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Can you change grout color without replacing tile?

Replacing old, dirty, or discolored grout between tiles can instantly refresh the look of a tiled surface in your home. But grout replacement requires time and effort – you have to remove the existing grout, apply new grout, and let it cure. If the thought of a weekend spent re-grouting makes you want to leave the tile as-is, you may be wondering if there’s an easier way to change the color of your grout.

The good news is that there are a few options for changing grout color without completely replacing the grout or the tiles. Let’s look at the pros and cons of the methods for changing grout color and find the best option for your situation.

Cleaning the Existing Grout

Before attempting to change the color of your grout, the first step is a thorough cleaning. Over time, dirt, grime, and stains can discolor grout, making it appear darker or yellowed. You may be surprised at how much brighter your grout appears after a good scrubbing.

To clean grout:

  • Sweep or vacuum the tiled surface to remove loose debris.
  • Mix a solution of warm water and grout cleaner or make a paste with baking soda and water. Apply to the grout with a stiff grout brush or toothbrush.
  • Let the cleaning solution sit for 5-10 minutes before scrubbing. Use a toothbrush or special grout brush to get into the grout lines.
  • Rinse thoroughly with clean water and allow to fully dry.

Repeat as needed for heavily soiled grout. This may restore the grout to like-new condition. If not, read on for ways to change the actual color of the grout.

Grout Color Sealing

If cleaning alone doesn’t give you the fresh grout you want, a grout color sealant may do the trick. Grout sealers are applied as a liquid to the clean grout joints, then allowed to soak in and dry. Once cured, the sealer provides a protective barrier and can subtly change the color of the grout.

There are two main types of grout color sealers:

  • Grout dyes contain pigments that are absorbed into the pores of the grout, effectively dyeing the existing grout. They come in a range of colors from neutral to bold.
  • Grout stains contain smaller pigment particles that don’t penetrate as deeply. They provide a thin coat of color on top of the grout.

Here is the basic process for using a grout color sealer:

  1. Clean the grout thoroughly and allow to dry completely.
  2. Apply the sealer according to manufacturer directions. Many require two coats for best color results.
  3. Allow the recommended drying time between coats and after the final application.
  4. Wipe away any excess sealer after drying. A gentle scrubbing may be needed on the tile surface.
  5. Avoid wetting the grout for 24-48 hours to allow the sealer to fully cure.

Over time, reapplication may be needed as the sealer wears away. Grout color sealers provide an easy, non-permanent color change. However, the results are temporary and lack the highly controllable results of grout replacement.

Grout Paints and Pens

Another option for freshening up old grout is to paint over it using a grout paint or pen. These provide a thick coating of durable epoxy paint or enamel that adheres to the grout. Grout paints and pens allow you to completely transform the color of the grout for a dramatic update.

Here is an overview of how grout paint is applied:

  1. Clean and fully dry the grout lines.
  2. Tape off any areas, like tile edges, where paint isn’t desired.
  3. Apply the grout paint according to manufacturer instructions. Two coats are typically needed.
  4. Use a small detail brush or pen applicator to paint narrow grout lines.
  5. Allow each coat to dry completely before adding another.
  6. Remove any painter’s tape and wipe away excess paint from tile edges.
  7. Avoid water/wet cleaning for the timeframe specified for full curing.

Over time, grout paints can chip, peel, or wear away, requiring touch-ups. Careful application and allowing proper cure times improves durability. For quick small jobs, a grout pen allows you to fill in scratches or spots as needed.

Comparison of Grout Color Alteration Methods

To decide which method is right for your tile, here is an overview of the pros and cons of each grout color alteration technique:

Method Pros Cons
Grout Cleaning
  • Inexpensive
  • No special tools or materials needed
  • Limited color change ability
  • Doesn’t work well for significantly discolored/stained grout
Grout Color Sealer
  • Subtle color change
  • Easy application
  • Temporary results
  • Color accuracy hard to control
Grout Paint/Pens
  • Dramatically changes color
  • Highly customizable results
  • Paint can chip, peel, or wear off
  • Meticulous taping and application needed

Should You Just Replace the Grout?

If you want a permanent solution with minimal maintenance, replacing the grout may still be your best bet for achieving your ideal grout color. Here’s an overview of the grout replacement process:

  1. Remove existing grout – Use a grout saw or rotary tool to cut out the old grout completely.
  2. Clean tiles – Wash the tile faces and grout joints to remove debris.
  3. Apply new grout – Press new grout into the empty joints according to package directions.
  4. Wipe and shape joints – Tool the grout with a rounded shape and remove excess from tile.
  5. Allow drying – Don’t wet the surface for 72 hours minimum as the grout cures.

Replacing grout requires more labor and skill than the other color change options. But it provides a permanent solution that looks professionally installed. For significantly discolored or cracked grout, replacement may be the best route for effective transformation.


Changing the color of grout without replacing tiles is possible using cleaning, sealing, painting, or replacement techniques. Each has pros and cons to consider. For quick low-cost changes, cleaning and sealing may provide satisfactory results. For dramatic color changes, paints and grout replacement provide greater color flexibility and longevity.

Evaluate the severity of your grout discoloration, the importance of color accuracy, and your budget and DIY skills. With this information, you can determine the best method for altering your grout color for a tile facelift.