Popularly known as joints to the joint space that form tiles and other surfaces on floors and walls. The professionals, on the other hand, identify it with the term grout, referring to the white mixture of lime or plaster with water that serves to fill the cavities that are necessarily between the tiles of all types of paving. Its function is to hold the linings together and prevent the edges from breaking with use. But unfortunately they have a B-side: they seem to have a special attraction for dirt and, in more humid areas, also for mold.
“Behind those black lines that take over the joints there is a risk to your health due to the mold and dust they can retain, especially if you are asthmatic or allergic,” says Home Serve, a company specialized in home care and maintenance. Lack of natural lighting or poor ventilation can cause moisture and water vapor are concentrated favoring the creation of fungi. And the same is true in a kitchen workspace, where grease buildup becomes a very attractive focus for bacteria.
These weeks of quarantine for him coronavirus (COVID-19) are a good time to do a thorough cleaning. However, setting a continuous care of at least once a year will be the key to success, depending on the state and humidity that proliferates in each room.
1. Clean the surface before entering the joints
Before we face cleaning the joints thoroughly, it is necessary to work the surface and leave it free of dust and dirt. In the case of floors, it is enough to sweep with a brush or a mop, and then lather them with warm water and a mild product. Ceramic floors deserve special attention, because they have to be cleaned without damaging the material. Using a cotton cloth you can access all the tiles and remove the most persistent stains.
For bathroom and kitchen tiles, you can use an old toothbrush that doesn’t have very stiff bristles, and remove superficial dirt with a light mixture of water and bleach. Do not forget to wear gloves at all times, even if you do not use abrasive substances for the skin. In the case of wooden floors, it is convenient to do a subsequent purification, applying a mixture of tea and hot water over the entire surface. Not only will it purify the area, but it will add shine and drag the most persistent dirt.
2. Remove mold
Next, we will apply a disinfecting agent that attacks the batteries and possible fungi that have accumulated. He sodium bicarbonate It is a great absorbent of moisture and removes the most difficult dirt, even on silicone gaskets. To avoid damaging the surface, we resort to a less aggressive formula consisting of four tablespoons of baking soda, a generous glass of hot water and a small proportion of white vinegar that we will combine in a container.
Using a sprayer, we will apply the mixture directly to the damaged area and then rub with a soft brush. The foam it may generate is a sign that the mixture is taking effect. For hot spots, let it sit for a day before brushing with hot water. Thanks to its degreasing power, bicarbonate is an ideal substance to clean the kitchen tile joints, which should always be applied with a soft sponge to avoid damaging them.
Vinegar, the most ecological remedy
The wild card of our gastronomy is transferred to the hygiene of the whole house. Vinegar is a natural remedy with great properties for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, including the joints that bind them. Eliminates bad odors and results less damaging to both our skin –It does not irritate or cause allergies– as for the environment. And also, the smell, strong at first, is not as aggressive as, for example, that of ammonia.
Earthenware surfaces regain a forgotten shine when cleaned with vinegar undiluted in water. It must be applied directly so that it does not lose its acid concentration. The black joints, meanwhile, will regain their whiteness if you mix it with a tablespoon of dishwasher soap applied with a soft bristle brush. Do not rinse immediately: it is better to leave it to act for 20 minutes and remove after the product with hot water.
For the silicone gaskets, the blog BricoyDeco proposes to enhance its effectiveness by adding two parts of vinegar, one of bicarbonate in a sprayer. At the end of the reaction that occurs between both ingredients, we will close the container to spray the affected area and let it act for about 30 minutes. The dirt will come off when rubbed with the brush. After rinsing with water, we will dry it with a towel to prevent moisture from accumulating.
The Ultimate Arsenal (already used by your mother)
He peroxide Sprayed on the affected area is another foolproof remedy to combat embedded mold. This substance does not generate toxic gases, but it should always be handled with rubber gloves to prevent it from drying out the skin. And if you use bleach – your mother was right: it is undoubtedly one of the most effective whiteners against black joints – add a mask to the kit of protection.
We can apply this substance directly on ceramic floors and then rinse with cold water, since if we apply hot water we can breathe in the harmful gases it generates. On the walls, it is recommended to make a paste with baking soda so that the lye does not slip and thus penetrate the dirt. After leaving to act for a few minutes, rub with the brush and then rinse the area with warm water.
He ammonia is very useful for kitchen and bathroom floors, since it removes the dirt and the most embedded fat. To apply it, make a mixture with cold water in equal parts and spread it with a cloth. Remember to protect your hands and face and open the window throughout the process. The dirt from the joints will come off easily after rinsing with hot water.
In case the dirt persists, the cleaning company Innovafs proposes a miraculous formula based on ammonia, liquid soap and lemon, diluted in water. After applying the solution with a cloth, leave the surface to act for a few hours. By removing the fungus that generates the humidity in the room, the imperturbable blackness will disappear on the spot.
The technological solution: steam under pressure
Steam cleaning is one of the methods that is gaining more followers every day, due to its ease of use and the powerful disinfection results it obtains. The Italian brand Polti was the first to come up with these machines that date back to the early 1980s, making their name a colloquial synonym for the product.
Its great descaling power allows access to conflictive areas such as bathtub joints, where bacteria are more persistent. The vaporettas and steam mops are a more conventional but also useful way of removing clinging dirt in less accessible corners. It is enough to apply the pressure steam after, yes, of rubbing the area with any of the mentioned remedies to enhance its effect.
The magic pencil
If thorough cleaning of ceramic tiles or floors is not enough to make the joints look shiny, we recommend that you renew your seal. The process is simple: with a knife or scraper gently empty the joints you can, taking care not to damage the surface; and wipe again to remove the dirt.
Next, apply with a rubber trowel as much as possible of special joint putty. Wait a few minutes before removing the excess with a damp sponge. When it has completely dried, remove the dust generated with a soft, dry cloth and apply a grout protector that ensures its durability over time.
As in almost everything, there is an easy version to perform this operation. The restorative pencil renews the grout of the floor and walls and enhances the whiteness of the joints. The Grout Pen, available from Amazon (12.99 euros), also incorporates antibacterial agents that prevent the creation of mold. Before going over the joints with it, clean the area with a damp cloth and let it dry. Remove the excess paint that is generated in the tiling with a sponge.
For the renewal of silicone in joints, Bricoydeco recommends the use of Pensil without mold, since it contains an additive that protects and keeps the joint seal free of bacteria. It is resistant to conventional cleaning products and incorporates a spatula that facilitates its placement.