How do you remove old grout sealer?

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wandwizard

Randy Dockins
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#1
I did a small tile and grout job today. I noticed that the dining area which I think is lightly used looked near perfect as well as the garage entrance and utility room. Those all came out great, but weren't real bad to begin with. The kitchen however was a totally different story. This was all ceramic tile in all areas. I applied Grout master and gave it plenty of dwell time and scrubbed all the grout lines with a grout brush followed by an SX-12. Nothing seemed to budge much in the kitchen for some reason. I could tell there were dirty areas, but they just weren't coming out. I find out after the job is over that the customer has applied grout sealer every year for the last 15 years to this grout! It was not professionally cleaned even one time in all those years to the best of my knowledge.

My guess is she not only sealed the grout, but some of the dirt and stains along with it. This was only prevalent in the kitchen, other areas looked fine accept for some small imperfections right next to the baseboards that wouldn't budge. What pains me about this type of work is the customer expects the grout to be like new perfect when you're done.

Now my question is this, can a build up of old sealer be removed by cleaning, period? Is it even possible? I suggested she have the grout color sealed as it appears to be the only reasonable fix. I have no desire to color seal, but if it were my kitchen and it even would make it look good another 5 years you can count me in all the way! I read on here a discussion about "acid wash" with Viper Renew. Why would you do that and will it remove old sealer? Can color seal be applied to the old sealer or will that cause it to just eventually flake off?
 

Todd the Cleaner

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#4
I would definitely go to acid. If you are cleaning tile on a regular basis you need to keep some tile acid in the truck. 95% of the time the acid will not be needed but when you run into the job like you had today it can be a life saver.

You don't necessarily need to use acid on the whole floor. I keep a dedicated pump sprayer with acid in it as well as a spray bottle. Sometimes you only need acid in front of the sink or stove, sometimes the whole floor will need it.

Just be careful not to get any acid overspray on any stainless steel because it will instantly stain it. Also make sure it's not a stone floor, test by putting a drop of acid on a tile (not the grout) in the corner, if the acid fizzes up then do not use acid on that floor.
 

MikeGaure

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#5
it's truly amazing what people put on there floors. did an estimate few weeks back poor fella was waxing ceramic tile floor for 15years and his tile counter top!

felt bad for the guy was out of his budget tried bartering since he's an artist but he didnt want to worry with it.
 

Magnum Clean

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#6
I did a small tile and grout job today. I noticed that the dining area which I think is lightly used looked near perfect as well as the garage entrance and utility room. Those all came out great, but weren't real bad to begin with. The kitchen however was a totally different story. This was all ceramic tile in all areas. I applied Grout master and gave it plenty of dwell time and scrubbed all the grout lines with a grout brush followed by an SX-12. Nothing seemed to budge much in the kitchen for some reason. I could tell there were dirty areas, but they just weren't coming out. I find out after the job is over that the customer has applied grout sealer every year for the last 15 years to this grout! It was not professionally cleaned even one time in all those years to the best of my knowledge.

My guess is she not only sealed the grout, but some of the dirt and stains along with it. This was only prevalent in the kitchen, other areas looked fine accept for some small imperfections right next to the baseboards that wouldn't budge. What pains me about this type of work is the customer expects the grout to be like new perfect when you're done.

Now my question is this, can a build up of old sealer be removed by cleaning, period? Is it even possible? I suggested she have the grout color sealed as it appears to be the only reasonable fix. I have no desire to color seal, but if it were my kitchen and it even would make it look good another 5 years you can count me in all the way! I read on here a discussion about "acid wash" with Viper Renew. Why would you do that and will it remove old sealer? Can color seal be applied to the old sealer or will that cause it to just eventually flake off?
Was she putting on clear sealer or color seal? What a mess either way.
 

Kevin Lietz

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#7
It's ironic that this thread came up. Running into the same issue at a steakhouse in town. Tile spinner got no where, neither did my 360i brush, or gecko heads (any of them :-/) yet i can dig in and fingernail scrape the black rubberized sealer off. Pain in the @$$. Going back next week and trying the 175 with a scrub pad i think but if that doesn't do it I'm bathing it in renew.

Unless there's a better idea.

Here's the sealer

 

Luky

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#8
I did a small tile and grout job today. I noticed that the dining area which I think is lightly used looked near perfect as well as the garage entrance and utility room. Those all came out great, but weren't real bad to begin with. The kitchen however was a totally different story. This was all ceramic tile in all areas. I applied Grout master and gave it plenty of dwell time and scrubbed all the grout lines with a grout brush followed by an SX-12. Nothing seemed to budge much in the kitchen for some reason. I could tell there were dirty areas, but they just weren't coming out. I find out after the job is over that the customer has applied grout sealer every year for the last 15 years to this grout! It was not professionally cleaned even one time in all those years to the best of my knowledge.

My guess is she not only sealed the grout, but some of the dirt and stains along with it. This was only prevalent in the kitchen, other areas looked fine accept for some small imperfections right next to the baseboards that wouldn't budge. What pains me about this type of work is the customer expects the grout to be like new perfect when you're done.

Now my question is this, can a build up of old sealer be removed by cleaning, period? Is it even possible? I suggested she have the grout color sealed as it appears to be the only reasonable fix. I have no desire to color seal, but if it were my kitchen and it even would make it look good another 5 years you can count me in all the way! I read on here a discussion about "acid wash" with Viper Renew. Why would you do that and will it remove old sealer? Can color seal be applied to the old sealer or will that cause it to just eventually flake off?
I had a similar situation situation today( embedded dirt in grout lines after years of DIY) Basically I caught customer scrubbing grout lines with a brush slightly bigger than a tooth brush with tiny amount of water applied ( I was called to clean carpeting and upholstery only) After a little interrogation, customer confessed that she does it every year, including applying sealer and color seal( I didn't dare to ask what brand). So when I took over , I used my"secret" formula supported by Oxi Blaster( Magic Wand) and very little agitation. I ended up with a light beige grout with a sprinkles of poppy seeds in it(I believe it was dirt embedded in grout line over the years . When I removed "color seal" she already applied in vicinity of cleaned area, grout lines had more dirt in it . She was very satisfied with my results and I avoided using acid( I use Nyco products on very rare occasion ). I don't believe that you can completely remove sealer, especially quality penetrating sealer and yes eventually every color seal will flake off for many reasons( grout lines not properly neutralized prior application, dogs, kids, lot of traffic) Contrary to popular belief, color seal is a topical application.
 

wandwizard

Randy Dockins
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#9
Was she putting on clear sealer or color seal? What a mess either way.
She said she applied a clear seal by hand about annually for the last 15 years. I guess she was just mopping before sealing so any stains or dirt in the grout would be sealed over.
 

wandwizard

Randy Dockins
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#10
I would definitely go to acid. If you are cleaning tile on a regular basis you need to keep some tile acid in the truck. 95% of the time the acid will not be needed but when you run into the job like you had today it can be a life saver.

You don't necessarily need to use acid on the whole floor. I keep a dedicated pump sprayer with acid in it as well as a spray bottle. Sometimes you only need acid in front of the sink or stove, sometimes the whole floor will need it.

Just be careful not to get any acid overspray on any stainless steel because it will instantly stain it. Also make sure it's not a stone floor, test by putting a drop of acid on a tile (not the grout) in the corner, if the acid fizzes up then do not use acid on that floor.
So does the acid penetrate the old sealer better or something? This totally caught me off guard. I thought this was going to be an easy job, and it was, except for the kitchen. There were some small dark areas in some places right up against the baseboard in the laundry room too. I guessed there was no sealer there or something happened to it at some point to turn it that dark. I'm talking about 1/8 of an inch of grout here and there. Do you just use your grout brush on the bad areas or a 175?
 

Todd the Cleaner

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#11
So does the acid penetrate the old sealer better or something? This totally caught me off guard. I thought this was going to be an easy job, and it was, except for the kitchen. There were some small dark areas in some places right up against the baseboard in the laundry room too. I guessed there was no sealer there or something happened to it at some point to turn it that dark. I'm talking about 1/8 of an inch of grout here and there. Do you just use your grout brush on the bad areas or a 175?
It will depend on the sealer used. In most cases acid will eat through the old sealer. If it's caked on and the sealer is visible it may be a bit harder. Ask her what sealer she has been using.

I had a job a few months ago wher the customer had just sealed their grout using the cheap Tile Lab sealer from the Home Depot. The sealer left a white haze everywhere on the grout and looked horrible. Acid removed it, I applied the acid and had to use the grout brush and then the spinner at 1200 psi. It all came offand then I re-sealed it using a premium solvent impregnating sealer.
 

Scott W

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#12
If you decide to go the acid route, I would suggest trying it in a small test area to see what it does and what it takes to remove the old sealer.

One question is what type of sealer was used. I suspect homeowner used something not meant for sealing grout lines. Different sealers will react differently.

Many sealers need a highly alkaline stripper to remove them. Acid will work against any alkaline stripper. It would be similar to stripping finish from a VCT floor, you need alkaline.

I hesitate to disagree with Todd who has more ceramic tile experience than I do. But use of acid in this case does not seem right to me. Acid does not penetrate well. Acid does not break down the polymers in the sealer.

Test first. If acid works, great. Tell us how it turns out. I might learn something from your job.
 

wandwizard

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#13
If you decide to go the acid route, I would suggest trying it in a small test area to see what it does and what it takes to remove the old sealer.

One question is what type of sealer was used. I suspect homeowner used something not meant for sealing grout lines. Different sealers will react differently.

Many sealers need a highly alkaline stripper to remove them. Acid will work against any alkaline stripper. It would be similar to stripping finish from a VCT floor, you need alkaline.

I hesitate to disagree with Todd who has more ceramic tile experience than I do. But use of acid in this case does not seem right to me. Acid does not penetrate well. Acid does not break down the polymers in the sealer.

Test first. If acid works, great. Tell us how it turns out. I might learn something from your job.
@Todd the Cleaner @Scott W

I just tried to call her and can't reach her at the moment. Honestly, I think I was more dissatisfied with the job than she was. Still, I need to learn how to handle this as I'm certain it will happen again. She is the first person I've known to repeatedly reseal grout without having it professionally cleaned.

I'd like to hear both your thoughts on color sealing.
I know personally I've seen color sealing that has lasted and held up for years, but it may have been applied at the same time as the flooring which I would think could make a significant difference. I'm equally sure some color seals will be better than others. I know if this were my home I'd be strongly considering doing a color seal. I honestly don't know if I can get that grout looking right again, but I'm willing to give it a shot if the home owner agrees to it. I might need to purchase a new grout brush before I attempt it though. I think I need a more aggressive one for this. :)
 

Robert86

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#14
it's truly amazing what people put on there floors. did an estimate few weeks back poor fella was waxing ceramic tile floor for 15years and his tile counter top!

felt bad for the guy was out of his budget tried bartering since he's an artist but he didnt want to worry with it.
It never ceases to amaze me what people do. Like, 10 years of Johnson's paste wax to seal slate kitchen countertops.
 

Scott W

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#15
I like color seal. But it has to be done right.

The seal must penetrate into the capillaries and pores of the grout to bind well. The presence of excessive sealer or finishes will keep the color seal from getting in deep enough to hold.

Using an acid cleaner on already cleaned grout, helps open up the pores so more of the color seal can get down into the grout. So, usually an acid wash will be a preparation step for color seal. Like so many things, preparation is the key.

Also a good color seal product. I have worked with two that I like.
Color Seal = www.colorsealpro.com
Grout Perfect

When I was being trained to do color seal, I did a couple of square feet in the entry way of one of our stores. Almost 6 years ago. Still looks the same as it did on day 1. Could not scrape it off with a screw driver.

But I have seen a lot more crappy jobs than good ones when in different people's homes.
 

Todd the Cleaner

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#16
I guess I just got lucky using the acid to remove the sealer. Honestly until I did that job a couple months ago I had never been asked to remove sealer before.

As for the color seal I second Scott's advice above. I've used Grout Perfect and had good results. Use one of the high quality color seals and they will usually last for years on end if applied properly.

On the other hand I see bad color seal jobs almost every week. People will pick up the cheap stuff at the Home Depot which if you compare the cost ounce for ounce it actually costs about the same as a high quality product like Grout Perfect. I've even seen people use a semi-gloss wall paint on their grout. People put color seal over dirty grout all the time without even cleaning the grout first. If they do clean it they don't do it properly or acid wash it before applying the color seal and this is what happens the next time you go in to clean it.



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Magnum Clean

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#18
I guess I just got lucky using the acid to remove the sealer. Honestly until I did that job a couple months ago I had never been asked to remove sealer before.

As for the color seal I second Scott's advice above. I've used Grout Perfect and had good results. Use one of the high quality color seals and they will usually last for years on end if applied properly.

On the other hand I see bad color seal jobs almost every week. People will pick up the cheap stuff at the Home Depot which if you compare the cost ounce for ounce it actually costs about the same as a high quality product like Grout Perfect. I've even seen people use a semi-gloss wall paint on their grout. People put color seal over dirty grout all the time without even cleaning the grout first. If they do clean it they don't do it properly or acid wash it before applying the color seal and this is what happens the next time you go in to clean it.



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Yup that's always a pain. And they never tell you about it before! And it's so caked in dirt you don't see it until you are cleaning :mad:
I'd try 2790 or vct stripper for that clear sealer. And the hydroforce stainless grout brush
 

wandwizard

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#19
Yup that's always a pain. And they never tell you about it before! And it's so caked in dirt you don't see it until you are cleaning :mad:
I'd try 2790 or vct stripper for that clear sealer. And the hydroforce stainless grout brush
I was actually thinking about one of those stainless grout brushes if it comes to that. I need to see it again now that it's completely dry and get the owner's input. Having trouble getting hold of her. If nothing else I hope I've learned to ask if they've done any kind of sealing to the grout since it was put down! I don't do a lot of this type of work and only for a few years very limited. I thought this one would be a piece of cake and for the most part it was. I would think to really get that grout to where it would accept color seal it might be necessary to use a steel grout brush in some cases. I've read here on the forum about color seal flaking off like @Todd the Cleaner shows in his pics and I'm wondering it the cause is trying to put color seal over old clear grout sealer. Stands to reason that it wouldn't adhere to the old sealer.
 
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