How To Soften Grout For Removal

When you have tiled areas, you will have grout. Water-based grout is designed to be hard as a rock once it dries so it can repel water. Unfortunately, it can do its job so well that it can make your task much harder when you need to deal with it.

There are a few reasons you need to remove grout from the shower or other areas. Perhaps you have signs of mold, you have just tiled the shower and missed grout on your tile surface, or you are removing grout from the shower to apply new grout and new tile.

No matter the reason, you can use our guide to learn more about using a grout softener to make your task easier to finish. (Read Sanded vs Unsanded Grout)

Guide To Soften Grout For Removal

How Do You Soften Hard Grout?

Portland cement is the major ingredient in most grout. It can take new grout several days or weeks for the grouted surface to properly set.

Old grout can be a real challenge to clean from tiled walls and floors once hardened. While you could think a metal tool like a knife is the best option, you can damage the tile surface as you try to chisel it off.

Luckily, you can find a method to soak the grout and gently scrape and scour without using metal tools.

Here you can see the method for removing grout from showers or other areas using water and wood.

Use clean water and saturate the tile surface. Doing this acts as a lubricant, preventing scratches on the tiled surface. (Learn How To Remove Spray Paint From Concrete)

Take a piece of hardwood, such as oak, and which is around 1/4 to 3/8 inch thick. Ensure it has a square-cut end where you can scrape large clumps or layers of grout.

Metal scraping tools shouldn’t be used, as they damage a tile’s glazed surface.

  1. Work using light to medium pressure on the grout until you have removed the heavy deposits of grout.
  2. Rinse your tile with clean water.
  3. Wet remaining grout with clean water and scour the tile’s surface using a damp nylon scouring pad. Make sure you keep the pad very wet using lots of water as you scour.
  4. Clean the tile through rinsing with clean water and blotting dry using a clean towel.
  5. Continue scouring if you haven’t removed all the grout.
  6. Next, take some coarse-grit sandpaper and round the end of your wood until it looks like a wood chisel.
  7. To smooth your grout lines, spray water from your bucket on the tile surface, then press and drag your wood between your tiles.


If grout doesn’t come off using this method, you could have an epoxy grout. Such types of grout are almost impossible to remove without using an epoxy remover.

Grout Removal Tips

How Do You Soften Grout Before Removing?

Water-based tile grout in bathroom areas such as your shower has been made to harden and stop anything from penetrating, such as water.

Grout here can withstand scrubbing, cleaning solutions, and more warm water, all the while staying hard and will not soften.

Over time, your grout will stain and darken from the onset of mildew. Grout also tends to crack over extended periods.

You need to soften tile grout at any stage so you can remove the shower grout and fix the issue you have. (Learn Best Way To Clean Gold)

Here is how to remove grout from the shower using heat.

Step 1: Use a heat gun and set the temperature to 300 degrees Fahrenheit or less. If using a blow dryer, place this on the low setting. Check if you have ceramic tiles or plastic first.

Step 2: Hold your heat gun about 6 to 8 inches away from your grout to prevent burning or turning the grout into liquid.

Step 3: Move the heat gun around the grout lines as you heat. Follow down the grout lines you have heated with your grout removal tool and remove the grout as you heat it.

Grout for wall or floor tile dries hard and is time-consuming to remove.

To completely remove grout, you basically only have three options.

  • Scrape, scrub, and scratch chunks of grout off your tiles
  • Dissolve your grout
  • Replace tile if you can’t remove grout without damaging your tiles

The last option is the final point unless that is your intention. However, if you want to carry out shower grout removal, it can be frustrating. You will discover that you need a combination of scraping, rubbing, and dissolving old grout before you can apply new grout. (Read Joint Compound Vs Spackle)

Basic Methods of Hardened Grout Removal

Take warm water and wipe over the surface of the tiles using a sponge. Use some fine wire wool and rub gently across your grout. You may see it start to dissolve as you rub it.

Once your tile is clean and has no more hardened grout, wipe using a damp cloth and let dry.

You can use the same method to the floor, or quarry tiles, although warm water won’t be sufficient to dissolve cement-based gout used on these tiles.

Here are some ways you can use solutions to dissolve hardened grout. (Learn How To Remove Tile From Wall)

Even as you try to scrape and rub away grout, you’ll need to lubricate it. A bucket of warm water is the best to loosen the grout.

Some popular tips for solutions people use for the removal of hard grout are:

Sugar and Water Method

  1. Add 1 cup of white granulated sugar to a gallon of hot water.
  2. Stir the mix until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Pour this solution over your grout. In the case of vertical grout, apply using a sponge soaked in the sugar water.
  4. Leave the sugar water to soak into your grout for around two hours so the solution can work at loosening the grout bond to the tile.
  5. Scrape off any large chunks of grout with a wooden paint stick.
  6. Apply more sugar water to the remaining grout, then scrub with a nylon scrubber.
  7. Keep the grout soaked with sugar water solution as you work.
  8. Once removed, you can rinse your tile with clean water and wipe it to remove the remains of the sugar solution and old grout bits.
  9. Wipe your tile dry with a clean towel.

Vinegar Method To Soften Grout

Vinegar Method

Vinegar is an acid solution, and you need care, so you don’t damage the tile surface. Some tiles are acid sensitive, so check part of your tile to see how it reacts to vinegar. (Read Is PEVA a Fabric or Plastic)

Ensure the vinegar doesn’t sit on the tile surface too long, and you need to work quickly as you apply small amounts of vinegar to the hardened grout, and you can remove grout from your shower. Wash the area down once you have finished.

Brick and patio cleaners can be ideal acid solutions for loosening and dissolving hardened grout, although care is needed and, wear gloves, goggles, and a face mask as you deal with any form of acid. (Learn How to Use Vinegar and Baking Soda for Drains)

How to Scrape and Scrub to Remove Hardened Grout from Tiles

These are the most common methods for removing grout from tiles. Even though, use a lubricant of some sort.

Lubricant doesn’t totally dissolve the grout; however, it aids in the process of removal. When doing this job, wear gloves and goggles to be safe.

Since there is no perfect method or tool to scrape away hardened grout, it takes trial and error to get the best results. Start on a small area and check you don’t cause any damage.

Start soft and work your way to harder abrasive materials. Some individuals end up using an oscillating tool with a cutting blade, such as a Dremel.

Other less vigorous tools you can use are:

  • Wire Wool: You will find this is perfect for removing hard grout; however, you can scratch a tile surface or leave metal marks or stains you need to remove.
  • Razor Blade: If you have thin grout on your tile surface, a razor blade or scraper can be suitable. Since the tile surface is smooth, you can remove grout with little risk of damaging the tile easily.
  • You can clean these easily with any kitchen or bathroom cream cleaner and a nylon scouring pad if you get metal marks. If you use a scraper, keep the blade at a shallow angle to avoid damage.

Tile grout is never easy to remove, and it can be easier to replace tile on occasions. However, if you don’t have this option, you can use all the above-related methods and keep a sponge and bucket of warm water handy for lubrication or remove vinegar if you add too much.

Tools are simple, and the process is much the same no matter which method you use. As long as you are careful, you can find you can remove grout completely without much scrubbing effort.

How To Soften Grout For Removal

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