Few things make a tiled wall, floor or shower look as old, outdated or unclean as discolored grout. Time and exposure to moisture and grime can fade or stain grout, but there are steps you can take to keep it from discoloring—and a number of methods to remedy existing stains.
Install tile the right way to prevent grout
One of the most important factors in preventing grout discoloration is proper installation. Do your research to find an experienced contractor who will do the job well. If you decide to go the DIY route, let the adhesive on new tiles completely cure before installing grout. Then, because excess moisture can compromise both the grout’s color and strength, don’t add too much water to the grout mix; start with a little less than the recommended amount and add more in small increments to reach the correct consistency.
Be sure to fill each grout line fully and evenly. Once the grout has thoroughly dried, apply a grout sealer to protect it from moisture and dirt (choose a high-quality sealer for lasting results), and allow the sealer to dry. Then fill edges and corners with caulk for a water-tight seal. Always use a fresh grout mix and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper installation.
Cleaning and resealing tile
Once grout has been installed, simple maintenance and cleaning will help to keep it looking like new. Regular cleaning of tiled surfaces removes dirt and grime before they have a chance to stain grout or promote mildew growth. In addition, standard grout—a cement-based grout available in sanded and non-sanded varieties—is porous and requires periodic resealing to prevent water intrusion and staining. (The other main type of grout, which is epoxy-based, is far more waterproof and durable.)
If your grout has become stained, there are several ways to clean it up. Start by scrubbing the grout with warm water and a stiff grout brush. If that doesn’t work, try applying hydrogen peroxide or a vinegar-water solution, either alone or in combination with a paste made of baking soda and water. You may also use an oxygen bleach powder or steam cleaner to remove stains. Diluted chlorine bleach and commercial grout cleaners work well on stubborn stains, but these caustic cleaners may erode the grout with repeated use, so it’s best to try other cleaning methods first. After you clean discolored grout, apply another coat of sealer.
Grout colorant and dyes
In some cases, cleaning discolored grout isn’t enough. For faded grout, try restoring its appearance with a grout colorant. You may also opt for dyeing discolored grout a darker color to mask stains. And if the grout is cracked or loose, or if stains won’t come out, it may be time to replace it. You can take on this project yourself using a grout removal tool and following the above grout installation instructions, or call in a professional to help.