How to clean the grout around my 50s and 60s bathroom floor tiles? Sleeping Bee Alice finds an answer

After Zep

After Zep

Before ZEP

How to clean old grout in retro bathroom floor tiles? Sleeping Bee Alice plays the role of Queen of Clean. Thanks, Alice, very impressive. I do want to caution – as I have been doing cleaning research, too — to be very careful about what you use on the glazed tile itself. That glazed finish can come off, even with a scotch brite pad, so treat it very carefully. More on tile cleaning to come.

Read on for Alice’s solution (pun!) —>

Hello Pam,

I’ve made a discovery that perhaps some of your readers could benefit from.  You’ll recall the blue tiles in my bathroom (the ones PSS wanted to duplicate).  I had scrubbed the grout with every cleaner imaginable and then was easily convinced when someone told me that the grout in this bathroom wasn’t actually white, it was “bisque”.  However, just recently a friend asked if she could try a little product on them to see if she could brighten them and voila!, we actually do have white grout!  I have attached the photos so you can see the before and after difference.  One hour and half a bottle of Zep (that’s the name of the product, available at Home Depot) later, and I have a blue and white bathroom – not blue and bisque!

Hope this is useful to your readers.  What a great site RR is…thanks for keeping up the good work.


p.s. Lest you think that I am a neat freak or something, since all of my questions to you have been about cleaning, that’s just the phase we are in of our move in process to our mid-century home. Really, it cracks my husband up to think there is a group of people out there that might have the impression that I’m all about cleaning :)

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  1. ginny Poladian says

    I noticed all this talk about grey grout leaching and turning white in places. I have that problem. However, my grout is pink . I have a 1952 Ranch style house in an old neighborhood in Central Phx. When I moved in with my boyfriend( now my huband), I absolutely fell in love with the original light pink and burgundy ceramic tile in his hall bath. I used this as the color scheme for the entire house. I used alot of pink/shades of pink/and earth colors throughout. IE: blue,rose,sage green etc. My hall bath was partially re-done,removing the horribly ugly old linoleum and replacing it with 6″ white hex tiles with Burgundy dots and pink grout. The small bath was gutted. then re-done with a 1907 claw foot tub painted burgundy,a white pedestal sink,and a high boy toilet. I had stained glass put in the bathroom window and the same floor put in as the other bath . The kitchen has a mauvey/rose color porcelain counter tile,large pink ceramic floor tile with pink grout. The walls are covered with wallpaper of roses. I must admit, this house is adorable. It reminds me of an English Country cottage. I guess I’m not the only one that thinks it’s cute,it’s been in the paper twice for my use of so much pink. I even have a rose colored picket fence out front. So,long story short, can this product be used also on pink grout without bleaching it out? When the grout get’s dirty,which is VERY often with 11 rescued dog’s and cat’s!,it looks grey. I also would like to clean the vertical shower surface that has the original tiles with white grout that looks beige. So, with so many experts out there, how about some educational help here. Thanks!!!

    • Bob says

      That’s good to know. The ones that don’t test on animals are not guaranteed to be safe, very important if you have small children or pets.

  2. ckwest says

    OMG!!! I’ve been looking for a way to clean the grout on my blue tiled vintage floor. I’M HEADING TO HD right now. Thank you Alice! I have both a blue bathroom and a pink one too:-)

  3. ckwest says

    yay! I tried it on a 12×12 ares under my sink and it work. Alice, woul you know the best american standard colored toilet lid thay woul match the color of your tile. I have the same coloe tile and toilet, sink and tun to match. Thanks a million for the grout cleaner tip.

  4. Amanda Young says

    Tried the Zep cleaner on my 1955 black and white tiled bathroom with poor results. Used a brush and scrubbed – still poor results. Any ideas?

  5. marie felix says

    I’ve used bleach and a toothbrush. It’s time intensive and as I age, it’s not so easy. Once you do get your tile clean, use car wax on the tile to polish it and have the water bead up esp. in the shower. Just be careful on the floor, don’t want anyone to slip. Marie

  6. Richard Black says

    My bathroom tiles were a sight for sore eyes,the grout was stained and looked a bit filthy. Sadly I couldn’t afford to replace the grout for the entire bathroom. I found out about Nugrout products and decided to give it a try. I am amazed by how new my bathroom now looks with the new grout color, and how affordable the entire process was. Check out their website at, I highly recommend them.

  7. Claire says

    My green bathroom floor and wall tile is circa 1957. I make a paste with Barkeeper’s Friend and use a deck brush to scrub it. The tile comes up clean and the grout is white once more. Barkeeper’s Friend is inexpensive and will clean old porcelain and tile that may or may not have all of its finish intact, and won’t scratch the surfaces. It’s also gentle to hands and has no odor (unlike the liquid version, which also works but smells like bleach).

    • pam kueber says

      Beware abrasives and acids they will destroy the finishes of the services. See our other stories on the Kohler recommendations they say no to barkeepers friend

    • Lizzy says

      Barkeeps Friend is oxalic acid. It’s not gentle. An occasional use of it is likely OK, but it’s no everyday cleaner. It’s a destroyer of worlds, especially yours in your house. Be cautious with it.

  8. says

    I’m a restoration contractor and our go-to mix is baking soda/vinegar/lemon juice.

    I mix it unitl it looks right, you can find various recipes with proportions for various tasks around various places. Didn’t see it mentioned, thought I would share. This outperforms nearly everything we’ve ever tried when dealing with old dingy grout.

    Could be mildly abrasive on sensitive tile. Never noticed an effect on anything glazed.

    • Lizzy says

      Baking soda is the original abrasive cleanser. You can scrub the finish right off the glazed tiles. Vinegar is acetic acid, plus the citric acid in lemon juice, I’m sure it does work! And it can do damage. When I was a bike wrench in college we used a citrus degreaser in the parts washer – it ate the paint off. We went back to mineral spirits.

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