With a few hours and a few tools, you can make the old grout on your bathroom floors or walls or kitchen backsplashes look brand new again. Whether the grout was originally white and needs a pick-me-up, or you are staining the grout a new color, these step-by-step instructions cover all aspects of the job from cleaning to clean up.
The tools required to make old grout look new again are affordable, and this is one job that is an easy DIY project. Tile contractors charge hundreds of dollars to clean or stain grout. You probably have most of the necessary supplies at home already.
Although you can buy stain and sealer separately, use the combined grout stain and sealer that is available in a single bottle for this project. Don't let the small bottle fool you. It covers a large area. The bottle is usually marked as to how many square feet the product covers, so you don't have to guess or over-buy.
If you are re-staining white grout, choosing color is not an issue, but if you are trying to match existing colored grout or re-coloring the grout a new color, order a sample from one of the grout suppliers online. Many of them offer a small sample bottle in the colors they stock. Some of them also offer a custom color matching service, but that is a more involved process.
Considerations When Choosing Grout Color
If you are choosing a color rather than white for the grout, there are three schools of thought:
- Match the grout to the tile. Select a color grout that's only a shade lighter or darker than the existing tile to give the uninterrupted appearance of a match.
- Contrast with the tile. Select a color grout that contrasts with the tile color to make each tile stand out.
- Go neutral. A neutral color is the safest choice. Choose from shades of tan, beige or gray. Neutral grout is the most common selection.
Other Grout Considerations
Dark-colored grout fades quicker than light-colored grout. A light-colored grout shows stains and dirt. Keep the traffic in the area in mind when making your choice. A high traffic area, such as a kitchen, might not be a good place for very light colored grout, whereas a seldom-used bath is fine for it.
Don't use abrasive scrubbing powders or steel wool on tiles—they can be scratched. Use only soft cleaning cloths and soft-bristle brushes.
Equipment / Tools
- Nylon bristle brush
- Soft-bristled toothbrush
- Rubber gloves and safety goggles
- Spray-on bleach-based cleaner
- Bottle of grout stain and sealer in white or your preferred color choice
- Bucket of water
- Magic sponge eraser
- Cleaning cloths
Begin With a Good Cleaning
Cleaning the existing grout is important. You can't stain it when it is covered in dust, soap scum or cooking grease. The procedure is repetitive, and you'll be on your knees for most of the process, but this project is worth every penny you save by doing it yourself.
- Open a window or turn on the bathroom fan to provide good ventilation.
- Put on your rubber gloves and safety goggles.
- Spray the bleach-based cleaner over a section of tile.
- Scrub with the bristle brush, being sure to get into the corners.
- Use the magic sponge eraser to clean stubborn areas and remove soap scum or sticky residue.
- After scrubbing, wipe down the area with the rag and let dry completely.
- Repeat until all areas of tile and grout have been cleaned.
Apply the Stain
When the grout is clean and dry, you can stain it:
- Put on your gloves and safety goggles.
- Dip the toothbrush into the bottle of grout stain and sealer to gather a small amount of product.
- Apply the grout stain to a small area of tile—a 1 square-foot area is a good size.
- Use the toothbrush to work the stain into the grout.
Be prepared to remove the excess stain quickly before it dries.
Remove the Extra Stain
As you complete each square-foot of grout stain and sealer application, remove the excess stain promptly as follows:
- Dip the rag into the bucket of water.
- Wring out all the excess water until the rag is barely damp.
- Use the damp rag to wipe lightly over the tile until you remove all the extra stain and sealer on the tile.
It's important to keep your rag clean. You may need to wash out the rag in the water repeatedly. Replace the dirty water with clean water when necessary.
Repeat the application of stain and sealer and the removal of excess stain in square foot sections until you have completely stained and sealed all the grout.
Though this project requires more labor than creativity, the results are immediate. The instant gratification makes it worth the elbow grease. It usually takes about 24 hours for the stain to dry completely, but you'll be able to see the amazing improvement in the grout the minute you wipe the excess stain away.
About Grout Pens
Many companies sell grout stain pens. Unless you only need to do a small touch-up, tile pens are not the best solution for staining grout, and they don't include a sealer in most cases. Go with the bottled stain and sealer for a long-lasting job.