In order to soften grout to make removal easy, the best methods are to use:
- A heat gun or blow dryer.
- Steam the grout with a steam cleaner.
- Soak tile with a mixture of lemon juice and water.
- Apply sugar dissolved in hot water.
- Use sulfamic acid on tough grout.
Each of these methods works to soften grout. Once you’re done, the grout will easily be scraped out from between your tiles with whatever tool you choose. However, it’s important to use one of these methods. Other DIY methods—such as using vinegar—can discolor your tiles. Use a tile-safe method whenever you need to soften grout.
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Can You Soften Grout to Remove it More Easily?
It is possible to soften grout for easy removal. If there are chunks of grout on your tile surface or if it’s time to replace old grout between your tiles, softening the grout simplifies the process. It eliminates excessive scraping that can result in cracked or chipped tiles.
- There are several methods to soften grout for easy removal.
- Softening grout before removal can make the job easier and reduce the risk of damaging your tile.
- Some grout-softening tricks are easy and only require household items.
While there are many commercial products for cleaning or softening grout, the solution doesn’t have to be expensive. A simple handheld blow dryer is enough to soften standard grout. If epoxy grout was used for your tile job, you may need to use a more heavy-duty grout-softening solution.
What is the Easiest Way to Remove Old Grout?
The fastest and simplest way to remove old grout from between tiles is by using an oscillating tool equipped with a grout removal blade. Oscillating tools are precise enough that you can easily guide them between tiles. Plus, the grout removal blade is the perfect size to pulverize all the existing grout. Most of the time, you won’t need to soften the grout at all before using this method.
- This highly-rated oscillating tool is the best option for removing grout.
- Equip your oscillating tool with this grout removal blade for amazing results.
- If the grout between your tiles is very hard, use a softening agent to speed up the work.
If the grout between the tiles is so stubborn that an oscillating tool is struggling to cut through it, it’s a good idea to soften the grout first. Softening grout can cut your work in half. This can save your hours of scraping old grout.
5 Ways to Soften Grout to Make Removal Easy
If your grout removal tools aren’t getting the job done, it’s time to tackle stubborn grout lines with a softening agent. Below are the best ways to soften grout. They’ll make it easy to remove grout from tiles.
Heat Gun or Blow Dryer
An industrial heat gun is an excellent tool for removing grout. Applying heat will cause the grout to soften considerably, making removal easy. If you don’t have a heat gun available, you can use a blow dryer. Hold either tool 8 inches (20 cm) from the tile surface and slowly move it along the grout lines. This will soften the grout in 2–3 minutes.
- Use this heat gun or a blow dryer to soften grout.
- Set the heat gun to its lowest setting or use the high setting on your blow dryer.
- Hold the tool 8 inches (20 cm) from the grout.
- Once the grout has heated, remove it with an oscillating tool or this grout rake.
In order to remove the softened grout as you go, use a grout rake. This hand tool will quickly scrape softened grout out from between tiles. Do not allow the grout to cool before attempting to remove it or it will harden again.
Similar to a blow dryer, a simple steam jet can remove kitchen, floor, or shower grout easily. Simply fit your steam jet with a small nozzle to focus the steam on the grout lines. Then, move the nozzle slowly along the line. The combination of heat and moisture will cause the grout to soften very quickly, making removal much easier.
- Use this steam cleaner to soften the grout lines between your tiles.
- Equip the steam cleaner with a narrow nozzle.
- Hold the steam jet 1–2 inches (2.5–5 cm) from the grout and direct the steam at the grout lines.
- Once you have steamed a 12–24-inch long section (30–60 cm), use a grout removal tool to scrape away the softened grout.
As with other heat tools, it’s best to remove the grout while it’s still warm. So, keep your oscillating tool on hand to remove the softened grout. Use the steam jet to soften 12–24 inches (30–60 cm) of grout, then attack it with a removal tool.
One of the best grout softeners is all-natural lemon juice. Simply mix 1 cup (240 ml) of lemon juice with 2 cups (480 ml) of warm water. Then, soak the grout lines with this mixture for 10–20 minutes. After this, the grout will be soft enough for easy removal.
- Mix 1 part lemon juice with 2 parts warm water to create a homemade grout-softening liquid.
- Pour this mixture onto tile floors and let it sit for 10–20 minutes to soften the grout.
- This method works best for floor tiles, not wall tile.
Because this is a liquid, it works best for floors. When removing grout from wall tiles, heat tools are far more effective than liquid softeners.
Sugar and Water
As an alternative to lemon juice, dissolve 1 cup (240 ml) of plain white sugar in 1 gallon (3.75 liters) of hot water. Sugar is just as effective as lemon juice at softening grout. However, sugar will leave a sticky residue on your tiles that attracts ants, so keep in mind that some cleanup will be required.
- Add 1 cup (240 ml) of white sugar to 1 gallon (3.75 liters) of boiling hot water.
- Stir until the sugar is fully dissolved.
- Pour the mixture onto your tile.
- Allow the sugar water to soak for 10–20 minutes to soften grout.
If you use sugar and water to soften grout, wash your tiles thoroughly with soap and clean water once you’re done removing the grout. This way, your tiles will be clean and ready for new grout.
The most powerful grout softener on this list is sulfamic acid. If you use this option to soften your grout, be certain to wear protective gloves and goggles. Additionally, avoid skin contact with sulfamic acid. To employ this method:
- Use this sulfamic acid product to soften grout.
- Wear gloves and safely goggles the entire time you are working with sulfamic acid.
- Apply the product directly to the tile.
- Scrub the product into the tile with a sponge or scrubber pad.
- Allow the sulfamic acid to soak for 10–30 minutes.
- Wash the tiles with clean water.
- Use your grout remover tool to get rid of the softened grout.
If you’re tackling stubborn grout on a tile surface, sulfamic acid is the way to go. It’s harsher than the other methods on this list but does not have a high risk of damaging or discoloring your tiles. It’s a great choice for removing old grout easily.
Will Vinegar Soften Grout?
Vinegar will soften grout but it also has a high probability of discoloring your tiles. The acetic acid in vinegar can stain or lighten your tile in areas, so it’s best to avoid homemade vinegar mixtures. If you do want to try vinegar, first apply it to a small, hidden area of tile. If there is no discoloration, you can use it on the rest of your tile surfaces safely.
- Vinegar can soften grout but it may also discolor your tiles.
- Before trying a vinegar solution, test it on a section of tile to see if it stains the tile.
- If you wish to use vinegar to soften grout, make a mix of 2 parts vinegar with 1 part hot water to create a grout-softening solution.
Similar to vinegar, avoid using grout softeners that contain muriatic acid unless you have first tested them on a small section of tile and confirmed they do not discolor the tile. Both vinegar and muriatic acid were left off our list because of their potential to damage some types of tile. However, if your tile surface isn’t harmed by it, vinegar is another great grout softener.
How Do You Soften Hard Grout?
One of the best ways to soften grout for easy removal is to apply heat to it. You can use a heat gun, blow dryer, or steam cleaner to heat your grout. Then, while it’s still warm remove it with a grout rake or an oscillating tool. If you’d prefer to use a liquid grout softener, a mixture of 1 part lemon juice to 2 parts water will soften grout if it’s allowed to soak for 10–20 minutes. You can get similar results by dissolving 1 cup (240 ml) of white sugar in 1 gallon (3.75 liters) of hot, clean water. If you want to use a powerful chemical to soften stubborn grout, use sulfamic acid. Keep in mind, liquid grout softeners work best on floors while heat tools can soften grout on walls.