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 (here are some on Home Depot’s site) 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: A few people have asked if we plan to seal it, and after hearing from some commenters who’ve used this and had awesome results with occasional sealing it, we’re planning to do the same. Will keep you posted on how it holds up! Also, since a few folks have asked us to add the “way back” before shot, just for fun, here ya 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?
Ack, sorry for the late post – technical difficulties.
We’re excited to share the cottage that we mentioned on Friday, especially since a bunch of you seemed anxious for us to spill all the beans (and a lot more photos). So here’s the deal: it’s about 45 minutes west of Richmond in Columbia, Virginia, it’s called Rassawek, and it’s a bonafide log cabin from 1910. It was actually moved to this location by the family who owns Rassawek (which is also a vineyard) and there were all sorts of other fun out-buildings nearby (many of which were moved as well) along with the coolest treehouse we’ve ever seen. So let’s get this tour started…
John’s sister was actually the one who found it and suggested it as a way for the entire family (nearly two dozen of us, with 8 kids running around) to come together for a nice Christmas meal together at one big table, followed by a s’more roast and a big ol’ sleepover. We all jumped at the chance to shirk hosting duties in favor of gathering at a cabin in the woods for a pot-luck Christmas adventure, and although we had no idea it would be “crash worthy” as soon as we got there we were like… uh, yeah – this is the coolest place ever.
We already shared a sneak peek of one of my favorite shots in Friday’s post. See how those amazingly graphic walls look like they’re black and white painted stripes?
They’re actually dark stained logs with white plaster around them! I love how irregular and textural they are. And everything from the exposed rafters to the antique radiators and even the dark hardware on that cool white diagonally-slatted door stole my heart. Suddenly I want interior door knockers and doors that lock with skeleton keys.
That was one of the only rooms with an extra-dark stained log wall like that, so the main living area had them in a more mid-toned color, just like all of the beams overhead.
The background of the shot above was actually the kitchen, which was really open and integrated into the dining and living area. If we move a little closer you can see the sweet old stove on the right side of that back wall.
There were lots of cool pulleys with old rope and chunky iron hardware everywhere, which really added to the rustic cabin feeling. Like this old metal utensil holder dangling over the stove…
On the other side of the kitchen was this amazingly chunky butcher block along with what looked like a metal chest with brass hardware… but upon closer inspection we realized that was the refrigerator/freezer! Each of those doors was a different compartment, and some were colder (freezer-cold) thanks to big bags of ice inside.
If you spin around with your back to that wall, you’ll find yourself facing the fireplace, which is on the living room side of the space.
We pretty much had a giant fire burning the entire time we were there, and we all fought to sit in those chairs and on that sofa since they were the coziest spots in the house. You’ll notice from the shot above that there was no TV over the fireplace, but this drop-down projector screen could be lowered for movie viewing (and the projector itself was hidden in one of the overhead beams).
Oh and see those wooden doors on either side of the fireplace in the shot above? Those led directly to outside cubbies full of firewood. Flinging them open was chilly, but it was so convenient to access the firewood without putting on shoes.
Here’s the projector in action (Elf, anyone?), with John toasting up some marshmallows for the kids.
Behind that big great room were the bedrooms, but it was impossible to shoot them for you guys since we had a million family members (and bags) back there. There were two big rooms full of beds (bunks, etc) and one small bedroom that was more private as well (with a full sized bed). Some of our family members left after dinner, but 16 of us slept over – although we’re a family full of kids in sleeping bags and pack & plays, so there were probably beds for around a dozen people assuming that two slept in the doubles/fulls and one slept in the twin beds/top bunks.
That big living room in the front of the cabin was a really great space for everyone to gather, but that table in the middle of the room wasn’t where we had Christmas dinner. That was outside in this greenhouse. It was AMAZING. Apparently some people get married here, and as soon as we pulled up, I could totally see why. This giant glass room was sunny and bright with the coolest features (heated floors, a big stone fireplace, one giant table for everyone, etc).
So this is where our giant group chowed down. We never thought we’d all end up at the same table (none of our houses would have accommodated that) so it was really fun to see everyone without being spread out into different rooms.
There were some other really cool features outside like this bench, which was an old tree they just sliced through the middle and turned into a bench).
And here’s an outside shot of those two doors on either side of the fireplace that open to provide firewood access. It was pretty cold but nice and sunny, so we logged a bunch of outside time with the kids.
We also trekked down to this cool old barn, where some wedding receptions take place.
It was currently housing an old red truck that the kids all took turns posing with. There were also wall shelves full of fun vintage items like old decander bottles, buckets, and Coca cola crates.
And last but not least, was the tree house. It was all made from old trees and lumber from the property, and there was access through that little door in the trunk as well as the long wooden ramp that you see in the back left of this photo. So the bigger kids could “take the trunk up” while the little ones and grown ups could take the ramp.
Clara was in love.
And let’s just duck back inside since we forgot to share this tiny bed that Burger got to get cozy on (hooray for dog-friendly cabins).
There was also this sweet black and white bathroom, complete with vintage tile and an old clawfoot tub.
So there’s our little tour of Rassawek. I hope you guys are all inspired to build a log cabin now. You think I’m joking, but it’s now on my bucket list. Maybe when we retire we’ll build one for all of our future grandkids to gather for the holidays. A gal can dream…