How to clean and fix tiles, caulk and grout

July 27, 2015

Caulk, tiles and grout wear out from time to time. But with the right skills, you can replace and fix all three of these materials and save yourself some time and money.

How to clean and fix tiles, caulk and grout

Know when to call the professionals

If some of your tiles have begun to dislodge from the wall, unfortunately, most of the damage is unseen. The wall behind the tile needs repair. Call a plumber and a professional tiler as soon as possible, because waiting will only make the problem worse.

Use paint instead of retiling

  • If you have a few chipped tiles, you can avoid re-tiling by touching up the spots with paint. This won't look as good as new tile, but it's an inexpensive repair.
  • Using an artist's brush, apply alcohol-based primer so the paint will adhere well.
  • Allow the primer to dry, then use a matching appliance or automobile touch-up paint or blend paints to get the colour you need.
  • Grout and caulk in a bathroom, especially around a tub, form barriers that keep water from seeping into the walls.
  • The smallest gaps allow water to sneak behind the tiles and do real damage to the bathroom wall and floor, and even to the ceiling of the room below.
  • Seal the surface of freshly cleaned or new grout to make maintenance easier.
  • When grout is properly sealed, it'll be less porous and less susceptible to stains.

Get grout clean again

  • Clean grimy grout with a regular bathroom tile cleaner, full-strength vinegar or a solution of 50 millilitres liquid chlorine bleach per litre of water.
  • Use gloves to protect your hands and a cloth or sponge to prevent spattering clothes or nearby fabrics.

The easy way to replace caulking

Caulk seals the joints between tubs and walls. When caulk starts pulling away from the surface, or if it shows signs of mildew, it should be removed and replaced. Here's how:

  1. Use a putty knife or small screwdriver to take out the old caulk.
  2. Clean the area with a solution of vinegar and water, then let it dry. Be aware that removing old caulk and cleaning the area will probably take longer than applying the new caulk.
  3. Use mildew-resistant caulk made specifically for tubs and tile. For small jobs, buy it in a ready-to-use tube that doesn't require a caulking gun.
  4. With a scissors or sharp knife, trim the tip of the tube to the size needed to fill the gap. Don't go any bigger as it will be harder to control and look worse when you're finished.
  5. Point the tip into the gap and squeeze. Holding the tube at a 45-degree angle to the joint, draw it along in a smooth line, squeezing the tube with steady pressure as you go.

Fixing or replacing caulk, tiles or grout isn't as difficult as it may seem. With just a little skill, you can do this yourself and save yourself from calling a professional.

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