Over time, the light-colored tile grout in your kitchen or bathroom can become darker as it collects more dust, molds, and other contaminants.
When grout becomes darker and dingy, it makes the entire tile floor look dirty, even if the tiles themselves appear practically new. And because it’s so rough, getting the grout recolored may seem like a real hassle.
However, with some proven strategies, it is possible to lighten grout (or even darken it) to get a nicer look. Although it’s not practical to bring it back to its former appearance, just like new, you can still get a much more attractive result than before.
But before you get started to give your tile grout lines that newer look, it’s essential to understand why they get discolored in the first place.
Why Grout Becomes Discolored?
Grout has several uses in construction projects. It’s used as an adhesive for tiling floors and walls, connecting concrete slabs, filling in cracks, and even in arts and crafts projects like constructing colorful designs using tile mosaics.
The main reasons grout on tiles becomes darker or lighter over time involve dirt, mildew, and mold. Because your existing grout on the tile installation is so porous, all these three elements together can get inside quickly and have the biggest effect on the discoloration.
Dirt and dust from regular foot traffic, pets, and even cooking can cause discoloration, and if the tiles aren’t cleaned regularly, the grout will appear dull and darker. Mold and mildew growth also appears quickly over the surface when moisture and humidity levels are high, and the grout lines aren’t sealed properly.
Changing Grout Color from Dark to Light
To lighten the grout means addressing the discoloring as much as the presence of mildew and mold. This means using products that can lighten the color while reducing the number of contaminants present.
Of course, you could dig up the old tile grout and replace it, but that takes considerable work and effort.
And that’s the reason most people prefer alternatives that are not only less time-consuming than replacing the grout but much less expensive as well. Fortunately, you also have some of these tinting and coloring products in your home that can be used right away.
What follows are three simple ways to lighten grout that has become too dark in color…
1- White Vinegar
Vinegar has been recommended frequently as a cleaning solution, making it seem like a versatile product for brightening grout and getting rid of mold and mildew.
However, before you proceed, you must know the type of tiles you have.
Most tiles (such as ceramic, porcelain, or synthetic tiles) can safely be cleaned with white vinegar. However, using the solution to clean granite, limestone, marble, terracotta, and travertine can cause damage and discoloration.
Once you have checked and are ready, follow these steps:
- Put on the eye goggles, pick up an old toothbrush, and fill to near capacity a spray bottle with white vinegar inside.
- Spray on the white vinegar and let it soak for up to 10 minutes in the grout to help loosen the mildew and mold inside.
- Scrub with the toothbrush the grout that has been sprayed and dry it off with a towel.
Repeat the process until the grout becomes light enough to meet your standards. Once you are through, rinse with water to eliminate the vinegar because it can cause a stench.
You may be surprised that bleach is safe on most flooring surfaces, including tiles and grout. However, the only condition is grout itself must not be colored or dyed; otherwise, the bleach will remove that.
To bleach the darkened grout, you will need to have the following.
- Chlorine Bleach: 5 tablespoons
- Water: Two-Gallon Bucket
- Scrub Brush
- Old Toothbrush
You can use oxygen bleach, but chlorine bleach does work better. Once ready, follow these steps…
- Wear protective gloves and open the windows.
- Stir five tablespoons or 1/3rd of a cup of bleach into one gallon of hot water.
- Dip the brush into the bucket, apply it to the grout, and let it sit for about five minutes for full saturation.
- Then dip the brush every 30 seconds and start scrubbing.
- Once completed, let the bleach soak in the grout for another ten minutes.
- Wipe the area with a dry towel or a sponge until all the bleach is gone.
- Finally, use lukewarm water to rinse away whatever bleach remains.
3- Grout Colorant
If neither vinegar nor bleach works, you can always use grout colorant to change the color of the grout. Make sure you find and use a good brand of grout colorant with a brush, or else it will not work.
- Add the colorant to the brush and apply it to the grout.
- Try to keep it off the tile, but do not worry if some colorant bleeds over. Just wipe whatever colorant does get on the tile away with a cloth.
It generally takes up to 45 minutes for the colorant to work. So, let it dry on the grout, and the color should be changed to one shade lighter.
If that is not good enough for you, repeat the process, and that will lighten the grout further with another shade. Keep going until the grout reaches the desired color.
Instead of a grout colorant, you can also use a grout pen. While they are more convenient, the color change does not last as long.
If you have pigmented grout and none of the methods work, you will probably have to add a new coating of grout over the old one.
How Can You Darken the Grout After It Has Dried?
The best way to make freshly installed dried grout darker is by using an epoxy grout colorant or a grout enhancer over it. If you ever feel that the fresh grout you have applied is not dark enough, you can use this method after the grout has had enough time to dry.
Tinted epoxy grout colorants are available in various colors to choose from. Also, you can choose grout enhancers (available in either a clear or a color enhancer formula) that can intensify the color.
With these options, you can easily change the color of your grout from its natural grey shade to the darker shade you prefer.
Besides the above, there are other methods available to darken your grout. These include:
1- Grout Stain
Consider using a high-quality grout stain or water-based pigmented sealer for an easy and affordable way to darken the lighter grout. These inexpensive products are easily available in many local hardware stores nearby.
To use them, begin by using a brush and warm water to remove any dirt or debris from the grout. Next, apply the stain or sealer directly to the grout using a foam brush or cloth. Allow the stain to dry, and your grout will transform into the desired color.
2- Dyeing the Grout
Another popular method to darken grout filler is water- or alcohol-based dyes. These dyes have the advantage of deeply penetrating the grout and altering its color to a noticeable level.
However, they do not last as long and may need reapplication, especially if you regularly use the area with water or other liquids. Plus, this method is not recommended for unglazed tile applications.
It’s important to note that before you start dyeing the grout, you should test it in an inconspicuous area first to make sure it works.
To use the dye, mix it up with cold water until you achieve your desired color. Then apply it to the grout and let it dry. Make sure you wipe away any spilled dye on the tile while it is still wet.
3- Painting the Grout with a Darker Color
If you don’t want to use dyes, consider using a special acrylic paint made for grout.
Choose a darker shade if you want to recolor the grout darker, or pick a lighter color if you want to make it lighter.
Use a small paintbrush to apply the paint to the grout and wait for it to dry. If necessary, apply a second coat after the first one has dried.
TIP: A grout pen or permanent marker also works as a substitute if you do not find the appropriate paint.
4- Oiling the Tile Grout to Make it Look Darker
In my opinion, this is the easiest way to darken grout at home without using any harmful substances. For this purpose, you can use olive oil, coconut oil, linseed oil, or mineral oil.
Apply the preferred oil using a paintbrush or a small piece of rag and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Wipe off the excess oil on the grout with a clean cloth.
Once the oil is completely absorbed, the grout will look darker and more beautiful. Plus, it will also make cleaning easier in the future.
5- Mix a Darker Grout Colorant for Darkening
If you plan to make your mix to darken the grout lines, you will need some grout colorant and a small amount of water.
Mix the two until you get a paste-like consistency. And then, apply this paste to the grout lines with a small paintbrush. Let it dry for a few hours, and you will have the lines with a darker color.
This method is best used if you need to match the grout with a certain shade you have in your mind.
How Can You Mix and Make Tinted Grout for Fresh Application?
When you want to get creative with your tiling or arts and crafts projects – white and beige grout simply won’t do. You need color to show off your personality and artistry truly.
Grout tinting solutions like acrylic paint come in various colors, so you can choose the one if you need to change the color of your white grout before it’s installed.
To color your white grout, follow these steps…
- Choose the color of acrylic paint you want from an arts and crafts store in squeezable bottles – it’s simpler to mix into the grout.
- Mix the grout with water in a container to form a paste of about peanut butter consistency.
- Gradually add acrylic paint to the mixture as you stir; add more paint if you want a darker color.
- Keep stirring the mixture until it reaches the correct consistency and color, adding more grout, water, or paint if necessary.
- Stir continuously to avoid drying out while preparing colored grout.
Remember to mix enough grout for your whole project at once. Mixing the grout color a second time will be difficult because there are no specific measurements for the amount of paint needed.
The Bottom Line
Grout is essential to any bathroom or kitchen renovation, but getting the color just right can be tricky. Also, once dry, it’s difficult to lighten or darken the grout without starting over from scratch.
If you find yourself in this situation, don’t worry – we have all the tips that should help you fix the problem. Follow the above simple steps cautiously, and your tile grout will look its best in no time.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.