Do You Use Sanded or Unsanded Grout for Backsplash?

Choosing the right grout for your backsplash is an important decision that will impact the overall look and durability of your backsplash installation. The main options are sanded grout or unsanded grout. Here is a detailed overview of the differences, pros and cons, and recommendations to help you decide whether to use sanded or unsanded grout for your backsplash project.

What is Grout?

Grout is a cement-based material used to fill the joints between tiles. It creates a waterproof seal that prevents moisture from getting behind the tiles and causing damage. Grout also locks the tiles together for a more secure installation.

There are two main categories of grout:

Sanded Grout

  • Contains fine silica sand particles
  • Gives it a gritty texture
  • Best for joints wider than 1/8 inch
  • More durable and less prone to cracking

Unsanded Grout

  • Smooth, fine texture without sand
  • Use for joints 1/8 inch or narrower
  • Less durable for wider grout lines

When to Use Sanded Grout for Backsplash

Sanded grout is the best choice for most backsplash installations because:

  • It’s more durable and resistant to cracking from movement or impact. Backsplashes can be vulnerable due to their location.
  • Most backsplash tiles have grout lines wider than 1/8 inch where sanded grout is required. Subway tiles and large format tiles often have 1/4 to 3/8 inch grout lines.
  • The sand in sanded grout resists staining and discoloration better. Backsplashes handle lots of moisture, heat, grease and food spills where staining can be an issue.
  • Sanded grout’s texture adds interesting visual appeal that complements the look of many backsplash tiles like stone, ceramic, porcelain or glass.

When to Choose Unsanded Grout

There are some situations where using unsanded grout for backsplash may be appropriate:

  • With natural stone tiles like marble or travertine that have very narrow grout lines of 1/8 inch or less. Sanded grout can get trapped and scratch soft stones.
  • For minimalist contemporary backsplash designs with super thin grout lines. The smooth finish highlights the tile rather than the grout.
  • If you want bright white grout lines with polished tiles like glass or metal. Unsanded white grout provides a crisp, clean look.
  • With mosaic sheets or penny tiles where the grout lines are very thin. Make sure the tile spacing is less than 1/8 inch.
  • For backsplash repair jobs when you only need to regrout a small section. Matching the existing grout is easiest with unsanded.

Tips for Grouting a Backsplash

Follow these tips to get great results when grouting a backsplash:

  • Always grout according to the tile manufacturer’s instructions. Don’t use sanded grout with thin grout lines where it can get trapped.
  • Use a rubber grout float or squeegee to force grout deeply into joints for maximum adhesion and compression.
  • Hold the float at a 45 degree angle to prevent dragging grout out of the joints.
  • Let the grout firm up slightly before wiping off excess with a damp sponge. Avoid smearing grout on the tile faces.
  • Use a Grout haze remover afterwards if needed to polish off any remaining film or residue without damaging the tiles.
  • Allow proper cure time before exposing grout to moisture. This ensures it reaches maximum hardness and stain/water resistance.

Grout Maintenance

To keep backsplash grout looking its best:

  • Seal sanded and unsanded grout annually with a penetrating sealer. This prevents stains from setting in the porous grout.
  • Re-apply grout in any cracked or crumbling areas to prevent moisture damage behind tiles. Match existing grout style.
  • Use a gentle grout cleaner instead of harsh chemicals to avoid degrading or discoloring the grout.
  • Both sanded and unsanded grout can be re-colored to refresh the appearance or cover stains.


For most backsplash installations, sanded grout is the best choice due to its durability, stain resistance, and attractive appearance. Unsanded grout is only recommended for specialized applications with very thin grout lines or soft natural stone tiles. Following proper application and regular maintenance procedures will keep your backsplash grout looking great for years.

FAQs About Sanded vs. Unsanded Grout for Backsplash

Should I use sanded or unsanded grout for my subway tile backsplash?

Sanded grout is the best choice for typical subway tiles that have 1/8 to 1/4 inch grout lines. The extra durability and staining resistance of sanded grout is beneficial for backsplashes.

What color grout should I use on a backsplash?

A neutral color like white or light grey is popular for many backsplashes as it highlights the tile without distracting from it. But any grout color that complements your tile and overall kitchen decor is fine.

Can I use unsanded grout on floors instead of walls?

Unsanded grout is only recommended for walls, not floors. The lack of sand makes it less durable for floor applications where it will crack and wear down faster under foot traffic.

How soon can I get my backsplash wet after grouting?

It’s best to wait at least 72 hours before exposing grout to moisture on a new backsplash. This allows the grout to fully cure to achieve maximum hardness and staining resistance.

Why is my backsplash grout cracking after only a year?

Cracking within a year is premature failure. The most common causes are inadequate grout joints that were too shallow or too narrow, or using sanded grout in joints smaller than 1/8 inch.

Is epoxy grout better than regular grout for backsplashes?

Epoxy grout provides excellent stain resistance and durability. But it is harder to work with and does not allow for color matching if repairs are needed later.

Should I seal my backsplash grout? And if so, how often?

Sealing with a penetrating sealer annually is highly recommended to prevent stains in the porous grout, especially around a cooktop backsplash.

How do I get grease stains out of my backsplash grout?

Gently scrape out any heavy buildup first. Then use a baking soda paste, commercial degreasing cleaner, or oxygen bleach scrub to lift stains without damaging the grout.

In Closing

Choosing the right type of grout and applying it properly makes a big difference in the long-term appearance and performance of your backsplash. In most cases, sanded grout is the best choice due to its durability and stain resistance. But unsanded grout can also be the right solution depending on your tile type and design aesthetic. Pay close attention to the manufacturer’s recommendations for your specific tile and application. And be sure to seal and maintain the grout properly after installation. Following these guidelines will ensure your backsplash stays looking fresh for many years.