Do Grout Pens Work?

Manufacturers of grout pens claim they will restore stained grout to near-new luster. Consumers might wonder whether the product actually delivers as promised. For people who don't like the look of dingy grout but can't afford to retile, grout pens may seem too good to be true. By understanding what the grout pen can and cannot do, your expectations will be more realistic, and the results will not disappoint.

Grout gets dingy and dark over time. (Image: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

How Grout Pens Work

Grout pens lay a thin, tinted, waterproof coating over the top of existing grout lines. The paint is applied by a penlike container that you press along the grout. A narrow, pointed tip allows you to create precise lines. After two coats, grout will look lighter and brighter than before. While grout paint will not look as professional as new grout or professionally steam-cleaned grout, it is an inexpensive cosmetic solution for less-than-perfect kitchen and bathroom tiles.

Discolored Grout

Grout is a thin mortar that dries very hard but remains porous. A grout mixture has thousands of tiny pockets on the surface. Dirt, oil, bacteria, mold and mildew can all fill those pores, leaving grout looking dull and dark. Eventually, grout can crack and crumble, exposing even more areas to discoloration. Even after deep cleaning, grout can remain tinted. Professional cleaners can steam-clean discolored grout with excellent results.


Clean the tiles and grout as best you can before using the grout pen. Shake the grout pen vigorously before using it for the first time. Try a few experimental applications on newspaper to get a feel for how much pressure is needed to bring the liquid to the tip. Start at the bottom of the tiles and hold the pen at a 45-degree angle from the grout. Pull the pen upward for the straightest lines. Keep wet rags handy to swipe up any mistakes before the paint dries. Let the grout paint dry for at least one hour before applying a second coat.


Grout pens are not a permanent solution to discolored grout. Because the coating is a type of paint, it wears off after a few years. It also starts to fade as new stains from soap, mold and oil adhere to the surface. If the grout is not completely cleaned before application, mildew and bacteria can form underneath it and spread. The overall look of the grout lines depends a lot on how straight you make them; a wobbly application can look worse than the original grout. In a big space, the application of a grout pen can take a long time, especially when you apply two coats.

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