Wipe away the grout too soon and it all comes out of the gaps, degrouting your mosaic. It’s a balance of removing the excess before it hardens, without undoing the grouting.
And then the magic of the color emerging! This is the point of hope and relief and transformation. The color reasserts itself, comes glowing through the haze. I can scrub harder with a microfiber cloth, and dislodge the sandy residue. The process is much easier to handle if I just accept the studio will look like a herd of muddy cats came skittering through. I was fortunate to read some helpful advice on the Mosaic Artists Online Group about “dry grouting.” Some books suggest a slightly damp sponge for cleaning off grout, but that rejuvenates the muddy nature of the grout and can be very frustrating. Instead, the gentle friction of the microfiber cloth removes most of the haze.
I remove the green masking, and let the grout fully set for 48 hours, before sealing with Tile Lab Penetrating Sealer. I apply a coat with a paintbrush, and it soak in for 5-10 minutes, before polishing with a clean cloth, and repeating. The grout drinks up the sealer, and the sealer loosens the stubborn bits of haze from the tiles. Any remaining haze can usually be removed with a cotton swab lightly dipped in vinegar(I dab the swab on a paper towel after dipping). Vinegar is the nemesis of grout–acid to its alkaline, but small amounts applied just to the tiles for cleaning is very effective. I use a dental pick to dig out any buried areas, and excess glue–the scrubbies remove most of the glue, but some remains. The center orange glass tile has pinholes, and these require more effort with the dental pick. The red outer tiles are made of recycled bottles, with a smooth iridescent finish, and are a delight to clean. It’s as if they want to be cleaned, and shed the grout gracefully.
Then my husband takes a glowing picture of the final incarnation, and comes up with the cool caption of “Remove Grout, Add Light.”