Tiles are practical and easy to keep clean and are the ideal choice for rooms like the bathroom or kitchen. The tiles themselves do not need a lot of maintenance or care to keep them looking great for years, but it’s grotty grout which often lets the side down.
Grout, the paste-like substance which we use to fill the cracks between tiles, can become dirty, mouldy and discoloured over time, especially in the warm and wet atmosphere of a bathroom. Cracked and dirty grout does not mean you have to pull all the tiles off the wall and start from scratch – replacing the grout alone is actually a relatively quick and simple job.
Can it be Salvaged?
Before immediately condemning your existing grout, think about whether with some nifty cleaning products and a bit of elbow grease it can be salvaged. Black mould or mildew is one of the most common reasons for grout becoming dirty and unsightly, so if this is affecting your grout, buy one of the special mould and mildew sprays on the market, spray it all over the tiles and leave it to work overnight.
Vinegar mixed with bicarbonate of soda can be used as well, as can cloth nappy cleaning solution which is bleach-based. If the grout is still looking dirty, try one of the “grout reviver” products on the market which you just paint on top of the old grout to freshen it up. If all of these measures have been tried and you are still not happy with the grout, replacing it may be the only option left.
Removing the Old Grout
A drill is an ideal tool for removing the old grout from between your tiles, or a small multi-tool which you can attach a rotating blade to. Use your electric drill with the blade attachment to gently go over the surface of the grout to remove as much as possible, remembering to keep it well away from the actual tiles. Always wear safety goggles while doing this as bits of flying grout can easily injure your eyes.
Once you have removed as much as you can with the power tools, it’s time to complete the job with a screwdriver or a Stanley type knife with a blunt blade to chip away at the remaining grout. Finally, go over the whole surface with a vacuum cleaner to remove any last traces of dirt or dust, and to clean up the mess you have made on your bathroom floor.
Choosing a New Grout
There are lots of different types of tile grout, some designed for using on the floor, some for the wall, coloured grouts, ready mixed grouts and ones you have to mix up yourself at home. If you have to replace your grout because of problems with mould growing, look out for a grout which has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
Ready-mixed grout is far easier to use than the do it yourself variety, and think about the effect you wish to achieve; matching the grout colour to the colour of the tiles will help it blend in, a contrasting colour will give a more dramatic effect and make your tiles stand out.
Applying the Grout
You will need three main tools to apply grout to your tiles, a rectangular tool called a grout float for applying the grout to the wall, a trowel to mix up the grout and applying it in smaller areas, and a scraper to get rid of any excess. All of these tools are sold in big DIY stores. Mix up your grout and then use your grout float to work it well into the joints between the tiles. Clean off any excess with the edge of the float as you work but you don’t have to be too careful as tiles can be cleaned later when the grout is dry. Keep working methodically until you have grouted all of the tiles on the wall, then use a damp sponge to clean any excess grout from your tiles.
Leave the grout to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions, bearing in mind that you will not be able to take a bath or shower during the drying period.