How to Remove Old Grout from Used Travertine Floor Tile

What You'll Need
Soft-bristle brush
Drill bit (with diamond-edged drilling disk)
Vacuum cleaner
Grout scraper
Grout saw
Rotary tool
Dremel tool
Razor blade
Steel wool

A member of the limestone family, a travertine floor tile is reputed to be a durable and aesthetic flooring option. Grouting of travertine tiles is usually sealed during the installation process to ensure their durability and protect them from getting dirty. This makes the grout lines very resilient. This is why removing old grout from travertine tiles is a bit tricky. Commercial grout-removal chemical solutions might help to cleanse the grout and loosen it but they cannot displace the hardened, old grout, i.e. they are more suited for removing recently-laid grout. These chemical solutions can also cause discoloration of the tiles. Further, these solvents contain toxic chemicals that are harmful to the environment. An eco-friendly and more effective way of removing old grout is explained below.

Step 1 - Preparing Travertine Tile Surface

Start by cleaning the travertine tiles. Thorough cleaning with warm water helps to moisten and soften the old grout to some extent. You can also use a soft-bristled brush for rubbing the very thin grout lines. This is critical since the blades of the drill cannot access the very small crevices. The scrubbing ensures better grout removal in such a scenario.

Step 2 - Weakening Old Grout

Using a grout saw or a rotary tool, chisel a thin groove within the old grout line. It is better to start chiseling immediately after the cleaning, since moistened grout is easier-to-penetrate. Once a thin line has been established along the grout, expand it using the grout scraper. The scraper is very useful for scooping-out small sections of the old grout. If any section of the old grout seems impervious to this method, you can use the conventional combination of a hammer and chisel to tap and loosen the old grout.

Step 3 - Drilling Out Old Grout

You can use a Dremel tool or a power drill for this step. However, a power drill ensures better results since its blades offer deeper incision into old grout lines. Load the drill with the diamond-edged disk. Position the disk’s edge within the weakened groove of the old grout and turn-on the drill. The spinning blade effectively digs-out the old grout. Slowly, move the drill ahead, i.e. towards the opposite end of the tile. You need to be very careful while using the drill since lowering it too much can harm the edges of the travertine tiles. You can repeat the drilling until most of the grout lines are comprehensively removed.

Step 4 - Finishing Drilled Grout Lines

You need to remove the loose debris and grout dust from the drilled grout line. This is best done with a handheld vacuum. Please note that among very old travertine tile surfaces, miniscule deposits of grout might still be visible. You can use a razor blade to scrape-away these grout bits. To ensure that the travertine tiles are properly prepared for re-grouting, clean the emptied grout lines with steel wool.