What Grout Color To Use With Subway Tiles

Modern shower featuring warm terracotta tiles, creating a cozy, rustic ambiance with sleek, matte black fixtures.

Though subway tiles themselves hold design weight, the grout color acts as a hidden influencer. Beyond its practical purpose, grout refines the tile pattern, creates a unified look, or becomes a statement piece. This guide explores how grout color interacts with subway tile shade and finish, impacting design styles and encompassing maintenance considerations to empower you to choose the perfect grout for your desired aesthetic.


Applying white grout to light gray tiles for a seamless and clean finish.

Understanding Grout 

Grout, the unsung hero of the tiled surface, plays a critical role in both the functionality and aesthetics of your subway tile installation. While it may seem like a simple filler material, understanding its properties and different types is essential for making informed decisions about color selection.

What is Grout? 

At its core, grout is a cement-based material used to fill the gaps between tiles. It's a mixture of cement, sand (in some cases), pigments, and additives that, when mixed with water, forms a paste that hardens to create a solid and stable surface.

Functions of Grout 

Beyond simply filling the gaps, grout serves several crucial purposes:

Structural Support

Grout acts as a binder, providing structural support for the entire tile installation. It helps distribute weight evenly across the tiles, preventing them from cracking or shifting over time.


A properly installed and sealed grout joint creates a barrier that prevents water from infiltrating the subfloor beneath the tile. This is particularly important in areas prone to moisture, such as bathrooms and kitchens. By preventing water infiltration, grout helps to protect against mold growth and potential structural damage.

Finished Look

Grout plays a significant aesthetic role. The color and texture of the grout can significantly impact the overall look and feel of the tiled surface. It can create a seamless, unified look, define the tile pattern, or even become a design statement in itself.

Types of Grout 

There are three main types of grout commonly used with subway tiles, each with its own advantages and considerations:

Sanded Grout

This type of grout contains fine sand particles, typically measuring 1/8 inch or larger in diameter. The sand adds texture and strength to the grout, making it ideal for wider grout lines (generally from 1/8 inch to 5/8 inch). Sanded grout is also adept at hiding minor imperfections in the tile installation. However, the textured surface can be more challenging to clean and may trap dirt and grime.

Unsanded Grout

As the name suggests, unsanded grout does not contain any sand particles. This results in a smooth, seamless finish, making it the preferred choice for narrow grout lines (less than 1/8 inch). Unsanded grout is also generally easier to clean and maintain compared to sanded grout.

Epoxy Grout

This grout option offers superior stain and chemical resistance compared to traditional cement-based grouts. It's a two-part system consisting of a resin and a hardener that are mixed together before application. Epoxy grout is ideal for busy areas, countertops, and applications where hygiene is a priority. However, it requires special handling techniques and can be more expensive than other types of grout.


Glossy pale blue tiles in a modern shower, reflecting light and creating a fresh, clean ambiance.

Grout Color Considerations 

The grout color you choose plays a significant role in the overall aesthetic of your subway tile installation. It can create a seamless, unified look, subtly define the tile pattern, or become a bold statement piece. Here are some key factors to consider when selecting the perfect grout color for your white or colored subway tiles:

Style and Mood 

The grout color you choose can significantly impact the overall style and mood of your space. Here are some popular design styles and their corresponding grout color recommendations:

Classic and Timeless

Achieve a timeless look with white or light gray grout paired with white subway tiles. This combination creates a clean and elegant aesthetic that complements various design styles.

Modern and Minimalist

Opt for dark gray or black grout with white subway tiles for a bold and graphic statement. This approach emphasizes clean lines and creates a visually striking contrast.

Industrial or Rustic

Introduce a touch of warmth and character with grout that has hints of brown, beige, or taupe. This complements the raw and natural elements often associated with industrial or rustic design styles.

Coastal or Scandinavian

Create a calming and serene atmosphere with light gray or blue grout paired with white subway tiles. These cool tones evoke a sense of tranquility and work well with natural materials like wood and stone, often used in coastal and Scandinavian design styles.

Grout Line Width 

The width of your grout lines plays a role in both aesthetics and functionality. It also dictates the type of grout you can use.

Wider Grout Lines (1/8 inch or more)

These lines create a more rustic or traditional look. They are ideal for using sanded grout, which contains fine sand particles that fill the larger gaps and provide a textured finish. Sanded grout also helps to hide minor imperfections in the tile installation. However, the textured surface can be more challenging to clean.

Narrow Grout Lines (less than 1/8 inch)

These lines create a sleeker, more modern aesthetic. They require unsanded grout, which has a smooth finish and allows for a seamless look between the tiles. Unsanded grout is generally easier to clean and maintain compared to sanded grout.

Tile Sheen 

The sheen of your subway tiles can also influence your grout color choice. Here's how they interact:

Glossy Tiles

The reflective nature of glossy tiles can sometimes cause grout lines to disappear, especially with lighter grout colors. In this case, consider using a contrasting grout color to add definition and prevent the grout from visually receding.

Matte Tiles

Matte tiles don't reflect light as much as glossy tiles, so grout lines tend to be more noticeable. Here, you can choose a grout color that complements the tile color for a softer, more unified look. However, if you prefer the grout lines to be less prominent, a grout color that's slightly lighter or darker than the tile can also work.


The type and quality of lighting in your space can also subtly impact the appearance of your grout color. Here's what to consider:

Warmer Lighting

Warmer lighting, such as incandescent bulbs or halogen lights, can cast a yellowish hue that may make white or light-colored grout appear slightly warmer. This can create a more inviting and cozy atmosphere.

Cooler Lighting

Cooler lighting, such as LED bulbs or natural light, can make white or light-colored grout appear crisper and cleaner. This is ideal for spaces where you want a bright and airy feel.

Maintenance and Cleaning 

Beyond aesthetics, grout color also impacts the ongoing maintenance and cleaning of your subway tile installation. Here's what to consider:

White and Light-Colored Grout

These grout colors tend to show stains and dirt more easily. Regular cleaning with a grout cleaner recommended by your manufacturer and proper sealing are essential to maintain their pristine appearance.

Darker Grout

While darker grout may seem like a low-maintenance option as it hides dirt better, it can appear drab if not properly sealed. Regular cleaning and proper sealing are still crucial to prevent the build-up of grime and mildew.

The Final Touch: Sealing 

Regardless of the grout color you choose, sealing the grout is highly recommended. This creates a protective barrier that makes the grout more resistant to stains, dirt, and moisture penetration. Sealing also simplifies cleaning and maintenance, allowing you to enjoy the beauty of your subway tile installation for years to come.  Always be sure to consult the manufacturer's recommendations for the specific grout you choose. Different grouts may have specific requirements or limitations regarding sealants, and following the manufacturer's guidance will ensure optimal performance and longevity.


Elegant laundry room featuring vertical white subway tiles, natural wood shelves, and gold fixtures for a chic, modern look.

Popular Grout Color Options with White Subway Tiles 

White subway tiles remain a timeless and versatile choice for kitchens, bathrooms, backsplashes, and other spaces. When paired with the right grout color, they can create a variety of aesthetics, from clean and classic to bold and modern. Here's a detailed breakdown of popular grout color options for white subway tiles:

White Grout 

This classic choice creates a seamless, monochromatic look that maximizes the feeling of spaciousness. White grout beautifully complements a minimalist aesthetic and allows the clean lines of the subway tiles to take center stage. However, there are some practical considerations. White grout can be unforgiving, highlighting minor imperfections in the tile installation or grout application. Additionally, white grout is more susceptible to showing stains and dirt, requiring frequent cleaning to maintain its pristine appearance. For a more forgiving option, consider using an off-white grout. Off-white grout offers a similar seamless look but with a touch of warmth or coolness depending on the chosen shade. This subtle difference can help mask minor imperfections and make cleaning slightly less frequent.

Light Gray Grout 

Light gray grout offers a wonderful middle ground between the clean simplicity of white grout and the bolder statement of darker tones. It introduces a subtle contrast that defines the tile pattern without being too stark. This gentle separation creates a sense of visual interest and adds a touch of dimension to the overall design. Light gray grout is generally easier to maintain than white grout as it hides dirt and stains slightly better. Additionally, a wide range of light gray shades are available, allowing you to customize the look to perfectly complement your design scheme. For a cool and refreshing feel, opt for a light gray with blue or green undertones. For a warmer and more inviting atmosphere, choose a light gray with beige or taupe hints.

Medium Gray Grout 

For a more modern and graphic statement, medium gray grout creates a bold contrast with white subway tiles. This color combination emphasizes clean lines and creates a visually striking design. Medium gray grout makes the grout lines more prominent, adding a touch of definition and a distinct grid-like pattern to the tile installation. This approach is ideal for contemporary kitchens, minimalist bathrooms, or industrial-inspired spaces. However, it's crucial to consider the overall color scheme of your space before committing to medium gray grout. While it can add a touch of sophistication, an excessive amount of gray can overwhelm a small space. Ensure the medium gray grout complements other design elements and doesn't create a visually heavy atmosphere.

Dark Gray or Black Grout 

This daring choice creates a dramatic and undeniably eye-catching statement. Dark gray or black grout boldly highlights the individual subway tiles, creating a distinct grid-like effect. This approach works well in large, open spaces where the strong contrast can add depth and visual interest. However, it's essential to remember that dark grout requires diligent cleaning to prevent a dirty or neglected appearance. The dark color can easily hide grime and dirt, so regular cleaning and proper sealing are crucial for maintaining a polished look. While a bold choice, dark grout can add a touch of sophistication and drama to a well-designed space.


Luxurious green tiles with a natural texture, complemented by spa essentials, creating a serene, earthy bathroom ambiance.


Grout Color Options for Colored Subway Tiles 

Colored subway tiles open a world of design possibilities, allowing you to introduce personality, vibrancy, and a unique touch to your space. But the grout color you choose plays a significant role in how these colored tiles are perceived and integrated into the overall design. Here's a detailed exploration of popular grout color options for colored subway tiles:

Matching Grout Color 

This approach creates a uniform and cohesive look, allowing the color of the subway tile to take center stage. Matching the grout color to the tile creates a monochromatic effect that emphasizes the inherent beauty of the colored tile. This is a well-suited option for minimalist or subtle design schemes where you want the colored tile to be the main design element. For example, using a seafoam green grout with seafoam green subway tiles creates a calming and serene atmosphere, perfect for a spa-like bathroom. Similarly, a deep charcoal grout with charcoal subway tiles creates a bold and dramatic statement ideal for a modern kitchen backsplash.

Complementary Color Grout 

For a more visually intriguing design, consider using a complementary color grout. A complementary color sits directly opposite your chosen tile color on a color wheel. This pairing creates a pleasing contrast and enhances the existing color of the subway tile. For instance, blue subway tiles would have orange as a complementary color. While a bright orange grout might be overwhelming, a toned-down terracotta or rust-colored grout could create a warm and inviting atmosphere. However, using complementary colors requires a touch of balance. Consider the overall color scheme of your space and ensure the introduction of the complementary color doesn't create a discordant or visually jarring effect.

Contrasting Color Grout 

This option makes the colored subway tile a focal point in your design. A well-chosen contrasting color grout can add a playful or dramatic touch, depending on the color combination. For example, black grout with bright yellow subway tiles creates a bold and graphic statement, while white grout with turquoise subway tiles creates a fresh and coastal vibe. However, choosing a contrasting color grout requires careful consideration. Ensure the contrasting color complements the existing color scheme and doesn't clash with other design elements in the space. For instance, while red grout might make green subway tiles stand out, it might also clash with warm-toned wood cabinets in the same room.


Subway tiles, while undeniably charming, don't exist in a design vacuum. Grout color, the unsung hero, can define the tile pattern, create a seamless look, or become a statement piece. This guide explored how grout color interacts with subway tile shade and finish, impacting design styles and encompassing maintenance considerations. Now that you're armed with this knowledge, use our advanced AR tool to see how different grout colors may complement subway tiles of varied designs, colors, and finishes in your own space. With the perfect grout color complementing your selection, your subway tile installation can become a design masterpiece.

Reading next

Modern kitchen with light wood cabinetry, an island with beige chairs, and a herringbone subway tile backsplash.
Minimalist white subway tile wall providing a clean backdrop to a vibrant green potted plant, enhancing the natural decor.