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Change Grout Color?

Changing Grout Color Isn't As Easy As the Ads Claim, But It's Possible

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grout colorant

Shown: AquaMix Grout Colorant

Custom Building Products
Hideous grout is the bane of almost every owner of tile flooring or counters. Dirt collects in tile seams over time. No matter how diligent you are, and no matter how many old toothbrushes you use up, you're bound to end up with discolored grout.

Other homeowners just don't like their grout color.

Is the solution to both problems to change grout color? In most cases, I recommend that you entirely remove your grout and lay it again (it's not hard to do). But some homeowners may prefer to keep their current grout and color it. If that's you, this article will help.

Grout Colorants 101

What's bad about grout is good when it comes time to apply a grout colorant: its porosity. Grout colorants rely on three factors: porous grout, glazed tile surfaces, and a steady hand.

The greater the difference between the grout's porosity and the tile's resistance to grout colorant, the more successful this project will be.

Artist's Hand Not Required

When applying grout colorant, you will be using either a special grout brush or a clean toothbrush. A steady hand is required to keep the colorant fairly close to seams, but slop is inevitable. Products such as Aquamix Grout Colorant, if they lap over onto the tile surface, can be scrubbed off of the tile face two hours later with a nylon-faced sponge--provided the tile is well-glazed.

Not All Grouts Can Be Colored

For the most part, you will find sanded or unsanded grout lines in your tile. But not always. The grout needs to be receptive to color. Sometimes you will find natural stone countertops where the tiles were "grouted" with silicone or other inorganic materials that will not be receptive to colorant. Any type of seam that easily sheds water will not be appropriate for grout coloring.

Grout Colorants

A few grout colorants on the market are listed here.
  • Aqua Mix Grout Colorant
  • GroutShields
  • GroutRevive

What Color Should I Recolor My Grout To?

Retired tile contractor John Bridge sums it up nicely: "Invariably, there are people who do not heed my advice about choosing a grout color resembling dirt when they have their floors tiled. Floor grout gets dirty..."

Regional differences can affect your choice of grout colorant. In my area, Seattle, Aquamix's Buff or even Linen White would most closely approximate the light-colored soils in our marshy areas. However, in red clay regions, Wheat, Smoke, or Cinnamon may be more appropriate.

If we extend Bridge's advice to say, "a grout color resembling dirt or darker," then all bases are covered. But one reason why grout colors tend to shy away from the very dark colors in the first place is because it gives the floor a stark, severe look that many homeowners do not like.

Tip: Grid the Area, Take Your Time

Tile pros uniformly recommend gridding off a "work area" (i.e., 10 square feet), coloring that, and then stopping for the morning or even for the whole day. Next time, grid off another section and work on that. Impatience leads to irreversible errors.

You can grid off the work area with blue painter's tape.

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