Why did my grout Turn White and How can I get back the Original Color?

QUESTION

We have a dark pebble and dark grout shower floor. After 6 months, the dark grout has turned bright white and nothing works to remove it. Tried cleaners, vinegar, scrubbing. We were told by the tile store to use grout with a special sealer mixed into it and then seal the floor afterwards, too., when thoroughly dry. It was carefully and painstakingly installed. We even sealed the stones separately before any other sealing.
The floor looks horrible and is getting progressively worse. How can we remove the "efflouresce "? And then what.....reseal with a different sealer?

ANSWER

ANSWER - It is not clear what kind of sealer you used.  Normally sealers are not mixed into the grout when you install the grout, so that may be part of the problem?

Grout turning white can be caused by efflorescence which is the calcium from the water and the underlying concrete or mortar migrating up through the porous cementitious grout.  Excessive efflorescence is considered a symptom of an excessive moisture problem.  If the water isn't draining away properly in the shower pan that cause be the cause of the excessive water that is causing the efflorescence.  If the weep holes in the drain or if the waterproof membrane in the shower pan isn't sloped properly to the drain that can cause water to not be able to evacuate.  The only way to determine if this is the problem is by either intrusively removing tiles to inspect the underlying conditions.  You could let the shower not be used for a few days and monitor it with a moisture meter to see if it dries out or not.

If the while condition is actually efflorescence then it should be able to be removed with a slightly acidic solution like vinegar, which should only be used as a test to verify it is efflorescence.  If it is efflorescence, then purchase a tile cleaner that is made for removing efflorescence.  Removing the efflorescence does not solve the problem, since it is the symptom of the problem, so it will likely return.

You could have latex leaching where vinegar will not remove it.  You can test this out by buying a tile latex leaching remover and seeing if it works.

The other condition that can cause grout to turn white or cloudy is if water is trapped under the tile and the grout is sealed with a non-breathing sealer.  If this is the case then you have to remove the sealer if it is a surface sealer.  If the sealer is deep into the grout then you might have to replace the grout.  There are grout colorants where you can paint the grout color a different color and it seals the grout at the same time, which is another option to consider.  But again, you are treating the symptom of the problem and not the problem.

 

34 thoughts on “Why did my grout Turn White and How can I get back the Original Color?

  1. Penny says:

    I have just had my walls and floor tiles grouted in our kitchen. The grout is a Bal grout, Graphite coloured. The grout has dried in patches of dark and very light Gray. The tilers came back and re- grouted. But this has happened again!
    Bal now say we have to complain to Top Tiles as we bought grouting from them before Bal will take any action.
    I understand grouting can change colour after a while , but not surely a week!
    Please can you help as I really need some advice of my next step ASAP. Thank you

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Normally when the grout dries in a blotchy condition it is due to the installer using too much water in the grout mix and/or using too much water in cleaning the grout during the installation process. Using too much water causes the color pigment to be pulled out of the mixture that can cause the variation in color. The installer should follow the installation guidelines of the grout manufacturer that states how much water to use.

      • Stephanie Knight says:

        Donato, I am sure this is my problem. My husband and I decided to install our tile floor our selves and probably used too much water, how can we fix it now? Do we need to remove it? I am hoping there is another way!!! 😬

        • Donato Pompo says:

          If the grout color is blotchy or not the color you want, most of the grout manufacturers offer what is called a “grout colorant” that matches the color charts. It is an epoxy paint that allows you to paint over the grout joints. It is a tedious process to apply and keep off the tile, but it works if done properly.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      From my experience when the grout turns white after applying a sealer it is normally because the sealer was applied when the grout was still damp. So the water is trapped in the grout. It might dissipate over time or you might need to use a sealer stripper to remove the sealer and let it dry. Best to call the sealer manufacturer and ask for their advice.

  2. SHELLY M SHIELDS says:

    Same situation with my grout. We used the Prism grout. It was supposed to be light smoke (a light brownish color), but after drying was a greyish white color. I called the company which walked me through the acid wash process. I waited the 10 day cure period and did the acid wash for it to still dry the greyish white color. I have porcelain tile. What would be the next step? I even went over some places a second time with the same result. HELP!

    • Donato Pompo says:

      I assume it wasn’t the grout manufacturer Custom Building Products who told you to do an acid wash. Normally they would never tell you to acid wash the grout as it would tend to lighten it. Sometimes acidic cleaners are used to clean the grout haze off of the face of the tile, but the they are highly diluted phosphoric acids. You should never use a muriatic acid.

      At this point your best bet is to use an epoxy grout colorant in the Light Smoke color to paint over the grout joints. It is a tedious process, but it can work if done correctly. You should call Customer Building Products Technical Service at 800-282-8786 and talk to them about it. They claim that their Prism Grout “offers consistent color with no shading.” They might give you the grout colorant.

      • SHELLY says:

        Funny, it was Custom Building Tech support that told me to get the acid crystals and walked me through what to do. He said efflorescence is the cause more than likely and to do the acid wash and I should get my color. I have to say that I do not recommend the Prism grout at all because the consistent color is just not true. I bought it for that reason and because it was highly recommended by many tile and grout professionals. I had professionals do the tile and the grout and still I get that greyish white color. I did try to contact Custom Building but I guess they are closed since it is Saturday so it will be Monday or even Tuesday before we hear anything I am sure. I am nervous about the grout colorant because I know I will end up getting it on my tiles as I do not have a steady hand. I may just have to let the ugly grout be and get on with my life as my house is all over the place due to the construction and I need to put it back together and get back to work. I appreciate your help. I just thought I would see if you had any thoughts on the next step, but if its the grout colorant I will probably do a hard pass….HA!

        • Donato Pompo says:

          They must have recommended sulfamic acid crystals which is the least corrosive acid. It makes since that if you did have an efflorescence problem it should have removed it, but it sounds like grout is faded maybe due to using too much water during mixing or cleaning.

          • Donato Pompo says:

            If you do use the grout colorant then get blue masking tape and tape the edges of the tile adjacent to the grout joint. Make sure it is tight against the tile. Right after applying the colorant pull the tape right away before the grout colorant dries so you get a clean separation.

  3. SHELLY says:

    Yes, that is what they recommended was the sulfamic acid crystals. Well I feel better! Thank you! And good advice on the blue tape! It will be time consuming and tedious, but might be the only other option. After we do that would we have to seal the grout or does it have a sealant in it!

  4. Dennis says:

    My wife has been using bleach on our tile and She didn’t know I didn’t seal part of it! So that part of the dark brown grout has turned white, what’s the best way to get it back to the original color? Should I use a wire brush, some type of chemical, vinegar and baking soda doesn’t seem to be doing the trick?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      You really should not use bleach on tile grout or you might bleach the color out of the grout. I am assuming that is what you mean by a portion of the grout turned white. If that is the case, then the only thing you can do is replace the grout or buy an epoxy grout colorant and paint over the grout to achieve a consistent look.

      You should not use acid or bleach on tile and grout. You should use a neutral based detergent to clean them with a scrub brush on an extended handle. Use a wet vacuum to pick up the dirt water and rinse the floor with clean water afterwards and vacuum that up too.

  5. Maria Vastag says:

    We just laid new tiles and my husband was told by the tiler that he can use a little bit of acid in the water to help with cleaning the grout off. The dark grey grout got a lot whiter now and we just don’t like it at all. He used just a very small amount of Hydrochloride Acid. Is there anything we can do to the grout now and would it have damaged the tiles?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Not all acids are created equal. In the tile industry it only recommended to use sulfamic acid for removing dry cementitious film. Tile installers will use diluted vinegar that is not very acidic and normally works well. There are some phosphoric acids that are highly diluted that are contained in some commercial products sold as tile cleaners.

      The acid that you used was hydrochloric acid ant it is extremely corrosive so even using a little is too much. Muriatic acid that is used in swimming pools is very corrosive and should never be used, it is diluted hydrochloric acid that is between 14% or 29% acid to water.

      When using an acid you first have to saturate the tile and grout joints with water first so the acid doesn’t readily absorb into them. Then after cleaning with a diluted sulfamic or phosphoric acid, you have to rinse it with clean water to remove all the acid residuals.

      If you bleached the grout color the only thing you can do is buy a grout colorant that is basically an epoxy paint that you paint over the grout joints. They normally are available to match all of the colors of major grout manufacturers.

  6. Jenny says:

    We have just moved into our new house. I used bleach on my coloured grout for the first time yesterday. Didn’t realise this was something I should not do. I used a fair bit undiluted left for 5-10 mins scrubbed and rinsed off. Then I realised parts of my grey coloured grout were white. By doing this once have I caused irreparable damage to my grout? Have I ruined the sealant? And is there a chance that the white is just efflorescence triggered by the use of bleach ?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      You shouldn’t have used full strength bleach on the grout or sealant. The grout might still be structurally ok, but the color won’t come back. The sealant might not have been affected, but you need to look to see if there is any damage.

      You can buy an epoxy grout colorant to paint over the joint to give a uniform look. To get it to perform well and last you need to follow the directions carefully.

  7. Kathryn says:

    Hi, we had Polyblend Charcoal grout used in our shower and it turned white soon afterwards; our contractor had us Aqux mix a grout colorant to our black grout and now it is turning white again before the 20 day no scrub deadline was up! As far as we know there was no sealer on the grout prior to us applying the Aqua Mix; It seems to be turning white mostly where the water comes down from the shower. We have now tried vinegar and scrubbing; nothing seems to really work either making it worse or better. What do you recommend next.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Apparently when the grout was installed it had the charcoal color and then later after use of the shower it turned white. If that is the case it makes me think you had efflorescence staining which is minerals from the grout and underlying setting system or stone if you used stone migrated to the surface. It isn’t unusual to get a little efflorescence, but not a lot. A lot of efflorescence suggests a moisture issue.

      The Aqua mix Grout colorant is an epoxy paint. So I don’t see why it would turn white. Sometimes when the grout is damp and the covered with a sealer it will turn cloudy white because moisture is trapped.

      I would take a small area where it is white and remove the grout colorant by abrading it off and making sure it will absorb water. I would then let it dry out and then try again with the grout colorant to see if it will work.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      There is no hard set rule of how long to let it dry. It depends on how damp it is and if the underlying materials are damp. It depends on the temperature and humidity of its environment. Normally 1 or 2 days grout will dry in normal conditions.

  8. Barb says:

    I used CLR on a tile and grout floor. As I poured it onto the floor it caused a fizzing action over the grout. After brushing, rinsing, then drying a white haze is left on the grout. This is an older floor and tiles are only about 1 in. square. Can this be fixed and does the fizzing action mean anything?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Sounds like you might have used too corrosive of an acid cleaner on the tile that might have etched the surface. If the 1×1 inch tiles fizzed that might mean you have a marble mosaic tile. If that is the case it is possible to hire a professional stone restoration company to grind and polish the floor to repair the damaged stones. If the tile was a glazed or porcelain tile it would not fizz.

  9. Diane M Horowitz says:

    Hi,
    I had a floor with dark grout installed 2 weeks ago. The grout color is not uniform. In addition, when you rub the gout with a wet towel a dark color comes off onto the towel. What went wrong?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Some cementitous grouts are made with a pigment, but they are normally stable and don’t cause bleeding. So hard to say what caused that other than maybe the grout wasn’t mixed well. Maybe the installer used too much water, which can also contribute to the grout color being blotchy.

      I would scrub the floor with a neutral detergent added to water using a scrub brush on an extended handle and then use a wet vacuum to pick up the dirty water and rinse the floor again. See if this stops the grout bleeding.

      If it does, the only thing you can do to make the grout uniform in color is to use an epoxy based grout colorant to paint the grout joints, which is a tedious job…

  10. Laurie Smith says:

    I am a renter, and the shower is a very nice dark tile, the floor 3/4″ square mosiac in a similar color. I have hard water and used barkeeper’s friend to try to clean off hard water deposits, coupled with a Mr. Clean sponge (I had read that a Mr. Clean coupled with dishwasher det powder was a good bet, but didn’t have any dishwasher powder that day (I’ve cleaned that way in the past). Now I have white stains on the grout that seems somewhat improved if I really scrub with Mr. Clean sponges, but overall, well…it’s not a good look. Did I discolor the grout using the barkeeper’s friend? I believe it’s acidic. Best best the colored epoxy?

  11. Donato Pompo says:

    Bar Keepers cleaner is acidic so you probably bleached the color out of the grout. Most grout manufacturers make grout colorants that allow you to paint over the existing grout after you have cleaned it thoroughly. It is a tedious process, but it can look good if done correctly.

  12. CLAbbott says:

    Grout turning white in areas. I just had tile installed for a half bath (2 weeks ago.) The grout is a dark gray Permacolor Grout. The tile was finished 2 weeks ago, but we haven’t used the bathroom yet (sink and toilet not installed) and haven’t used any chemicals on floor either. Just a damp rag the day after he finished to wipe the residue on the tile up a bit. the tile is porcelain. What could be causing the white chaulky look? It’s not everywhere, more on one side, near where the sink will go, and the doorway.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      The white material is likely efflorescence which are minerals found in cementitious materials that are like salts that dissolve in water, and when they water evaporates it precipitates the white minerals. It is unlikely it is coming from the grout itself. Chances are the tile is installed over concrete or mortar that was damp and as the moisture works its way up through the grout joints and evaporates it leaves the efflorescence. It should be easy to clean. There are products on the market for removing efflorescence from grout. As long as you don’t have continuous source of moisture from below driving the moisture through the grout, it should not reoccur at some point.

  13. Ashley says:

    Hello! As most posters have mentioned – our grout is turning white within 2 weeks of install and unsure what to do! The shower has ceramic tile floor using Polyblend Sanded Grout in Pewter. Within a few days of use… we noticed discoloring – where some areas were turning white and some were the dark grey. I stopped using shower for a week now – as was worried that contractor did not seal tile and that was causing a moisture issue. Our contractor said that he did NOT seal the floor and that it was not necessary (just around the perimeter). The shower at the is completely dry and the grout is all white. We have not used any cleaning products on floor.

    1) Do you recommend that we do seal the grout? There is mixed messaging that if shower was properly installed – sealing the grout may actually trap moisture between the basin and tile. I don’t know what to do – so we just aren’t using shower. It is completely dry at this point.

    2) With the grout turning white – this seems like the efflorescence so many people have mentioned. I kind of don’t care that it looks ugly – it is what it is. I see that their are products to fix this. But this moisture below driving moisture up -is what is causing this. How do you “diagnosis” this?

    I will do whatever necessary – just do not to have mold or moisture accumulating over there. And would like to use our expensive new bathroom!

    Thanks in advance

  14. Donato Pompo says:

    First question is what is the white substance making your gray grout turn white? You need to know what it is in order to clean it and to prevent it from reoccurring. It could be caused by the quality of the water that was used in terms of being very hard containing high mineral content. Or it could be the the underlying substrate is being subjected to moisture that migrates up through the grout and precipitates minerals leaving the white efflorescence. I would buy some tile efflorescence cleaning and do a test to see if it cleans it up. You could try some diluted vinegar as it is acidic. But be careful and test in an out of the way area to make sure it works satisfactorily.

    Next you need to know what is the source of the water that is migrating and precipitating the minerals? You need to stop the moisture source if possible. This is a trial and error process. If you have a shower then if it was constructed properly then you should have a waterproof membrane below the tile assembly. The waterproof membrane has to be sloped towards the drain. If the membrane is under the mortar bed then the drain weep holes have to be protected so they are not plugged. Often the weep holes get plugged and the water becomes trapped in the mortar bed and that could be the source of the water. The only way to know for sure is to do an intrusive inspection.

    After the grout is clean and dry, then you can use a penetrating sealer for tile and grout. Go to tile store and buy it there are a number of different brands to choose from. The sealer will help prevent water getting into the grout and to a degree might minimize any moisture coming up from the floor. Normally penetrating sealers will breath and not trap moisture, but read the sealer manufacturer’s data sheet for uses and limitations, and how to apply it.

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