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 field. 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. Armed with this handy tool, you can remove 15 square feet of grout on 4-by-4-inch tile in about one hour.
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 re-grout.
Equipment / Tools
- Safety goggles
- Oscillating tool and grout removal blade
- Small flathead screwdriver
- Utility knife with a dull blade
- Shop vacuum
Attack the Grout Straight On
Put on safety goggles to protect your eyes. Fit the oscillating tool with a blade specially intended 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.
An oscillating tool removes grout without harming the tile because the grout is much softer than the tile. However, it is possible to damage the tile if you press too hard or for too long. Work carefully and keep your eye on the blade.
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 tool box so that it does not get tired during the process.
Scrape With a Screwdriver
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 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.
Be careful not to pry the screwdriver against the tile edges, as this can easily chip them.
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 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.
Vacuum As You Go
Frequently clean up the grout joints as you work, using a shop vacuum. 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.