Scores of readers are writing in asking about something to clean or renew dirty looking, mouldy tile grout in bathrooms and kitchens.

I've checked out a couple of products specifically for treating this problem, one called a Grout Pen from International Paints, which I picked up in one of the big DIY outlets at around €8, and the other a bottle called Tile Grout Coating from the USA with what resembles a shoe polish applicator that applies the stuff. 

None of the three leading chain outlets stocked the latter product oddly enough.

I've used both and here's what I found. The pen is a clever little idea and it works quite well except for the fact that the tip wears down on the rough grout even before the material inside was used up, in my case. Other than this obvious disadvantage, it works ok, and is fine for very small areas. 

The other product I used was a bit more expensive and I came across it, in my local paint store beside the Stillorgan shopping centre.

Tile Grout Coating bottle applicator which, retailis there at around €12-50 had a more durable sponge attached to apply the coating. 

This product is designed to treat an average bathroom or kitchen complete.  I found that you can do the job much faster, and even though some of the coating gets on to the tile surface, you can simply wipe it off with a dry cloth, leaving grout that looks like brand new again. This stuff is a special paint that actually penetrates the grout just like the dirt does!

In either case it is advisable to wash / sterilise the grout with a 50:50 mix of bleach and water to kill any germs or life forms that are lurking about in there. When dry, apply your coating. 

If you have lovely clean or new grout, the trick is to keep them that way by sealing them. There is a product called Tile Grout Sealer that sells for about €8-50 made by the same people as the coating above which is highly effective in keeping the dirt and mould out of your grout, even in showers etc.