I recently received this e-mail from a reader:
I watched an article on an HGTV Newsletter about kitchen countertops, and I have a question that no one seems to be able to answer! PLEASE direct me to a successful GROUT CLEANER for the white tile countertop in my kitchen. I have tried just about everything I can find on the market with little or no results. Please advise me how to clean and maintain the white grout. If I'd known how almost impossible this is to keep clean, I would have definitely chosen something else, even though I like the look of it. We cannot afford to change it. --Moira
First, let me say I'm skeptical and wary of any magic bullet chemical solution that promises to clean grout without a good scrubbing. Depending on what ails your grout (food stains, dirt, mildew) one of these three solutions may work: Try a paste made from baking soda and bleach; or Bon Ami mixed with a bit of water to form a paste; or the liquid version of Bar Keepers Friend. With any of these, let them sit on the grout for a bit and then use plenty of elbow grease.
If none of those work, many carpet cleaning companies now offer grout and tile cleaning using high-pressure steam.
You can also replace the grout -- a drag, I know, but sometimes grout is beyond salvaging. A grout saw or Dremel tool can pop out the old grout, and re-grouting is a fairly simple DIY project. Just remember to take appropriate safety precautions. Then make sure you seal, seal, and reseal the new (or newly cleaned grout) with a grout sealer. Your local hardware store can recommend one that's appropriate for kitchen countertops.
And if you're looking for an inexpensive alternative to a tile countertop, I would highly recommend IKEA's Pronomen butcher block. I installed it in my house as a quick fix to a previous owner's ugly laminate (pictured above). We've had them for a year, they've worn beautifully, and at $29 for nearly 5 feet of countertop? You can't beat it.
Anyone else have a suggestion for Moira?