How to Clean Paint Off of Grout

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The best way to get paint out of grout without damaging the surrounding tiles is with the right materials and techniques.
Image Credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/GettyImages

When painting in living spaces that have gleaming expanses of tile on backsplashes, floors or countertops, drops of paint are bound to find their way onto the porous grout. When paint pools or is smeared into the grout, there are a few options to safely remove the unsightly globs without damaging the grout.

Grout is a porous material that's vital to the structure of the tile installation. The best way to get paint out of grout without damaging the surrounding tiles is with the right materials and techniques.

Paint That's Fresh

Once paint hits the grout, you have a few minutes to remove it before it becomes a bigger problem. For most types of paint, if the splatter is relatively new and still wet, you can typically use a rag or damp sponge to wipe up it up. Use small, quick motions so that the wet paint doesn't spread.

Latex paint, which is typically used for interior walls in kitchens and bathrooms, can be easily lifted from porous grout with a little soap and water.

Oil-based paint needs a little more effort. Use mineral spirits to completely remove the paint and any stains. Work quickly or the oil-based paint can cause permanent damage to unsealed grout.

Dried Latex Paint Removal

To remove paint that has had a chance to dry on the grout, you'll need a solvent. There are commercial brands on the market or you can begin with nontoxic homemade solvents, such as rubbing alcohol and water, to safely remove any paint from the grout. Neither commercial nor homemade solvents should damage ceramic tiles, but be careful with natural stone and test a small area before you begin.

  • Rubbing alcohol – Don't put the alcohol directly on the grout, particularly if it's a colored, sealed or stained grout. This can damage it. Moisten a cloth and dip it in isopropyl alcohol. Blot first and then gently rub at the paint until it lifts off.
  • Commercial solvents – A latex paint remover can be bought at home improvement stores or online. Test a small area first because using commercial solvents to remove paint from grout can be harsher than homemade solutions.
  • Oil-based paint removal – Mineral spirits are the best solvent to remove oil-based paints that have landed on your grout. If the paint is stubborn, you may need to try a harsher solvent, such as acetone, naphtha or lacquer thinner. These harsher solvents can mar the finish of the surrounding tile, so test it first.

Remove Paint From Floor

Paint that has penetrated the grout will be difficult to remove with dabs of solvent. A battery-powered toothbrush works well to get into the lines of grout. The soft bristles gently scrub away at the unsealed grout, taking the top layer of paint away with it.

To remove paint from a floor that has been largely marred by paint, you'll have to bring out the big guns. For truly stubborn stains, use a small amount of solvent with the battery-operated toothbrush. Serious solvents like lacquer thinner can melt the bristles of the brush, so be careful when applying.

Large swaths of paint over many lines of grout or in hard-to-reach areas may need a paint stripper. Citrus or soy-based paint stripper is gentle enough for large areas of paint that have made its way deep into the porous grout. After applying the paint stripper per the manufacturer's directions, let it sit for the recommended amount of time and gently scrape the stripper off with a plastic paint scraper.

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Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at www.vegaswriter.com.

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