Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
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Is your shower grout turning yellow? Are the once-bright tiles in your shower beginning to take on a sickly hue? If so, it may be time to target the causes behind your yellowing shower and restore your bathing area to its optimal shine and fresh, clean appearance. But to do that, you’ll need to understand what causes grout and tile to turn yellow.
When shower tiles begin to turn yellow, the cause can be anything from colored dyes and an excess amount of iron in the water supply to body oil accumulation and tobacco smoke residue. Vinegar, baking soda, and plenty of elbow grease are three common remedies for yellowed shower tiles.
We’ll explore the many reasons why your shower tiles are turning yellow, in addition to offering some of the most tried-and-true solutions to yellow shower tiles. After using this guide’s information, you may not have to deal with embarrassing, unattractive shower tiles ever again!
Why Do Shower Tiles Turn Yellow?
To stop your shower tiles from turning yellow, you’ll need to be familiar with the things that can contribute to tile yellowing. Some of the most common causes of yellow shower tiles include things like:
- Tile Material
During your investigation into why your shower’s tiles are turning yellow, it may help to go through these factors. For example, if you’re currently using all-natural soaps and cleaners to scrub your shower and tub, wax and dyes may not be the culprit behind your yellow tiles.
However, suppose you’re not drying your shower area off after each usage, using a ventilation fan to keep the room dry, or using a water softener to lessen mineral deposits. In that case, you may want to concentrate on those areas before focusing on less-likely factors such as oil or wax.
Before we reveal a few of the best ways to whiten yellow tiles and grout, let’s explore some of the things that may contribute to yellowing tiles. You could use this information to prevent newly cleaned (or recently purchased and installed tiles) from turning yellow.
If you enjoy rocking the blonde look, but you’re not a natural blonde, there’s a good chance that your hair coloring products are contributing to the yellowing of your shower tiles. Not only can hair dye (predominantly yellow hair dye) make your tub and shower turn yellow, but shampoos and conditioners with dyes may also aid in a slow, unwanted color change.
Body soaps, specialized bathing products, shaving creams, and all manner of things can contain colored dyes that may stain your shower tiles. Sadly, the best way to prevent discoloration caused by dyes is to avoid products that contain dyes.
Of course, you could also invest a little time and energy into daily cleaning and continue to use your color-rich products. After all, your yellow shower tiles might not be caused by dye at all. It could be the result of excess iron in your bathing water.
Are you using a water softener in your home? If not, then your yellowed shower tiles could be a sign of high iron content in your bathing water. Typically, iron causes red and orange staining. However, in its first initial stages, it can leave a yellow hue.
The human body naturally produces oils to help keep the skin and hair shiny and pliable. During our teenage years, these sebaceous glands may become overactive, resulting in acne. Thankfully, modern technology and innovation allow us to take multiple baths and showers throughout the day.
But the oil that our bodies produce doesn’t disappear during a shower. Instead, it’s pulled off of us and allowed to sink into the drain. But as the spray of your showerhead hits your body, the water doesn’t merely plummet straight downward. It can ricochet off your semi-waterproof skin and land on the surrounding shower tiles.
If you’re not wiping down your shower after each use, then these tiles may be collecting flecks of body oil. Just as with an old pillow or sweaty blanket, this oil can cause yellowing over time.
Did you know that some cleaning chemicals and products have wax in them? Sure, this ingredient might be prevalent in floor cleaners or wood polishes, but some bathroom cleaners also contain wax.
Over time, these products can build-up on your shower tiles, forming a yellow sheen. Fortunately, getting rid of wax buildup is often a straightforward affair. What’s far more challenging is avoiding cleaning products that contain wax.
Additionally, if you live in a home with a previous owner, that person may have applied wax to your shower doors or tiles to help promote an anti mildew environment. On the surface, this idea is a pretty solid one. Unfortunately, wax can discolor ceramic tile and grout over time.
Not only is smoking tobacco terrible for your health, but it’s also awful for the health of your home. Smoking cigarettes indoors can negatively impact the interior air quality. Additionally, tobacco smoke is highly toxic and prone to staining walls, fabrics, carpets, and just about anything else it touches.
If you’re living in a home that a smoker once owned, or if you currently live in a house with a smoker (including yourself), now is the time to seek change. Otherwise, you may be dealing with yellow shower tiles, books, cabinets, walls, blinds, ceiling fans, doors, teeth, and lungs.
Though it may seem strange that moisture could contribute to yellow shower tiles, it’s vital to remember that nearly every type of mold and mildew relies on water to grow and flourish. When you have a humid bathroom that’s continuously in some state of wetness, you’re welcoming fungus into your shower stall.
Mold and mildew come in a rainbow of colors, including yellow. They can also permanently stain nearly any material they begin to consume, including plastics, woods, fabrics, and ceramics. To prevent moisture (or, more specifically, mold and mildew) from turning your shower yellow, you’ll need to develop some smart drying habits.
Finally, the type of material that your shower tiles are made of could be contributing to their coloration changes. Some tiles are more porous than others and may naturally take on the colors of hair dyes, shampoos, cleaning products, or smoke.
Ceramic, porcelain, and stone tiles may stain more readily than other types of shower tiles due to their porous nature. The best way to prevent these types of materials from developing intense discoloration issues is to seal them or glaze them with a waterproof coating.
Naturally, a protective finish isn’t enough to guarantee yellowing won’t occur. Exceptional cleaning and maintenance habits are also a must.
Solutions to Yellow Shower Tiles
After eliminating or reducing the factors that can cause shower tiles to turn yellow, you can begin finding the right solutions to your tile coloration problems. Generally, there are three things you can do to get rid of unsightly yellow shower tiles.
For example, you could commit to:
- Regular Cleaning
- Tile Replacement
- Grout Deep Cleaning and Resealing
To choose the best option for you, your budget, and your bathroom, you’ll need to sit down and weigh your preferences. If you’re not able or willing to commit at least one hour each week to cleaning your shower, then the first solution might not work for you.
Similarly, if you’re uninterested in replacing your shower tiles, the second option isn’t likely to be the best one for you. Still, it’s crucial to consider the age of your shower tiles, their current condition, and your weekly schedule when making a final decision.
While a full replacement might be costlier than long-term cleaning or a few bouts of deep cleaning, it could be the smarter option if your shower tiles are very old or in poor condition (cracked, chipped, molded, deeply stained).
That said, for most, regular cleaning should do the trick and get shower tiles (and their surrounding grout) back to a glistening shine.
When it comes to regular cleaning, consistency is crucial. If you plan to take this route, you’ll also need to be patient. Restoring your shower tiles to their original coloration and shine can take several weeks or months, especially if you’re not using a powered showered scrubber.
If you’re determined to speed-up the restoration process, you can invest in a high-powered tool like the Homitt Cordless Shower Scrubber. This neat device comes with four different brush attachment heads designed to clean tight corners, ceramic tiles, and curved tub spaces.
It can also work hard for a full ninety minutes before powering down, ensuring plenty of cleaning time per charge. Thanks to an extendable and retractable handle, you could use this scrubber to make short work of your kitchen, bathroom, and floor cleaning tasks.
Of course, no matter which path you take (electric powered or manual), you’ll want to implement a handful of regular cleaning and maintenance activities. You could choose a day each week to perform your bathroom cleaning tasks.
You could also choose to do one cleaning task each weekday. Take a look at your schedule and select the option that makes the most sense for you. Remember, it’s perfectly normal to have “off days” where you don’t have the time or energy to complete your cleaning tasks.
So long as you make a habit of getting to those tasks when you can, dirt and oil shouldn’t become a consistent problem. Some of the most practical functions that could help you get rid of yellow shower tiles include:
- Using a Vinegar Spray
- Applying a Baking Soda Scrub
- Ensuring Proper Ventilation
Let’s explore each of these tasks in greater detail to discover how they might help shower tiles shine a little brighter. After all, it’s challenging to feel inspired to clean if you’re not entirely sure of your cleaning task’s purpose.
Learning how to clean your shower tiles properly requires time, practice, and patience. If you find yourself feeling annoyed, tired, or frustrated while completing any of these activities, take a moment to relax, and if necessary, remove yourself from the situation.
Getting rid of nasty yellow stains and patches can take some time and effort. It’s OK if you don’t manage to achieve perfection after your first attempt.
The longer you work at establishing excellent bathroom cleaning habits, the more comfortable they’ll become to complete, and the better your home will look and feel! To start things off, you may want to use a vinegar spray.
Using a Vinegar Spray
Grab an empty spray bottle and fill it with 50% water and 50% white distilled vinegar. Congratulations! You now have a multi purpose vinegar spray that’s fantastic for glass surfaces and yellowing shower tiles.
Due to vinegar’s high acidity, it’s also a great solution for lime and calcium build-up. Vinegar can also help disinfect areas and prevent mold and mildew, so it’s great for showers and bathrooms in general. Just spray your shower with this vinegar solution after showering.
Be sure to get your shower curtain as well! On your tile-scrubbing cleaning days, you might want to apply a baking soda scrub before spraying your vinegar solution. That way, you can reap the maximum benefits of these holistic ingredients.
Applying a Baking Soda Scrub
You can make your own baking soda bathroom scrub, or you can use a pre-made store-bought version.
This cleaner is great for showers, bathtubs, countertops, and kitchens. It also leaves behind a gentle lemon scent that’s reminiscent of lemon sherbet, not harsh cleaning chemicals. Of course, if you’ve chosen to make your own baking soda scrub, it’s crucial to follow a few simple rules.
Firstly, suppose you’re hoping to restore your shower’s shine. In that case, it may be better to use Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda instead of standard baking soda, that’s because washing soda can help remove grease and limescale more effectively than traditional sodium bicarbonate products.
Secondly, baking soda and washing soda products are often abrasive. It’s crucial to remember this when applying pressure to a scrub. Too much pressure could wear away a tile’s lacquer. Too little pressure could result in an unchanged, yellowed grout.
The best way to handle this difference is to use vinegar and mild pressure when cleaning your shower tiles and to use a little more pressure when cleaning grout. You might also be able to avoid yellowing by ensuring proper ventilation.
Ensuring Proper Ventilation
Most modern bathrooms have ventilator fans that help pull moist, humid air out of the room. If you’re not using your bathroom exhaust fan after showering, you might be accidentally contributing to your yellowing grout and tiles.
To make matters slightly more complicated, sometimes, a fan isn’t enough. You may also need to use dedicated drying tools. A towel and squeegee typically do the trick. Be sure to use these tools after each shower to keep your tiles dry and clean.
Of course, if your grout is badly stained or in poor shape, you may need to apply new grout and reseal. But we’ll cover that process in just a moment.
Should you discover that your shower tiles have cracks, significant and widespread discoloration, or other significant problems, it may be better to replace them. The average cost to retile a bathroom or shower varies greatly, typically between $450 and $10,000.
Homeowners wishing to retile their entire bathroom (which may be preferable for those wanting their shower tiles to match the wall and floor tiles) will spend more to complete this renovation project. But those merely wishing to replace worn-out or discolored shower tiles will likely spend far less than $10,000.
If your shower’s tiles are in great shape, but the grout surrounding them is looking a little yellowed and dirty, you may want to consider investing in a grout cleaning and resealing project. In most cases, you’ll be able to clean and reseal your shower’s grout without professional assistance, making this potential solution one of the most DIY-friendly ones.
Grout Deep Cleaning and Resealing
Sometimes, your shower’s yellow appearance doesn’t come from the tiles. Instead, it comes from the grout surrounding those tiles. When you’re working with discolored grout, it’s crucial to clean and scrub the old grout before applying any sealant or additional grout coverage.
Otherwise, your sealant and new grout may not adhere properly, leaving you with quite the mess to clean up. To avoid unwanted frustration and extra cleaning, be sure to perform your deep clean before you attempt to reseal, no matter how tempting it may be to skip ahead.
While you might be tempted to use bleach to deep clean your grout, you may want to hold back. Bleach often produces a slight yellowing in once-white grout. Baking soda and vinegar is a far better option.
Of course, if the grout is badly damaged or heavily stained, you may want to remove it and replace it with new grout. Once you’ve accomplished either your cleaning or your removal and reinstallation, it’s time to seal the grout.
Unsealed grout is far more prone to mold, mildew, and staining, so don’t forget this final step.
Shower tiles might begin to turn yellow due to dyes, iron content, body oils, product waxes, mold, or moisture build-up. Getting rid of yellow coloration on tiles or grout often involves baking soda, vinegar, and diligent cleaning habits.
- Bob Vila: Make Your Own Shower Cleaner
- Certified Stone Professionals: Why is my grout turning yellow? What can I do about it?
- Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants: What is causing my Tile to Discolor in our Shower?
- EasyWater: Staining from Water
- Farmhouse On Boone: Homemade Nontoxic Bathroom Scrub Cleaner
- HomeAdvisor: How Much Does It Cost To Retile A Shower Or Bathroom?
- Hunker: How to Remove Hair Dye Stains From a Shower
- One Good Thing: 11 Of The Most Helpful Household Uses For Washing Soda
- The Spruce: Removing Tile Grout in a Few Simple Steps
- This Old House: How to Get Wax Off Any Surface
- wikiHow: How to Clean Grout with Baking Soda
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