Legalmom's question about grout reminded me of my neighbor and his problem he had last year. For whatever reason he decided to remove his grout from the front door through the foyer, hallway and into the entire kitchen. Probably around 500 square feet or so. He did this for a number of weeks, maybe even months - I just remember not seeing him for a while after he started.
He was basically using something to abrade the grout to get rid of it. I don't know what he used, but from what he said I get the feeling it was something like a dremel tool.
What is the right way to remove grout without ruining ceramic tile?
Well, that is a good question, I have never had or heard of any reason to remove grout, especially once it has cured so I don't know there is any right or wrong way.
If grout is cracked due to a measure of settling then the way to fix it is to buy a grout scoring tool then re-fill the new V crack with the same type and color of grout. If you install tile the way I outlined in the previous post, the grout should be fine. Directly over concrete, then I see it a little more often.
I wouldn't recommend removing cured grout, you might as well say the heck with it and just chip up the tile and start over. It will take less time and would be less work believe me. Ultimately, the tile will be trashed in the end anyway.
If I recall, Prazi makes a tool designed for grout removal. A diamond tool seems a little aggressive, since diamond cuts tile about as well as it cuts grout - carbide-encrusted tools sound better to my ear.
Seems to me that, lacking all other options and faced with a large expanse of very expensive tile to save while replacing the grout, I'd be pretty tempted to try a masonry-type abrasive blade broken into chunks and held between two wood blocks as a hand tool. Huge work. Lots of sweat. Maybe even a whole wheel chucked into a low-speed, low-power circular saw of some kind. Huge dust.
I don't think there IS any really clean, easy way to do it - unless you can find some chemical that rapidly and deeply etches Portland cement. There's room for thought there - any chemistry masters in the house?
I've already tried the Dremal with the grout removal attachment. Billy's right, it's the pits. I found that it was easier to score the edges with the dremel and then use a "grout removal tool." It's basically a screwdriver with a v-shaped blade. The end has a 90 degree turn to help it slide under the grout. It worked really well where the grout was loose, but it was a lot of work where it was still holding.
I had the idea it was pretty bad. My neighbor is pretty fit, he actually does some amatuer body building shows, although he isn't one of those steroid infected monsters! Still, I saw him at the end of the day a couple times, and he was wiped. He also was complaining of eye irritation, which is why I think he was using some sort of power tool that created a lot of dust.
I had thought of the chemical idea, I just don't have any knowledge of something that would disolve the grout without hurting the tile.
My grout is much darker than original, and less attractive. So I would be interested in fixing it sometime. But if my only option is what I see here...
Call a steam-cleaning company, try looking under carpet cleaners, and ask if they have a tile machine. It works wonders. Then, and only then, seal the grout, ask them what tile sealer they recommend. Many companies will seal right after cleaning.
I doubt it would work. I cleaned the tile in the whole house. I tried multiple cleaners before settling on Dow Bathroom Cleaner. That and a scrub brush worked about 50%-75%. When you compare to original, though, it isn't very good. I am not going to pay someone to come do it for me unless I could be guaranteed it would be right.
However, if you know what they use to do it, I would be interested. Obviously it isn't a standard carpet cleaner machine. We have one of those Hoover shampoo machines that has brushes. Since the grout is so much lower than the tile it wouldn't work. There is a difference of at least an 1/8", so the brushes could not have as much force on the grout as the tile no matter what you do.
My grout is a light tan (Kahlua Cream to be exact), but when the sealer was removed, the dirt started staying in the grout. I used, Ammonia water, Pine Sol, comet, Oxy-clean, etc. Tried using an old tootbrush, that wooden handled stiff brush, the electic floor cleaner (grandmas old one that will drive off on its own!), and didn't make a dent in the chocolate brown grout. The steam cleaner they used was a circular power washer/vac. They got all of the grout light tan again, matching that in the closet, in 3 hours. The only problem was that they started pulling up the cumbling grout.....