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Removing Grout Haze the Easy Way

April 1, 2014  —  Written by Julia Marcum 

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Although we showed you the “finished” floors in yesterday’s post, there is one part of the process that we haven’t covered–grout! In my post about Tips for Achieving Realistic Faux Wood TileI mentioned that “opting for a grout color a shade darker than our tile will keep things looking more natural.” Our grout lines were the smallest possible at 1/16″ (another great tip to keep things looking realistic!), so unsanded grout was our only option. After surveying all the colors, Mocha looked like the best bet. It didn’t contrast the tile too much, but matched the darkest shade in the wood grain pattern on the tile.

Screen Chris Loves Julia | Removing Grout Haze the Easy Way 2014-03-31 at 2.21.24 PM

We actually hired out the grouting job. What!? It’s true. After Chris was up until anywhere from 11:30pm to 2:30am laying all of the floors, paying $500 for what we thought was a fool-proof job, seemed like the perfect celebratory gift–we tackled the clean-up and haze removal ourselves. Which was a little intimidating at first because there was a lot of haze:

Chris Loves Julia | Removing Grout Haze the Easy Way

We waited the recommended 24 hours after grouting for it to fully cure before tackling the haze. My mom and I went to our local Ace Hardware to pick up supplies for the job over the weekend. One of the workers there suggested that a solution of distilled vinegar and warm water will cut right through the haze. I loved the sound of the chemical free fix. He helped us find some mops and buckets, a scrubby for any stubborn areas and they even carried the vinegar.

Chris Loves Julia | Removing Grout Haze the Easy Way

We mixed about one part vinegar to 4 parts warm water. Since there was 1500 sq feet of haze to cover, two of my sisters pitched in, too, and we all tag-teamed the task while my mom was on clean water duty.

Chris Loves Julia | Removing Grout Haze the Easy Way

(^38 weeks pregnant–I’m going to pop!) We’d do a whole room, refresh the solution of vinegar and water and do it once more (twice in more hazy spaces).

Chris Loves Julia | Removing Grout Haze the Easy Way

It was so impressive to watch the haze lift right off the tile (thanks for the rec, Ace worker!) and the vinegar solution dried without a scent–no worries.

Chris Loves Julia | Removing Grout Haze the Easy Way

The only disheartening part was there was still a lot of variance in some of the grout lines as you can see above. While most of them cleaned up by our second pass through revealing that warm mocha color we picked out:

Chris Loves Julia | Removing Grout Haze the Easy Way

There were a lot of areas where the grout lines were much lighter and splotchy:

Chris Loves Julia | Removing Grout Haze the Easy Way

I took a toothbrush and the same vinegar solution to clean a test area–thinking it might still have some haze on it (??) but unfortunately, it dried just as light.

Chris Loves Julia | Removing Grout Haze the Easy Way

After some research into grout variance and asking our friends at The Tile Shop (where we got the grout), they said it was most likely user error while laying the grout–either too much water when mixing, not mixing it thoroughly enough or too much water when sponging it off. Bummer that the one part of the job we hired out seems to have managed to not turn out the way we hoped. 

As for remedying the light grout lines, we ordered a grout dye and sealer in one to try out and will update you soon. The good news is we’re haze free and that part was a lot easier than we thought it would be. I was imagining buffing each individual tile with cheese cloth until the baby got here. Oy! In reality, it took us about 2 hours to do the entire 1500 square feet with items we found at our local Ace (or you might already have at home!).

Do you have a home maintenance project to tackle? Ace’s wide product selection (vinegar, people) and helpful customer service (our favorite!) can definitely help–but how about $100 to spend at Ace Hardware, too? Enter through the Rafflecopter widget below. (We’ll choose a winner Friday night and update this post.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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We’re excited to be collaborating with Ace Hardware as a part of their Ace Blogger Panel this year. Ace has provided us with compensation and the materials necessary to complete this project, but all opinions and sweat are our own. 

What do you think?

  1. Jane E. Warren says:

    I have to remove Haze and sealer from ceramic tile
    Can I use vinegar and water
    And will it work and remove
    Haze and sealer.jane

  2. Ruth Munoz says:

    Silly question. But did you use plain water before or after vinegar solution?

  3. After I originally left a comment I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now whenever a comment is added I get four emails with the exact same comment.

    Is there a way you are able to remove me from that service?

    Cheers!

  4. Kathy says:

    Thanks for the tip on de-hazing with vinegar solution. I had a similar experience with Tile Shop grout and learned their Superior brand grout MUST be mixed with Superior brand Admixture (not water) in order to achieve the color that matches their chip deck. Too bad for me, had to redo my tile installation. Too bad for The Tile Shop, they don’t know their own products!

  5. Andy says:

    This worked great thanks for the green idea!

  6. Cassie says:

    You saved my life! We just moved into our newly built home and after mopping the whole place, I almost cried when I saw all the marks (20 weeks pregnant).

    Al I could find on google was “heavy duty tile and grout cleaner” which seemed extreme, but after finding your blog and trying the vinegar solution on a few tiles I am holy to report my life has been saved! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  7. BermeoQuality says:

    Grout discoloration is very common in powdered grout mixtures. This is caused by two main factors. The main contributor is the portland cement mixture in the mortar and in some powdered grouts. Certain minerals dissolve in the moisture of the mortar and/or grout and rise to the surface of the grout as the water evaporates.The second factor is that most powdered grouts are made by coating the small granules with the appropriate color which when not mixed properly or when mixed grout is over wiped can then lose it’s color. The only sure fire way to avoid it is to use a pre-mixed polyurethane grout such as Bostick TruColor. The granules in polyurethane grouts are dyed instead of coated. It is a bit more expensive up front and requires a slightly more advanced grouting method but there is no need to seal the grout afterwards, no grout haze to remove, and provides guaranteed color consistency throughout.

  8. Ken Schultz says:

    I have the same kind of tile as you do. What color did you use for this grout. It seems perfect.

    Ken

  9. Anna says:

    Hi Julia,
    I found your site while searching how to remove haze from porcelain wood tile. Thank you for your remedy. We also had light and dark grout issues. I told the contractor about it lightening up in the LR so he must have mixed it different and the DR and kitchen came out a bit darker. I still was not happy with the overall look. The grout was from MAPEI and it was also mocha. I called the company and complained as I saw several dissatisfied customers with the product. They did send me 8 bottles of mocha stain and a rep came out to inspect. Took a sample of grout powder to test and yes they said it was not mixed right by the contractor. (water ratio). The contractor blamed the product and said he sees it all the time. Grout color always dries lighter he says. Everyone points fingers:)
    Anyway we have a lot of work to do to stain but it will be worth it. Like you, we wanted a more natural look without obvious seams.
    Good luck with you baby(who must be about 1 by now).
    Anna

  10. Rose Vicente says:

    Manny and I just laid 900 sq feet of tile in our new Sunroom we added. Deciding to do the tile ourselves has been a huge learning curve. Since he has only down small tile previously around our spa. We used 18×18 huge learing curve. Then to bout added a another tile we bought for another project and never used to this project that was slightly smaller and lot darker. Pattern turned out great even works well with brick on wall in Sunroom I talked him into leaving up when we added it.
    We started out chosing a darker grout but when time came to actually start second guessed ourselves and took back the dark and went with the lightest of group. Very glad we did looks great. Our tile isn’t very fancy just gray pattern with that darker colorered fed throughout (18)
    Our Sunroom is bright lots of windows so shows everything especially the clouds(haze) we now have on all the tile. So thankful we found your site and all information. Plus everyones wonderful comments.
    Lets us know we are all in this together so to speak. Great that everyone gives each other information nowadays to help each other out.

    Thank you
    Planning on mopping soon as he finishes the baseboards so he’s not walking all over the floor. Will let you know how it comes out.
    Thank you and best of luck to all
    Rose and Manny Vicente
    Milton Florida retired

  11. Carol says:

    We had hired a contractor to remodel our master bath. After the tiles were grouted I noticed that some of the lines were darker and some lighter gray which is the color of the tiles. My contractor initially insisted that the grout had to dray but 2 months after installation the problem persisted. We went to Home Depot to find out about epoxy grout that comes premixed in many colors like on a paint chart. The contractor said it was much more expensive than the powder but do you care if it means there will not be a unevenly colored grout?? So we bought 1 gal of Stain Pro which is “stain proof and color perfect” according to the label. My contractor had to pay for the tile guy to dig out the bad grout and apply the new which came out great. The other problem that I had pointed out to my contractor after the initial grouting was what you call a haze. It is more of a white powdery material which is distributed all through the bathroom. I will try to do what you suggest with the vinegar and water.

  12. Funny photo of you and your sisters! I use water and vinegar solution for cleaning the tile in my kitchen too. For the grout I mix a paste from baking soda and vinegar, or a solution of cream of tartar and vinegar, and scrub with a toothbrush, both are quite efficient. Greets!

  13. Judy says:

    Thank you for the vinegar and water. Worked great. First I did walls and floor with scrubbing sheet dipped in solution. Let it dry and made fresh batch of solution and wiped walls and floor again with terry rag. Totally done and looks great. Again thank you.

  14. Nat says:

    We had our bathroom porcelain tiles done professionally. The floor and a large walk – in shower. The tiler tried twice with chemical acid solutions…to no avail. He was going to come back with a stronger acid. I had read that a strong acid could hurt the grout…so.

    I did the one part vinegar to four parts water, let it sit for a bit, then got a cheesecloth and scrubbed away and rinsed with clean water. It was a bit of work, but it did the job. No bad smell, no chemicals.

    It now looks fantastic!

    Yeah for vinegar !!!

    Nat

  15. JLiu says:

    USE DAMP SPONGE, NOT WET SPNOGE when removing grout.

    We had the exact same problem when installing our new toasted walnut procelain tiles. Our grout color is supposed to be Tabacco Brown from HomeDepot. We mixed the grout with filtered water and it looked like thick fudge but it still turned out all grayish when dried.

    Finally I found info on Handyman.com where they say you must use DAMP, NOT WET sponge when wiping off excess grout after 20-30 minutes. This was the only thing we hadn’t tried.

    When they applied the grout the second time (yes, the second time bc the first time it was not high enough and we can feel the edge of the tiles with bare foot) I asked them to use DAMP sponge, NOT WET. Although the grout color is still lighter than we hoped, 95% were brown so now our floor does not look like like cement or dust got mixed in the grout! We are much happier now.

    We will use vinegar solution to mop everywhere tomorrow. :-)

    Good luck to everyone with grout color problems!

    JLiu

  16. Luke says:

    Thanks for this post! It was the 1st hit on google, so way to go!

    We just finished laying and then grouting our faux wood tile in the kitchen, and we too were plagued with the haze that made them look dirty. Multiple times with sponge or cloth and water yielded little to no result after the 2nd time (the first 2 passes, we got plenty off, but the haze persisted on all passes after that). Warm water and vinegar did the trick with basically no effort. We just used 1:4 vinegar to warm water and mopped like you would mop any floor. After the 1st pass, the change was obvious, and after the 2nd pass, the floor looks as it is meant to.

    Thanks again!
    Luke

  17. Phyl Hertling says:

    Julia, I cannot THANK YOU enough for your helpful hint with this site.
    I “googled” “how to remove grout haze” and MAGIC! I saw the “Tile Shop” add, but kept reading, you have the exact same tile that my husband just laid in our basement. After mopping 2 times with water, I was ready to CRY!!! We were so disappointed….so I turned to the internet and so glad that I found YOU! Vinegar was cheap, and Safe…and WOW it worked!! My husband said, “you be sure and thank her…” So, here I am. Thank you again.
    Sincerely,
    Phyllis H. Lawrence, KS

  18. B Laurain says:

    Haze removed, after trying,vinigar ,sugar baking soda, comet, nothing made my wife happy, so after reading CLR MSDS & bottle warnings, success, now working drawing out color of tile & grout dull looking.

  19. Erika Oliver says:

    I also have found many people have posted of this very same issue. I feel maybe there is a manufactor error? I mean these floors have cost us over 10k-as Im sure you all have spent a lot as well. Its sad to see that they are not as planned.

  20. Erika Oliver says:

    We actually just went thru the same thing. We also laid the tile ourselves with the help of friends. The guys at Home Depot and Lowes both said that there was too much water in the grout and also if it was mixed with unfiltered water that it can create a lighter grout than the original dark color chosen. We actually laid the same porcelain dark wood tiles, the thick long planks from Lowes. Same issue. I am so disappointed. We have had a professional cleaner, and many hours of scrubbing. I am actually resorting to now getting a dremel and removing the grout and re-grouting the area. Trust me I understand your pain!

  21. Lisa C says:

    Thank you for posting this! I’ve washed our new dark porcelain wood look tiles three times on my hands and knees with the “special” haze cleaner and all I have to show for my backbreaking labor is extremely sore arms and knees :/

    I’ll be popping out for a mop and scotch pads at lunch and washing with vinegar tonight! Fingers crossed that I get the same results you did!

    • Misty H says:

      I have to say I as immediately drawn to you guys by your domain name as mine and my hubby’s is joeandmisty.com…

      Thank you for posting this. I am quite upset with our tile work in our newly constructed home because our dark wood looking tile has the white haze all over it. We picked a darker color grout to go with our tile, as you guys did, and honestly…(sigh!). My grout lines look white when they are supposed to be charcoal colored. I will be trying the vinegar today, but I am very interested in hearing how aquamix dye/sealer worked out? Have you had a chance to use it?

      Thank you much,
      Misty H. In CC, Texas

      • Julia says:

        We started to and it worked okay, but not great. And it is pretty time-consuming. I am going to try a few other things like tea-staining. But, the good news is, the grout is already getting darker through natural wear over time.

  22. liana says:

    Have you tried the dye or sealer? We just laid similar tile in a dark walnut color and our dark brown grout has many areas that dried almost tan. We are considering the dye. Yours looks great! Thank you.

    • Julia says:

      I ordered grout dye! It is actually a dye+sealer in one–Aquamix. But I have no idea when I am going to get the time to tackle that project and honestly, the grout is already darkening in places. I have heard great things about Aquamix though if you’re looking for a solution.

  23. Stephanie S says:

    I had the exact same grout problem with some Polyblend grout from Custom Building Solutions (Home Depot). I thought it might have been mixed wrong, so we carved it all out and mixed a new batch EXACTLY according to the instructions. Same results. SO so so frustrating. After speaking with customer service, they told me it’s called “grout efflorescence” and is very common with unsanded grout. They said I could either clean it with an acid wash or use the grout paint in the same color. I’m going with the grout paint and you bet I returned that almost-empty grout box! Both solutions sound very time consuming, so good luck!

  24. sarah dorsey says:

    Perfect timing! We just started a tile project, thanks for sharing!

  25. Fiona says:

    I had the same experience with grout from The Tile Shop. It ended up the correct color is some spots, but quite a bit lighter in others. I really think the problem is the grout, not user error.

  26. Sally @ Barksandbaking.wordpress.com says:

    I was just waxing poetic about the wonderful service and selection at ACE on my blog the other day. I swear, if I’m looking for something that I can’t find at Target, the grocery store, or Home Depot/Lowes, ACE always has it, and the staff always know exactly which aisle it’s in. :-)

  27. Jenny @ My Nearly Empty Nest says:

    I had the same problem when we tiled with the grout drying lighter than what I wanted. We even did different consistencies of grout mix but ended up with the same color each time. I was no happy with the color and looked at the grout recolorants/dyes but my tile was a dark hickory so the options were too still too light. I ended up using acrylic paint and a grout sealer which you can see here. With your tile color I think you will be happy with the grout dye and putting it on should be easy and move so much quicker than laying the tile!

  28. Kerri @ Building a Charmed Life says:

    ugh. nothing more frustrating than that. it still looks fantastic and hopefully the grout dye will work with no issues.

  29. Kelly Goldman says:

    Such a sad feeling to be thisclose to having it all wrapped up and figure out something didn’t quite go to plan. But it looks fantastic! I love your selection!

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