How to remove grout from tile – without damaging your tilework

Learn how to remove grout from tile properly using the best technique and tools, as recommended by industry experts.

Green-gray metro tiles in a bathroom
(Image credit: Original Style)

If you're learning how to remove grout from tile, you'll need to know how to do it effectively but without damaging the tile. Use something too abrasive and you risk scratching your beautiful tiles. Sure, a grout stain on your tile is not ideal, but you don't want to end up with discolored or marked tiles.

When learning how to grout tile, in the ideal world we'd all do it perfectly without grout spilling and staining the tile. In practice all of us make mistakes. We have expert advice for removing fresh grout or dried grout safely, restoring your tiles to their good-as-new condition.

Blue bathroom tile close-up

(Image credit: Original Style)

How to remove grout from tile – without damaging it

The biggest concern when trying to remove grout from tile is damaging your tile by scratching it. Fortunately, there are several tools and cleaning agents you can use to make sure your tile remains both stain- and scratch-free. Naveen Tikaram is a kitchen specialist and contributing author at 10 Minute Homemaking (opens in new tab). Tikaram recommends a step-by-step process for removing grout from tile. You will need the following (all can be bought on Amazon (opens in new tab)):

1. Try warm water

Sounds too easy? Actually, it is often is that simple, if your grout is still fresh. Using just warm water and a non-scratch scouring pad on your tile should be enough to remove soft grout. Of course, as Tikaram points out, 'this will remove the white stain from the tile but not the stained grout lines.' If you need a heavier-duty removal, move on to the next step.

2. Use oil soap on grout lines

If you're trying to remove not just the grout that's stained the surface of the tiles but old grout between tiles, Tikaram recommends using Murphy's Oil Soap (opens in new tab) diluted in hot water 'If you would like to remove as much discoloration as possible.' Use just the tip of your scouring pad – or better, the tip of a cloth. You will need to 'be careful not to get the Murphy's Oil Soap on the tile surface, as it could cause damage. You may need to repeat this application a few times before the grout is completely removed'.

3. Use a grout saw for stubborn areas

If oil soap and water aren't quite doing it, you use a grout saw to remove the grout without damaging the tile. A grout saw is a thin, serrated blade that you can use to cut the grout between tiles.

How to get dried grout off tile

The above method will work on grout that's fresh, which means it's still soft. Removing dried grout is obviously much more difficult and you won't be able to do it using warm water and a scouring pad. To remove dried grout you will need:

Tikaram's method is to 'pour a 50-50 mix of water and vinegar on the grout, after first laying paper towels over the tile, to remove dirt and soap scum. Allow it to sit for one to two minutes before wiping with a clean cloth soaked in plain water. Grout should bead up, making it easy to wipe off with a makeup brush or toothbrush.'

White porcelain tile in a kitchen

(Image credit: Original Style)

How to remove colored grout

If your grout is colored, 'you can use a paste of baking soda and water to clean it; just be sure to rinse well. Another option is to buy a grout cleaning product from your local hardware store. Follow the directions on the package.'

Finally, you can also use a steam cleaner to clean your grout. Just be careful not to get the steamer too close to the tiles or you may damage them.

What are the best tools for grout removal?

Brian Lee, Founder and CEO of Drill and Driver (opens in new tab), highly recommends using a grout saw or a grout grabber to remove stubborn grout from your tile:

  • A grout saw (opens in new tab) has a serrated edge on one side and thin enough to actually get between the tile. And with a little elbow grease, the grout starts flying. This tool works great in small thing grouted tiles.
  • A Grout Grabber (opens in new tab) is a tool fit for a larger/wide application. It comes with attachments which can hold these 1/16 of an inch carbide grit blades and can remove 1/16 inch to half of an inch grout. This is a game-changer instead of using a screwdriver that could really damage your drywall.

Should you remove or clean old grout on tiled floors?

Does your old grout really need removing, or could it be spruced up by cleaning? It's a good idea to try cleaning it first before giving up on it altogether. Either vinegar or bleach will work wonders here. Failing those ingredients, Takaram reminds DIYers that 'grout is made of sand, Portland cement (commonly called concrete), and latex, so any household cleaners that are recommended for natural stone - such as mineral spirits or vinegar - will work.'

Of course, you'll want to test a small inconspicuous area of tile first to make sure your cleaner won't stain it. Learning how to clean grout is all about balancing the cleaning action with avoiding stains. 

Anna is Content Editor at Real Homes. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. At Real Homes, she covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design. 

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