Q&A / 

Remove Grout from Ceramic Tile

Not a month goes by that someone doesn't email me and ask how to remove excess grout from a wall or floor tile job. People have sent me photos that make me cringe. In the photos one can see massive amounts of excess grout and a heavy grout film on the face of the tile. I have seen huge messes!


I think many people who work with ceramic tile for the first time are not aware of what grout really is. For the most part it is Portland cement. I can't imagine a person who doesn't respect how hard concrete or cement dries. What's more, it is sticky. You should see how tenaciously cement sticks to smooth metal shovels and trowels. The microscopic crystals that grow as cement hardens lock onto objects like Velcro®.

When people contact me about grout removal problems the common denominator is always, "...we were told the grout film would come right off." Well, a very light haze will come off of glazed tiles with an old bath towel, but heavier deposits can be a nightmare to remove.

Non-Glazed Tile

Not all tile has the same ability to polish easily. Glazed tile that has a polished high gloss surface is indeed the easiest to work with. But quarry tile and some other tiles have a matte finish that makes them perfect targets for grouting nightmares. The rougher surfaces of these tiles are wonderful places for grout to attach itself. Slate is no different. The cleft surfaces of natural slate can be a huge challenge when it comes to grouting. The grout easily attaches itself to the staggered layers of silt that make up the slate rock.

Release Agents

The matte finish tiles, slate, and other delicate ceramic products need to be pre-treated before they are grouted. Years ago different tile manufacturers recommend things like oil soap and other temporary coating products. But a new industry sprouted as more and more matte finish tiles came to market.

You can visit a real ceramic tile store and buy an assortment of grout release agents. These are very cool liquid products that you wipe or brush onto tile after it has been installed. The coating temporarily seals the porous tile surface. You then grout and as you remove the grout and film, the grout release agent comes off at the same time. They do a superb job of making grouting jobs virtually trouble free.

Be sure to read the label and match the grout release agent to the material you are working with. Certain tiles and stone products require special grout release agents!

Clean Up Tools

To remove a grout haze from tile you need to be careful. You don't want to damage the tile surface. I have successfully done this using a generous amount of water that acts as a lubricant and synthetic fiber scouring pads. You can purchase some of these at local grocery stores. I have had good results from the Scotch Brite pads. These are the deep green pads that are about 1/4 inch thick.

The ceramic tile specialty stores often sell a similar pad called a Doodlebug. These cleaning pads are also superb.

Keep in mind that you must stop and check your progress from time to time. Rinse the slop water and use paper towels to dry the tile to see if you are making progress.

Think hard before using acid to remove grout mistakes. If you do, always get the tile slightly wet before applying the acid solution. Acid can also affect tile color!

Column B390


14 Responses to Remove Grout from Ceramic Tile

  1. Hi,

    I cannot find a 1/16" teardrop grout removal tool for my Bosch oscillating MX30E. Do you know where I can get one?



  2. Tim

    I have a film on my new tile (just had a house built). The owner of the tile shop was here when it was first installed and he didn't seem like he knew what it was. If I wipe it with a cloth it looks okay, but anytime I try to use water on it the film shows up more. Would that be a grout film??? It does have a matte finish to a lot of it. I am sooo frustrated with it....and I don't really know what it is so I can not figure out how to clean it. I have never seen tile react to water the way this tile does. This tile is in my main areas and covers majority of my house. HELP!!! PLEASE!!!!

  3. Last spring my contractor tiled a bathroom floor in a house we're planning on moving into. He left a haze of grout on the tile. The tile is matte, medium gray, and has a slightly textured finish, kind of like linen fabric. What do you recommend for removing the haze? It will drive me crazy if I can't get it removed.

  4. I'm converting a downstairs bathroom into a living area. I intend to put engineered wood on the floor.

    The old floor tiles have been removed but a lot of the old tile cement remains. How can I remove this residue as I understand the surface has to be level before the wood goes down.

  5. i have a ceramic tile floor that cant seem to stay clean it isnt smooth but i don't believe that is the issue. Is it possible that a coating has come off or is there a coating that can be put on to help this issue

  6. I need to remove excessive grout from a porcelain tile that I grouted for a client. I have tried all sorts of grout remover where you leave on of 5 or 10 minutes and then wash off but it doesn't seem to shift the excess grout. I did see a video of a tool that fits into a drill but the tool had a plastic end to prevent damage to the tile. I have scrubbed and scrubbed to tiles but to no avail. Can you help. The tool I saw was on a video from America.

  7. Help! I watched too much do it yourself and thought I could regrout my ceramic kitchen tiles....I've made a mess. How do I remove the excess grout that's everywhere and already dried hard?

  8. As a professional cleaner of new homes the best way to clean the haze of tiles is to clean the floors by hand and dry of with another cloth . This is the quickest way to remove the grout . If this dose not work go over it again.
    There is a thing which is on the internet called hazing which is built up grout in tiles and can only be seen with a microscope .

  9. In the past as a DIYer I have very very carefully used a window scraper (the kind with a thin blade in a plastic holder) on smooth ceramic glazed tiles. Have just had lovely textured Alhambra Granada tiles fitted around a fireplace with flexible grout and have found that the nylon type pan scrubber/ washing up pad recommended by Tim and some Astonish paste as a mild abrasive seems to be helping.

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