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My bathroom has been driving me up the wall lately. The tiles are almost all white with the odd one or two navy ones dotted randomly and the grout is white, or should I say, supposed to be white. It's not really that bad, no-one else really notices, or at least don't admit to noticing so I happily use my Mr Muscle Mould and Mildew Cleaner to try and keep my tiles looking good. This pretty much does leave the tiles sparkling white again but the grout, in particular, around the edge of the bath and the shower area really has seen better days, it's more of an off white as opposed to a pure white now with some stains that just won't seem to lift.
I was browsing aimlessly around Homebase the other day when I saw the International Grout Pen. It just looked like a metal marker pen. It only cost £3.99 and claimed to be able to cover up to 37m of grout. It claimed to be quick and easy to use giving a good finished effect. Not at all expensive and it did look easy to use, yes, I think I could manage that - so I bought it.
Before use you must make sure the grout is clean and free from grease and dirt. As the pen is filled with paint it is obviously highly flammable and toxic and is therefore sealed with a cellophane cover, which is easily removed. The pen itself is metal and there is obviously a small ball bearing type thing inside the paint. Before use the grout pen should be shaken well (with the lid on) allowing the ball bearing to mix the paint up well. When I removed the lid I saw the nib was quite a thick solid felt nib, again just looking like a normal marker pen, although the nib was probably a bit thicker.
Once you have given the pen a good shake you then need to depress the nib several times to allow the paint to flow freely from the pen. I did this on a square of kitchen roll and did find that a blob of paint was released, although I maybe just pressed the nib too many times. The pen should then be held in a slight downwards angle to allow a constant flow of paint and according to the instructions if applying to grout on walls then you should start at the bottom and work your way upwards.
Ok I was now ready and raring to go with the paint flowing. As instructed I started at the bottom of the wall, just above the bath and immediately hit a snag. I obviously didn't have a sharp enough angle as the paint had already stopped flowing, so I depressed the nib again and started to work my way slowly over the grout. This was so difficult, not nearly as easily as I had expected. The grout in between our tiles obviously wasn't completely even with the result that the thick nib only managed to touch parts of the grout and where the grout seemed to be deeper the nib then only seemed to touch the edges of the tiles with the result there was paint on the tiles which was actually quite noticeable and I then had to wipe off. Taking deep breaths and taking my time I continued slowly trying to paint over the stained grout with the pen. Only 5 minutes later and the paint had stopped flowing again, a few more presses on the nib and we're off again, oh no we're not!! Too much paint again and now it has dripped all over the bath!!! Stopped again to wipe the bath this time. When I came to one of the navy tiles too I had to be extra careful with a very steady hand to get a nice clean and straight line along the edge of the navy tile. Another problem!! Some of the tiles were obviously very slightly closer together than others with the result the thick nib didn't even reach any of the grout here.
A nightmare DIY attempt. After a couple of hours I gave up. I did manage with a lot of care and patience to do my best to touch up the worst of the stained grout around the top of the bath and shower area so it did look slightly better but not something I would recommend at all. It's not nearly as easy as it sounds and the way in which the paint comes out of the pen is definitely a bad idea, having to stop every few minutes to depress the nib to release more paint is a bad idea, it's difficult to judge just how many times to press in order to get enough paint but at the same time not releasing too much. The higher I got too was very difficult as it was almost impossible to hold the pen at the correct angle in order for the paint to still flow freely. Grout is never perfectly even and smooth either with the result some parts were unable to be reached by the nib, which I personally found just a bit too thick for the job.
As for the paint dripping in the bath, I thought I had wiped it all away whilst it was still wet, but there were a couple of drips I missed with the result I cannot manage to remove these now. Luckily the bath is white and no-one really notices them, but I do!!
If the grout you are trying to freshen up is unpainted then the nib, if it actually reaches the grout, will obviously wear a bit as grout is quite a rough surface so again this is another problem to take into consideration.
When I started out on this project I hadn't really appreciated just how much grout there is in a fully tiled bathroom and to have done the whole bathroom would have taken days or even weeks. Although I did manage to cover up the worst of the stained grout with the pen I really would not recommend this pen, there must be much easier ways to freshen up your grout, using a brush, like a nail polish brush, for instance would definitely be much easier to control.
I think the main problems really were that it was difficult to control the flow of paint coming from the pen and the nib on the whole was just too thick for the gap between my tiles (and mine is not any smaller than anyone else's). The nib often caught on the rough surfaces of the grout and trying to keep a sufficient angle to allow the paint to flow freely was really difficult the higher up the wall I went.
Definitely not something I would use again or recommend.
Having just moved house, we have inherited tiling in our ensuite shower cubicle which is badly discoloured, with orangey water marks. I tried brushing bleach between the cracks with a small toothbrush, which was rather messy and not that successful. However on a recent trip to Homebase I came across this product which was so simple to use, and the results are really good. It resembles a dry wipe marker pen, it is made by Plascon International Ltd and is called an International Grout Pen. Basically you just run the nib of the pen down the grout lines on your tiles and it covers over the old grout with a clean white covering. It is suggested you apply 2 coats one hour apart. Even after one coat the horrible orange marks had vanished, and the tiles just looked so much better. At a cost of £3.99 it was money well spent.