Grout builds up in tile backsplashes over time, accumulating dirt, grease, and grime. Removing old grout allows you to refresh the look of your backsplash and avoid more difficult cleaning challenges down the road. With some simple tools and techniques, you can remove grout effectively from your tile backsplash.
What You Need to Remove Grout
Removing grout requires just a few supplies:
- Grout removal tool – A grout saw or grout rake tool allows you to scrape out old grout easily. Choose a tool with carbide tips for best results.
- Hammer – Use a small hammer to tap the grout removal tool into the joints. This helps break up especially stubborn grout.
- Grout brush – A stiff brush helps scrub out remaining grout residue. Look for a brush with sturdy nylon or brass bristles.
- Vacuum – A wet/dry shop vacuum sucks up dust and debris as you work. Select one with variable suction power.
- Safety gear – Wear safety goggles and a dust mask to protect yourself from debris. Rubber gloves also help protect your hands.
- Grout – Have new grout available for re-grouting once the old grout is removed.
- Grout saw – For large grout removal jobs, a grout saw with a diamond blade quickly cuts through grout.
- Grout rake – If you’re removing grout from small joints, a hand grout rake saves time and effort.
- Sponge – A damp sponge helps wipe up any remaining grout residue.
- Grout sealer – Seal new grout with a grout sealer to protect it from stains.
Step-by-Step Grout Removal Process
Follow these steps to safely and effectively remove old grout from your tile backsplash:
1. Prepare the Workspace
- Clear the area around the backsplash and cover any surfaces below with drop cloths. This contains dust and debris.
- Remove any items hung on the backsplash, like utensil racks, and store safely.
- Have a wet/dry vacuum ready to continuously vacuum up dust. Place it near your workspace.
2. Loosen the Grout
- Use a grout saw or grout rake tool to scrape out the old grout. Apply pressure and run the tool along the grout lines to begin loosening the grout.
- Use light hammer taps if the grout resists removal. This helps break the grout’s bond with the tile.
- Work in small sections for best results. Focus on a few tile joints at a time.
3. Clear Out Grout Residue
- Use a stiff grout brush to scrub out any remaining grout stuck in the joints. Scrub at multiple angles to ensure you remove it all.
- Vacuum continuously as you work to control dust. Position the vacuum nozzle near the joint as you brush.
- Inspect the joints and brush repeatedly until all grout residue is gone.
4. Smooth the Tile Edges
- Check for any rough tile edges around the joints. Use the grout saw to lightly smooth them.
- Try not to nick or damage the tile edges. Go slowly and carefully.
- Brush and vacuum again afterward to clear any remaining dust.
5. Tidy Up and Re-Grout
- Give the backsplash a final wipe down with a damp sponge, rinsing it frequently.
- Allow the backsplash to fully dry before applying new grout. Check the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Apply new grout per the manufacturer’s directions. Work it deeply into the cleaned joints for the best adhesion.
- Consider sealing the new grout once dry for added protection.
Tips for Quick and Effective Grout Removal
Follow these tips and tricks to remove grout thoroughly while avoiding frustrations:
- Check the grout manufacturer’s instructions first. Some brands may recommend specific removal methods.
- Cover nearby countertops and appliances with plastic sheeting to control dust.
- Apply painter’s tape along the edges of the backsplash before starting. This prevents damaging the surrounding walls.
- Begin grout removal in a less visible corner or edge. This allows you to get the hang of the tools before moving to more visible areas.
- Try steam or vinegar to loosen extremely stubborn grout. Apply either to the grout lines, let sit briefly, then scrape.
- Work top to bottom when removing grout. Gravity helps draw debris downward.
- Hold the grout removal tool at a 45° angle to the joints for optimal scraping leverage.
- Refresh the edge of the grout saw often for maximum effectiveness by rubbing it against a brick.
- Rinse the grout brush and vacuum filter frequently to prevent clogging with debris.
- Wipe down the tiles periodically to inspect grout removal progress and uncover hidden residue.
- Don’t apply too much pressure when smoothing tile edges or you may damage the tile.
- Allow 48 hours or more for new grout to fully cure before cleaning the backsplash.
Common Questions and Answers
Still have questions about removing grout from a tile backsplash? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
What’s the easiest way to remove grout?
For most backsplashes, a grout saw is the quickest and simplest tool for grout removal. Run the saw along each joint to scrape out the old grout easily. Use light hammer taps if needed on stubborn grout.
Can I use an oscillating tool to remove grout?
Yes, an oscillating tool with a grout removal blade can be used to remove old grout. Work slowly and carefully to avoid damaging the surrounding tiles.
What’s the best grout removal tool?
Grout rakes are ideal for removing grout from narrow tile joints. Grout saws with carbide tips quickly rake out wider grout joints. For big jobs, a grout removal bit on a rotary tool is very effective but requires caution.
How do you get old grout off tiles?
Use a stiff nylon or brass grout brush to scrub off any remaining grout residue after scraping out the main grout lines. Check from multiple angles and keep brushing until all residue is gone.
How long does it take to remove grout from a backsplash?
For a 10-foot backsplash, you’ll likely spend 2-5 hours removing all grout depending on the tools used. Working in small sections speeds up the process. Allow additional time for re-grouting once done.
Can I use vinegar to remove grout?
Yes, vinegar’s acidity helps break down grout. Spray or pour vinegar directly onto grout lines, let sit for 10-15 minutes, then scrape out the grout. Repeat as needed for thick grout.
Is removing grout dusty?
Scraping out and brushing away old grout does create a lot of dust. Wear a respirator and goggles and continuously vacuum the dust. Grout dust can irritate eyes and lungs if inhaled.
What’s the best way to apply new grout?
Use a rubber grout float or squeegee to force new grout deep into the cleaned grout lines. Remove excess grout with a damp sponge in diagonal motions across the tiles.
Removing Grout from Your Backsplash
With some elbow grease and the right tools, you can successfully tackle a grout removal and re-grouting project in your backsplash. Focus on working slowly and carefully to get all the old grout out while keeping tiles intact. New grout will refresh the look and create a more hygienic food prep area. With proper sealing, your updated backsplash will stay looking like new for years to come.