The discolored and dirt-stained grout in the tile floor of our foyer looked super old and gross, but after trying nearly a dozen cleaners and cleaning tricks we nearly gave up. Then we finally find THE SOLUTION to making the grout look white and clean again!
Now that we’re done, you can see how the view just got a heckova lot better around here. The crisp white grout lines play off the white trim and make the whole space feel newer and cleaner.
The funny thing is, it wasn’t actually cleaning that did the trick. So if you’ve got a similar issue with discolored or stain grout, here’s our official intervention: stop scrubbing! Well, maybe give scrubbing a fair shot, but don’t be discouraged if it gets you nowhere. There’s another way!
Cleaning Tricks That DIDN’T Work
As you might recall, for the past six months that we’ve lived here, it has looked like this.
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, tears, or elbow grease could make it look that way.
Some of my attempts to clean grout included (but weren’t limited to):
- various baking soda paste mixtures
- various white vinegar solutions
- copious magic erasers
- specialty grout cleaning floor sprays/potions/scrubs
- bleach pens
- oxygenating cleaners like Oxiclean
- Mrs. Meyers powdered cleanser + a wire brush
- Barkeeper’s Friend + a wire brush
- a borrowed steam mop
- scrubbing with a stiff bristle brush
- lots and lots of muttered cursing
The Solution To Getting White Grout Again
By this point I did what most people would do. 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 $12 from Home Depot. (Update: it’s closer to $15 now, but you also get it more places – even Amazon!) 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.
Choose Your Grout Paint Color
GroutRenew comes in several colors now – over 3 dozen, in fact, including several shades of white and off-white. So you may be tempted to go for the brightest white to get the cleanest, freshest look (that’s “Artic White” pictured below). However, just like paint colors, the brightest, whitest version may not be best for you.
Be sure to take some time to look at your room, your tile, and your lighting to make sure you’re choosing something that blends well with your space. You can always test out a few colors too before committing to one. John and I actually considered two colors – Natural Gray and Oyster Gray, which both look pretty dark compared to the brighter whites. We had seen a neighbor with darker grout in her slate floor, so we thought it was worth considering.
In the end we chose Oyster Gray (shown below) which is still a mid-tone Ivory color – definitely not a bright white. But it looked the most natural and still seemed very bright in contrast to the dark slate tile, without looking artificiall white. Any brighter and we worried it would look like someone in a Crest Whitstrips ad! You know, almost too blinding.
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.
This is the only product we’ve used, but there are some others on the market if this particular one is not available. Lowe’s sells a similar product by MAPEI that comes in a squeeze bottle. Amazon also has a well-reviewed Grout Pen product that comes in a white or beige option. Again, we haven’t personally tried those, but they may be some alternatives to consider if the PolyBlend is not available to you.
How To Apply Grout Paint
The downside to this solution is that it can be time intensive (and patience testing) depending on the size of your surface. For this floor, it took nearly eight hours to apply. But since I had easily spent 25 hours trying various stain lifting methods before resorting to this, well, eight hours with a bottle of Grout Renew was a small price to pay for VICTORY.
Step 1: Clean Your Tile & Grout
I know I said scrubbing wasn’t the solution, but it part of the process. I’ll pause while you laugh since I had already done that TEN MILLION TIMES. But like any surface you’ll be painting, you want to make sure it’s clean of dust and debris. So at least we’re not talking a heavy-duty scrubbing, just your regular washing to remove surface dirt should do.
Step 2: Pick Your Brush Or Application Tool
The instructions suggested using an old toothbrush to apply the GroutRenew it into the grout lines and then let it dry for 24 hours. I went with a thin craft brush instead because I had way more control (read: way less mess on the tile surface). The thin paint brush was also easy to dip directly into the bottle when I needed to load up with paint.
Step 3: Plan Your Starting Point & Exit Route
If you’re painting a floor, like we were, you’ll want to sure you don’t paint yourself into a corner (or at least if you do, you can carefully tiptoe across your tile without stepping on the cracks). I 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.
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.
Step 4: Be Ready For Mistakes
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). A paper towel or clean cloth would work as well. That is, if toilet paper isn’t fancy enough for yo?u.
Step 5: Be Patient & Pace Yourself
Being pregnant, the bathroom was all I had energy for on Day 1. 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. 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, 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 clean grout acceptance speech (“I’d like to thank the academy, and the grout gods who invented this cheap bottle of miracles and unicorns”).
Step 6: Let It Dry
After each application process, we gave that section a full 24 hour drying period and made sure nothing got wet for 72 hours (since that was another warning on the bottle). 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. Maybe after 6 months our brains just can’t get over the fact that it finally looks clean!
We also had about 1/4 of a bottle left all of this, which was great in case we need some touch-ups down the line. I’ll definitely update you guys if anything funky happens, but so far it has been great.
Update: After nearly two years 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 that we shared after six months of use here). For the folks who can’t find it in stores, here’s an affiliate link to it on Home Depot.com and 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? Like some grout that refuses to get clean? Please feel free to pin and share this post to spread the word. I’d LOVE to help anyone else dealing with this supremely annoying issue so we can all do the clean grout end zone dance together. Because believe me, after this was done there were mic drops. There was shoulder dusting. There was a full on pregnant-lady end zone dance.
Originally Published in 2014
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