Removing and replacing grout from a backsplash can refresh the look of your kitchen or bathroom. With some time and effort, you can remove old, stained, or cracking grout and re-grout the backsplash yourself. Follow this step-by-step guide to learn how to properly remove backsplash grout.
What You Need to Remove Backsplash Grout
Removing backsplash grout requires just a few simple tools and materials:
- Grout removal tool – A grout saw or grout rake tool works best to scrape out old grout.
- Hammer and chisel – Use these to chip away stubborn grout. Be gentle to avoid damaging the tiles.
- Putty knife or flat-head screwdriver – Helpful for scraping out grout in corners or tight spaces.
- Vacuum with brush attachment – To vacuum up grout debris as you work.
- Grout sealant – Seal the new grout once dry to protect it.
- Drop cloths – Cover nearby surfaces to catch fallen grout debris.
- Safety gear – Wear safety goggles and a dust mask when removing grout.
Step 1: Prepare the Workspace
Before removing any grout, take time to set up your workspace properly:
- Clear the area around the backsplash of any items or appliances so you have room to work.
- Cover nearby surfaces like countertops with drop cloths to catch debris.
- Have a vacuum ready to regularly vacuum up grout dust and fragments.
- Wear safety goggles and a dust mask to protect yourself from flying debris and grout dust.
- Have a spray bottle of water to mist the grout lines as you work. This helps reduce dust and makes scraping easier.
- Ensure proper ventilation by opening windows or turning on exhaust fans. Grout removal can create a lot of dust.
Step 2: Softening the Grout
Before scraping or chiseling, it helps soften the grout first:
- Use a spray bottle to thoroughly mist the grout lines you want to remove. Let it soak in for 5-10 minutes.
- For thicker or heavily stained grout, apply undiluted white vinegar over the grout lines. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes before scraping. The acetic acid in vinegar helps break down grout.
- For extremely stubborn grout, use a grout remover chemical. Apply it over the grout and let it sit per product instructions. Use proper ventilation.
- Re-mist grout with water as needed while working to keep it damp and easy to scrape out.
Softening the grout before removal makes the job much easier!
Step 3: Remove Grout with Tools
With the grout softened, you can begin removal:
Use a Grout Saw:
- Hold the grout saw at a 45° angle to the grout line and lightly scrape outwards. Apply minimal pressure to avoid scratching tiles.
- Make several passes over each line to fully remove the grout. Mist with water and re-scrape as needed.
- Use short, 1-2 inch strokes in each line for best control. Work across the entire backsplash in sections.
- For thicker grout, you may need to make many repeated passes until it is all gone. Be patient and take your time.
Use a Grout Rake:
- Hold the grout rake perpendicular to the grout line and scrape outwards. The rake’s carbide tip will dig into the grout.
- Apply light pressure and work in short strokes. Repeatedly rake over each line until all grout is removed.
- Mist occasionally with water to keep the grout soft and control dust.
Use a Chisel and Hammer:
- Use a masonry chisel and hammer for grout that is too hard or thick for grout saws or rakes.
- Lightly tap the chisel into the grout line to break up the grout. Be careful not to chip the tiles.
- Twist the chisel side-to-side to scrape and gouge out the grout fragments.
- Take your time and re-chisel over each line until all grout is removed.
For Corners and Tight Areas:
- Use a putty knife or flat-head screwdriver to scrape out old grout from corners, edges, and other tight spaces.
- Carefully work the blade into the corner and twist to scrape out the grout. Go slowly to avoid damaging tiles.
- Mist occasionally with water and re-scrape until all grout is gone.
Step 4: Vacuum and Clean the Area
As you work, be sure to regularly vacuum up any grout debris:
- Use a brush attachment and vacuum after removing grout from just a few lines at a time. This keeps the dust manageable.
- Vacuum the entire workspace well when finished removing all grout. Dispose of the vacuum contents outdoors.
- Use a damp sponge to wipe a mild vinegar solution over the tiles to remove any remaining grout haze or film.
- Rinse the sponge and re-wipe just with water. Allow tiles to fully dry before re-grouting.
Thoroughly cleaning the backsplash prevents any debris from getting stuck under new grout.
Step 5. Apply New Grout
Once the old grout is entirely removed and the tiles are clean and dry, you can apply fresh grout:
- Consider using a grout sealing product to pre-seal the tiles first. This provides added protection.
- Choose a grout color that matches or complements your tiles. Unsanded grout usually works best for backsplashes.
- Spread the grout over the tile lines using a rubber grout float or squeegee, pressing firmly to fully pack the joints.
- Wipe diagonally across the tiles with a damp sponge to remove excess grout and smooth the lines.
- After the grout dries for 24-48 hours, seal it with a penetrating grout sealer for protection.
- Avoid excessive water exposure for 72 hours to allow the grout to fully cure and seal properly.
Re-grouting generally takes 1-3 hours depending on the size of your backsplash. Allow ample drying time before use.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the easiest way to remove old backsplash grout?
The grout saw is often the quickest and easiest tool for DIY grout removal. Its thin blade allows you to smoothly saw out the old grout without damaging tiles. Work slowly, re-wetting the grout as needed.
How long does it take to remove grout from a backsplash?
Plan on grout removal taking 2-4 hours for an average-sized backsplash of 30-50 sq ft. Larger jobs or thicker grout may take longer. Remove grout in stages if needed rather than rushing.
Should I use sanded or unsanded grout on my backsplash?
Unsanded grout is preferred for backsplash installations since the joints are narrow. The fine particle size fills backsplash grout lines best. Match the new grout color to your tiles.
What’s the easiest way to apply new grout after removing old?
Using a rubber grout float makes applying new grout much easier. Hold it at a 45° angle and spread forcefully to pack the grout deeply into the joints between tiles. Wipe diagonally across tiles to smooth.
How soon can I get the backsplash wet after re-grouting?
Avoid excessive moisture on the backsplash for at least 72 hours after grouting. This allows the grout to fully cure so it can get wet without being compromised.
How do I cut bathroom wall tiles for the edges?
Use a wet tile saw to accurately cut bathroom wall or backsplash tiles to fit around edges and corners. Take measurements and cut tiles to fit before installing and grouting.
What is the best grout sealer to use?
Look for a penetrating sealer formulated for grout rather than a surface coating-style sealer. Penetrating sealers soak in to provide subsurface protection from moisture and stains. Apply per product directions.
Can I use an oscillating tool to remove grout?
Yes, an oscillating tool with a grout removal blade can be effective for DIY grout removal in place of specialized grout saws or rakes. Work slowly and carefully to avoid damaging tiles.
Should I seal tiles before re-grouting a backsplash?
Sealing tiles before regrouting a backsplash provides added protection, though it isn’t essential. Use a tile and grout sealer compatible with your grout color if desiring extra stain resistance.
Removing and replacing backsplash grout takes some work, but restores the look of the backsplash and tiles. With the proper tools and methods, you can tackle this project yourself over a weekend. Always test on a small area first to get comfortable with the process before moving on to the entire backsplash. Be sure to prep the area, use grout softening techniques, employ the best grout removal tools, clean thoroughly afterwards, and seal the refreshed grout. Follow these steps and you can successfully renew your backsplash grout.