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Grout—typically either a mixture of sand, water, cement, and color, or an epoxy base mixed with a hardener—is the filler used to seal the spaces between ceramic tiles on floors, counters, walls, or tub surrounds. Grout helps keep tiles in place, but is not the same as mortar, the adhesive that actually glues tile to the underlying surface.
Applying grout, whether in a new tile installation or as a replacement for old and damaged grout surrounding existing tile, is not a difficult task, but one that needs to be done carefully if you want professional-looking results. To achieve that goal, you need the right grouting tools. There are several must-haves for laying grout, including grout floats, sponges, and bags.
Here are the best grouting tools in several categories to help you get the smooth, perfect results you hope for.
Best Overall Grouting Tool: Barwalt Ultra Grouting System
Everything needed for grouting
Included grouting floats greatly reduce the time required to complete the task
The best way to start building your grouting arsenal is with a whole grouting kit that provides everything you need to get going. These kits will often come with an assortment of floats, containers, bags, and pads necessary to contain and spread the grout evenly onto the work surface. The Barwalt Ultra Grouting System takes the top spot since it is a reliable and affordable kit for beginners and advanced users alike.
The kit starts with two center handle grout floats that include cushioned grips and sponge bases. The sponges are replaceable so you can switch them out for new ones after heavy use. A bucket will hold enough grout for a large section of wall or flooring to reduce the amount of refilling you will need to do. The bucket contains a large basin so you can easily rinse and clean the inside after you are done.
Best All-Purpose Float: M-D Building Products 49827 Gum Rubber Grout Float
Gum-rubber float easily smooths sanded or unsanded grout
Straight and beveled edges for versatility
A bit large for tight corners
A grout float is arguably the most important part of a grouting project since it will ensure a level and complete coverage in the right hands. The position of the handle on the float will determine the reach and comfort of the tool while in use. Center handle floats like the M-D Building Products 49827 are the best option if you want the most ergonomic tool for long projects that don’t have any hard-to-reach spots, such as a countertop.
This float promotes the maximum level of comfort with a contoured plastic grip positioned for equal weight distribution. The pad has a gum rubber float bed that makes it easy to push and level grout around into the tile joints with minimal effort. The float bed also has both straight and beveled edges so you can shape the grout lines as you work.
Best Float for Tight Spots: RIGID Margin Grout Float
Perfect for tight or difficult-to-reach spots
Not for big jobs
Spatula handle floats sacrifice a little bit of ergonomic comfort for extra reach when grouting in hard-to-reach or high places, such as inside a tub or shower. This type of handle places the float out in front of your hand, extending the reach by several inches. The RIGID Margin float is the best option for this type of handle since its 6-inch length and durable surface will make the grouting move quickly and without hassle.
The 6-inch x 2-inch float bed is large enough to move a lot of grout at once while retaining fine control over the direction and flow of the grout. The bed is beveled around the edges so you can reach under toe kicks or into deep tile joints without damaging the surrounding areas. For comfort on long jobs, the single handle grip is ergonomically contoured to place your hand in a comfortable position.
Best Grouting Bag: MARSHALLTOWN The Premier Line GB692 Vinyl Grout Bag with Metal Tip
Perfect for grouting around oddly shaped tiles or mosaics
Can be tough to clean after use
In addition to floats, grouting bags are another way to get grout in between tiles. Bags are especially advantageous if you have thicker tiles or thinner spacing where it can be hard to push the grout in properly with a float. Grouting bags work like cake icing pipers, funneling the grout through a small nozzle so you can control the flow and direction of the grout as you work. They are especially useful for grouting around mosaic tiles.
The Marshalltown The Premier Line GB692 has a large, seamless vinyl surface with a 3/8-inch metal tip on the bottom. Using the bag is easy: pour grout into the bag, then squeeze down to push a narrow stream of grout through the nozzle. The durable vinyl material will make the bag last for several projects, and can even handle mortar as well.
Best Grout Remover: QEP Professional Handheld Saw
Few complaints blade is difficult to change
Only for small jobs
Grout is a messy material. That means you are bound to have a spill or make a mistake at some point. Even the occasional overflow is to be expected if you are using a grouting float over a large surface of tiles. When you need to make a quick cleanup or repair on dried grout, a proper grout remover like the QEP Professional Handheld Saw will make the task quick and painless so the finished product is perfect.
The handheld saw is small enough to keep close to you while working. Unlike power tool attachment removers, the saw doesn’t require any electricity to work. The single serrated, carbide blade chips away at dry grout with each back-and-forth swipe of the tool. Once the edge dulls, you can buy replacement blades to extend the life of the tool as well. The handle has two edges ergonomically designed to fit the shape of your hand for extra comfort.
Best Budget: Red Devil 0425 Pre-Mixed Tile Grout Squeeze Tube
Perfect for quick touch-ups
No need for other tools
Few complaints that tube is hard to squeeze
The top pick for the best budget grouting tool is one you don’t know you need until it’s too late. While floats, buckets, and sponges are necessary for the bulk of a project, every now and then you may find yourself just short of enough grout to finish the job. When that happens, reach for Red Devil Pre-Mixed Tile Grout Squeeze Tube. It's just the thing you need when you have a little bit of touching up, or a small stretch of space to complete before your project is done.
The tube holds 5.5 ounces, which is enough grout for quick touch-ups and fixes when you don’t want to make a whole new batch of grout. Just squeeze and push the grout out through the narrow nozzle. The exterior resists cracking and shrinking and is moisture/mildew resistant. When sealed, you can keep the tube stored for a long period of time if you want something you can grab easily during your next grout-related emergency.
Best Grouting Sponge: QEP Grout Sponge 70005Q-6D
Large size covers a big surface quickly
Rounded edges won't mar fresh grout
Useful for other purposes, such as washing cars
Few complaints about sponge absorbency
Once it comes time to wash and wipe away the excess grout over the tile surface, you will need a sponge that won’t mar the grout underneath. Otherwise, you risk undoing the work you just completed as you clean up. The QEP 70005Q-6D is one of the best grout sponges due to its high water-retention capacity and soft, rounded edges that will protect the desired grout while clearing away the excess.
Coming in a pack of six, you'll have enough sponges for both walls and floors. The hydrophiliate surface of the sponge attracts water, promoting more water retention each time you clean the sponge. The extra-large size of the sponge means you can also use it on other cleanup tasks such as washing a car or boat.
If you’re facing a big grouting job and want to make the process as easy as possible, the Barwalt Ultra Grouting System (view at Amazon) includes everything you need to get grouting done quickly, competently, and cleanly. The kit includes special bucket that makes removing excess water from grouting sponges a breeze, as well as two grip-handles and grout sponges. But if the job is small or you don’t want to spend too much, the M-D Building Products Grout Float (view at Home Depot) is ergonomically designed for comfortable handling, spreads grout evenly, and won’t break your budget.
Common Grouting Tools
The basic tool used for grouting is the float. Grout floats typically have a rubber base and a plastic handle. The technique is simple, but requires a bit of practice to perfect; you use the grout float to pick up a bit of grout, and then hold the float at a 45-degree angle while using the tool to work the grout into the cracks between the tiles.
When choosing a grout float, consider the size—go larger for a big job, smaller if you’ll be working in a tight area or around corners—and the comfort of the handle. You'll also want to consider the shape; while most grout sponges are rectangular and suited for large stretches of tile, there are also narrow, slightly pointed tools designed to reach into corners or tight spaces. Many grout jobs will require a selection of grout floats to tackle various areas of the tiled surface.
While most grout floats are universal, there are floats specifically designed for grouting floors and for grouting walls. Floor floats are a little bit stiffer, allowing for more forceful pressure when working the grout into the spaces between tiles, but many people prefer to use a wall grout float for any grouting task, as the softer rubber makes it a little easier to spread grout evenly.
Grouting sponges have rounded edges that won’t dig out the freshly applied grout. You’ll use the dampened grout sponge to wipe away excess grout residue off the tile once you finish working it into the cracks. As with grout floats, choose a bigger sponge for large surfaces, or a smaller sponge for small jobs or tight quarters.
You are unlikely to do a big grouting job with just a grout bag, but these tools are very handy for grouting a small area, such as when replacing damaged grout between a few tiles. Thanks to their tips, grout bags allow for very precise application, unlike grout floats, which smear grout over everything, and then require you to remove excess grout with a sponge.
Grout bags are a must when applying colored grout between unsealed or unglazed tiles, which could stain if heavily smeared with grout applied with a float.
How do you apply grout?
While grouting isn’t difficult, it does require some practice to gain skill at applying it, and it’s admittedly a somewhat tedious task. Here are the basics you’ll need to know:
- Start by mixing up your grout. Most come as a powder you mix with water; follow the manufacturer’s directions exactly—don’t add more or less water than called for.
- Pour or ladle a puddle of grout onto the tiled surface. It’s easiest to work across the surface from left to right. If grouting a tiled floor, start at the furthest corner of the room and work towards the doorway.
- Hold your grouting float at a 45-degree angle to the tiled surface. Move the float across the tile in sweeping arcs, pushing the grout into the cracks between the tiles.
- Work in small sections, grouting a few feet of tile at a time before moving onto the next area.
- Be sure you are completely filling all cracks with grout. It’s okay to overfill a little bit, but then sweep your grouting float over the area to remove excess grout.
- Once all the cracks are filled with grout, let the grout set for the time recommended by the manufacturer. Typically, this will be between 15 and 30 minutes.
- Dampen your grouting sponge, and wipe away excess grout from the tile. Don’t dig or use too much pressure on the grout lines; you just want to remove excess grout from the tile. Rinse your sponge frequently in clean water so it doesn’t build up a coating of grout.
- Let the grout dry completely. This generally takes around 24 hours.
- Wipe away any haze from the tile surfaces with a dampened clean rag.
- After 48 to 72 hours, you can seal the grout.
How do I clean my grouting tools?
It’s important to clean your grouting tools right away after you finish the job, because once the grout dries, it’s very difficult to remove. As long as the grout is still somewhat wet, it’s easily removed from grouting floats and sponges with a good scrubbing in clean water. Let your tools dry completely before storing them.
What kind of grout should I use?
There are several kinds of grout, each with its own pros and cons. The most common three types, however, are sanded, unsanded, and epoxy-based grout.
Both sanded and unsanded grout have a cement base. Sanded grout, as the name suggests, has gritty sand added to the cement, while unsanded grout has a smoother, finer texture. As a general rule, you should use unsanded grout for very thin grout lines that are under ⅛-inch thick. Use sanded grout for thicker grout lines. However, if you are grouting around glass tiles, use only unsanded grout. Unsanded grout is also the better choice for use on tiled walls, as it is less likely to “slump” while setting.
Epoxy-based grout is far more durable than cement-based grout, doesn’t stain as easily, and doesn’t require sealing. However, it’s not nearly as easy to work with, so unless you have quite a bit of experience in working with tile and grout, it’s best to leave epoxy to the professionals.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article is edited and updated by Michelle Ullman, the tool expert for The Spruce. She has extensive experience not only in writing about all things related to the home, but also in carrying out various DIY projects, including landscaping, painting, flooring, wallpapering, furniture makeovers, and simple repairs. For this roundup, she considered a wide range of grouting tools, evaluating each for basic features, performance, and customer feedback.