How to Soften Grout for Removal? 5 Effective Methods!

When it comes to bathroom cleaning, one element that gets no attention most of the time is grout. This neglecting attitude gives grout enough time to accumulate a lot of grime and mould that at some point becomes impossible to get rid of. If your grout gets too dirty to be saved, you will have to scrape it out and replace with a new one. Here is a detailed guide on how to soften grout for removal and how to remove it without damaging the tiles.

How to soften grout before removal?

The grout that has been in service for not too long usually doesn’t need to be softened before removal. So if you want to remove a grout that’s 1 or 2 years old, most probably you will be able to do it without using softening methods. However, if you deal with a really old grout, chances are it has set hard onto the floor or wall, so you have to apply a lot of elbow grease to remove it. Oftentimes the intense efforts of scraping the stubborn grout out lead to tile chiping and cracking. That’s why, your best bet is to soften the grout. Here are some effective methods to do this.

1. Steam jet

Heat is one of the surefire ways to soften the tile grout. You can use a high-pressure steam jet for it. Make sure to position the steam source as close to the grout as possible for better and faster results. Once you are finished with the steam treatment, jump straight away into grout removal. You don’t want the mortar to cool down and solidify back.

2. Heat gun

You can replace the hot steam with a heat gun or a hair dryer. These tools are also effective at making the grout softer and easier to deal with during removal. It is recommended to position the gun 8 inches from the grout. It is a safe distance that makes sure the grout doesn’t liquefy. Also, you have to be extremely accurate when working with the heat gun. Run the tool straightly across the grout and do not aim it on the tiles as they are vulnerable to high temperature.

3. Warm water and lemon juice

If you don’t have those tools at hand, you can try a mixture of warm water and lemon juice. Take a thin painting brush, soak it in the acid solution and spread it on the grout with much precision. Apply several coats, then allow the mixture to soak in the mortar. Once you have noticed needed changes in the grout’s texture, use a steel wool and scrape it out. You are in great luck if you have a grout rake handy as it’s much easier to handle and is more effective.

4. Vinegar

Vinegar is another acid ingredient you can use to soften the tile grout. Gently apply the vinegar on the grout, making sure not a single drop ends up on the tiles. The acidic nature of the vinegar can damage the tiles, so act carefully. As you apply the vinegar, scrape the grout with a scraper, steel wool or a grout rake. Keep water close as you need to wash away any trace of acidic substance that gets on the tiles.

5. Brick cleaner

Brick cleaner comes to help you get rid of bathroom grout, using its high acidity to dissolve the solidified mortar. While it proves excellent at softening grout, brick cleaner is a threat for tiles. With that said, you have to be extremely careful when applying the agent. You don’t want it to get on the tiles and spoil their visual appeal and physical integrity. You also don’t want it to burn your skin and cause breathing difficulties.

That’s why, always wear protective gloves and mask when working with this agent. This precaution also counts for vinegar. Once you have applied the brick cleaner on the grout, use a steel wool or a toothbrush with harsh bristles to force the softened grout out.

What tools to use for grout removal?

Once you have learned how to soften grout for removal, it’s time to know how to remove it. There are several tools you can use to chip softened grout away. They range from manual tools that imply much elbow grease to automate tools aimed at covering large areas in a short period of time.

Most of the basic tools good to use in grout removal have been mentioned above. They include steel wool, scraper, toothbrush and grout rake. The most effective and convenient of them is grout rake, which is specially made for this kind of task. It has sharp blades arranged in a straight line that crush the grout, turning it into powder.

As easy to handle as it seems, grout rake still implies a level of elbow grease. If you don’t have much time to scrape the grout out manually, you can use a rotary tool. You just position it on the grout track, turn it on, and let its blade approach the mortar with crushing force. You don’t have to push or pull the device with vigor. All you have to do is to gently guide it across the grout that has to be removed.

How much grout to remove before applying the new grout?

The good news about the time-consuming grout removal is that you don’t have to remove all the grout. It’s enough to scrape out two thirds of the mortar before proceeding with the regrouting. Make sure to remove chemicals previously used in grout softening and removal. This will guarantee a proper adhesion of the new grout.

To wrap up

If your bathroom grout refuses to come off, you have to learn how to soften grout for removal. By softening the stubborn mortar, you make it easier to remove and minimize tile damage. Use the methods listed above to loosen the grout and facilitate its further removal. Take care when working with acidic agents as they can affect the tiles’ physical integrity and appearance. Always keep water next to you to clean out any trace of acid immediately.