How To Remove Cement Based Grout Haze From Tile Surfaces

Grout Haze Removal Tips

By Troy Cantini

Grout haze is the cement based haze that is left on the tiles after grouting them. Grout haze should be removed as soon as possible after grouting the tiles. If removed in a timely manner then a simple cheese cloth or paper towel can be used to remove the grout haze. When the grout haze is allowed to sit and dry on the tiles for a longer period of time then it can be more difficult to remove.

before and after removing grout haze

There are many other factors that affect how difficult a grout haze will be to remove. These factors include the type of grout used, how the grout was mixed, how long the grout haze has set on the tiles and the type of tiles that are installed. Removing grout haze off of smooth ceramic and porcelain tiles is easier than removing the grout haze off of rough stone tiles.

Acidic cleaners can be used to remove the grout haze off of ceramic and porcelain tiles which makes removing the grout haze relatively easy.  Stone tiles can not be exposed to acidic cleaners so specialized grout haze removers must be used which are not as effective as acidic cleaners for removing grout haze. Also stone tiles with rough surfaces like slate can be extremely difficult to remove the grout haze from.

When removing the grout haze right after grouting you want to allow the grout to slightly firm up before removing the grout haze.  Many times people believe that they can grout the tiles one day and come back the next day or later to clean up the grout haze. This technique may work for extremely smooth glazed ceramic or porcelain tiles. If the tiles are coarse or you are trying to remove grout haze off of stone tiles then the grout haze can start to become hard and difficult to remove if it has set overnight.

It is always best to use the least aggressive grout haze removal techniques first.  If you find that the grout haze is not being removed with the less aggressive techniques then you will need to advance to the more aggressive grout haze removal techniques. The grout haze will not fade away over time or come off when just cleaning the tiles. Many people have a grout haze on the surface of their tiles for years and just believe that this is how the tiles are supposed to look. It is only when the grout haze has finally been removed that people realize how much better their tiles look withoug a grout haze clouding up and distorting the natural appearance of their tiles.

removing grout haze with cheese cloth

The easiest and least aggressive technique for removing grout haze is to use a dry cheese cloth designed for removing grout haze.  Cheese clothes are specially designed for cleaning up and removing grout haze. Cheese cloths work best for removing grout haze that has not set a long period of time. Cheese clothes are specially designed to use dry for removing grout haze without damaging the still setting grout in the grout lines.

When using a cheese cloth for removing grout haze you simply rub the tile surfaces with the dry cheese cloth to remove the grout haze.  The grout haze will easily and quickly become cleaned up and removed revealing the natural look of the iles. Ordinary paper towels also work well for removing grout haze that has not had a chance to harden on the tiles.

In many cases a hardened grout haze can not simply be removed with a cheese cloth.  Cheese cloths are not aggressive enough to remove a grout haze that has been allowed to harden for a long period of time and more aggressive products must be used. The next more aggressive grout haze removal technique is to use a damp terry towel to scrub away and remove the grout haze. Often times the water in a terry towel will reactivate the grout haze so that it can be easily wiped up and removed. Reactivating the grout haze with a wet terry towel works for grout that has not set for more than a few days. If the grout haze has set for a long period of time then the water in the terry towel will not reactivate the grout and allow it to be wiped away.

When removing grout haze with a wet terry towel you should wring as much water out of the terry towel as possible before trying to clean up the grout haze.  Excess water in the grout lines can be detrimental to grout that has not finished setting. If the grout has set for over 48 hours then you can use more water on the terry towels without damaging the grout lines. If you saturate the grout lines before 48 hours with too much water while the grout is setting then the grout can become weak or the grout can lose some of its color and look splotchy. When using a terry towel you should simply wipe the tile surfaces with the damp terry towel to reactivate the grout haze. Then while the tile surface is still wet you can use a dry terry towel to wipe away the grout haze off of the tiles.

Often times grout haze has been allowed to set for a long time to the point where it has hardened over time.  In these cases of hardened grout haze a cheese cloth or wet terry towel will not begin to remove the hardened grout haze. Hardened grout haze on ceramic or porcelain tiles will require an acidic cleaner and a scrubbing pad to remove the grout haze. Do not use this acidic cleaner on any types of acid sensitive tiles like marble, travertine or limestone. Removing the grout haze off of stone tiles will require using a non acidic grout haze remover product.

In most cases of hardened grout haze the grout has been allowed to totally set so the acidic cleaner will not damage the grout in the grout lines.  You should only use a mild acidic cleaner with a urea acid in it like Stonetech's Restore acidic cleaner. You should start by diluting the acidic cleaner with half water and spraying the cleaning solution directly on the tile surfaces. In many cases you will be able to see a fizzing effect on the tile surfaces as the acidic cleaner reacts with grout haze. A soft white scrub pad will often be necessary to additionally agitate the grout haze and loosen it up from the tile surface. Then you can use a normal terry towel or mop and bucket to clean up the excess acidic cleaner and the grout haze from the tile surfaces.

When trying to remove grout haze from stone tiles you should use a non acidic grout haze remover like Aquamix's grout haze remover.  Aquamix's grout haze remover is non acidic solution that will not damage or etch the surface of stone tiles. You can use Aquamix's grout haze remover just like the acidic cleaner when cleaning up and removing the grout haze. Aquamix's grout haze remover will not be as effective at removing grout haze as an acidic cleaner. For acid resistant tiles like ceramic and porcelain tiles an acidic cleaner will be more effective at cleaning up and removing grout haze.

aggressive scrub pad for removing hardened grout haze

For extremely hard and difficult to remove grout haze an even more aggressive procedure will need to be used.  In these cases the acidic cleaner can be applied at full strength to soften up the grout haze. Also more aggressive scrub pads will need to be used to loosen up the extremely hard to remove grout haze.

An aggressive green pad is often extremely effective at scrubbing away and removing grout haze.  It is important to understand that aggressive scrub pads can scratch or dull the surface of stone tiles. In most cases you will be required to polish the stone tiles to remove any scratches or scuff marks caused by aggressive scrub pads. Ceramic and porcelain tiles are usually much harder than stone tiles and they will not be scratched or scuffed when aggressive scrub pads are used on them.

applying grout with grout float

In some cases cleaning grout haze is next to impossible.  Many times people are actually trying to remove hardened grout off the surface of their tiles as opposed to just removing grout haze. Also trying to remove non cement based grout haze can truly be a monumental task. Removing an epoxy grout haze requires strong epoxy grout haze removal products and a lot of elbow grease.

As a last resort you may attempt to chip away at the grout haze with a chisel or window scraper tool.  In general when you have tried scrubbing away the grout haze with an aggressive scrub pad and an acidic cleaner and the grout haze can still not be removed you may want to call a tile restoration professional to have them take a look at it for you. In some cases it is simply a lot easier to replace the tiles and apply the grout correctly next time as opposed to trying to remove a hardened grout haze off the surface of the tiles.

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