Renewing your dirty’ ole grout.
Product Testing.

A neighbour friend of mine and I were talking about tile countertops a while ago.  Like … maybe 5 years or so ago.  When you’re young, a while ago is the previous hour.  When you’re old it’s the previous decade.

She said that she was annoyed with everyone asking her if she had a hard time keeping her tile counter clean.  She was slightly aghast at this question and answered with a resounding “NO.”. I clean my counter meticulously every night.  I never had any problem keeping the grout sparkling clean.  Sheesh.  Can you believe some people?  Can’t even keep their kitchen counters clean?  I mean, a person who doesn’t have sparkling clean grout is just one chromosome away from being a dirty, rotten catfish.

At this point in the conversation I had no choice but to agree.  Or swim on over a little closer to her and prick her with my barb.

I chose to agree.  Slovenly pigs with their dirty grout. I hate those assholes.

Here’s my grout.
Pizza Dough Dirty Grout

That’s what it looked like last year while doing my pizza dough post.  Gross.  I clean it and clean it but it still looks like crap.  And even if I manage to scrub it and scrape it and clean it enough that my fingernails bleed, it looks dirty by the next day.  Kind of like my fingernails.

I need a new counter.  I know I need a new counter.  But my sad little kitchen needs a lot of new things so I’m going to wait until either a) I can afford to do everything at once, because it’s wayyyyy more fun to have a big reveal all at once than a smidge here and a smudge there or b) I’m so old and insane I don’t care about it anymore.

Until then, I have to do whatever little things I can to keep things looking like something other than the home of Tiny Tim.

I was browsing around my local hardware store and came across a “Grout Renewer”.  I knew things like grout paint existed and grout sealant.  This appeared to be a pen that was both in one.  A tiny pen for painting your grout which is also waterproof and thusly seals your grout.


Fixing Dirty Grout

So I had to buy it.  And of course, since I bought it, I had to try it.

In my head of course I figured I’d be able to take the cap off, paint my grout lines perfectly and cap ‘er back up in no time. RENEWED GROUT!  That dream almost came true.  But not quite.

From a bit of a distance my counters don’t look that bad.


Counter Before
But they are. They are that bad.

So I opened my package of “Grout Refresh” and applied it just like the package says. Just apply the paint like a pen. Justtttttt brush it along the grout.
Painting Grout
Doesn’t it look fantastic?!

Not a problem though. I just waited for the paint to dry and lightly wiped over it with a cotton ball dipped in nail polish remover. If you don’t press very hard, the paint comes away from the tile but not the grout. Crisis averted. Kind of.
Removing Paint
I say kind of because the counter looks good, great in fact, from a bit of a distance. Definitely , without question, way better than it did before.


Counter After

Infinitely better. It just doesn’t happen to show up in the picture very well. Which may be for the best. Because up close it doesn’t look great.

Having said that … it does look better. Not as better as a new countertop would look … but better. For one thing it’s WHITE. BRILLIANT WHITE. Anderson Cooper white. I suspect when it gets a bit dirtier it’ll look better. Oddly enough.

So yes. Now I want my grout dirtier.

Also … it looks like painted grout.


Before &amp ;- After
But for the $10 and single hour it took me it to do it, it worked out fairly well. Would I recommend it? Yes. But only if you have a crappy old counter like mine that couldn’t get any worse. If you have a newer tiled area and can clean your grout, I’d recommend doing that and then sealing it so it stays clean longer. Plus grout that’s been sealed is a lot easier to keep clean than unsealed grout.

Do you know what the worst part of all of this is? If I get a new counter, I’d probably get another grody grout tile countertop. They’ll put up with any amount of abuse. Nothing stains it, nothing hurts it, you can take a pot hot from the stove and put it right down on it. You don’t have to worry about wine or vinegar or anything. So I like that and plan to stick with it. I don’t like change very much. Which make sense.

You can’t teach an old catfish new tricks.



  1. Suzanne in Austin, Texas says:

    I didn’t know that the French word for grout was coulis. So if I were in Canada making a delicious raspberry coulis for my awesome flour less chocolate cake, I would be making raspberry grout? Would be a perfect accompaniment to a pink counter top!

  2. James @ Primary Designs Studio says:

    Love the post. We’ve been in our house for 4 years and the grout lines in our bathroom have NEVER looked clean no matter what we’ve done. I’m going to try a few of the tricks I read about in these comments…and I will also add that 2 years ago I ripped out our kitchen and put in new cabinets, new countertops. The cabinets came from IKEA, and we put down formica countertops on one side, and next to the stove we put down the IKEA butcherblock. It is a STEAL. It is solid and you can do whatever you want to it. I sand it once a year, seal it with mineral oil, and we are off to the races. Hot pans, cold pans, you name it – no problem. I roll out dough on there, I cut veg on it, absolutely no worries. I’ll find a photo and send it to you – it is INEXPENSIVE. under $100 for an 8′ long slab…Enjoy and keep up the awesome work :) James

  3. Tammy says:

    Anderson Cooper white …. genius. That guy’s famous white hair annoys me

  4. SamiJ says:

    My circa 1978 laminate counter tops had seen better decades. But replacing them would start an avalanche of upgrades (if you replace the counter, might as well get new cabinets, which means we should do the floors as well, and if we are doing all that, this would be a good time to remove the soffits and get an entire new kitchen)… Anyways, we tiled over the laminate countertops, but with black tiles. And black grout. The nice thing about black grout? It never looks dirty.
    Grout comes in like 35 different colours now – 14 of them are some varying shade of off white!

  5. Susie says:

    If you use Laticrete Grout you will not have staining. It costs a lot more as it is an epoxy product and can be applied in small amts. If allowed to dry on tiles, will NOT come out. It will not stain or peal. You can spill red wine on white L. grout and will not stain. Check it out. It may be spelled Latacrete or Latecrete or who knows. I worked for a builder who swore by it. He also swore at other things too.

  6. Alex says:

    Timely post. We have a floor to do. I cannot bring myself to do it for the sheer scale of the the job. I keep trying to convince my husband that ripping up tile won’t cause us to divorce.

  7. Jamiek says:

    Two houses ago I had beige and white checkboard 4 x 4 inch tile cabinet tops with white grout. I kept a little spray bottle of Clorox bleach and it worked like a charm anytime I got a stain. Spinach, mustard, wine would clean right up!

  8. Patti says:

    I had some very nasty looking grout on my tile floor in the kitchen. I used my two favorite cleaners, Clorox Clean-up and Ajax (you know, the powdery white stuff). I worked in a 3-4 foot area at a time, first sprayed on the clorox, let it sit a minute or two, then sprinkled on the ajax. Scrubbed it with a good stiff bristled brush, rinse with cold water and it looked like new. Very time consuming but worth it!

  9. Inga says:

    Cool! I’ll definitel have to see if my local hardware store has this. But, out or curiousity, what would be the best way to clean the grout of our kitchen tile floor? I have no idea if it was sealed in the past or not, I just know it looks “blech”

  10. AliceM says:

    I have the some to the IKEA beech counters. They are beautiful. I have some in the bathroom that have been sealed with polyurethane, and an oiled one in the kitchen. They are a terrific value.

    I also have stainless counters in my kitchen. If you can find someone who makes them (or, refashion a restaurant counter), they’re great. Modern or retro, they are almost impossible to damage, scratches from use actually make them look better, and they reflect light into the kitchen from the windows. Mine were about the same price as granite (which I also loathe) and are wonderful. They also aren’t loud or too hard.

  11. Langela says:

    That is so true, Karen. I have been trying for weeks to teach my old catfish a new trick and he just stares at me like I’m speaking a foreign language.

  12. Barb says:

    Barb, The Elder here: Tried them all over the years. Burned tops of wood ones. Tried to solve the grout issue with a dark colour – which worked initially, but I better things to do than re-seal it, so even it started looking grungy. If you lay the tiles as close together as possible, you can eliminate most of that problem. Granite is the rage with the builders here too, but my daughter has them and I find they are cold, shiny and hard. So far the best for me has been good quality laminate and if your set-up works,a couple of big tiles beside the stove for hot pots. Wood trim on the front edges of the laminate look nice. And when they get too beaten up they’re reasonably inexpensive to replace, and so many colour and pattern choices. They don’t make them like they used to – I have my mother’s 60 year old Formica-topped kitchen table at my cabin and it looks brand new except where I accidently drilled a hole through it.
    Laminate is my vote.

  13. Debkb says:

    When we redid our kitchen 11 years ago I put in 6×6 tiles on the counter and subway tiles on the backsplash. I HATE the tile counter top! Hate it with a passion. Everything and it’s brother gets stuck in those d*mned grout lines. We used white tile w/grey grout to resolve the staining which did work but I absolutely hate the tile counter. Oh,did I mention that I hate the tile counter top?

  14. Bonnie says:

    I have been won over by the baking soda and vinegar cleaning movement. I used it this weekend and was able to get things much cleaner than the many commercial products that I have tried. It is supposed to work great on grout, too, but I confess that I was too tired for that after all of my other cleaning. There are plenty of testimonials on the internet, though.

    I was thinking of getting new counters, too, but the vinegar and baking soda got some stains off that were resistant to other cleaners, so I am in less of a hurry now. However, I am interested in all of the opinions about what counter tops are best.

  15. Vere says:

    I have granite countertops, granite bathrooms, Carrara marble staircase, my life is a nightmare! They stain so easily, costed tons of money, are so cold, and if you use the wrong cleaning product you are screwed! (weren’t my choice, my house was a gift from my in-laws)am super grateful for it, but I kinda wished for a simple place with IKEA furniture!!!

  16. Barbie says:

    Why do you hate granite? I was trying to quickly read through the comment stream… so if you said so …sorry.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Barbie – I just generally don’t like the look of of it. I also find that it’s overused and builders think putting a granite countertop in a house is the be all and end all of home developments. I’d rather see them put their money and energy into well placed electrical outlets and heated floors, LOL. ~ karen!

  17. Lin N says:

    Had granite counters in our last place…hate ’em, hate ’em, hate ’em! New house has formica that mimics natural stone (FX series) and I love ’em, love ’em, love ’em! Easy to clean, warm, and takes a fair amount of abuse. Folks who visit always comment on them and have to touch them to make sure they aren’t stone. We have tile floors and in the shower and sealed coloured grout was used. Don’t see no dirt. Oh yeah…have white subway tile backsplash in kitchen. It has sealed white grout and still looks awesome.

  18. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Tiny Tim the little Dickens boy on crutches or Tiny Tim the(um) you know anything about these new roll on counter tops?? Or is there anyone out there that has tried this and had success or failure? Just curious!

  19. Kat says:

    I put in tile countertops in our kitchen remodel. The key to the job is getting “espresso” colored grout. No, really, that’s a real color. And hey presto! No more dirty grout lines (at least that anyone can prove).

  20. Susan says:

    I neeeed to find out what will clean grout. I’ve retiled our shower twice. The last guy said this grout will never mildew. Yeah right…NOT.

    I’ve sprayed it w/ CLR (which works, but leaves me dying coughing), bleach (ditto), scrubbing w/ comet & electric toothbrush.

    I HATE HATE HATE cleaning the shower!! It’s small, so I have to either crawl in and get my knees wet or lean over and kill my back.

    I HATE cleaning my shower. It looks so crappy and the floor pan is stained too (it’s 50 years old). I don’t want anyone to come in my bathroom and see my embarrassing shower.

    Next up to try is hot vinegar that a friend suggested. I haven’t done that yet. She told me about 2 weeks ago. I HATE CLEANING MY SHOWER!

    Thanks Karen. I needed that vent. Now, what REALLY works?

    • Lynn says:

      I have started using half vinegar and half the original dawn in a kitchen dish scrubby thing, you know, the one with the hollow handle to fill and a scrubby on a sponge on the tip. I HATE cleaning in general and showers in particular and this is working! After I finish cleaning myself I go after the walls with it and get to stay in an extra minute or two under the lovely hot water. I didn’t scrub it clean before I started this experiment and it is definitly cleaner than when I started this routine.

      • Pam'a says:

        After you get the shower clean, you might want to try coating it with car wax and buffing it out if you’re ambitious. If not, at least invest five bucks and buy a squeegee. I swear to God, if you have hard water it will change your life.

  21. Lynn says:

    I have a house I am remodeling for the bulldozers that are taking down the rest of my neighborhood. A large apartment building is in my little house’s future. But in the meantime, I consider my remodeling work PRACTICE. Anyway… I redid my kitchen counters with 24×24 tiles using pennies as spacers. I got them at my local salvage yard as leftovers CHEAP from some big job somewhere. My 7ft. island is topped with 1/2 a bowling lane(I chose the end without all the arrows) 7 ft. for $240 from the same salvage yard. I LOVE my new kitchen, until the bulldozers shove me out.

  22. LaineyDid says:

    I have the Ikea wood chopping block style counter tops in my craft room – they look great but definetely aren’t for heavy duty use. They’re on the delicate side. I would not recommend them for a kitchen of someone who actually cooks on a regular basis.

  23. Jeannie B. says:

    Karen, I love your white tile counters. Have you tried using a Mr. Clean Magic sponge on the grout? I keep one in the bathroom to use whenever I see the start of any mold in the grouting of the wall tiles. Just rub the edge of the damp sponge into the grout line. Mold just disappears . Also keep a bar of sunlight laundry soap there too. And the tiles and grouting are 35 years old. My kitchen counters are laminate that look like granite. They’re about 20 years old but I still love them against the white cabinets. I always feel that real granite could set off a geiger counter.

    • Karen says:

      Jeannie B. – Oh yes. I’ve definitely used the Magic Eraser. It does work but not completely, plus it takes a longgggg time and many erasers to do my entire counter and backsplash. The paint proved easier, faster and more effective. ~ karen!

  24. Lynn says:

    OMG….”dirty rotten catfish”… that is perfection. May I use it? (I will of course give credit where credit is due!) Second question: May I say I got it from my ‘friend’ Karen? (sounds so much better than from a “blogger I stalk”).

  25. Radana says:

    I now have “Dirty Old Grout” sung to the tune of the Pogues’ Dirty Old Town stuck in my head. Thank. You.

  26. jamie says:

    I’ve also seen some beautiful concrete countertops!

  27. laura gerber says:

    If anyone is putting in new tile countertops you can use grout that already has sealant in it – all the big grout companies make them now. Bleach actually degrades your grout so it’s one of the things not recommended by the tile & grout industry for that reason.

  28. Lori says:

    White vinegar w/water…maybe a dab of dishwashing soap…does MIRACLES on the grout in our house. When my husband and I first got married and I moved to his house, I spent quite a bit of time cleaning all the tile in our house with a scrub brush and vinegar and water. It got out red mud that his dog had tracked in and that had been ground into the grout….for like…7 years. He had a clean house, I promise…but he was not going to spend time on his hands and knees cleaning that stuff. I swear by it.

  29. for your photos tiles look nice, but for me day to day like I could never have tile. I feel like anything that touches it is incredibly dirty because grout is incredibly filthy. Solid Surface (the man made looking granite or marble) has the same bonuses as tile but none of the ground… and like 5x the cost. if I were you I would save up for that.

  30. Ann says:

    Tile counter tops would be a step up from my formica. But since I need to do a kitchen re-do, I will probably opt for a solid surface, either natural or one of the better quality manmade products. But boy oh boy do I crave a tile back splash. The 2 girls who built this house had absolutely no design talent at all. The back splash areas are all just a dull flat white paint that does not clean. I would do back splashes myself but really, I just want it all done at one time. Replace the countertops and add tile backsplashes. And add under counter lighting. Change out my appliances, flooring, paint the cabinets……….hmmmm. Guess it wouldn’t be just a minor kitchen re-do after all….

  31. Laura Bee says:

    I’m living with our pink laminate counter. Who puts a pink counter in a kitchen? I’d love your dirty tile.
    And while we are sharing: I had a conversation this past spring with my neighbour about our babies learning to crawl & walk. She said “I’ll be so happy when he learns to walk so I won’t have to mop the floor *every day*.” Just smile & nod.
    I did feel a little better when our daughters had a playdate & there was a massive pile of laundry to be folded on her loveseat. At least I keep mine hidden in our bedroom until I find time to fold it.

  32. Jeff Walker says:

    There are so many options for counter tops these days. I just got back from spending a day at Ikea and even they have expanded their selection of counter tops. Warning: That place is dangerous.

  33. Lynne says:

    KK… got three ideas for you. :)

    1. Fantastic or any brand of spray bleach. I love that stuff. Spray it on, let it sit and give it a wee scrub with one of those scrubby things. It is d’bomb dot com. I also use it on clothing. Makeup and crap on pillowcases and facecloths. White ones, anyway. It works like a charm.

    2. We used old floor boards( you could also use barn boards) and made wooden countertops in our kitchen. 10 years ago and they still look fab. Nope…you can’t put a burning hot pot on them, but other than that…they take abuse and still look great.

    3. Ikea has funky wood counters (that look like a cutting board) at a super duper reasonable price. They look sexy too.

    Whatcha think? I think you will go for #3 and have a hot dog at Ikea. :)

    • Karen says:

      Lynne – I’ve actually browsed those cutting board counters at Ikea. :) ~ karen!

      • sera says:

        We installed the IKEA cutting board countertop on our island. It looks fantastic, but we sealed it with kitchen grade polyurethane and don’t exactly use it as a cutting board. It makes a great countertop and is great for rolling out dough and easy cleaning. If you have to replace on the cheap, it looks beautiful!

  34. Tracy says:

    I have formica that is fresh from the 80’s and is chipped/cracked in a couple of less-than-strategic places. The flower vase in the center of the counter isn’t fooling anyone anymore. I’ve been thinking of new counters for a long, long time now and am down to tile or marble (I don’t want the fake/manufactured stuff because I’m scared as soon as it’s in, they’ll tell us the manufactured stuff gives off toxins or some horrible thing). I like the tile price. I like the overall look. Just terrified of the grout. But it sounds like you’re saying I should be fearless and just do tile?

    • Karen says:

      Tracy – If you’re putting in new counters and you have a chance to seal the grout well you’ll be fine! I’d also reseal it every so often. Once every couple of years or so. ~ karen!

  35. Jane says:

    I moved into a townhouse just over a year ago with a renovated kitchen, including a quartz countertop. LOVE IT!!!! I can do all the things you can do on your tile, but have a smooth surface that is sooo easy to wipe clean…no stains like granite and marble!! I’ll never be able to move again unless I find a quartz counter as I’ll likely never be able to afford one and can’t imagine life without it…..that is how much I love my counter!! If you ever decide to replace, definitely look at quartz!!

  36. Brenda J. M says:

    Looks great Karen…now stay tuned from those I call (how the hell do you think you lived this long) “health freaks” who want to know if your poisoning your body and soul because it may contain a toxin or ten.
    I really do like it.

  37. Jan says:

    If you regularly clean your grout with bleach, the diluted solution still exists in the grout and foods placed on or near the tile and later ingested will help whiten your teeth!

    And if you believe that…

  38. Sprout says:

    Next time just get grout the color of dirt. Problem solved!

  39. Amanda says:

    So I have a bit of genius that I came up with and never miss a chance to share it (even to the professional tile men but they don’t seem to like to hear advice from me … Men … Think they know it all). This is for using grout sealer. I get an old syringe and fill ‘r up. Then I put a bead of sealer along my grout. Let it saturate and dry and it’s like putting 30 coats of sealer on. I confess I have not tried it on white but the main entrance floor I tried it on looks great after 5 years.

  40. Jamieson says:

    We are mid-reno right now and have opted for soapstone countertops.
    This is not the kind of soapstone that you can carve; it’s much tougher than that. It sounds like a miracle material:
    It feels soft and smooth to the touch, almost “warm” compared to cold marble and granite. It’s also matte, not glossy, in finish, which I prefer.
    You can put a hot pot directly on it, no problem.
    You can spill a glass of red wine, leave it for days, and wipe it up without a trace. (If you’re a messy pig.)
    It’s possible to scratch it, it’s true, but just wipe it with a little bit of mineral oil and a scratch disappears. I saw this demonstrated with steel wool at the Home Show. Steel wool would not be so kind to marble, granite, or even tile.
    On the Internet you’ll find many opinions about it. I can’t find any negative comments from people who actually own soapstone, just people who are confused about it but don’t use it.
    It’s probably the same material as the countertops in your high school science lab. That is some hardworking material.
    In sum: heat- and damage-resistant, non-porous, smooth, warm surface. I can’t wait! I’ll let you know how it goes in 3 months.

  41. I lived with the grunge look in tile until a year ago when I started my Thousand Dollars or Less Kitchen reno…I tore up the old small ones[4inch] and replaced with 20 x 20 which I bought as a job end for less than 140.00 including the mortar and the grout,enough for my counter and island. They are totally awesome, I squeezed them close and there is so little footage of grout lines. You can make 4 sandwiches on one tile. Like you I love the fact that tile is so user friendly for kitchen use and tiling is one of the most satisfying do it yourself jobs out there. When you do your new counters K you will be in heaven. I still get a thrill every time I wipe the counters.))

  42. I know you might not want to do this around food, but I clean my grout in my bathroom with bleach and a Q tip, leave it on for 20 mins, comes up lovely.
    I’d love a tile kitchen top; in a fit of madness, I got a teak one, which can’t take hot anything, and has to be sanded and oiled regularly (once a year is regular in my case!)

  43. Violet says:

    Since you mention wishing your grout was dirtier again, you might prefer a color like charcoal or terracotta better.

    When I was looking into products to refresh my grout, I came across recommendations that grout should be similar to the color of dirt that ends up in the grout lines. Now the terracotta grout on my tile floors makes perfect sense! I live in a red clay region. These floors were put in by a previous owner in 2006 and the grout still looks brand new. If white or buff had been used, it would be filthy by now.

    Anyway, you might want to check out a product like Aqua Mix Grout Colorant. It comes in all sorts of nice neutrals (Cinnamon, Cocoa, Charcoal, Pewter, to name a few). It even comes in snazzy colors like Rose, Evergreen, Teal, and Cadet Blue. Not that I envision you jonesin’ for a kitchen with rose-colored grout — just wanted to give an idea of the wide range of options. LOL

  44. Lori says:

    In my last house I had tile counter tops, Never again!! I did like the fact that u could put anything on them and it doesn’t seem to bother it one bit! But the grout drove me nuts!! Same reason I don’t like a tile floor! Yep, had that too, and every couple of months I was on my hands and knees cleaning the grout and tile,cause a clean mop just did not so the job! So I will not be having any of that again. At least if I have my way I won’t . I know never say never.

  45. Diane says:

    This is why I love my 60 year old grey formica countertops. They never look old and worn out. They will live forever. Little pledge when ya wanna shine ’em up and… I use the sharpest tool in the block (yeah yeah) directly on them most of the time and still the most durable, lovable surface ever. All you tile/granite/composite/whatever lovers will one day, be saying… Grandma’s counters… they were the best.

  46. Katie says:

    We just bought our house in September and we have nasty tile counter tops… our grout is not only dirty, but broken, and when the rainy season started ants started crawling up THROUGH the holes in the grout. So yeah, we need new counters too. Blech!

  47. Allison says:

    Thanks for the tip about the grout pen. I usually hit my grout with hydrogen peroxide after a light scrub and it works great. But my grout is starting to pop out in the shower so I’ve got to get on it. I have all the supplies and equipment to regrout I’m still freaked I’m going to mess it up.

    Did you know you can buy a special grout drill bit for your Dremel? Just sayin …

  48. Susan says:

    I love my tile countertop! I know the style is expensive granite, marble or even concrete but I love my tile countertop. I clean it from time to time with bleach and a tooth brush. Or even toothpaste will clean it too. The painting pen is not for me. I couldn’t stand seeing brilliant white lines between my sparkling white tiles. The only problem with my countertop is it is a bitch to roll out a pie crust on it. Unless of course you like square pies! :-)

    • Karen says:

      LOL. That *is* the one thing. I always have to use a marble pastry board for rolling dough. The tile is also all uneven because whoever installed the counter didn’t actually know how to lay tile. It’s a mess. ~ k!

  49. The best part of getting rid of your tile for lovely new counters is whacking the old tile off. Subliminal agression? Whack whack whack! Your mental health is shiny bright.

    I think I preferred the SUBSTRATE to my hideous old tiles. Whack them.

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