Removing tile grout is remarkably easy, clean, and fast. This task, which you may have been dreading for months or even years, may take as little as an afternoon, depending on the size of the tile area. While you can do this job manually, you make the job considerably easier if you purchase an oscillating multi-tool and fit it with a grout removal blade. Using this handy tool, you can remove 15 square feet of grout on 4-by-4-inch tile in about one hour, and offers versatility to remove the grout and mortar by changing the attachments.
There are a few good reasons why you might want or need to remove old tile grout:
- The old grout might be moldy and beyond cleanable. In many cases, it is faster and easier to remove the grout than to clean it.
- The existing grout color is no longer pleasing to you, and you wish to change it. One way to change grout color is to colorize existing grout. But the more effective way is to use entirely new tinted grout.
- The grout is chipped and falling out. Patching in with new grout doesn't work well; it's better to remove everything and grout it again.
Click Play to Learn How to Remove Tile Grout
Equipment / Tools
- Safety goggles
- Oscillating tool and grout removal blade
- Carbide tip grout removal tool
- Utility knife with a dull blade
- Shop vacuum
- Garbage bag
Grind Grout Straight On
Put on safety goggles to protect your eyes. Fit the oscillating tool with a blade designed for removing tile grout. Start by holding the tool horizontally (or vertically in the case of vertical seams), turning on the power, and lightly pressing the blade to the grout.
Let the power tool do the work; do not force it. The blade should easily chew through the grout. As you work, place only large chunks of grout in the garbage bag. You'll be able to vacuum up smaller pieces later.
Grind the Grout at an Angle
Once you have removed as much grout as possible by holding the tool horizontally, it is time to gently angle the blade to remove more grout. Work slowly and patiently to help ensure that you do not damage the edges of your tile.
One trick is to support your arm on a toolbox, so it does not get tired during the process. Or you can hold the tool primarily with your strong hand, then support the tool underneath with your other hand.
Scrape With a Carbide Tip Grout-Removal Tool
After you have done as much grout removal as possible with the power tool, your next line of attack is the small carbide tip grout-removal tool. The head will fit into the joints and allow you to scrape out stubborn chunks of grout. Do not try to remove every last bit; that is for the next step. Your intent is to knock out hunks that the oscillating tool may have loosened but not completely removed.
Clean up With a Utility Knife
If you are still finding bits of grout that will not come out, switch to a utility knife with a dull blade. You want a dull blade for several reasons: First, it makes no sense to use up a nice, sharp blade on tile grout. Use that sharp blade for something else first. Second, you do not want to risk snapping off the sharp point of the utility knife and getting injured.
Vacuum as You Go
Use a shop vacuum to frequently clean up the grout joints as you work. This helps you see what you are doing and helps pull loose material out of the joints. It also minimizes the mess in your work area. When you've finished removing the grout, give all of the joints a final pass with the vacuum to remove all loose debris.
Grout Removal Tips and Troubleshooting
- Make sure that you're using a masonry blade on the oscillating tool. Metal or wood blades are inappropriate and require more effort.
- For delicate tile areas, run a strip of painter's tape or electrical tape along the side of the tile seam to protect the tile.
- To protect the face of the tile, tape down cardboard.
- If you're able to remove the grout all the way down, that's good. But if you can only remove as far as 1/8-inch, that will work, too. When re-grouting you don't necessarily need to remove grout all the way down to the substrate.
- If you're using a battery-powered oscillating tool, you can incorporate water to hold down the dust. Lightly mist the tile surface with a spray bottle. For safety reasons, do not use water with a corded oscillating tool.
- If you're having a hard time seeing the work due to grout dust, turn on the shop vacuum and keep the nozzle next to the tile seam as you work. Be sure to equip the vacuum with a HEPA filter to avoid broadcasting grout dust throughout the house.