Many people find it difficult to remove the haze that results from applying grout on ceramic tiles. The simplest solution is to wipe away the excess using a sponge, but how long should you wait before wiping it away?
Leave grout for 15 to 30 minutes before wiping to allow enough time for the bonding process to start without making it difficult to wipe away the haze. Work in sections to avoid waiting too long, and apply liquid soap to your tile for faster and easier wiping.
In this article, I’ll explain what happens if you wipe your grout too soon or too late. I’ll also explore the process of how grout sets.
What Happens When Wiping Grout Too Soon?
Wiping grout away too soon means that there is not enough time for the grout to set. The result is that gouges in your grout will show. These gouges are the perfect environment for microbial growth, which may lead to discoloration, odor, and, eventually, the need to regrout your tile once more.
You can spot microbial growth on your grout when it turns pink. While there are ways to clean the grout, it’s always better to apply it correctly in the first place. Additionally, wiping the grout too soon is likely to result in an uneven finish which is unsightly, to say the least.
What Happens When Wiping Grout Too Late?
On the other hand, leaving the grout for too long before wiping it will result in irreversible damage, such as when it hardens. Additionally, the grout may dry before you wipe it off completely, resulting in a thin ‘haze’ on the tile surface, which may be difficult to remove.
Remember that grout hardens as time passes. So when it is left on the surface of your tile for too long, it will set onto the surface, becoming as hard as concrete. Removing the hardened grout from your tile is extremely difficult and might result in breaking or chipping the tile.
Tips When Grouting
Here are a few tips you may want to follow in order to get the best results when grouting:
- Work in sections. This technique allows you to have better control over the time you leave the grout to dry.
- Use a timer. While you’re working, you may get caught up and forget how long you’ve been waiting for the grout to set. A timer fixes this problem.
- Mix according to the package instructions. It’s best to follow the precise instructions set forth by the manufacturer to get the best results.
- Use small amounts of grout. Don’t use big dollops of grout because they can be more difficult and time-consuming to wipe off. If you’re conserving from the get-go, you’re on the safe side.
What To Do When Grout Hardens on Tile
If you do find yourself in a situation where some grout has set onto the surface of your tile, you might need to remove and replace the affected tile. Of course, that means removing just a few tiles; or even just one. The problem with removing a single tile is that the grout connecting tiles together is so hard that pulling one out results in breaking the adjacent tile.
Here’s a quick step-by-step guide on how you can remove a few tiles if the grout has hardened on it:
- Remove all the grout around the tile using a grout saw. Preferably, use a carbide saw.
- Using a nail and a hammer, tap the nail into the tile to chip and shatter it. Break the tile in several spots for the best results.
- You should now be able to remove most of the tile pieces using a chisel and a hammer.
- Once most of the tile is removed, you can use the chisel and hammer to chip away at the old tile adhesive.
- Take care not to damage underlying material, and avoid chiseling too close to adjacent tiles, or else they might break.
- Replace the tile with a new one.
On the other hand, if you have only a small amount of dry grout, you may consider trying different ways to remove it first. One common method is to use sulfamic acid as a cleaner to remove haze or dry grout. Keep in mind that sulfamic acid is highly corrosive and harmful to the respiratory tract. If you decide to use it, handle it with care.
If you do not want to use very harsh chemicals, below are two less corrosive solutions you may want to try out. Keep in mind that these solutions are considerably weaker than sulfamic acid and thus will need several applications before you see any results.
- Sugar water (1:10 ratio of sugar to water)
- Vinegar solution
How Grout Hardens As It Sets
There are generally two types of grout available nowadays: cement grout and chemical grout. They each set in a different way, but the result is a hard substance that is water resistant.
Chemical grouting (where it is based on epoxy) sets into a much harder substance – comparable to the strength of concrete. This type of grout is a mixture of chemicals that forms a gel that dries out over time.
On the other hand, cement-based grout is a suspension of cement solids in water. It also dries out over time as water evaporates from the mixture. This type of grout takes a longer time to dry out overall, but the first 15 minutes are sufficient for wiping away any haze or excess grout.
In both cases, the result is grout which is too hard to scrape off using a chisel without damaging the tile underneath.
To conclude, 15 to 30 minutes is the optimal waiting time between when the grout is applied and when it is wiped. Otherwise, the grout might harden on the tile, or you might wipe away the grout front between the tile before it is set. Work in sections to ensure that you always wipe the grout within the optimal range.