Bathroom Tile

To re-grout or not to re-grout

Psssssssst.

The grouting industry has gone cool on us while we weren’t looking (not that anyone had a spy satellite trained on them or anything). But they’ve come out with a whole bunch of new products that make re-grouting a tub or shower stall relatively painless.

Those who have re-grouted a tub in a past life know what we mean. It is more fun than a man should have – a phrase that, from time to time, bears repeating. Before tools were made specifically for this task, one had to improvise, which usually meant just shrugging when your wife asked if you’d seen the butter knife.

The even better news is that there are a three products on the market that make re-grouting not necessary – under certain circumstances. Mike Frentz is a big fan of these relatively new products because it means his customers often don’t have to get into the whole mess of re-grouting, which, if not done just so, can lead to retiling, a fine way to blow back-to-back weekends.

So, take a look at your tiled wall.

Is the grout black with a green tint? That falls under the heading of fairly disgusting, but it does NOT fall under the heading of re-grouting.

Removing mold, mildew and soap scum
“Those are mold and mildew stains,” Mike says. “We recommend a product called X-14®, a mold and mildew stain remover that acts just like a bleach and really does work, but believe me, this is not your ordinary Clorox.”

Indeed not. The list of chemicals on the label also recommends using rubber gloves, in a well-ventilated area, and taking frequent breaks so you don’t breath in too much of the resulting vapor at one time.

Now it’s important to use these things in the correct order. For instance, the following two products – also designed for avoiding re-grouting – are designed to get rid of the waxy soap scum that builds up over the mold and mildew – kind of like a car wax protecting the paint beneath. If you try one of these first, you won’t get the results you’re looking for.

“If the grout has a dark brownish look, then it is wax residue from soap and shampoo buildup "(SOAP SCUM), Mike says. One of two products will get rid of that AND actually clean and brighten the grou and remove the soap scum, something the X-14® isn’t designed to do.

Tile Helper® -- Ceramic Tile and Grout Cleaner, does exactly what it says it will do. On the other hand, Mike says The Works®, a very popular product, not only will dissolve soap build-up, but a little bit of the mildew beneath, as well.

If you use either of these products and still have a stain, then it was the wax over mildew scenario, and that’s why it couldn’t be cleaned. Now’s the time to hit it again with the X-14, which should take care of it.

Bonus Round
Mike says The Works does an excellent job of getting the ground-in dirt out of fiberglass tubs. If you don’t know whether your tub is fiberglass, Mike say to knock on it and listen. “Porcelain (metal with a baked on finish) will sound solid and won’t give when you knock on it. Fiberglass will sound hollow and will give.”

Cleaning with any of these three products on a monthly basis will save the problem of really having a job to do every six months or so “and it’s horrible,” Mike adds. But if you’re at the stage where cleaners just don’t work, then you’ve got one more shot before re-grouting becomes a reality.

Tileguard® Tile Grout Coating is, basically, a water-based paint that dyes the grout back to its natural white color. “It really works. We sell a ton of this stuff,” Mike says, but cautions that the label may a bit overconfident, and the treatment lasts only about a year. There’s a clear silicone sealer made by the same company – you put the Tile Grout Coating on, wait until it dries and then apply the sealer over it. The sealer, too, in reality lasts about a year.

If you must re-grout
Assuming none of the above will fix your problem, then it’s time to move on to replacing the grout. If you have loose or cracked grout, it has to be fixed or you’ll be fixing a much larger problem in a little while, when water gets behind the tub and tiles.

Skip the butter knife for digging out the grout. Try the Grout Rake, a handy little tool with a cutting edge of roughed tungsten carbide, an extremely hard alloy. No more digging – just drag this up and down the grout line a few times and the grout will turn into powder after a few passes.

After all the old grout is out (if you skip some, the new stuff will try to bond to the old stuff, and you’ll be doing all of this again real soon), try one of the following:

Bondex Wall Grout, and specify that you want the waterproof mix. This is easy to apply with a tool called a grout float, which looks exactly like a trowel with a form-fitting sponge attached to it. You use the grout float to sort of smear wet grout between the tiles. Don’t worry about it spreading over the tiles. “Take a damp rag and lightly remove the grout from the tiles, don’t worry about getting all of it because the grout takes 8-12 hours to dry,” Mike says. “Once it’s dry, then take a dry cotton rag and the grout will buff right off the tiles.

Mike’s favorite, though, is Polyseamseal Tub and Tile White Latex Caulk. The brand name is important here. “When you’re finished this stuff really looks like grout, unlike most of the silicone-based products, and will last 2-5 years.

“The advantage with this is that it can be smoothed out perfectly as long as you do something like wet your thumb or paper towel down and run it gently over the grout line. This is the stuff contractors ask for, by name. It’s been our experience they won’t work with anything else.”