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White Subway Tile With Black Grout Questions, Answered

By Ted Ryan

White Subway Tile With Black Grout Questions, Answered

White subway tile with black grout can create a dramatic effect for your tile installation, adding contrast to the design and accentuating the pattern you’ve chosen. But before settling on this design idea, there are a few things you’ll want to consider.

We’re answering all your questions when it comes to white subway tile with black grout.

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Can I use black grout with white tiles?

The short answer is yes. But, at Fireclay, we do not recommend you do so. Dark pigmented grouts in general are not recommended with white glaze due to staining potential. If the tile you’re using has crazing in the glaze, as Fireclay Tile does, the risk of a dark grout staining the white tile increases.

If you’re set on using white tile with black grout, it is vitally important to use a sealer, grout release or both to prevent staining.

white herringbone tile backsplash with black grout

Tile Shown: White Wash 2x8 // Design: Brownstone Boys // Image: Brownstone Boys, Bridget Badore

Before you begin grouting, test the sealer and/or grout release to ensure it’s effective and test on leftover tile, not the dry laid or adhered installation.

One coat of sealer or grout release may not be sufficient to prevent staining. Continue applying coats and testing until no noticeable staining is detected.

Why use black grout with white tiles?

Warnings and disclaimers aside, there are many reasons designers choose to use a darker shade of grout color with white tile despite the risks and challenges.

two tone subway tile bathroom walls

Tile Shown: Tusk & Cyclone 2x6 // Design: Noz Design

First and foremost, black grout adds stark contrast to the white tile, providing the design with depth and arguably more visual interest when compared to a completely white design. Black and white is such a classic and potentially irresistible combination.

The black grout will also make your pattern pop. Pattern is so important in design, able to give a standard 3x6 subway tile a range of personalities from traditional with a half offset pattern to modern with a straight set pattern to contemporary using either in a vertical orientation. Dark grout draws attention to the tile pattern and gives your installation that much more personality.

white backsplash with black grout

Tile Shown: Tusk 2x8 // Design & Image: Benita Cooper Design

The size of the grout joint you choose will also determine the boldness of this grout definition. A narrow grout joint will create a pencil-thin outline while a wider grout joint will increase the impact of the pattern.

Is black grout good?

Black and other dark grout, regardless of what color tile you pair it with, has several positive attributes. Most notably, dark grout is easier to keep looking new compared to white grout or other lightly pigmented grouts.

white tile with black grout

Tile Shown: Daisy 6x6 // Design: Ann Edgerton // Image: Andrea Calo

Life happens and grout gets dirty. The dark grout will alleviate some of the time you spend sweeping or scrubbing grout, something you’ll definitely want to consider when it comes to floor tiles in particular.

In wet areas like the bathroom floor or kitchen countertops, mold can grow in grout joints, staining the grout.

white subway tile bathroom walls with black grout

Tile Shown: White Wash 3x6, Kasbah Trellis Neutral Motif // Design: Patti Wagner // Image: Meg Cooper Photography

Black grout will conceal these hazards but it’s not out of sight, out of mind. Keeping grout clean and sterile is important no matter the color, so black grout can just as easily be viewed as a liability for not alerting you to a dirty grout joint that requires your attention.

Black grout isn’t completely fuss-free. Hard water can stain black grout (and black tiles) so keep in mind the properties of your water supply when choosing a color and considering the upkeep.

Are subway tiles still in style in 2022?

Subway tiles have been in style since they were first featured in the New York Metro subway stations in 1904. In 2022, that hasn’t changed. Subway tile is classic, versatile, and can be used in any design style. And with more than 100 colors to choose from, subway tile is the basis for fresh and inventive designs year after year.

black and white bathroom

Tile Shown: Calcite 2x8, Basalt 8" & 3" Hexagon // Design: Hygge & West

That’s been the case in 2022 and will certainly be true in 2023 as well.

Should grout be darker or lighter than the tile?

The decision to use a grout color darker, lighter or even perfectly matched to your tile is subjective and based solely on your personal tastes. Your ultimate decision will depend largely on what color of tile you choose and if you’re looking for contrast in your design. If you do like contrast, darker tiles will be limited to mostly lighter grouts and lighter tiles will be limited to mostly darker grouts.

white tile with green cabinets and black counter

Tile Shown: Pearl 3x9 // Design: Fireclay Tile Design Assistance // Image: Hira Siddiqui

You may also choose to use the precise color of your tile for your grout or you may choose a neutral like a light or dark gray grout to blend well with your tile without being too exact in color.

For a deeper dive into grout color, check out our guide on How to Choose The Right Grout Color For Your Tile.


Looking for personalized advice about tile and grout combinations or anything tile? Fill out this simple form and our friendly tile experts will be in touch with free (really, free!) design services including renderings, cost estimates, and step-by-step support. And if you're still in search of the perfect white tile, bring home up to five free samples to find your favorite shade.

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