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How To Clean Grout Off Tile

You’ve just remodeled the master bathroom of your dreams. Installed all the marble, secured the fixtures, hung the mirrors and set those beautiful custom glass shower doors. All the months of planning and hard work are finally over and all you want to do is relax and take a nice long bath. Only you realize at the last minute you’ve got some grout that wasn’t wiped off properly that has now become rock hard. Or maybe the tiles weren’t fully wiped down with a clean sponge and an ugly haze has formed. Your left wondering how to clean grout off tile?

When installed, grouted and cleaned properly, tiles can be beautiful. They can truly make a master bathroom something special where tile work becomes the star of the show. But, a few days after the installers have packed up and gone, you’ve found a few issues. Dried grout in places it shouldn’t be or that pristine tile surface covered in an unknown haze.

These are both typical of a tile installation and nothing to worry about. As the fine grout particles dry, they leave behind a haze. It would seem simple to just wipe it up again. However, this last bit of haze and that rock hard grout buildup could use a little extra attention and know how. We’ll tell you how to clean up both problems ahead.

What Causes Grout Haze

As grout is wiped clean with a tile sponge the water will become dirty. It won’t take long for it to start looking muddy. What’s making the water appear muddy are tiny grout particles finer than a grain of sand. These particles will eventually fall to the bottom of the bucket like sediment, but as you work they float around in the water, clinging to your sponge. They also irritate and dry out your skin which is why wearing gloves while grouting is so important.

The sponge may look clean after you rinse but if the waters muddy then you’ll be spreading grout particles back onto the tiles as you clean them. It’s very important to change the water often so your always sponging grout with clean water. This is why cleaning grout properly is such tedious work. We sometimes have to clean a bathroom 3 or 4 times before we’re satisfied all the grout residue has been removed. On your final pass, if the water isn’t completely clear, then your not done.

Any cloudiness in the water means your still picking up some grout residue from the tiles.

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What You’ll Need To Remove Grout Haze

If those beautiful new tiles have turned dull and hazy in a matter of days, the good news is that it’s temporary. And the materials needed to clean the problem are cheap and easy to come by. All you’ll need are some basic cleaning products such as vinegar, a bucket, rubber gloves, water, polishing terry cloths, a rubber grout float, and a tiling sponge.

Grout haze is a byproduct of grout installation, during which the entire surface of each tile gets completely covered with grout. When the excess has not been properly cleaned what little remains will eventually dry out, leaving behind a dull white film.

Unlike dirt and grime that coats your bathroom floor from everyday use, grout haze isn’t as simple to clean up. When grout’s first installed it’s easy to remove the haze with a simple cloth or sponge. This is because it hasn’t hardened yet. But once grout does get hard, cleaning may require some special products. Your best method of cleanup depends on the type of grout you used, the type of tile and how long it’s been allowed to dry.

Before Cleaning Determine if your grout is epoxy based or not

Epoxy based grout has an epoxy additive which is designed for maximum strength and stain repellence. Because of this additional additive the haze that forms will be harder to remove than a standard cement based grout. You’ll likely require a commercial cleaning product. Contact the grout manufacturer if you have any questions about what type of cleaner would be best.

You should still at least try the simple, natural cleaning methods first however don’t be surprised if none of them work.

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Try Water First

Wipe away grout haze with a damp sponge. Use a sponge and a bucket of water. Tile sponges work great but any sponge will do. Dunk the sponge and then and wring it out. Don’t use too much water. Wipe the tile in a single direction. Don’t move the sponge side to side or in a circular motion. You’ll just spread the haze around. Rinse the sponge and change the bucket water frequently. Swipe once with each side of the sponge and then rinse. Keep the water clean or you’ll just be spreading grout particles back onto the tiles which is what created the haze in the first place.

Natural Grout Haze Removers

Try mopping the floor with vinegar and water instead of using haze remover. Stir 1 cup of distilled vinegar into a quart of warm water. Clean the floor with a mop or sponge while using a scrub brush on hard to clean areas.

  • Don’t use vinegar on marble or other types of natural stone without checking with the supplier to make sure it’s safe.

You could also try cleaning up tile haze with basic, gentle household cleaners, such as a drop of mild dish washing soap in a gallon of warm water or a spray bottle filled with a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water. Vinegar won’t leave residue behind like harsher detergents can sometimes do. Cleaning grout haze off tile with vinegar is safe and efficient for ceramic and porcelain tile, but acid cleaners should never be used on porous or stone tiles. For real stone or anything porous stick with soap and warm water.

If you use a vinegar solution make sure to wipe it all down with soap and water at the very end to get rid of all the vinegar.

Try A Sugar Cleaning Solution

Remove hard grout with a little sugar. Stir sugar into warm water. Try adding a 1/2 cup of sugar to a gallon of warm water and adjust from there as needed. spread your mixture onto the hardened grout and leave it alone for about an hour. When you come back clean the grout with a sponge. Keep adding as much sugar water as you need while cleaning. Try and always keep the tiles and grout moist.

  • Adjust your sugar to water ratio until you get it just right.
  • Don’t use anything gritty on soft stone like Travertine. It works best on hard tiles like porcelain.
  • Only use white sugar.

Baking Soda & Bleach Grout Cleaning Solution

Try using a baking soda and bleach paste. Mixing 1 cup baking soda with 1/4 cup of bleach will make a thick paste. Use a toothbrush and scrub the paste onto the grout. Let it rest for about 15 – 20 minutes. Wipe the tiles with a clean, damp sponge.

  • Wear gloves whenever you use bleach.
  • Open a window and get fresh air whenever you clean with bleach.
  • Wear safety glasses.

Baking Soda & Vinegar

You could also try a baking soda and vinegar solution. Mix some water and baking soda until you’ve got a thick paste. Next, spread the paste onto the grout. Fill a spray bottle with straight white vinegar and spray it all over the paste. Let the mixture bubble for a couple of minutes and then scrub it away. Once your done scrubbing wipe it all away with a clean sponge.

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How To Clean Grout Off Tile : Commercial Grout Haze Cleaners

Try a commercial cleaner if water or natural solutions don’t work. You can pick up a commercial cleaner from your local hardware or tile supply store. Make sure to use a clean cloth or rag to wipe the tiles with.

If grout haze is significant or hard to clean even after a good scrub with gentle cleaners, commercial cleaners will do the trick. Haze built up days after using a cement based grout can be more difficult to remove once the grout particles have time to harden. Clean small areas at a time and remember to wear gloves since grout can irritate and dry out your skin. Move across the floor, walls, counters or backsplash a section at a time rather then trying to clean the entire room all at once. Try a terry or cheese cloth blotted with a little commercial cleaner to get that haze cleaned off.

Once your done cleaning each area wipe them down with simple soap and water to get rid of any residue.

Follow Safety Instructions For Chemical Cleaners

Whenever using a chemical cleaner take safety precautions, wear a mask, gloves and eye protection. Make sure to carefully follow any safety directions. Try diluting the product with water before applying it. Spray the tiles lightly with water to get them damp before applying the commercial cleaner. Let the cleaner sit a while before wiping or scrubbing clean. Read the directions because that will tell you exactly how long to leave the cleanser on.

Try the cleaner on a test sample or small area first to see how it reacts to your tile. You never want to spray a cleaner onto a large area only to find that it damages your tiles finish.

Choose And Use The Right Commercial Product

First, determine the type of grout you have and the type of tile. You’ll want to match the right cleaner to your particular materials. Using the wrong cleaner could result in damage tiles.

  • If your using an epoxy grout then pick up a product specifically designed for use with epoxy. Epoxy cleaners will have a chemical included that helps break down the epoxy.
  • If your tile is a natural stone, use a product specially formulated for that exact surface. Anything else could damage the tile.
  • Always test the cleaner first. Some tiles have a shiny finish which could be etched by a strong cleaner.

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How To Clean Grout Off Tile: When to Clean Grout Haze

Don’t start cleaning the haze until you’re sure that the grout has had time to set properly and become firm. If you start scrubbing too soon you’ll risk damaging the grout. But, if you start cleaning too late it’ll be that much harder to remove. We generally wait a day for the grout to harden and then do a final cleaning. If the haze is left to harder for a long period of time, it may require the more aggressive tile cleaners and we prefer natural methods.

Always start with the mildest option to remove grout haze. This will not only saves time and money but also reduces the chance of damaging the tile or grout.

How To Clean Hard Grout Off Tile

Cleaning off and removing grout from a tiled surface once it’s hardened is harder than cleaning off some grout haze. If you’re grouting tiles, it’s easy to miss some small chunks of grout here and there. If it’s not removed it can harden, becoming difficult to remove, especially from porous or soft stone tiles where grout can penetrate into the tiles pores, creating a strong bond which can be hard to break.

In the following DIY guide we’ll show you some easy ways to safely remove hardened grout from tiles without damaging the surface.

There are only a few things you can do to remove hardened grout from your tiles:

  • Scrape the hardened grout off with some force
  • Dissolve the grout using some sort of cleaning solution
  • Replace the tiles if you can’t get them clean

To remove hardened grout from your tiles it’s sometimes necessary to use multiple cleaning methods. Such as scraping along with a dissolving solution.

Grout takes time to completely harden so the quicker you can get to it the better.

Use Non Metal Scrapers That Are Soft

Try scraping the hardened grout with a small piece of hardwood like oak with a square cut end. A piece of hardwood flooring works great. Don’t use metal tools like a putty knife. Metal can permanently damage the glazed tile surface.

How Much Pressure Should I use When Scraping Grout?

Work at the grout by applying light to medium force until you’ve cleaned away all the hardened grout. Then rinse off the tile with clean water and a soft sponge. Don’t press too hard or even a softer tool like wood can potentially leave a mark.

How Much Water Should I Use When Scraping The Grout?

Wet the hardened grout with clean water and whatever solution your using, if any, and scrub the tile surface with a rough cleaning pad. As you scrub, keep the pad wet with water or your cleaning solution. Make sure to use plenty of water, you don’t want to scrub a tile when it’s dry.

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Why Does Grout Get Hard And Stick To Tile?

Most grouts are made up of Portland cement. Because of how cement drys it usually takes grout around 10 days to fully harden. Once it’s fully cured, grout can be tough to clean from some types of tiled surfaces. This is because even smooth, hard tiles have pores. The cement particles in grout are very fine, finer than a grain of sand in fact, and they harden into a tiles pours creating a strong bond. The greater and deeper the pores the stronger the bond.

Hard, smooth porcelain tiles are easy to clean while soft, porous tiles like travertine are damn near impossible to clean without damaging your tiles.

Don’t scrape away hard grout because metal can damage some tiles. Try a mix of soaking with a cleaning solution and gently scrubbing and scraping the grout with wooden tools. It’ll work most of the time and you won’t damage your tiles.

A Natural Method for Hardened Grout Removal

Dunk a sponge in warm water and wipe it over the tile’s surface. Then, gently rub the tile with some fine wire wool. The grout will slowly break up and dissolve. Use plenty of water. Don’t rub dry tiles with wire wool and anything abrasive. Once the grout has all been broken up and dissolved wipe the tiles with a damp cloth. As a last step polish your tiles with a dry cloth.

Don’t scrub the tiles too hard or do this at all on soft natural stone. You’ll likely ruin the tiles surface layer finish.

A store bought brick cleaner will break up really hardened grout. Remember to follow all the safety instructions because these cleaners generally contain acid or other harsh cleansers.

Before you clean your tiles with a store bought cleaner, try it out first on a sample or small out of the way area. This will ensure your tiles won’t get damaged by the cleanser.

Make sure to follow the rinsing instructions. You don’t want to leave residue from strong cleaners on your tiles for too long.

How To Dissolve Hardened Grout

Even if you decide to scrub away that hard grout, you’ll need to lubricate it first. We like simple warm water solutions because they won’t harm the tile but can help to loosen grout if it hasn’t hardened completely.

If soaking in water doesn’t do the trick try something stronger. Before using any of these you should test them out first on a sample or out of site areas to make sure they won’t damage the tile.

Solutions For Removing Hardened Grout:

  • Vinegar. Scrub the grout as you apply small amounts of vinegar. Keep scrubbing until all the hardened grout has been broken down and removed. Last, wash the floor until all the vinegar has been removed.

Warning: Don’t use vinegar to remove hard, stuck on grout unless you’re sure it’ll be safe to use on your tiles because some tiles are sensitive to acid.

  • Commercial Cleaners. These are stronger than DIY home based cleaners so handle and use with care. Follow the manufacturers safety guidelines and instructions at all times.
  • Brick Cleaners. As mentioned above, these are great for breaking down and dissolving hardened grout. Follow safety instructions as these can be harmful.

Sugar Water Tile Cleaner

Sugar Water. A mixture of sugar and water is a great DIY, natural solution for removing hardened grout from most tiles.

  • Mix about a cup of sugar into a bucket of warm water and stir until it’s fully dissolved.
  • Pour the solution all over the grout or apply it with a sponge. Let it soak for a couple of hours. This will help loosen the stuck on grout.
  • Try scraping off any stuck on grout with a wooden paint stick. Add sugar water to what ever grout is left and keep scrubbing and scraping.
  • Keep the grout wet as you work, you don’t want to scrape and scrub tile when it’s dry as this can damage the surface.
  • Always rinse your tile with clean water. Remove all the sugar solution when your done. Wipe your tiles dry with a soft towel.
  • If some grout remains, repeat steps until you remove it all.

If you have any question or comments about cleaning grout off tile you can e-mail us any time.

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