If you’re grouting ceramic, floor tiles, or porcelain wall, it easily leaves behind lumps of small grout traces around the joints and on the surface of the tiles.
When you fail to remove grout quickly, it will harden over time and give an unattractive and tatty look.
In this quick DIY guide, I’ll show you how to remove or dissolve hardened grout stains from your tiles without causing damage to the surface.
Why Remove Grout?
Grout is generally cementitious as it’s composed of sand and Portland cement. When you grout your floor or wall tiles, it dries up really fast. Most people make the mistake of leaving the leftover product on the tiles too long, causing it to harden. Removing the small lumps that are left behind can be time-consuming and frustrating.
There are three ways in which you can remove any hardened traces from your floor or wall tiles:
- Rub, scratch, and scrape at the tiles!
- Apply solutions for dissolving hardened grout without actually affecting the tiles
- Get new tiles if you’re not able to remove hardened grout
Replacing your existing tiles should be your last option, but you’ll possibly have a frustrating and long task at hand.
Grout doesn’t harden almost immediately so the faster you take care of it, the better chance you’ll have at succeeding. Whatever you do, avoid trying to chip off the hardened residue as it’ll most likely cause damage to the tiles.
8 Simple Ways to Remove Grout From Your Tile Floors
Here are some simple tips to remove grout at home.
1. Hot Water
This is the easiest and cheapest method. All you need is a kettle, some water, and a scrub brush. First, you have to set your water on the boil. For best results, make sure that you get it to a rolling boil. Once the water is heated sufficiently, pour an ample amount of water along the grout lines.
If you’re dealing with wall tiles, carefully soak your mopping stick in the hot water and then wipe it across the affected area. Next, take your scrub brush and gently start scrubbing along the lines in a circular motion.
The heat from the water will release the grime with very little elbow grease. The key in this method is that you have to work while the water is still very hot, so make sure you have fast hands. Remember to wear protective gloves to prevent any accidents.
Work on 6-10 tiles at a time, it may sound too much but trust me, with this method it can be done quickly. After you’re done scrubbing an area, use a clean dry towel to wipe off the water along the lines.
For optimal results, you may have to repeat this method 2 or 3 times. However, you won’t be able to see the full results until the grout has had sufficient time to dry out. Repeat this process once or twice in a single session and then wait for the grout to completely dry out before you decide whether it needs more work or not.
This method isn’t only very easy and virtually free but also consumes minimal time and is painless. Be extremely cautious not to get scalded by hot water. Wear protective gloves and avoid backsplashes when pouring the liquid on the floor. If you have kids or pets at home, do this when they’re not around.
Don’t do this if the grout lines are cracking or if your floors have damage, as the water could seep in and damage your floors even more. Try not to go overboard as well, carry this out on a needed basis. It’s recommended that you seal the grout after you’re done and give it some time to dry off completely.
Solutions for Dissolving Grout
You can also find solutions in the market specifically manufactured to dissolve grout or make your own at home. Before using this method, try the solution on a tile that’s not so visible to others to test whether it causes any damage. If you notice any adverse reactions, immediately discontinue the use.
Check out some popular solutions people use for removing grout:
2. Sugar Solution
Put some white sugar over warm water and then stir continuously until it dissolves in the water. Generally, a ratio of 1:10 (sugar to water) is recommended. This is customizable, and you can experiment to figure out what works best. Use a sponge to set the sugar solution inside the grout then leave it on for about a few minutes before scraping and rubbing it off. During the entire time you’re scraping, continuously apply the sugar water in order to keep it wet and lubricated.
This method is safe and won’t cause damage to your tiles.
Vinegar is an acidic solution and can cause damage to your tiles, so be wary of that. You should initially test it on a small area before carrying out the procedure. Keep lots of water at the site to wash off the excess vinegar if it gets into any place it shouldn’t.
Always wear gloves during this procedure and never let the vinegar stay on the tile’s surface for longer than needed. Further, keep the place well ventilated.
Keep scraping off the grout as you pour in a generous amount of vinegar, continue the process until all of the grout is removed. After you’re done, wash the area thoroughly with water.
4. Baking Soda
Baking soda can provide a more abrasive method for tougher stains. For this method, you’ll need to make a paste out of water and baking soda. Since it’s an alkaline cleaner, baking soda is safe for grout and it’ll sanitize and deodorize as well.
Once you’ve made the paste, spread it on the grout and wait for 5-10 minutes before scrubbing and rinsing it. Borax power can also be a good alternative to baking soda. However, it doesn’t contain sanitizing and deodorizing properties like the former.
5. Hydrogen Peroxide
The hydrogen peroxide you store in your medicine cabinet can also work as a viable grout cleaner. Peroxide can penetrate the grout stains that are normally difficult to remove with scrubbing. Its bleaching properties work in a similar way as your household bleach, but the advantage is that it contains a lesser surface tension which prevents residues.
For a much stronger grout removal solution, you can substitute peroxide for water and make a paste with baking soda.
6. Other Acids
There are other acids that can provide visible results, but you need to follow the same precautions as when using vinegar. With any acid, do a patch test before carrying it out on large areas to see its effects on the tiles. Always wear safety gloves and keep the work area well ventilated.
7. Brick & Patio cleaners
These cleaners are also highly viable solutions for removing grouts. They have a dissolving and loosening effect. Follow the same precautionary measures as with any acid-based cleaner because they’re quite similar. These cleaners can be very aggressive on tough stains. I suggest picking one from Amazon’s bestsellers.
Steam is a very powerful option for tough and stubborn stains. There are small hand-held steamers available in the market which can be appropriate for walls, backsplashes, and countertops.
For your floors, you can purchase or rent a floor steamer which looks and operates just like a vacuum. Steamers will loosen the grout, and you can scrub them away with a baking soda paste or water. You can check our best mop for tile floors list and try to find steam mop that can help you in removing grout from your tile floors.
How to Rub, Scrub, and Scrape
With this method, you’ll have to use tools to scrape away the grout. Do a patch test on a small area before you proceed. You have to be certain not to cause any permanent damage to your tiles.
Start with more delicate tools and if it doesn’t work, get the more abrasive ones. Check out some popular tools people use to scrape grout off their tiles:
The sponge is most suitable for fragile and costly tiles as they don’t usually cause damage. This tool will require much more effort and time as the sponge is not at all abrasive and takes time to remove hardened grout.
Wire wool is an excellent option for removing tough grout. With this tool, you have to be extremely cautious as it can scratch your tiles. It’s also composed of metal which can lead to metal marks, causing more damage than good.
Nylon Scouring Pad
The nylon pad is much more ideal for hardened grout compared to a sponge, but at the same time, it may cause damage. Be extra careful while following this procedure. The scouring pad is available in a wide range of varieties such as coarse, fine, and medium grades that makes it suitable for removing grouts.
Wood is a viable tool and it can successfully remove hardened grout after you sufficiently moisten the surface with warm water. Hardwood is much stronger, and it can provide even better results at removing the toughest of grout stuck between your tiles. For optimal results, use a cut-off chunk of wood for scrapping.
Metal Scraping Tools
Metal can be tough on hard grout and can effectively remove it. However, they can cause damage so use them only if you have an experienced hand. For more safety and precision, using a sharp chisel at an acute angle.
This tool is suitable if you want to remove thin lines of hardened grout on the surface of the tiles. Since the surface of the tile is smooth, you can scrape off the grout with minimal effort without scratching the surface.
You may have to clean up metal marks later which aren’t permanent. Clean it off with any available bathroom or kitchen cleaner along with a nylon scouring pad.
Tips to Scrape Dried Grout
The ideal way to scrape grout from your tiles is to place the tool at an acute angle as this will prevent excessive pressure or stress to your tile’s surface, minimizing the chances of possible damage.
In certain situations, it can be very difficult to get rid of the grout and may take a very long time. In such cases, you can replace the tile as it’ll be faster and you may end up damaging the tile anyway while removing the grout.
Removing Grout off Joints
If the grout has been left around the joints for too long, they may appear dirty and unpleasant. You can take them off by utilizing a grout rake to reveal a nicer and cleaner look.
If you want to apply this method on your floor tiles, make sure to wear knee caps as this method can take a while. Additionally, you must also wear safety goggles.
Tips on Grouting
To prevent the accumulation of hardened grout, you can employ some preventive measures at the start of your project. A badly carried out grout job can tarnish the stunning layer of your tiles. You should use painters tape to cover the tile edges and painted walls in order to prevent the grout from spilling on the surface of the tile.
Tiles or trims with exposed crevices should also be covered with tape to save you the additional task of cleaning up afterward.
Choose a grout that’s powder-free for best results and keep rolling the bucket while mixing. The consistency should be similar to that of peanut butter. This will lessen the dust and clumps, which can cover tiles when you work.
If epoxy grout has been used for your tiles, you don’t have to worry about stains. For standard cementitious grout, you’ll have to seal them, or it’ll cause stains. Polyurethane or acrylic sealers are capable of penetrating into the grout and sealing it from the inside to set in place a protective film that prevents mold and moisture. You should seal off the grout again every few years to secure the protection.
Even if the grout is sealed, it can still leave stains but it won’t be an issue if you clean them regularly. Cleaning with water and a scrub brush every 5 to 6 months prevents stubborn and hardened stains from developing and saves you the trouble of employing more aggressive methods.
For best results, invest in good cleaners and quality mops that are particularly designed to keep your tile floors in prime condition.
The key is to undertake precautionary measures before you start your work in order to prevent grout from staining your tiles. If you’ve skipped this step, don’t worry. Just remember to act quickly as it’s easier to remove the grout when it’s still soft. Once it has hardened, there’s no other way but to employ laborious cleaning procedures.
Grout can be very unsightly, but thankfully you don’t have to break the bank to remove it and keep your tile floors shiny. It’s easy, inexpensive, and you’ll find most of the remedies in your kitchen cabinet. They may take a little bit of time and practice, but once you manage to pull it off, grout won’t be an issue anymore.
Make sure not to cause any damage, and if you can’t clean it, you always call in an expert. They might cost a bit more, but they’ll definitely get the job done with far better results if you’re unsure what to do.