How to Remove Old Grout from Backsplash

Removing old grout from a backsplash can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be accomplished with minimal fuss. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to effectively remove old grout from your backsplash.

Assess the Backsplash and Grout

The first step is to take a close look at the condition of the existing grout. Check for signs of deterioration like cracks, missing pieces, staining, and mold growth. This will help determine the best method for removing the grout.

Run your fingers along the grout lines to feel for any soft or crumbling spots. Use a grout saw, utility knife, or Dremel tool to test the hardness of the grout in several spots. Hard, intact grout will need a different approach than soft, crumbly grout.

Also note the color of the existing grout. Is it a light shade like white or off-white? Or a darker hue like brown, gray or black? The color will impact the tools and techniques used for removal.

Gather the Proper Materials and Tools

Removing old grout requires having the right supplies on hand. Here are some recommended materials and tools:

  • Grout saw or rotary tool with grout removal blade
  • Utility knife
  • Grout rake
  • Grout scraper
  • Stiff-bristle brush
  • Shop vacuum
  • Grout cleaner solution
  • Rags, sponges and buckets
  • Eye protection and dust mask

For lighter colored grout, a grout saw or oscillating rotary tool works well. The thin grout removal blades can slice cleanly down the grout lines.

For darker or epoxy-based grouts, a utility knife or grout rake is more effective to scrape out the hardened material.

Have everything assembled and ready to go before starting the removal process.

Apply Grout Cleaner or Vinegar

For grout that is intact but just dirty or stained, start by using a cleaning solution to lift off the top layer of grime. Spray or wipe a tile and grout cleaner, hydrogen peroxide, bleach or vinegar solution generously over the entire backsplash area.

Allow it to soak in for 5-10 minutes. This will help loosen debris and break up staining.

Use a stiff bristle brush or scrub pad to work the cleaner into the grout lines. Then rinse thoroughly with clean water and wipe dry with rags or paper towels.

Repeat as needed until no more dirt or discoloration lifts off.

Cut Out Crumbling Grout

For grout that is deteriorated and coming loose, it will need to be completely scraped or chiseled out. Start by using a utility knife to cut along the grout lines surrounding each intact tile.

Hold the knife at a 45° angle and run the blade down the grout line to slice through the full depth. Take care not to scratch the tile faces.

Once cut, use the knife to pry and lift off any loose grout pieces. Switch to a grout saw or rotary tool to pulverize and vacuum out any remaining grout fragments.

Wear eye protection and a dust mask when using power tools. Vacuum constantly to contain airborne particles.

Remove Hard, Intact Grout

With hard, stable grout that is still firmly attached, use special grout removal blades to shave it out.

For lighter grout, an oscillating multi-tool with a grout blade makes fast work of removal. Slowly guide the segmented blade along each grout line to slice off the top layer. Apply light pressure and repeat until the grout is gone.

For darker or epoxy grouts, try a hand grout saw. The carbide grit edge is sturdy enough to cut through the tougher material. Saw gently along each line until all grout is eliminated.

Take precautions against chips and cracks by going slow and using minimal pressure. Vacuum debris as you go.

Clean and Re-grout the Tile

Once all traces of the old grout are gone, wash the entire backsplash with a tile cleaner and rinse well. Allow a day or two for it to fully dry.

Apply new grout following manufacturer’s instructions. Use a grout float to force it into the empty joints, wiping off excess as you go.

After it dries, polish the tiles with a soft cloth to reveal a refreshed, like-new backsplash.

Removing old grout takes some elbow grease, but employing the right techniques for your particular situation will make the job go faster. With the proper tools and materials, you can restore your backsplash grout and revitalize the look of your kitchen.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the easiest way to remove old grout?

For soft or crumbling grout, the easiest removal method is using a utility knife or grout rake to scrape it out manually. Sawing out hard, intact grout takes more effort but can be done carefully with grout removal blades.

How do you soften hard grout for removal?

Applying a grout cleaner, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar or ammonia-based solution will help soften and break up mineral deposits in hard grout. Let it soak in before attempting to rake or scrape out. Reapply if needed.

What solvent removes epoxy grout?

Epoxy grout is highly chemical resistant, so solvents don’t work well. Mechanical removal with a carbide grout saw blade or vigorous scraping with a knife is most effective. Be sure to wear a mask to avoid breathing dust.

Can I use an oscillating multi-tool to remove grout?

Yes, an oscillating multi-tool with a grout removal blade is an excellent option for slicing out old grout, especially lighter-colored grout. Work slowly along each line to shave off the grout.

How do you remove stubborn grout haze?

Mix equal parts white vinegar and warm water and scrub over the hazy areas with a stiff nylon brush. Rinse thoroughly and wipe dry. Repeat if needed for heavy haze. Use care on natural stone.

How long does it take for grout to dry before sealing?

Cement-based grout takes 72 hours to fully cure and dry before sealing. Epoxy grout only needs 24 hours. It’s best to wait the full recommended time to ensure the grout has dried completely.

Can I use the same grout color when re-grouting?

Yes, you can use the same grout color. However, keep in mind that after cleaning and exposure to air, the old grout lines may be slightly lighter than your new grout. Expect a slight variance.

What is the most durable grout for kitchen backsplash?

Epoxy grout is the most durable and stain-resistant choice for kitchen backsplashes. It stands up to grease, spills, and daily wear and tear better than standard cement grout.

Should I seal my grout after re-grouting a backsplash?

Sealing is an optional extra step that provides added protection. Natural grout is porous and can benefit from a sealant. But epoxy and premixed grouts have built-in sealers, so added sealing is not necessary.


Revitalizing old, failing grout gives backsplashes and other tiled areas a fresh new look. With the proper preparatory steps, tools and safety gear, DIYers can tackle grout removal and replacement on their own. Focus on fully cleaning out all traces of the old grout before applying fresh new material. The result will be a restored backsplash that looks clean and uniform.