The importance of a thoroughly cleaned and duly protected tile and grout is more than just for aesthetic purposes. More importantly, its effects on the individual health of the members of any given household far supersede the need to have the tile and grout looking clean. For what is essential is what is beneath the visible surface of tiles and grout.
Tile is actually any type of construction or building material that is used to cover surfaces of a home like the floor and walls. Sometimes, tiles are also used for decorative purposes such as those in countertops, tabletops and other similar fixtures. The bathroom is technically the most often ‘tiled’ part of the home thereby creating a diversion from the otherwise ‘smelly’ situation. With a variety of types, designs, and forms, tiles can be artwork in themselves.
Grout is the binding substance for these tiles as they provide the adhesion needed between the tile surface and the floor or wall surface. One can readily think of grout as the sandwich spread that is applied between two pieces of bread. One slice of the bread represents the surface to be covered by the tile while the other slice of bread is the tile. The sandwich spread in between these two slices of bread is technically the grout.
Grout is mostly made up of cement, water and another substance that effectively binds the cement to both the tile surface and the floor surface. Building professionals sometimes put in additional chemicals to further strengthen the bond of the grout, effectively sealing it against water and moisture. Sometimes, too waterproofing additives are included to further ward off any chances of moisture from seeping through the grout matrix. These chemicals are very useful also in terms of providing the tile surface a certain luster that projects elegance.
The danger in tiles and grout is in the nature of its application as well as the risk for exposure to moisture. Remembering that grout is essentially an adhesive mixture that is supposed to bind two opposite surfaces together. Since grout is a chemical mixture of different substances, it thus reacts to different environmental factors such as mechanical friction, extremes of temperatures, and even moisture seepage.
The end result of these environmental factors is a loss in the integrity of the grout such that there occurs breaks in its surface providing an entry for water and moisture. Once moisture seeps into the grout matrix, irreversible damage begins to occur. This can be readily seen in loose tiles or even cracked or chipped off tiles. The danger is actually not in these physical deformities in either grout or tile but rather in the risk of forming mildew colonies.
Mildew are a special form of mold that are often found in inanimate objects such as floor surfaces, walls, sinks, bathtubs, and shower curtains. These microorganisms, just like most fungi, require only two things to form and reproduce – moisture and warmth. Such is the affinity of these microorganisms to moisture that they can form colonies within 24 hours of having left moisture in a certain location.
Now, mildew is something that is not actually dangerous to a lot of people yet they are very life-threatening to high risk individuals. These people are those whose immune systems are severely weakened or compromised perhaps because of a severe infection, the result of chemotherapy or radiation therapy, or even have recently undergone medical procedures like bone marrow transplantation. In these cases, the human immune system is severely compromised that it cannot effectively wage a battle against the seemingly harmless mildew. This is the very same principle behind Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or AIDS where the person actually dies because of complications and not because of the HIV.
Mildew, like mold and other species of fungi, release spores into the air that, when inhaled by a susceptible person, can elicit various allergic responses like sneezing, coughing, runny nose, clogged nose, watery and inflamed eyes and skin irritation and itching. In some instances, there are individuals who react violently to the entry of these mildew spores that they enter into a state of anaphylaxis. In this state, the body may be producing highly irrational responses to the entry of the mildew spores.
The person, in an attempt to get rid of the foreign body immediately, begins to choke because of uncontrolled spasms in the throat. If this continues, the airway passages to the person’s lung will be blocked and the person will have difficult time breathing on his own. Should this continue further, the person may stop breathing altogether and may eventually die because vital oxygen has not been delivered to critical organs like the brain and the heart.
Such is the danger of moisture trapped in the broken or improperly cleaned tiles and grout. It may be some work of fiction to some but the threats are very real, especially if a household has a member who is allergic to pollen.
Cleaning the Tile and Grout
The impetus for thoroughly cleaning household tiles and grout is thus ingrained in the need to prevent moisture so that mildew growth will be precluded and its health effects avoided.
If the tile and grout were installed with a chemical additive that provided additional strength and waterproofing features, thorough buffing of the tile and grout is enough to get rid of surface stains. However, it is still a good idea to scrub the tile and grout surfaces with a mild cleaning solution so as not to disintegrate its thin film of protective coating. For best results, applying a fresh coat of surface protectants can greatly add to the tile and grout’s integrity and strength.
In cases where the tile and grout were installed without any additives, thorough cleaning is a must.
1. Before even applying a cleaning solution to the tile and grout surface, take note of any deformities or cracks in the surface. Try to mark these problem spots so that it will be a lot easier for you to go back to them once you’re done cleaning.
2. You can purchase a commercial tile and grout cleaner for this purpose or you can make your very own cleaning solution. Most household bleaching agents can be used to clean tiles and grout surfaces. For maximum effect, mix 10 mL of bleaching agent to a liter of water to make your standard cleaning solution. To further increase the cleaning action of the mixture, you can add a teaspoon of your ordinary powder detergent.
3. Use a spray bottle to disperse the cleaning solution to the tile and grout surface. This is more advisable than thoroughly soaking the entire place to be cleaned because of the risk of water and moisture seeping through the surfaces.
4. Spray an area of the surface to be cleaned one at a time and wait a few seconds before attempting to scrub off the surface. Use a circular motion when scrubbing the surface and then rinse the area with clean water.
5. Remember to thoroughly dry the cleaned areas in order to minimize the entry of moisture into the grout. Initially, patting the area dry with sponge or any absorbent material like chamois is recommended. However, a more thorough drying method will have to be instituted if the risk of moisture and mildew growth is to be prevented.
6. Work your way at one area at a time, stopping to thoroughly dry the recently cleaned area before proceeding to the next one. This prevents the likelihood of moisture from ever seeping into the grain of the grout.
7. Once you are through cleaning and drying the tile and grout, you can now use other means to facilitate the removal of moisture from the surfaces.
Thorough Drying is Thorough Cleaning
Since the central idea in thoroughly cleaning tiles and grout is to prevent the formation of mildew colonies through moisture seepage, thoroughly drying the tiles and grout is very important.
1. The dehumidifier function of an ordinary air conditioning unit can be used to eliminate moisture. This equipment draws out moisture from the air and condenses it inside the machine’s cold coils. In cases where the air conditioning unit does not have a dehumidifier function, purchasing a standalone dehumidifier is a good idea although not a practical one.
2. If dehumidifiers are expensive for the household, using an ordinary hair dryer and the average household electric fan can be used to help facilitate the removal of moisture from the air. The heated air currents provided by the hair dryer is enough to evaporate water molecules and move them towards the outside environment. Electric fans work the same way except that the air current produced is that of room temperature and not necessarily hot.
3. A not-so-popular but equally effective device for eliminating moisture is the subsurface extractor. Mainly used in instances of massive flooding where water removal is necessary as well as moisture elimination, the device is more often used by professional companies that offer various cleaning and restoration services.
Now, for a more thorough tile and grout cleaning, professional companies are ever-ready to offer such assistance. This is perhaps the soundest thing to do because they already offer a variety of supportive measures that will include even mildew woes.
The main thing to understand here is that a thoroughly cleaned tile and grout will not result to health problems associated with mildew colony-formation because of moisture seeping beneath the tile and grout surface.