Many people are confused about sealer. They are over sold on its value or even what protection it really provides. They are not sure what type of sealer to use. So if your planing on sealing your grout and tile yourself how do you do it? What sealer should you use? In this post we are not talking about sealing natural stone rather a ceramic or porcelain tile and the grout.
What does sealer do anyway?!
To understand what a sealer can and can’t do is important. Sealers help grout and stone repel liquid. They are not magic, they are not even necessary, but they can help you keep grout cleaner for longer. They can help prevent stains. They do this by totally coating the surface or acting like a filler that won’t allow any dirty water or spill to enter the surface that is sealed.
Topical sealers are a coating. Sometimes these are waxes, polyurethanes or acrylics. You should never use a topical sealer in your home as they tend to wear out quickly, especially on high-traffic areas of flooring. Removing these coatings requires toxic chemicals and can be impossible to remove completely from the grout.
True impregnating sealers are not a coating. They live inside the grout or stone not on top. They fill any extra space inside so liquids or oils can’t enter. This is exactly what to use in your home! But there are different types of impregnating sealers!
Water based impregnating sealers
Benefits: These sealers are a newer type of chemistry. They are in response to newer laws and some health concerns. They have lower voc’s (see what is a voc bellow) and tend not to have as strong an odor, durning application.
Cons: To deliver the sealer into the grout it needs a vehicle to do that. This type of sealer uses water to do just that. This is a problem as the sealer can only go into the grout as deep as the water will penetrate. If you just cleaned your grout and the grout is already wet this type of sealer is not going to work! It would be like trying to pour more water in a glass that is totally full. Just a waste of time and money.
These sealers tend not to work/repel as well. They also tend not to last as long. We don’t like water based sealers but will use them in some situations.
Solvent based impregnating sealers
These are the best performing sealers hands down! Solvents can penetrate much deeper than water and the result is a much better protection.
I don’t need to say much more they just perform like a champ. They do have a stronger odor when they are applied but water based sealers are not odor free. This smell is not much worse! So I recommend look for a good solvent based impregnating sealer.
How to apply sealer to ceramic tile and grout
First you need to understand what can be sealed and what can’t. A topical sealer can go over basically anything. It’s just ugly, a nightmare to remove and overall a bad idea. Get the idea I hate topical coatings. (In a home anyway. They have their place)
A true impregnating sealer should only be applied to surfaces that are porous.
So if your ready to seal you ceramic tile floor, you don’t seal the tile itself. Only seal the grout! It’s best not to get a drop of sealer on the tile. You will so wipe it off right away.
Sealer will not go into a non-porous surface. It will just dry on the top and can be a ugly ugly mess. It can be hard with out the right tools to remove it.
So when you seal your floor you only need to seal the grout.
The photo below was a nice ceramic tile. A mistake was made with sealer choice and application. They used a concrete sealer that had a thick polymer in it. Do you really want shiny polished looking grout?
Also they got the concrete sealer on the surface of the tile. Now they have shiny spots all over the floor. They didn’t know how to remove the sealer from the tile so they decided to apply the concrete sealer all over the floor.
Wow they thought this was a great idea. It had a nice shiny look and everything was great.
Little did they know they created a big problem. They basically costed the floor with a film on the top of the tile. Now it is slick, scuffs and scratches very easy, and if you drop water on the floor the coating peals off. Not good!
At most big box hardware store you can find a sealer applicator that will allow you to only seal the grout. Yep it’s hand and knees, slow work. But that’s what you need to do to avoid problems.
What is a VOC? This answer is provided by miracle sealants.
VOC are the initials for Volatile Organic Compounds. VOC are solvents that are photo-chemically reactive, which for us lay persons means, they potentially have an effect on smog and the environment. This means solvents including Trichlorethane 111, odorless minerals spirits, alcohol, etc. ……