The One Upgrade I’ll Never Make in My Bathroom (Seriously, Never!)

published Jun 20, 2024
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Credit: Clara Doti/

If you’re planning to update your bathroom — either with a whole gut renovation or with just a little refresher — you’ll be faced with a lot of options. What kind of fixtures do you want? What color paint? What will the storage situation look like? But there’s one decision I know I’ll never have to make, because I’ve already decided it for every bathroom renovation I’ll ever do: I will never, ever use white grout for tile.

How can I be so sure, you ask? Well, when you move into a 1990s home that features white grout with white tile on the floor of the bathroom, you realize quickly that white grout is extremely unforgiving. Back when I moved into that home, I could easily spot years of stains near the toilet and was constantly frustrated by the speckled blue-black dust that gathered around the shower and seemed impossible to clean. The grout may have started white, but over the years it had become permanently discolored. 

If the bathroom had had a darker grout, yes, I’m aware the same stains would likely still be there. But they’d definitely be a lot less visible! Renovating the bathroom and ripping out the 4-inch-square white tiles wasn’t on the table, but if I was going to live with the bathroom, the dingy white grout had to go. I spent two days hand-coloring all the white grout with a dark gray grout pen and haven’t looked back.

While it was tedious, time-consuming work, coloring in the grout with my dark gray grout pen was a game-changer. A $9 product (and lots of sweat equity) made my bathroom an almost pleasant place to be.

Credit: Heather Bien

Since then, I’ve renovated two other bathrooms. In both of them, I knew immediately I had to choose darker grout. My contractor tried to convince me to go white — he swears they’ve improved the stain resistance in the last few decades — but I refuse to cave to Big White Grout. I happily went with medium gray in one bathroom and near-black in the other, as you can see in my guest bathroom above and below.

Credit: Heather Bien

Do my bathrooms in my home still get dirty? Of course. Do I have to remind myself to clean the floor every week or so? Yes. However, on a daily basis, I’m not looking down wondering why there’s suddenly a discolored splotch of grout (nor are my guests). I’m also not spending countless hours bleaching my floors in vain!

Now, one final point to drive home the anti-white grout argument. Let’s say you’ve chosen white tile or even a mosaic tile with white tiles in it. On its own, it looks phenomenal. But have you ever held a white T-shirt up to your teeth? All of a sudden, what you thought were your pearly whites are now a warm, buttery shade of yellow. The same thing happens when you mix white tile and white grout. Inevitably, one ends up being whiter than the other, which destroys the whole look. But against dark grout? That white looks crisp, clean, and freshly installed. Case closed.