the grout, while the detail nozzle gives a deep clean along grout lines and in hard to reach areas. A small scrubbing brush attachment is also beneficial. The best steam cleaners for grout come with extension rods for the attachments, allowing you to reach the uppermost crevices of your shower enclosure or bathroom wall.

Nice-to-Have Features

The available bells-and-whistles take an average steam cleaner up a notch, making it the best product for you. An on-demand nozzle with a locking switch allows you to stop and start cleaning at a whim, while the locking switch gives you the option of continuous steam, preventing the need to keep your hand clamped down. Steam cleaners with large tanks are best when the tank has wheels attached, making moving the heavy appliance around easier. A flexible hose makes it possible to twist and turn as you clean, effectively removing dirt, grime and bacteria from tile behind toilets, along a backsplash behind a stove and other tight spaces. A long power cord, at least 12 feet, allows you to clean a large area without constantly unplugging and relocating the steam cleaner.

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