Over time, your light-colored tile grout can become darker as it collects more dust, molds, and other contaminants.
And because grout is so rough, getting it recolored may seem like a real hassle.
When grout becomes darker and dingy, it makes the entire tile floor look dirty, even if the tiles themselves appear practically new.
However, it is possible to lighten grout (or even darken) to bring it back to its former appearance just like new.
But before you get started to give your grout lines that newer look, it is important to understand why grout gets discolored in the first place.
Why Grout Becomes Discolored?
The main reasons grout becomes darker or lighter over time involve dirt, mildew, and mold.
These are the three elements that have the biggest effect on the discoloration of the grout.
Because your existing grout on the tile installation is porous, these elements can get inside very quickly and turn it darker in color over time.
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 grout and replace it, but that takes a considerable amount of work and effort.
There are alternatives that are not only less time-consuming than replacing the grout but much less expensive as well.
In fact, you may have some of these tinting and coloring products in your home right now.
What follows are three simple ways to lighten grout that has become too dark in color.
1- White Vinegar
Given the sheer number of times vinegar has been suggested as a cleaning solution, it may seem like this product can do it all.
Vinegar is an excellent product that can lighten the grout by removing much of the contamination from mold and mildew.
However, while vinegar is mostly harmless on many materials, there are some types of tiles that may not respond well.
This usually means that the white vinegar will cause some discoloration to the material. Such tiles that are negatively affected by vinegar include the following.
Do not use vinegar with those types of tiles. However, white vinegar will not harm tiles that are ceramic, porcelain, or synthetic, which constitutes most types of tiles.
Be sure to identify which types of tiles you have before using the vinegar.
Now that you are ready, it is time to put on the eye goggles, pick up an old toothbrush, and fill to near capacity a spray bottle with white vinegar inside.
Spray & Soak: Spray on the white vinegar and let it soak for up to 10 minutes in the grout. This will help loosen the mildew and mold inside.
Brush: Scrub with the toothbrush the grout that has been sprayed. Once you scrub it, 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. But what if white vinegar doesn’t work?
You may be surprised that bleach is safe to use on most surfaces, including most types of tiles.
However, the grout itself must not be colored or dyed; otherwise, the bleach will also remove that. To use bleach, 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.
Prep the Bleach: You will need to put on protective gloves and open the windows. Then add five tablespoons or 1/3rd of a cup of bleach to one gallon of hot water and stir.
Apply: Dip the brush in the bucket and apply it to the grout. 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.
Rinse: Use a dry towel or perhaps a sponge and wipe up the area until all the bleach is gone. 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. First, find a good brand of grout colorant and a brush.
Apply: Add the colorant to the brush and then apply it to the grout. Try to keep it off the tile, but do not worry if some of the colorants do bleed over. Just wipe whatever colorant that does get on the tile away with a cloth.
Dry: It generally takes up to 45 minutes for the colorant to work. Just 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 with another shade. Keep going until the grout reaches the desired color.
It is true that instead of grout colorant, you can 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 Grout After It Has Dried?
If you feel that the grout you have applied needs to be even darker, fortunately, there are many ways to darken it after it has dried.
The best way to make grout darker is by using an epoxy grout colorant or a grout enhancer over the grout.
Tinted epoxy grout colorants are available in various colors to choose from. Grout enhancers can also intensify the color of your grout and are available in either a clear or a color enhancer formula.
So, by using them, you can easily change the color from natural grey to a darker shade as per your liking.
Besides the above, some other ways are available to darken your grout. These include:
1- Grout Stain
You can use a grout stain or a water-based pigmented sealer to change the look of your grout.
Many people use this modern method as it is pretty easy and inexpensive. You can find a variety of grout stains and sealers in any hardware store.
2- Dyeing the Grout
This is another popular method used to darken grout. You can use either water-based or alcohol-based dyes for this purpose.
The advantage of using dyes is that they can penetrate deeply into the grout and thus change its color.
3- Painting the Grout with a Darker Color
If dyes aren’t your option, you can also use paint to darken your grout. You can use regular or special grout paint as a grout darkener.
Apply the paint to the grout with a small paintbrush and let it dry. You can apply a second coat if necessary.
4- Oiling the Tile Grout to Make it Look Darker
In my opinion, this is the best way to darken grout. For this purpose, you can use olive oil, coconut oil, linseed oil, or mineral oil.
Apply it 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.
5- Use a Grout Pen for Darkening
You can use a grout pen or permanent marker or make your mixture darken the grout lines.
If you plan to make your mix, you will need some grout colorant and a small amount of water.
Mix the two until you get a paste-like consistency. Apply this paste to the grout lines with a small paintbrush.
The Bottom Line
Grout is an important part of any bathroom or kitchen renovation, but it can be tricky to get the color just right.
Once it’s 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 a few tips that should help you fix the problem. Follow these simple steps and your tile grout will be looking 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 more than a decade to serve the customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques that are being implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.
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