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How to Get Thinset Out of Grout Lines

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A thinset is an adhesive that holds tiles in kitchen and bathroom floors together. However, when excess thinset creeps up between grout lines, it hardens and makes it difficult to get it out. Luckily, we've got tips for you from DIY authorities to get that excess thinset out of your grout lines without damaging your tiles.

To remove excess thinset from grout lines, you can try the following:

  • If the thinset hasn't hardened up yet, use an old toothbrush and gently brush the grooves. Wipe with a rag or sponge.
  • If the thinset has hardened up, you can use a flathead screwdriver or any hard object that will fit into the grooves of the tile. The idea is to scrape the grooves until all the excess thinset is cleared or at least leveled off.

There are several other tools that you can use to remove thinset from grout lines. They all depend on the strength of the thinset left behind and the amount of grout that needs to be removed. If you find that it’s too difficult to remove the hardened thinset, keep on reading so you will know what other tools are available to you.

Grouting after laying ceramic tiles on the floor, How to Get Thinset Out of Grout Lines

What is the Best Way to Get Thinset Out of Grout Lines?

In order to ensure a clean-looking grout line after a tile installation, you need to remove the excess thinset and grout that form a solidified mass. You should be able to use a flathead screwdriver to clear it up.

The most efficient way to clear thinset from grout lines is by using an oscillating tool. It allows you to clear the entire area in one pass, unlike a screwdriver or grout removal tool, which will require multiple passes to fully clear the area.

You can watch the video below to see a demonstration:

If you're working with grout that has not yet set, you may be able to wipe or brush it away through the grooves. Just make sure not to move or twist the tiles as you're trying to clean the grout lines.

After you've brushed them up, you can then gently wipe the tiles clean from grout smudge using a rag or a sponge. 

What Causes the Thinset to Creep Up Between Grout Lines?

There are various reasons why thinset might creep up between grout lines. The most common reason is that it has been applied too thickly. This causes the thinset to squeeze out and to creep up between the grout lines. 

Another reason why thinset may creep up between the grout lines is that the surface where the tiles are set is more elevated than the surrounding area. This causes the thinset to flow into the crevices. 

Can You Use Commercial Grout Removing Agents to Get Thinset Out of Grout Lines?

Commercial grout removing agents can be found at any home improvement store. They're typically available in liquid form. These commercial products are actually the best option if you're looking to get rid of dried thinset smudge. It's just too cumbersome to get all the grout cleaned by scrubbing and scraping.

However, these chemical agents are not recommended when cleaning grout lines from thinset. Why? Because these chemicals might get into the binding surface of the tiles by seeping through the grout lines.

This will cause the grout to soften and potentially lose its adhesive strength. If you want a safe cleaning solution for this chore, you can use a mild dishwashing soap diluted in warm water instead.

No chemical sign

Recommended Tools to Remove Thinset Out of Grout Lines

Tile setter laying down thinset for a tiling project during a major house renovation.

We all know that grout lines can be annoying to deal with, especially when you have stubborn thinset sticking out causing your tile floor to be rough to walk on.

If you're looking for tools that can remove thinset out of grout lines, then these are the ones you should check out. We have ranked these tools according to efficiency, so you know which one will get the job done the best. 

1. Oscillating Tool (Automatic)

If the thinset between your grout lines is too thick, you might need an oscillating tool. The blades on this tool can reach every nook and cranny, even deep within the grout lines.

In addition, the power of the tool is enough to break up and loosen the most stubborn thinset, giving your tile set that perfectly smooth finish. 

Oscillating tools are multi-purpose, so if you are planning to get this tool for thinset removal, you have to keep in mind that there may be future projects where you'll use it other than your intended purpose. So getting an oscillating tool is an investment.

Click here to see this multi-purpose oscillating tool on Amazon

2. Grout Removal Tool (Manual)

A grout removal tool is a must-have if you want to remove thinset out of your grout lines manually. These tools are made with special hardened steel tips specially designed to easily cut through thinset

Click here to see this grout removal tool on Amazon

3. A Flathead Screwdriver or a Knife

Unless you're a professional and removing thinset has become second nature to you, we don't recommend trying to remove thinset using a knife. Chances are the tip might slip as you work it between grout lines, and this could damage the tiles.

You might also end up making your way too deep into the grout line causing a deeper crevice with a flathead screwdriver.

Top 5 Oscillating Tools

1. Dewalt Max XR Oscillating Tool (variant A)

The Dewalt Max XR oscillating tool has a brushless motor for optimal run time, with a dual grip design for maximum stability and speed control. With the universal accessory adaptor, it fits most blades from different brands, and it’s also cordless.

This oscillating tool comes equipped with LED light so you can work on projects even in low light conditions.

The Dewalt Max XR oscillating tool has a 3-speed selection, allowing you to choose from slow speed, normal speed, and high speed.

It doesn't matter if you're a professional or an amateur, the Dewalt Max XR oscillating tool is a perfect choice for anyone who wants a powerful, easy-to-use oscillating tool that’s of great value.

Click here to see this Dewalt Max XR oscillating tool on Amazon

2. Dewalt Max XR Oscillating Tool (variant B)

The Dewalt Max XR oscillating tool (variant B) is a compact, cordless tool that delivers maximum power and torque in a lightweight design. Similar to the Dewalt Max XR (variant A), it has a 3-speed selector to choose from.

The dual-grip feature allows for better control of the tool and a universal accessory adaptor makes attachments a snap. LED light allows users to view the working area at night. Compact size and light weight make the Max XR ideal for both home and commercial use.

Click here to see this Dewalt Max XR oscillating tool on Amazon

3. Dewalt Atomic Oscillating Tool

Dewalt Max XR Oscillating tool is the best power tool in its class, offering the best combination of power and maneuverability. Featuring 3 speeds, a brushless motor, a universal accessory adaptor, and an LED light, this versatile tool is sure to meet any homeowner's needs.

Use the dual grip handle to give yourself an edge when working in tight areas as it provides greater leverage for more power. The Max XR uses a 3-speed selection, so you can choose the right speed for the job and then switch to the right speed when the situation requires it. A brushless motor offers better speed and longer run time and is quieter. 

Click here to see this Dewalt Atomic oscillating tool on Amazon

4. Milwaukee Oscillating Tool

The Milwaukee oscillating tool is designed with the highest level of precision to provide exceptional value to professional tradesmen and DIY enthusiasts. The 12-speed Milwaukee oscillating tool gives you a choice of high-torque, low-torque, or variable-speed options for every application.

Each speed setting delivers optimum performance in a variety of different situations.

The Milwaukee oscillating Tool also incorporates a rubberized handle for improved grip, ergonomic comfort, and superior safety. The Redlink technology keeps the tool cool and protects against overheating, which helps extend the life of the batteries and the tool as well.

Click here to see this Milwaukee oscillating tool on Amazon

5. Makita Oscillating Tool

This versatile Makita oscillating tool features a variable speed control that gives you precise control over how fast you turn the blades. The small barrel grip lets you get close to the workpiece and use the tool comfortably in tight places.

And when you need a little extra torque, it can give you the power you need to finish any job. It’s ideal for fine or coarse work and features a universal adapter to fit most accessories from other brands.

Click here to see this Makita oscillating tool on Amazon

In Closing

Applying thinset mortar on a tile. Apply the adhesive, closeup..

Getting thinset out of grout lines can sometimes be a frustrating experience. The key here is to keep at it until it's completely out. If you've followed the steps and the recommended tools outlined in this article, then you'll be able to get thinset out of grout lines with relative ease. Good luck!

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