Grout discoloration, though not normal, is not an uncommon occurrence. You may find that it has taken on a blotchy look, or perhaps the color has faded over time. In other cases, an unfortunate homeowner may find the grout to be uneven in color immediately after a new installation. (Note, we will save the discussion on grout that has become STAINED for the third installment in this series.)
We often find that when a homeowner has discovered that the grout color is discolored, a number of questions come to mind.
- What causes grout to become discolored or uneven?
- Can it be restored to what it originally looked like?
- How can discoloration be prevented?
There are many reasons, too many to list here, for why grout is discolored or uneven in color. Let's break it down into two main scenarios: 1) discoloration during application of grout and 2) discoloration that occurs over time.
1) Discoloration during application
With a skilled tile setter, this should never occur. However, if it does it could have been due to a variety of reasons:
The grout was mixed with too much water
The grout was not allowed to completely dry prior to cleaning
The joints were not thoroughly filled
Dirty tools, sponges or water were used
People walked on the tile before it was completely dry
There is one additional scenario where discoloration could occur, through no fault of the professional doing the work. This is when the dye that is used to create the manufactured grout color actually causes the grout to be more prone to discoloration. In this case, your only option may be to choose a different color of grout for your project.
These are just a few of the most common reasons. If you find that the grout in your tile installation is discolored immediately after the project is done, don't ignore it. Once the tile setter has deemed the project complete, there should be no additional changes in color. Contact the professional who did the installation and request that he come back and fix the issue, even if that means removing the grout and reapplying it.
2) Discoloration over time
The number one reason that grout becomes discolored over time is because it was not sealed after installation. This leaves the grout exposed to all of the environmental elements in the area, including water, dust, dirt, soot, etc. Since grout is a porous material, it will inevitably take on some discoloration due to this exposure. The more time that passes, the more discoloration that will occur.
It is highly recommended that sealer is reapplied every six months to a year, depending on the size and location of the project.
There are many methods that can be used to restore the original color of the grout. As mentioned above, grout is a porous material and can thus usually be sufficiently cleaned using household products like Mr. Clean. Care should be taken to NOT use an acidic cleaner, like vinegar. This could damage the grout to the point of requiring removal and reapplication of the grout. Instead, alkaline cleaners like baking soda should be used.
Here is a link to a handy site that discusses the different types of grout cleaners that can be used:
If extreme cases, a grout "stain" can be applied to correct discolorations. This stain is designed to permanently alter the color of the grout. Since stains are epoxy-based, you have the added benefit of not needing to reseal the tile in the future.
How can discoloration be prevented?
One word: SEALER
Though it may seem like an extra maintenance expense, it really is an essential part of extending the life and beauty of your project. It keeps all environmental elements OUT of the grout and maintains the luster of tile. Sealer is typically applied as a regular maintenance activity every six months or so.
As mentioned above, an alternative is to apply an epoxy-based grout stain to the existing grout. This will also permanently seal the grout, removing the need to apply sealer in the future.
Finally, for those who want to ensure absolute consistency in color and luster without the need of future sealing maintenance, consider using an epoxy-based grout. A warning though - epoxy-based grout is quite pricey and may not be worth the added upfront expense.
J3 Services is happy to help answer any questions you may have regarding grout discoloration. Contact us today!