Making Old Discolored Grout Look Like New

One question, with attitude: How you like me now, grout?

That’s right. Picture me giving one of these (*strikes a talk-to-the-hand pose*) to the grout in our foyer and half bathroom.

As you might recall, for the past six months that we’ve lived here, it has looked like this.

Over the last half of a year, I gave nearly every method under the sun a shot to make that grout look clean. After repeatedly scrubbing the heck out of it, I knew that it was actually very (very, very) clean… it just was so discolored and stained in certain areas, that no amount of blood, sweat, or tears (I even tried a wire brush to literally sand off the top layer of the grout) could make it look that way.

Some of my attempts included (but weren’t limited to):

  • various baking soda concoctions
  • various vinegar solutions
  • copious magic erasers
  • specialty grout cleaning floor sprays/potions/scrubs
  • bleach pens
  • oxegenating cleaners
  • Mrs Meyers powdered cleanser + a wire brush
  • Barkeeper’s Friend + a wire brush
  • a borrowed steam mop
  • lots and lots of muttered cursing

So I did what most people would do and I gave up and ignored it for another few days (what’s a few days after six months of no-dice results?). And then I finally faced facts. The grout either needed to be scraped out and regrouted entirely (which makes for a pretty messy job, especially in the main hallway of our house which connects the entire upstairs to each room downstairs) or it needed to be refinished.

Thankfully a few of you tipped me off to a product you’ve used with success called Polyblend Grout Renew. Let me just skip to the punchline: it worked, and I wish I had tried it before spending six months scrubbing my mind out.

The cost? A cool $11.95 from Home Depot. Can I get a what what? Note: this might sound like an ad for the stuff, but Grout Renew doesn’t know us from Adam – I’m just beyond grateful that it worked.

Although it did take nearly eight hours to apply. But since I had easily spent 25 hours trying various stain lifting methods before resorting to this, eight hours with a bottle of Grout Renew was a small price to pay for VICTORY.

That’s right, there were mic drops. There was shoulder dusting. There was a full on pregnant-lady end zone dance.

There were several colors to pick from, but John and I decided on Oyster Gray after admiring similarly toned grout at a neighbor’s house during a Christmas party (they had the same foyer tile that we do, but it spanned all the way into their kitchen with sparkling light gray grout that brought tears to my eyes). We actually brought home a darker option too, but it was so close to the stone color – and some of the dark stains in the grout – that we worried it would be a lot of work for grout that still looked kind of muddled and dingy.

Oh and the Grout Renew was low odor and low-VOC, so this pregnant lady could get down with it. I did wear a respirator, along with opening windows, just because I’m into added ventilation and bad Bane impersonations.

Anyway, the first step was to clean the floors thoroughly. I’ll pause while you laugh since I had already done that TEN MILLION TIMES. Next it just said to use a toothbrush to apply it into the grout lines and then let it dry for 24 hours. I went with a thin craft brush because I had way more control (read: way less mess on the tile surface) and started in the half-bathroom because I figured I could work my way out of the room and close the door behind me so it could dry.

Even with a small craft brush there were still times when it got on the surface of the tile, and there was a very short window for wiping it off before it set (and then had to be scrubbed with a fingernail, which was a huge pain) so I literally would do one or two cracks at a time and then quickly follow up to smooth both sides of the seam out with a small piece of toilet paper (this would remove any from the surface of the tile as well as make the sides of each seam nice and straight looking).

It was the opposite of fast. But it worked. Slowly I eked my way out from around the toilet and right out the door, which took about an hour and forty five minutes. That was day 1. Note: this stuff looks lighter/more high-contrast before it dries, so even though it looks white here, it dries to be a softer gray color.

Day 2 involved three more hours of line painting and wiping, and I opted to do 50% of the foyer in a strategic way so we could all still walk on the other half of it. In other words, I did half of the hall, half of the area in front of the steps, one of the two closets, and half of the area leading into the office, so we could all still walk on “the dirty grout” sides to get around. Here’s a shot to show you how hilarious John is. I said: ok, get creative with this picture so my giant respirator doesn’t look weird. I like his version of getting creative – just lop off the whole head area.

The second day was the hardest day by far, just because I was still kind of sore from contorting my pregnant body around in the small half bathroom the day before, and the little knobby parts of each of my ankles were dragging on the tile as I scooted around like a dog with fleas, so there was that. But it was all worth it. Worth it and then some!

Day 3 was another three hour process, but it was the most exciting day because I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. The end of the longest-running house battle that I had ever waged was near. I just worked my way around the foyer doing the other half of those pathways that I had done the day before, and I ducked into that last closet while pausing occasionally to fist pump and work on my Oscar acceptance speech clean grout speech (“I’d like to thank the academy, and the grout gods who invented this $12 bottle of miracles and unicorns”).

Then we just gave that last application the same 24 hour drying period, and made sure nothing got wet for 72 hours (since that was another warning on the bottle) and it seems to be stuck like glue. It’s a good deal lighter than the old grout was, which still makes us say “whoa now” when we walk through the hallway, but we think it’s just our eyes adjusting, since we loved the lighter grout in our neighbor’s hall and kitchen. Maybe after 6 months our brains just can’t get over the fact that it finally looks clean!

It has really good five star ratings everywhere we read about it (on Home Depot’s site, on amazon, etc) so I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll have the same long-lasting luck with it (I still have about 1/4th of the bottle leftover for touch ups in case we need them down the line). I’ll definitely update you guys if anything funky happens, but so far it has been great.

Update: After six months of use, even with semi-frequent moppings, muddy shoes/paws, and a whole lot of foot traffic, our grout still looks identical to when I applied this stuff (you can see an updated picture here). For the folks who can’t find it in stores, here’s an affiliate link to it on amazon, and since a few people have also asked for a “way back” before shot, here you go. It’s crazy how much bluer the tile looked with the brown stained grout and all that blue trim!

Is anyone else waging war on something stubborn that’s taking more than a few attempts? Do you have any secret remedies to share for a house battle that had you stumped?

Comments

  1. says

    I thank my lucky stars that I’ve always enjoyed a good patina on just about every surface in my house (except the kitchen counters). Our grout shall continue having an aged, lived-in look. Of course, we don’t have as much as you do.

    Anyway, yours looks great! Sparkling clean.

    • says

      Oh man, you’re smarter than me. Netflix sounds fun! I just listened to Nicki Minaj and Eminem on repeat and sort of raged at the grout in my head. Haha!

      xo
      s

    • says

      I’m impressed at all the folks who can multitask while watching TV. As soon as that screen goes on, I lose all focus.

      I’d have mainlined podcasts interspersed with music. Occupies the brain, but my eyes are still on task.

      Needless to see, that looks amazing. You almost make me wish I had dirty grout so I could see such a transformation. We do have dingy linoleum, so maybe someone out there will suggest an awesome way to fix both your kitchen and mine.

  2. Lindsay says

    It looks great! Glad you found something that worked! If it holds up, will this be a permanent solution? Or is this a Phase 1 until you really do the kitchen and can have the same floors throughout?

    • says

      We’d like the same flooring to run from the kitchen out into this hallway and half bathroom someday, so way later when we do the big kitchen reno we’ll most likely redo this area as well, just because there are currently three different floors that meet in the corner of the kitchen (slate, faux brick, and hardwood) and it just looks really weird. I’d love to do a heated floor or something cozy like that.

      xo
      s

  3. says

    Yes! Awesome! I used this product in our kitchen and second bath and it made a huuuuuuge difference! Glad you decided to give it a try! I went fron wanting to rip out all the tile in my house to being very, very okay with what we had.

    • Kyra says

      My question is this: Does it get dirty again, say if you go with another white or light color, or does the polyblend resist staining?

    • says

      It says it’s “stain and fade resistant” right on the front, and it sounds like from others chiming in who have used it (some boasting 6 or even 9 years of luck with it) that it can hold up really well without needing to be redone or looking grungy.

      xo
      s

  4. says

    I just used that product in my bathroom last month and it was a LIFESAVER… and good to note it even holds up well as we get in and out of the wet shower (so you don’t have to worry about rainy days messing it up when you come into the house). Although a month in and I am still scratching at the tile with my fingernails because I didn’t wipe it up fast enough, lol.

    • MB says

      I’m so sad that I didn’t know about this product before I sold our last house! I spent 3 years tackling the stained grout like Sherry with 90 different cures, all complete failures. Filing that away in my brain in case that problem ever crosses my path again. 8 hours is nothing compared to the wasted time of scrubbing! Looks great, guys!

  5. Jessie says

    I am impressed! Well done! We have the same tile, so I will keep this bottle of magic in mind if ours ever becomes discolored!

  6. says

    I’m curious to see how the Grout Renew holds up over time (like would it chip off eventually?). But for $12, I would be doing a happy dance too! The new grout color has a nice contrast against the tile and ties in well to the wall color in the foyer. And you’re planning to keep this tile in place for a while anyway (if not permanently), right?

    We’re locking down our plan of attack for house projects this year, and trying to do things that are budget-friendly while we save up for a kitchen renovation that we think we’ll start next year. We’re definitely inspired by what you’re doing in your kitchen, even though it’s bigger than ours (ours is galley-style, so we have to be very conscious of space-saving layout and storage).
    http://www.rathersquare.com/2014/01/ideas-plans-2014/

    • says

      Ooh, kitchen plans are fun! And yes, we’d like the same flooring to run from the kitchen out into this hallway and half bathroom someday, so way later when we do the big kitchen reno we’ll most likely redo this area as well, just because there are currently three different floors that meet in the corner of the kitchen (slate, faux brick, and hardwood) and it just looks really weird. I’d love to do a heated floor or something cozy like that – but this will be around for a while. And I no longer scowl at the floor! Wahoo!

      xo
      s

    • says

      We did the same process to our kitchen floor about 6 months ago (you can see the results here: http://www.thecentsiblelife.com/2013/08/grout-makeover-with-grout-renew/) and it’s held up great! My kids drop messy food (like once someone spilled ketchup) on it and it wiped right off with minimal scrubbing.

      I don’t plan to keep our kitchen floor forever (we’re planning to gut it-hopefully in the next year) but it’s a great solution even if you end up having to reapply in a year or so. I still have a nearly full bottle even after applying it to our entire kitchen.

  7. says

    So, the color on the bottle is pretty close to what shows on the grout? It looks awesome and I’ve been wanting to do this for a while to all three of our bathrooms!

  8. Jess says

    It looks awesome!! I thought the tile looked cool even w the dingy grout so it’s even cooler to me now! Hopefully this will make you want to keep it for the long haul.

  9. Jen H says

    Amazing results! This 7 month preggo lady wouldn’t have been able to walk after spending so many hours seated on the hard floor! Way to go Sher-dog!

  10. says

    Looks great! I had a feeling doing something like painting was going to be the best option for that. I love the way the tile looks now!

    My hubby and I have been fighting with wallpapering the ceiling since New Year’s. I think we are going to try it again this weekend. Hopefully with better luck!

  11. Amanda K says

    Oh, this is so exciting. I have waged a similar war on our bathroom floor tile with little success. I can’t wait to try this product. Thanks for the tip!