How to Remove Grout Between Counter and Backsplash

Removing old, stained, or cracked grout between your counter and backsplash can refresh the look of your kitchen and help prevent future water damage. With some simple tools and a bit of time, you can tackle this DIY project and achieve professional-looking results.

Assessing the Grout to Remove

Before rushing into grout removal, take some time to assess the current state of the grout lines you want to address.

  • Examine the color. Make note of the original color of the grout. This will come in handy when it’s time to regrout the space with new grout that matches.
  • Look for cracks or missing sections. Damage like this indicates that the grout is failing and definitely needs to be replaced, rather than just cleaned.
  • Test moisture levels. Use a moisture meter to check for excessive dampness in the grout, which can point to leakage issues. Address any leaks before regrouting.
  • Determine if the grout is still sound. Try scraping at the grout line with a screwdriver. Crumbling, chalky grout will need removal. Hard, intact grout may just need a good cleaning.

Thoroughly inspecting the grout will clarify which areas need grout removal and replacement versus simply cleaning the existing grout.

Choosing Your Grout Removal Tools

Removing old grout requires having the right tools for the job at your disposal before getting started. Assemble the following equipment:

  • Grout saw: A special saw with a narrow, jagged blade designed to cut into existing grout lines.
  • Grout rake: A hand tool with a head like a fork that can scrape out old grout.
  • Putty knife: Helpful for scraping and smoothing areas of grout removal.
  • Shop vacuum: Essential for sucking up grout dust and debris as you work.
  • Safety gear: Wear goggles and a dust mask when removing grout to protect your eyes and respiratory system.

A grout saw and grout rake are especially useful in removing tough, hardened grout. Have a variety of grout removing tools on hand so you can tackle the unique challenges of your project.

Prepping the Area for Grout Removal

To set your grout removal project up for success:

  • Clear the area. Remove everything from the counters and any items stored in cabinets below. Have ample workspace.
  • Protect surfaces. Cover the countertops, backsplash tiles, sink, and any other areas that could get damaged while removing grout.
  • Tape off edges. Use painter’s tape around the perimeter edges of the counter and edges of the backsplash. This keeps the work area contained.
  • Photograph before starting. Take pictures of the counters and backsplash before you begin work. This provides a helpful reference for when it’s time to regrout.

Adequate prep work keeps the countertops and backsplash safe while also giving you full access to the grout lines needing removal.

Removing Existing Grout

With your tools and safety gear ready, it’s time to start working on removing the old grout:

Cut into Grout Lines

  • Use the grout saw to cut into each grout line, holding the saw at a 45-degree angle and dragging it along the length of the joints. Apply firm pressure as you saw to fully penetrate the grout.
  • Make repeated passes over each line to deepen the cut into the full depth of the existing grout.
  • Run the saw diagonally from both directions to carve out the old grout as much as possible.

Rake Out Old Grout

  • Once grout lines are cut, take the grout rake and start scraping out the cut sections of old grout.
  • Work at an angle, scraping diagonally along the length of each line to break up the old grout and pull it out in pieces.
  • Switch between vertically and horizontally raking to fully excavate the grout joints.
  • Periodically vacuum up debris so it doesn’t pile up and impede your progress.

Further Clean with a Knife

  • Use a stiff putty knife to manually scrape out remaining grout fragments wedged deeply in the joints.
  • Carefully scrape/chisel straight down into each line to remove the last remnants of old grout without damaging tiles.
  • Smooth the joint edges with the knife blade to prepare the area for fresh grout.

Thoroughly removing all existing grout takes patience, but prevents compromised adhesion with new grout.

Completing Final Surface Prep

Before applying fresh grout, complete preparatory steps:

  • Wipe down all tile and counter surfaces with a damp microfiber cloth to remove residual dust and debris.
  • Inspect for any remaining grout and use the knife or rake to scrape it free. All old grout must be fully removed.
  • Run a cloth dampened with mineral spirits along each empty grout line to eliminate oils, waxes, or soap scum.
  • Allow the counters and backsplash to fully dry. Any moisture will weaken the new grout bonds.
  • Carefully remove all painter’s tape and other protective coverings.

The countertops, backsplash, and grout joints must be pristinely prepped and dry for optimal new grout adhesion.

Tips for Regrouting the Area

Follow these pointers for smooth sailing when it’s time to regrout:

  • Match the grout color. Use a grout that matches the color of the original as closely as possible for a seamless look. White grout is a classic choice.
  • Use unsanded caulk for narrow joints. If the joints between the counter and backsplash are very narrow, use an unsanded caulk instead of grout.
  • Apply grout properly. Hold the grout float at a 45° angle, pressing into joints firmly. Remove excess grout by holding the float edge at a 90° angle.
  • Clean immediately. As sections are grouted, wipe them down with a damp sponge to prevent drying and hazing on tile.
  • Allow proper cure time. Give the grout at least 72 hours to cure before cleaning the tiles or using the countertops.

With the right techniques and materials, your regrouting job will look fantastic and stand the test of time.

Frequently Asked Questions About Removing and Regrouting

Many common questions come up regarding grout removal and replacement between counters and backsplashes. Here are helpful answers to some of the most frequent inquiries:

Is it better to replace all the grout rather than just spots?

It’s generally best practice to re-grout the entire area between the countertop and backsplash for a uniform appearance. Spot regrouting just portions can lead to a patchy, mismatched look as old and new grout colors vary.

What’s the easiest way to get grout out of corners?

Grout rakes and knives can’t always reach into tight corners. For these spots, use a Dremel tool with a grout removal bit to easily dig out old grout. Apply light pressure and let the tool do the work.

Should I use sanded or unsanded grout between the counter and backsplash?

For very thin grout lines under 1/8 inch, unsanded grout is the better choice. It can permeate narrow joints and provides a smoother finish. Wider joints benefit from sanded grout.

How long does regrouted area take to cure?

Proper grout cure time is about 72-96 hours. Avoid wet cleaning or heavy use of the counters during this period. This allows the grout to harden and gain its full strength.

Is caulk better than grout for the gap between countertop and backsplash?

Caulk adheres well in this seam and accommodates movement better than rigid grout. Both work, but flexible caulk prevents cracks from appearing. Make sure it’s 100% silicone.

Replacing deteriorating grout between your counter and backsplash gives your kitchen a fresh new look while also sealing the area against leaks and moisture damage. With the right know-how and tools, this is a DIY project any homeowner can successfully tackle. Just take precautions to properly prep the workspace, thoroughly remove all old grout, and allow adequate cure time when applying new grout. In no time, you’ll have a pristine grout line tying your countertops and backsplash together seamlessly.


Removing old grout and regrouting the seam between countertops and backsplashes is a straightforward project that makes a big visual impact in kitchens. With careful prep work, the right tools, and patience during the grout removal process, DIYers can avoid damage and achieve professional-looking results. Allowing adequate time for the new grout to cure properly ensures it will hold up beautifully for years before needing to be addressed again. A little labor invested in renewing grout lines can make a kitchen look brand new again.