Tile Grout Maintenance 101: The Complete Guide

grey and white pattern tile

How to Clean Grout

The first and most basic step of grout maintenance is to get a good grout cleaner. There are also quick and easy, homemade grout cleaners, which will also do the trick. Use a strong cleaning brush to scrub the grout until the stains are removed. For more stubborn stains, use a grout removal tool, as described below, to carefully remove the stained layer of grout.

Once the grout is clean, you may consider sealing it each year to prevent future stains. Read on for tips on how to effectively seal grout.

How to Seal Grout

Is It Really Necessary to Seal Tile Grout?

Even if you clean your tile on a regular basis, dirty grout can take away from the appearance of your tile. Grout is naturally porous, so it’s easy for things like grease and oil to sink in. Sealing your grout can reduce stains and blemishes.

How Often Do You Need to Seal Tile Grout?

Yes, you should use grout sealant every year or so to prevent discoloration and erosion.

Steps to Seal Grout

  1. Clean the grout well and repair any flaws.
  2. Select a good grout sealant.
  3. Choose an applicator (ie. sponge, brush).
  4. Apply the first coat of sealant. Work in small areas, from left to right.
  5. Apply a second coat in an hour or so.
  6. Let your sealer dry for 24-48 hours, depending on the instructions for the brand you selected.

It may be difficult not to walk on your tile for a day or two after sealing it, but it will be worth it in the end. It means less time scrubbing and significant savings on cleaning and replacement.

Removing Grout

How to Remove Grout With a Rotary Tool

The fastest option for removing tile grout is to use an oscillating multi-tool fitted with a tile grout blade. You’ll need to be very careful while using this tool, as too much power could result in broken tile.

First, apply the rotary tool to the grout at a 90 degree angle with very little pressure. Once most of the grout has been broken up, slightly tilt the blade to clean up the less visible grout behind the tile. If there are any remaining pieces, use a flathead screwdriver to knock them loose.

How to Remove Grout Without Power Tools

If you’d rather steer clear of power tools, you can also remove grout manually using the tip of a church key, or claw-type can opener. However, doing the job this way will take significantly longer.

If you don’t have a can opener, a finishing nail fixed to a short, wooden dowel will also do the trick. Make a pilot hole an inch or so from the end, then hammer the nail into the hole.

Regardless of which tool you use, make sure it remains sharp throughout the process. You can sharpen the tool with a file. Then, simply scrape the point along the joints using short, downward strokes to remove the grout.

For additional options and help selecting the perfect tool, we recommend watching this short video from Home Repair Tutor on YouTube.

How to Replace Grout

If the grout on your kitchen floor or bathroom backsplash is moldy, worn or just not doing its job anymore, it may be time to consider grout replacement.

Can You Put New Grout Over Old Grout?

Yes, but you will want to use a grout removal tool to remove dirty grout before applying new grout.

Blue subway tiles in need of grout maintenance

Regrouting Your Tile

First, you’ll need to head over to your local home improvement store and purchase grout powder. For thinner grout lines, use unsanded grout. For grout lines wider than an eighth of an inch, use sanded grout. Next, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for mixing the powder with water. Then, follow these steps:

  1. Use a plastic towel to apply the grout mix.
  2. Holding a grout float at a 45 degree angle to the surface, press the mortar far down into the joints of the tile.
  3. Clean off extra grout before it hardens. You can do this with a damp sponge, or by holding the grout float at an 80 degree angle and using it to scrape off excess grout.
  4. Allow the grout to settle for 24-48 hours before walking on it.

Grout Maintenance Experts

Grout maintenance can be a tricky subject, depending on how handy you are. It’s much easier said than done. If you’re having a hard time, we recommend consulting a professional. Though we don’t handle grouting it in house, IRC can refer you to the top tile companies in your area who can.


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