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Old 05-16-2009, 10:42 AM   #1
Scott_V
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Muriatic acid as a grout cleaner

I have a 5x10' bathroom floor that is tiled in 10" square beige tile with almond colored grout. The grout is discolored and quite dark in some areas. I have tried Comet Cleanser and 90% Oxy-Grout (Oxygen Bleach) with little success. I definately do not want to use a grout stain to even the color as the contrast with the tile would be unacceptable. In the past, I've used Muriatic acid successfully to clean small areas of stained grout. I recall the grout "fizzing" when the acid was applied, leaving a very clean grout surfrace after a water rinse. I did not dilute the acid, I believe it is recommended to do so. I've read various articles where professionals discuss using muriatic acid that has been diluted to minimize grout damage and excessive fumes. I've also read that fumes from muriatic acid can damage metal (shower door, towel rack, light fixtures, etc.). I have a skylight in my bath that can be opened. I have a very large high velocity fan that I can put in the window of the adjoining room, aiming outside, to create a high air flow draft through the bathroom to mitigate the fume damage. I can remove all metal fixtures, and mask those that cannot be removed. I have an expensive OSHA cartridge mask that I know fully protects me from the acid fumes. I'm ready to proceed but am looking for some guidance for things I may be overlooking. Please comment on the pluses and minuses of muriatic acid as a grout cleaner. What dilution do you recommend? My thinking is to do small areas at a time to minimize fume damage.

Thanks-
Scott

Last edited by Scott_V; 05-16-2009 at 10:44 AM. Reason: adding content/correcting sentences
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Old 05-16-2009, 10:54 AM   #2
Davestone
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We don't recommend using that acid because of the dangers, and recommend sulfamic acid crystals which can be bought at HD.After cleaning i would recommend a grout stain to protect and color the grout.
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Old 05-16-2009, 11:03 AM   #3
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Dave, thanks for the reply. As I indicated I am aware of the dangers of muriatic acid, have worked with it before and am prepared to take what appear to be appropriate measures to protect life and property: diluting the acid, creating a powerful ventilating draft, wearing rubber gloves, a high quality dual cartridge OSHA approved mask, and safety glasses, and doing a very small area (2 sq feet) at one time. What other safety measures would be applicable assuming I go this route?

Does sulfamic acid etch away the top surface of the grout like muriatic acid does? If not, then I doubt it will do the job. Also, as I indicated, I'm not interested in staining the grout as this will create an undesirable contrast of dark grout against light tiles.

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Scott
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Old 05-16-2009, 01:08 PM   #4
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Scott, I would try the sulfamic acid first and then move on to the more powerful stuff if needed. No sense risking the muriatic if a less harmful product will do the trick.
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Old 05-17-2009, 05:05 AM   #5
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"Also, as I indicated, I'm not interested in staining the grout as this will create an undesirable contrast of dark grout against light tiles."

Scott,

You know you can colorseal the grout any color you want, right? Pick a shade of colorseal that matches the edge of the tile and it will look great. Then you won't have to go back in there every year with harsh chemicals and a bio-suit to clean it up.
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Old 05-17-2009, 06:01 AM   #6
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There's the option,of course,of having it done professionally (cleaned and sealed) - using better methods than acid...!

We do this - as do several hundreds of companies out there; the fact is that high powered pressure machines in the right hands are needed to clean grout, not just chemicals, and certainly not muriatic. You might come close with an oxidizer but pros use the entire spectrum of cleaners in the most basic of treatments. You risk long-term damage and degradation of the grout, whether its muriatic (the worst) or sulphamic (not so bad).

The fizzing is degradation of the grout...

You don't mention what kind of tile you have - and several go ahead and recommend an acid. I'm glad for you that this is a bb forum, because true professionals wouldn't have given you a blanket recommendation like that
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Old 05-17-2009, 06:56 AM   #7
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Charles,
You are correct, we didn't offer up other alternatives other than a weaker acid method. Perhaps instead of making a blanket conclusion that the folks on here are not "true professionals" just because the recommendations offered did not delve into the many other options out there you could have simply stated your own opinion without the following accusatory statement...

Quote:
Originally Posted by ccarlisle
I'm glad for you that this is a bb forum, because true professionals wouldn't have given you a blanket recommendation like that
MY response was to steer the original poster away from using the muriatic acid as his first option. From the posts that were made it seemed a foregone conclusion that he was stuck on needing to use an acid. Offering a more appropriate one seemed to be the lesser of two evils.
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Old 05-17-2009, 08:35 AM   #8
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Hi Scott, Welcome!

1. Under any circumstances do not use Muriatic Acid to clean your grout! No further discussion needs to be made on this topic.

2. Have you tried any tile & grout specific high alkaline cleaners? This is always a recommended first step on cleaning grout. There isn't an acid made that will remove soil or oil stains. While high pressure machines can speed up the process, they are not necessary to get good results.

3. It's not uncommon to follow an alkaline cleaning with a detergent blend that may react with the cement portion of the grout exposing a new fresh layer.

Hi Charles

This is a DIY forum. We try to steer toward giving options that will allow the consumer to attempt to do the job themselves (when appropriate) vs. recommending a professional service. Of course when dealing with natural stone restoration, that may be the only option.
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Old 05-17-2009, 06:08 PM   #9
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Hi John!
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Old 05-17-2009, 06:57 PM   #10
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Old 05-17-2009, 10:33 PM   #11
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Hi Charles

Back at you! It's good to see you here helping on the JB forum. We have a much different environment that over at DG. Hope you hang around, I've always appreciated your input and point of view.


Hi Brian

When removing soil & grease I would suggest starting with KlenzAll. If the grout needs further brightening or cleaning, it would now be properly prepped to follow with Restore.

There are some in the industry that do it the other way around, as you suggest. Logically, I know acid has no affect on soil or grease.
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Old 05-18-2009, 07:20 AM   #12
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It's a well-known fact that "soils" in general, and specifically soils found around the household (whether it's in the laundry room, the bathroom or the kitchen) are acidic in nature. Some more than others, some that may not even have a pH, but in general, these soils are best treated for removal by using a built alkaline cleaner.

Whether the soil is mostly, even partially, composed of oils, greases, or fats these soils can be emulsified by alkaline cleaners, the extent to which this is accomplished depending on the available alkalinity, the other products in the formualtion and the type. Another method of solubilizing soils is through the use of solvents, the most commonly used being ether-alcohols, because of their solubility in water. Unfortunately some ether-alcohols are carcinogens - and are banned in most jurisdictions, including most of Europe and Canada.

The remaining soils are treated with acids, oxidizers or reducers and inorganic soils like sand and carbon are actually physically removed via vacuum.

This is the theory behind Tile and Grout cleaning; and to my mind, pretty well covers all the bases to obtaining clean tile and grout. Of course the extent to which the grout becomes clean depends on the experience of the operator and the equipment he has available on the spot, but in general that's it.

Now, industrial use of chemicals is far more tightly controlled than the consumer market is and thus you will rarely find known carcinogens in that market. But it still confounds me to find known carcinogens in the DIY or consumer products and it is for this reason and from this background that I never encourage people to use products that contain known carcinogens, despite the fact that a DIYer has a problem. Alternatives exist...

I know the reasons for not using acids on grout; in depth, I might add. So I would not knowingly advise a DIYer to use acid on his grout...I might lose a sale, might lose business - but my customers know why not because I explain the consequences and put it all into context. Occasionally I also use acids, even muriatic too - but I don't consider myself a novice.

Seems I am reproached for not applying what I think is a "professional" line of questioning to an unknown situation, specifically asking what kind of floor tile is someone considering using muriatic acid upon...I call that risk managment. I am not about to blindly say: "Use muriatic or sulphamic" on what turns out to be, say, a polished marble or an Indian slate floor, am I? But unless you have seen the effects of acid first hand, you'll have no idea...

I will continue to present factual and scientific evidence, to present views derived from my personal experiences on the job presented in a befitting tone and respectful of all readers. I will not abase myself to colloquialisms or present, for effect, an image other than what I am. These forums thrive on the presentation and exchange of views, and IMO 'satisfaction' comes from a readership that has been told the whole truth no matter how unpleasant it may be.

I love these forums - and the people I meet on them! I have derived much of what I do from other professionals that I read and I am thankful for that...
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Old 05-18-2009, 10:38 AM   #13
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Old 05-18-2009, 11:35 PM   #14
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Hi Charles

While that was quite a deep reply, I appreciate you laying it out there. I continually learn daily from in field experiences, as well as gentleman such as yourself (and many others), on the boards.
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Old 05-19-2009, 05:20 AM   #15
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You can also tint concrete sealer any color you want. Depending on what type of tile or stone you have will depend on what type of application tool you will need to use.
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