Grout removal. Yep, we said it. We hear a thousand howls of anguish from a thousand DIYers across the land. It’s one of the most hated jobs out there. Thankfully, there are tips and hints on how to make it painless, and getting yourself the right tool is part of it.
We looked at some of the tools available for some of the different ways you can remove grout and wrote reviews of them. There are strengths and weaknesses to each method, including manual, that you’ll want to consider. In the end, we assembled our collected wisdom into a handy buyers’ guide so you can make the right choice in how to do it and what tool works best.
We wish you the best in making a highly unpopular job as painless as possible, and in making the right purchase to help you do it.
|DEWALT DWE305||8 lbs||4.7/5|
|Dremel 4300-5/40 Tool Kit||5 lbs||4.5/5|
(Best for the Money)
|PORTER-CABLE PC60TPAG||6 lbs||4.2/5|
An oscillating tool is easy to learn on and is small enough to control while removing grout. Plus, it pulls out grout without turning it into a choking dust. They are best for smaller jobs.
Compact, lightweight and easy to control, the DeWalt DCS355D1 is only as good as the blade you swap in to remove grout. The DWA4220 is a high-speed carbide blade that can go hours chewing grout into dust without dulling. Unlike other grout removers, the dust doesn’t turn into a powdery cloud that gets in your nose and eyes and mouth. It mostly stays in place, so you’ll want a vacuum cleaner on hand to get rid of it.
In general, we were impressed with the performance of oscillating tools. They are fast and clean. In particular, we were impressed by the DCS3551D1’s brushless motor, which is designed to last a really long time. It’s also versatile enough that you can do a lot of jobs around the house beyond just removing grout.
It is an investment, however. You won’t get this one cheap. It is easily the most expensive option we looked at. It’s just hard to quibble with the results it delivers.
Bigger than an oscillating saw, but still a time-saving power tool, a reciprocating saw is a good alternative. But you’ll want to go easy on the power until you get comfortable or you’ll take out more than you want.
If we were just doing a review of reciprocating saws, the DWE305 would still rank really high. But, we’re doing a review of grout removal systems. Guess what? The DWE305 is still a really awesome saw.
The feature we best liked about it is that it gets its power from wall current. You probably aren’t removing grout from anyplace so distant from a plug that it would matter, and the consistent, good power means you won’t have to stop every so often to swap out batteries. For a job like removing grout, that’s something of a godsend.
We also really liked this as just a general saw purchase. It’s durable enough to take a beating and offers a heavy duty cutting option. While it would be an expensive purchase just to get rid of grout, overall it’s versatile enough that it’s a good value.
It is a bit heavy, which is a bigger deal for jobs that require a little care, and it’s a little harder to control at lower speeds. Both of those apply to removing grout.
The GG001 is a uniquely designed blade to use on reciprocating saws to remove grout. On grout between your shower tiles, there is almost no peer. It is clean and smooth. It is designed to make any reciprocating saw into a grout removal monster.
It also complements some of a reciprocating saw’s drawbacks. That kind of saw can jump around, especially at high speed. In fact, we recommend that if you use a reciprocating saw to remove grout that you go slow until you’re comfortable with the saw. The GG001 functions best if you start slowly. Once you get to know the saw better and how it best works to remove grout, the GG001 should be ready to ramp up its performance, too.
For a standalone grout removal blade, it can be a bit expensive. You can use this to remove grout and that’s really about it. So, you’re paying for a specialized use blade. It also had some issues getting through old grout that had compacted.
If you’ve already got a rotary tool in your house, you can convert it to a grout removal tool by purchasing a cheap accessory. It’s faster and more painless than doing it manually, but it requires at least 1/8th of an inch gap between tiles, and you have to pay attention so you don’t ding them.
Dremel’s 4300-5/40 toolkit is the best choice if you want to remove grout using a rotary tool. It’s quiet, easy to control and its 1.8 amp motor is one of the most powerful on the market. It’s also lightweight and ergonomic so you can exercise a lot of control over it.
As a general tool investment, the 4300-5/40 is a great addition to your home inventory. Its versatile assortment of bits gives you a wide assortment of drilling, shaping, sharpening, and cutting potential. It’s also priced for value. Additional bits to do additional jobs aren’t that expensive, too.
Its primary drawbacks are drawbacks common to rotary tools in general. It needs at least an eighth of an inch gap between tiles to operate the bit. You also have to pay pretty close attention to where the bit is working because it will chip the tiles if you aren’t careful. If you have a big job, you’ll probably also want to look at a different grout removal strategy, because this one is definitely an in-close-and-personal tool.
One of the reasons why removing grout has a terrible reputation is because removing it by hand can be so time-consuming, labor-intensive and ultimately pretty frustrating. While it’s recommended that you use a power tool if you can, your job might be small enough that you really have to do it by hand.
If you have just a little work to do, you might be stuck using a manual tool to remove your grout. Dig yourself in, because it’ll take awhile. If you do, however, we’d recommend the QEP 10020 as the best tool to use. In fact, we’d suggest that if you use a power tool of any kind that you put a few bucks more into the job and get this one to go in after you get the big chunks to make sure it’s all nice and clean.
For a manual tool, this one works great. It scrapes out most grout with relative ease, and you can shift it around to get at the hard to reach chunks that stubbornly refuse to come out. It’s also cheap, so you can buy a few and not worry it if loses its edge and you have to pitch it.
Just don’t plan on using it for major projects. Those are just simply not suitable for manual tools when there are so many much better powered options on the market. Spare yourself the hassle and the trials on your sanity.
Ideal for removing massive amounts of grout, the angle grinder will remove grout quickly. It’s also really loud and, like the rotary tool, requires a hefty gap between tiles. It will also create a lot of choking dust, which makes the general work environment less pleasant.
There’s one place where angle grinders show their value in removing grout, long lines of it. If you have a big project with a lot of long lines to grind out, an angled grinder is best for those. Among angle grinders, Porter Cable’s PC60TPAG is the best choice for that kind of work.
It has a lot of power that won’t take a lot of guff from even your hardest grout, and its lightweight design makes it easy to control. At the price you’ll pay for it, the PC60TPAG is also a great, great value. Once you get done clearing out your grout, you’ll find that it’s an excellent overall addition to your tool inventory.
As far as angle grinders go, it doesn’t have a lot of flaws. As a grout removal tool, it’s loud and kicks up a giant cloud of choking dust. If you use this, you’ll want to wear a dust mask or risk a raging case of the grout equivalent of black lung.
The laborious, time-devouring removal of grout ranks high on just about every homeowner’s lists of jobs they would like to wish into non-existence. But, it also has to get done, and it has to get done right. Thankfully, there are tools you can use to help ease the pain, the speed up the job and make it a lot less aggravating. We took a look at some of those tools because the last thing anyone wants to see is people suffering.
We can also understand why you’d want to put more time into research. If 10 minutes of reading can cut the time it takes you to remove grout by just half an hour, the math is well in your favor. On the household chore irritation meter, it also moves the needle in your favor. We get why you wouldn’t just want to take our word for it and would want to instead do more research especially if you think you’re going to wind up spending a bunch of money. The guidelines we used to do our reviews were condensed down into a handy buyers’ guide so that you can not only figure out which tools are right for your job but maybe some tips on (relative) painless grout removal.
The first question you should always ask yourself is about the nature of the job you need to do. In the case of removing grout, that and the amount of gap between the tiles, will determine how you ought to remove it.
All things being equal, we’d suggest going with a power tool to reduce the sheer, raw amount of work. Manual is always an option, and for years was the go-to solution. It’s so time consuming and can be so frustrating, however, that manual removal is why removing grout, in general, has such a poor reputation. If your work area is small — maybe you have to only remove and replace one tile — you might want to remove it manually. The real advantage of power tools only materializes itself when you have more grout to replace.
If you have to go with a manual tool, a grout knife works well on sanded grout. If it’s unsanded, a carbide cutter really digs it and does a great job of removing it.
We really like the compact design of oscillating tools. They are compact enough to control, which when you have a power tool operating in the thin space between tiles is pretty important. But they can also remove grout without creating a lot of dust. THeir drawback is that they aren’t designed for large jobs. If you use a reciprocating saw, this is another good option, but it’s a lot more powerful than an oscillating saw. If you use this, make sure that you hold back on the power until you’ve got a handle on it.
The other two power tool options — an angle grinder and a rotary — require a minimum of a 1/8th inch between tiles. Rotary grout removers look a lot like drill bits, so you’ll want to keep a close eye on things to make sure you don’t chip your tiles. Angle grinders tend to be loud and create a lot of dust, and are really best if used in a long line. A rotary tool has the advantage that you probably have one in your inventory and it’s just a matter of getting a new bit for it.
Aside from the DeWalt oscillating tool, none of the tool systems we looked at in reality cost a lot of money. Hand tools have the benefit of being dirt cheap. They are also the most limited. Oscillating tools, reciprocating saws, angle grinders, and rotary tools have much greater versatility in the tasks they can do around the house. If you have to buy a tool, you can still go really cheap if you need to. If you have a little money to spend, we’d suggest that you take into account that if you have to pay more for a power tool that you look at what else it’ll be able to do for you.
At the very least, no matter what you buy you’ll want knee pads, eye protection and probably a dust mask. This job requires converting grout that is holding fast into dust. That creates a breathing hazard and flying specks of stuff that can get into your eyes. It probably also means spending a lot of time on your knees, and you’ll want padding to reduce stress on those.
If you’re removing grout in your home, we suggest you take a good look at an oscillating tool, and specifically the DeWalt DCS355D1. When coupled with DeWalt’s DWA4220 blade, it’s the best grout-removal tool we looked at. It’s best for smaller jobs, so keep that in mind. We also liked reciprocating saws as a good alternative, and especially the DWE305 with the Grout Grabber GG001 blade. Those work best at slow speeds until you’re comfortable and then gradually add juice. Rotary tools also have application, although you need a minimum gap to accommodate the bit and have to make sure it doesn’t chip tiles, and we liked Dremel’s 4300-5/40 toolkit. We advise you to avoid manual tools if possible, but that might not be possible for small, single-tile jobs. If that’s the case, the QEP 10020 does great. In fact, it’d be a great tool to complement a power tool. Angle grinders work great on long lines of grout, but they’re loud and create a lot of dust. If you go this route, we liked the Porter Cable PC60TPAG as a great lightweight, powerful value purchase.
We hope you took value from our reviews, and at least found our buyers’ guide full of useful purchase tip. We wish you the best fortune in removing grout because you just might need it.