Keeping your bathroom or kitchen looking good as new calls for regular cleaning and repairs on everything from chipped paint and pipes to appliances and lighting. Another often-overlooked essential that completes these rooms and also requires some maintenance? Grout. The cement-like mixture serves as the glue for tiles on your walls, floors, and even countertops, and it takes quite the beating over time. Here, experts share when it is time to replace this binder entirely.
KristianSeptimiusKrogh / Getty Images
Look for the warning signs.
Nick Donalson, a merchant at The Home Depot, notes that there are a few key ways to identify when it is time to re-grout your bathroom or kitchen. Loose tiles, he says, are often the first indicator. "When tile becomes loose, it means that the grout is no longer effective, which is allowing for water to get behind the tiles and loosen the surface," he explains. Mold growth is another (more hazardous) sign; its appearance suggests that water and bacteria are in the cracks of the tile, which can ultimately lead to health issues if they are not taken care of quickly.
Lastly, Donalson shares that crumbling grout "can indicate that it was originally improperly placed or it is old and needs to be updated," also noting that using the wrong cleaning products can deteriorate this binding and cause it to disintegrate. "Diluted vinegar is a common cleansing recommendation, but vinegar is very acidic," adds Robb Roderick, a technical trainer at the National Tile Contractors Association. "If the solution is too strong, you'll weaken and damage the grout, and the vinegar can etch stone tiles." For a safer option, spray a mixture of water and dish soap, then wipe the grout with a damp microfiber towel or cloth.
Re-grout if necessary.
Good news: If you do need to re-grout, you won't have to remove all of the original putty; you will need to use the same grout type if you are touching up certain areas, says Donalson. Replacing grout due to mold doesn't always involve taking away all of the existing material, either, he adds. "It is recommended to remove half the thickness of the grout. But, if it contains severe black mold damage, remove as much as possible," he says, citing the QEP Professional Handheld Grout Saw with Blade Storage and Two Blades ($10.46, homedepot.com) and Klein Tools' 5/16-Inch Flat Head Screwdriver with Six-Inch Square Shank-Cushion Grip Handle ($13.98, homedepot.com) as helpful tools for the process.
Don't cut corners.
When undertaking a re-grout project, don't take any shortcuts or a partial approach—get it all done in one shot. "By doing all of the re-grouting at once, you save time so that you don't have to do different parts again every couple of months," continues Donalson. Once you've taken the grout away and cleaned the sections, you can then begin to apply new grout. But if you are just removing a small area of grout for now or touching up any faded sections, you can use a product like Aqua Mix Grout Colorant ($14.33, homedepot.com) to freshen up the spots.