How to reuse ceramic tiles & remove mortar

Red, White, and Blue Tile Wall image by steverts from

Ceramic tiles create beautiful designs on walls, floors and counters, and offer low-maintenance options for these locations. You may not be ready to say goodbye to the familiar tile patterns when it comes time to remodel your bathroom or kitchen. With some care, you can remove the old tile and clean away old mortar so that you can reuse the familiar patterns in a new location.

Wear protective goggles when removing tiles, grout and mortar. Removal efforts can produce dust and small pieces of stone or tile that can easily damage your eyes.

Cut into the grout surrounding the tiles with a sharp utility knife. You can also use a putty knife and hammer to chisel away the grout. Remove all grout surrounding the tiles you wish to remove so that you have access to the edges of the tiles.

Insert the putty knife under the edge of the first tile as low as it will go. Lower the handle so that the knife is as close to parallel with the floor as possible without cracking the tile.

Gently tap the back the knife with your handle to drive it under the tile. Continue until the tile pops free of its location. Pull or pry up the tile and set it aside. Continue removing tiles until you have all of them clear from the wall or floor.

Lay the tiles face down and use the putty knife to scrape across the tile back, removing as much old mortar as possible. Be careful not to exert too much pressure downward on the tile, or you could cause it to crack.

Soak a rag or sponge in white spirit or a similar solvent-based cleaner. Apply the solvent to the mortar on the back of the tiles. Allow two to three minutes for the solvent to begin to dissolve the mortar.

Scrape and soak the mortar from each tile until all mortar is removed. Rinse the back of each tile with a rag soaked in clean water to remove residual cleaner and prevent staining. Once old mortar has been removed, you can apply new mortar at any time for reuse.

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