How To Remove Old Grout. What professionals say

If you have a bathroom in your house, you likely have grout, a substance that holds tiles together and keeps water from penetrating them. Unfortunately, grout ages and needs to be replaced, same as anything else. So, how do you remove old grout?

You can remove old grout by softening it. Your options include a blowdryer, steam cleaner, lemon juice, and water. If your grout is stubborn, you can also use sulfamic acid. These methods are gentle and won’t damage your tile; afterward, you can scrap the grout away.

In this article, I’ll explain grout and go over non-destructive methods of removing old grout. I’ll also go over how to use sulfamic acid to soften tough grout. Finally, I’ll go over what you shouldn’t use to remove grout and what to do if you damage your tiles. 

What Is Grout?

Grout typically holds tiles together and prevents water from penetrating them. You can often find it in bathrooms, swimming pools, and other areas where tiles and water are close. There are two types of grout—cement grout and epoxy grout.

Epoxy Grout

Epoxy grout is a relatively new type of grout. It’s touted as being durable, stain-resistant, and water-resistant. While initially, epoxy grout was difficult to work with, technological advances have made using it much easier.

Most people use epoxy grout these days, and it’s what we will go over removing in this article. Epoxy grout has a plasticy consistency that distinguishes it from cement grout. 

Cement Grout

Cement grout, which is made of cement and water; sand is sometimes stirred into the mixture. It’s porous and therefore collects dirt, germs, and other debris, which is why most people use epoxy grout in their houses these days. 

In addition, cement grout is not waterproof—if used in the shower, for example, it can disintegrate or otherwise become damaged.

Methods for Removing Old Grout

There are several ways to remove old grout without damaging your tile, and they all involve softening the grout first. To do this, you can use a blow dryer, a steam cleaner, or lemon juice or water.

● Method 1: Blow Dryer

Using a blow dryer to soften your grout is simple. Turn your blow dryer to high heat and blow. Be careful not to heat up your tile too much; otherwise, it might fracture. Always keep the nose of your blow dryer 8 inches (20.32 cm) away from your tile.

● Method 2: Steam Cleaner

In addition to your blow dryer, you can also use a steam cleaner to soften your grout.

  • You’ll need a narrow head or nozzle to direct the steam to a small area.
  • If you have one, keep it 1 or 2 inches (2.54 – 5.08 cm) away from your tile to avoid damaging it.

● Method 3: Lemon Juice and Water

Lemon juice and water are another method you can use to soften your grout.

  • Step 1. Mix lemon juice and water: Mix one cup of lemon juice with two cups of water, then pour it over your grout.
  • Step 2. Let it sit before scraping: Let it sit for 10-20 minutes before attempting to scrape away the grout so you don’t have to use too much force.

How To Use Sulfamic Acid To Soften Old Grout

If you’ve used the above methods and your grout still won’t scrape off, you can also try using sulfamic acid to soften it. Sulfamic acid is very similar to sulfuric acid, and strong versions are used to remove rust and limescale.

However, the best thing about sulfamic acid is that when it is mixed with substances like bleach, it doesn’t produce dangerous gasses. This makes it pretty safe to use at home. No matter how safe it is, though, you still need to wear gloves and eye protection.

To use sulfamic acid to soften old grout:

  • Step 1. Pour onto the grout: Just pour it onto the grout and scrub the acid into the grout.
  • Step 2. Wait 30 min: Then, let the acid sit on the grout for up to 30 minutes.
  • Step 3. Scrape the grout away: When it’s appropriately softened, you can scrape the grout away.

You can learn more about sulfamic acid in the Applications section of this Wikipedia article.

Methods To Remove Grout That You Should Avoid

But you may be wondering: are there certain ways of removing grout that should be avoided? The answer is yes. Some substances, like vinegar, can stain your tiles. You can also break or fracture your tiles if you try to scrape your grout without softening it first.

● Avoid: Vinegar

Vinegar strips away the protective coating on your tiles. This coating is nearly invisible other than a glossy sheen, but it’s important because it keeps pollutants from getting into the porous surface of the tile. Without it, your tile may stain or grow mold or mildew more easily.

● Avoid: Scraping With Hard Objects

Scraping your grout out without softening requires a lot of force. And when combined with pressure from a hard object, this might break or fracture your tile. If you remove grout, always try to soften or dissolve it first, or you might have a mess and repair expenses on your hands.

What To Do if You Accidentally Damage Your Tile

So, what do you do if you accidentally damage your tile or its protective coating? 

Well, you’re right to be concerned—it’s crucial to repair tiles quickly before water gets between them and damages your walls or floors. Even a small dent or crack could be an avenue for water to escape.

If the crack or break isn’t large, you can apply epoxy to the defect to close it. You can read more about how to do so in this article by Mr. Handyman. However, if the break in your tile is large, you might be better off removing and replacing the tiles.


Grout holds tiles together and keeps water out. There are two types of grout: cement and epoxy grout. You can soften grout with a blow dryer, steam cleaner, lemon juice and water, or sulfamic acid, then scrape it away. However, avoid vinegar as it corrodes the protective layer on your tiles.

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