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Many people wait until their grout is stained before attacking it with heavy-duty brushes and cleansers - the opposite to what they should be doing. Ramiro Quecano, owner of Grout Clinic, a grout and tile cleaning service in Toronto, says you need to wipe excess water from bathroom tiles after showers with a squeegee.

"Then you can clean just once a week with a mild soap, like a dishwashing liquid, that is pH balanced," he says. "You scrub the surface with water and soap and leave it about two minutes for the chemicals in the soap to start breaking up the dirt and grease. Then wipe up all this dirty water."

But if you aren't on top of the grout situation, like most of us, here's how to solve the problem and keep grout looking and smelling like new.

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Stay in the pink

Because grout is porous, it absorbs dirt and moisture, making it a breeding ground for bacteria in steamy bathrooms.

You can DIY mouldy grout as long as it's in the pink zone. "When it turns from pink to brown or black, the mould is already inside the grout," says Mr. Quecano. "So the only way to really fix the problem is to re-grout. You'll have to remove the damaged grout and replace it. Otherwise, the water will get behind the tile."

Like many professionals, he blasts grime from tiles using pressurized water before re-grouting, which can return a floor or shower to its original appearance.

Get between the tiles

Use a grout brush to clean between tiles. It removes stains without damaging the surface. When the job feels as if it is more trouble than it's worth, Mr. Quecano says, remind yourself that replacing a damaged floor can cost thousands of dollars.

Avoid bleach

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Bleaching the mould might offer a cleaner look, but don't be fooled. Beneath the surface, the mould may have already weakened the grout - and harsh bleach can do further damage. "Over a couple of years, the ceramic is going to start popping out, and the mould will get into the cement board. Everything just starts going downhill," says Mr. Quecano. This cautionary note also applies to vinegar and other acidic cleaners.

Reseal

Once your grout has been spruced up, apply a grout sealer, which forms a barrier against dirt, oil and water. It will need to be reapplied about once a year.

Ventilate and dehumidify

To prevent mould and mildew from forming, keep surfaces dry with good air circulation. "People don't start the fan, or it's not strong enough to remove all the steam," says Mr. Quecano. A well-positioned dehumidifier can pull moisture from air throughout the house. Air conditioners also lower humidity, as does dry heat from your furnace in the wintertime.

*And don't do this… Leave your next grout-cleaning job till the last minute.

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