A reader asks: "I am frustrated with complaints from my customers that the restrooms are not clean. I cannot control odors that have built up over time, nor can I restore damaged grout. Any thoughts?"

Remember that Portland cement type grout is simple dirt mixed with a few chemicals that harden and fill in the spaces between ceramic or quarry tiles. When you attempt to clean grout you face the challenge of removing the soils without removing the grout itself. Grout can be very sensitive to strong acids, especially if the cleaning products are not removed promptly.

Upon inspection of the restrooms in question it appears that there are several areas where the grout has been dissolved, possibly by acid cleaning. This could have happened a long time ago since the restrooms in question do not show signs up any upkeep. Grout can slowly dissolve and break up under certain circumstances and care should be taken NOT to allow strong acids to dwell too long. Instead, any acid cleaning should be followed up with copious rinsing with clean water and wet vacuuming to remove the product once it has done its job.

You need to address your concerns to the customer since moisture is getting under the tiles and over time will damage the mastic/glues that keep the tiles in place. Once this happens the restoration work grows exponentially. Until the grout is restored you should go easy on flooding the area and regularly inspect the floor for water damage. Document your findings and concerns so that the customers realizes the risk they are taking by delaying repairs.

This is a good example of spending a few dollars now to restore the grout rather than spending a lot more later on due to the tiles having to be reset.

Your comments and questions are important. I hope to hear from you soon. Until then, keep it clean...

Mickey Crowe has been involved in the industry for over 35 years. He is a trainer, speaker and consultant. You can reach Mickey at 678-314-2171 or CTCG50@comcast.net.