Removing Tile Grout in a Few Simple Steps

Removing Grout Is Easy

Illustration of tools needed for removing grout
Illustration: The Spruce / Michela Buttignol

Removing tile grout is remarkably easy, clean, and fast.

This task, which you may have been dreading for months or years, may take as little as an afternoon, depending on the size of the tile field.

While you can do this job manually, you make the job exponentially easier if you purchase an oscillating multi-tool. As detailed later, this does not need to be an expensive purchase.

Using the multi-tool, you can remove 15 square feet of grout on 4 by 4-inch tile in about 1 hour. 

Why Do This?

  • Current grout might be moldy and beyond cleanable. In many cases, it is faster and easier to remove the grout than to clean it.
  • 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.
  • Grout is chipped and falling out. Rather than patching, you have decided to remove everything and re-grout.

Tools and Materials Needed

Some of the grout removal tools are ordinary hand and power tools re-commissioned for this task. Specialized grout removal tools, such as Grout Getter, are nice but not necessary.

The time savings afforded by using a rotary tool or oscillating multi-tool are so great that it is worth buying one even if you expect to use it for no other tasks.

  1. A rotary tool such as a Dremel or oscillating multi-tool like the Ridgid Jobmax or Bosch Multi-X Oscillating Tool Kit
  2. Safety glasses
  3. Utility knife with a dull blade
  4. Small flat-head screwdriver
  5. Shop vacuum

But Will the Tool Remove Tile, Too?

One hazard of using power tools to remove tile grout is the possibility of chewing through the tile, as well.

The reason you can use power tools is grout is softer than tile.

The tool will rip away grout but stop just short of destroying the tile. But since everything has its limits, it is possible to damage the tile if you keep pressing hard enough.

Rip Grout With Power Tool

Removing tile grout
Lee Wallender

Fit the oscillating tool with a blade specially intended for tile or tile grout. Most tool heads will specify which materials they can be used for (metal, wood, tile, etc.).

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.

Angle the Power Tool

Removing tile grout
Lee Wallender

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.

Once again, working slowly and patiently will help ensure that you do not damage the edges of your tile.

One trick is to support your arm on a tool box so that it does not get tired during the process.

Scrape Grout With Screwdriver

Removing tile grout
Lee Wallender

After you have done as much grout removal as possible with the power tool, your next line of attack is the small flathead screwdriver.

Its head will fit into the seam 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.

Switch to Utility Knife to Remove Grout

Removing tile grout
Lee Wallender

If you are still finding bits of grout that will not come out, switch to your dull-bladed utility knife.

You want a dull blade for two reasons: First, it makes no sense to kill 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.

Continually Vacuum Grout Work During and After

Removing tile grout
Lee Wallender

Be sure to liberally use the shop vacuum during the grout removal process so you can see what you are doing.

And of course, you will want to use it once again at the end to clean up your work site.