Taking on Tile and Grout

July 19, 2010
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The heart-warming scent of fresh-cooked pepperoni pizza hung delightfully in the air. I was ready to sit down to a fat, delicious, gooey pie, happy to suffer heartburn joy the rest of the night. But it was not to be.


My chemist joined me as we brought just about everything we could get our hands on to clean the tile and grout floor in this pizza joint. This was 13 or 14 years ago, and we’d been on a tear developing chemicals and tools to clean dirty grout and tile. That night we tried a bunch of chemical concoctions, accessories and brushes. We learned what worked, what didn’t, and what we needed to develop to become even more successful.

Application

Your favorite cleaning solution will vary from mine, but the need to go after heavily soiled grout will almost always call for an aggressive chemical solution. The solution is applied in enough volume so it can dwell without drying until you are able to clean and extract.

Usually you’re dealing with two extremes, as far as pH is concerned: a strong alkaline cleaner or a strong acid cleaner. When applying an alkaline cleaner, the best tool is a battery-powered electric sprayer. Use a spray jet with a 05 opening or bigger to eliminate atomization of the solution.

A good electric sprayer will allow you to spray 10 gallons or more on a single charge. Your object is to get plenty of solution onto the floor so it can dwell and cut into the grease, oil, and soil to make your cleaning and extraction step easier.

If you are applying an acid-based chemical, do not use your electric sprayer. The acids will go to work on the metal used in the sprayer and shorten its life. Although I am not usually a fan of pump sprayers, when considering even application and efficiency, this is the time to use an all-plastic sprayer that will resist acid solutions.

Agitation

While most professionals are now using high-pressure spinning/extraction tools, you may often find the need to add extra agitation to the grout lines with brushes. You may be using a large electric rotary or vibrating machine fitted with a brush. It could be a dual-brush, counter-rotating machine. These can be very effective for large areas.

I have generally found that a high-pressure spinning/extraction tool does most of the work without the need for the large machines but, in almost every case, some small-brush work is needed for really tough spots in the grout, corners and baseboards.

The grout brush is an obvious choice for those nasty lines. The grout brush has a tapered configuration that allows you to brush hard into the smallest crevices with greater control and speed.

The corner and edge brush is unique in its ability to get into the corners completely, while doubling as a baseboard and coving brush. This high-quality brush is made in small quantities and is quite expensive, but pays for itself with its versatility.

After Cleaning

Just as I always suggest with carpet cleaning – that the best money to be made is in the application of protector – the same holds for grout cleaning. A quality grout sealer is a very good investment for the customer to prevent water- and oil-based soils and spills from penetrating their newly cleaned grout. It is also a nice profit center for you.

The available grout sealers are either water- or solvent-based. You will need to study this and/or take the advice of your distributor as to which you should use. We have come a long way in the quality development of water-based sealers, and I generally prefer them.

Several tools are available for the application of sealers. My favorite is the Injectimate grout sealing kit. It gives you total control over the amount of sealer applied, because the flow of sealer stops after each squeeze of the trigger. You are standing upright and even tall individuals can apply the sealer without back strain. The sealer flows through a small brush which spreads it evenly onto the grout. This applicator should only be used with water-based sealers.

The most popular applicator is the Grout Wand. It is inexpensive and basically a throwaway tool after a few uses. It is also a stand-up tool with pretty good flow control. It has a small rolling wheel in contact with the grout and putting pressure downward releases the sealer. This applicator should only be used with water-based sealers.

The Grout Stick is also a stand-up applicator. The flow of the sealer is not as easy to control when compared to other tools. Once the valve is open, you will want to keep moving steadily along to keep the sealer going down evenly. The biggest advantage is its compatibility with solvent-based sealers.

Finally, for countertops, showers and tight spaces, the Hydro Stick is the applicator of choice. It is a hand applicator and especially useful if applying colored sealer. It comes with brushes and the sealer is easily controlled just by squeezing the bottle. The applicator can be used with solvent- or water-based sealers.

With the right equipment and chemical, tile and grout cleaning can be very effective and profitable. If you are not already offering this service I might suggest you are walking over substantial income everyday. Remember, though, that if you are ready to make the move, training, either through a certified school or other resources (DVDs, workbooks, CDs) produced by experts, is a must.

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