I'm getting real tiled of your dirty grout
June 22, 2015 8:03 AM   Subscribe

Tiled kitchen counters - they get dirty and gross and I hate them. But I'm renting so I can't tear them out. Hope me!

I just moved to a new rental house and it's pretty cool except one major (to me) issue: the kitchen counter is tiled with 4 inch tiles - like you would see in a bathroom floor. They are kind of like this but uglier. They are so hard to clean and if you spill something on it, the dirt gets right into the grout and you have to get the bleach out every night to clean up the kitchen if you ever hope to invite your friends over to dinner again. Also, there is a lip on the outer edge so you can't easily wipe off crumbs and such. That lip is between 1/8" and 1/4".

So, MeFites, who has a good idea for an inexpensive way to retrofit these in a way that will be removable when I leave and will allow me to have a countertop with a smooth surface that isn't so freakin' hard to clean?

I would love to have butcher block but the cabinets are knotty pine so I think that would be way too much wood in there.

To recap, here are the problems I need to solve:
- grout lines getting dirty, so dirty
- lip at the edge makes it hard to do things like wipe the bread crumbs off onto my hand when I wipe up
- it's a rental property so I can't replace them (unless it's relatively easy and cheap and wouldn't cause codes to kick in)

I don't mind something unusual or weird and I'm really handy around the house so I can do a DIY thing.
posted by dawkins_7 to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Would it be possible to seal the grout somehow, so that it's easier to wipe off? I have thought of doing this to my bathroom floors, but again, renter, so I have not tested the theory.
posted by needlegrrl at 8:07 AM on June 22, 2015

A potentially ugly workaround if you don't want go the butcherblock route would be to get a piece of plywood, seal it, then put a sheet of plastic laminate/formica on top of the plywood. You can choose a variety of colors and patterns, they're usually sold at the countertop sections of big box stores and come in 4x8' sheets.

You'd cut the sheet to fit exactly into the lip formed by the tile so there isn't any play or movement (you could also put in a little bit of rubber at the bottom as an alternative. Then seal the edges with removable caulk.

The trick here would be getting the proper thickness of plywood so that it matches the lip of the tile edge to form a smooth transition outward. You don't want it significantly thicker such that you'd see the edges of the plywood. The "ugly" part of the workaround is that the tile lip will still be there, unless you want to get into some woodworking and build an L-shaped overhang into the plywood as well.
posted by Karaage at 8:16 AM on June 22, 2015

Best answer: I'd get a water-proof, high wear grout sealant, such as for bathrooms and apply to a cleaned counter top. You will want to wash thoroughly to get rid of any grease or dirt first. Perhaps even bleach to get some of the colour back. A clean counter and clean grout is critical to get the sealant to stick properly.

Then apply your penetrating sealant to the grout lines. I've used an inexpensive art brush for this quite successfully.
Wipe excess with a no-lint rag. To be certain, I'd do at least two coats, letting dry between.

Done right, you'll never know it's been applied.
posted by bonehead at 8:20 AM on June 22, 2015 [6 favorites]

You could get a large (custom-fit, maybe?) cutting board (or multiple boards) and leave it on there semi-permanently to disguise most of the tiles. You would want to use separate "normal" cutting boards for things like meat and fish.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:22 AM on June 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: After you clean the grout with bleach, get grout sealer from Home Depot/Lowe's/other paint/hardware store and apply with a narrow paintbrush, or a small foam 'brush'. As you go, just wipe any that gets onto tile with a damp rag. I would apply at least two coats. By the time you finish first application, you can begin reapplying where you started. From then on, it should wipe clean with damp cloth or cloth and dish soap.

Since grout should be resealed every year or so, you aren't making a permanent change to your rental by using it. RE: the lip on edge, Ikea has a big cutting board with an edge that would hang over the 'lip' so if you use it for a workspace, you could wipe crumbs, etc. easily. If no Ikea, Target has several that might work for you...I also keep a small brush and dustpan (from dollar store, ikea, other) around to 'sweep' the counter or floor, for small pickups. Or get a cheap big paintbrush for crumbs on counter, and a large index card or a paper plate cut in half for a 'dustpan'.
posted by mumstheword at 8:55 AM on June 22, 2015

Get piieces of plexiglass cut to the size of our counters and buy little rubber feet to keep it in place at the hardware store!
posted by DarlingBri at 9:01 AM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you get a piece of plexiglass that's the right ~3/16" thickness, it will cover the counter and fill in the height up to the edge of the lip.
posted by aimedwander at 11:00 AM on June 22, 2015

Plexiglass or tough plastic. TAP Plastics has cut-to-order HDPE cutting board grade plastic for making countertops and I imagine you can order a pretty large piece to cover the area.


For a cheaper alternative, if you just want to ability to WIPE off, I'd look into clear adhesive vinyl sheets. Use bleech and small hard brush to clean it up, then stick the vinyl sheets and cover up the tiles. Try to make it mostly seamless so dirt don't get between the seams.

posted by kschang at 11:24 AM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The stuff I use on disgusting grout is Resolve carpet cleaner and one of the Rubbermaid rotating brushes. After that a hardcore sealant of choice. I would have done a temporary butcher block designed to overlay a counter. If you look for baking counter cover you should be able to find it.
posted by jadepearl at 3:17 PM on June 22, 2015

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