There are a lot of steps involved in taking on a tiling project - from choosing the perfect material, perfecting your layout, and laying your tile! Sealing tile and grout is a necessary part of the process to protect the materials and ensure your tile has a long lifetime - it’s also usually the step that gets forgotten!
Ensure the longest life for your beautiful tiles like our White Sparkle Waterjet Marble Mosaic Tile backsplash, and the easiest way to maintain your grout by making sure they are properly sealed! We’re sharing 7 common myths and facts about sealing grout and tiles to make sure you have the right information about this important step to ensure the longevity and appearance of your tile!
Myth #1: Tile grout lasts forever!
Wouldn’t it be awesome if your grout lasted a lifetime and always stayed clean? The clean lines on this Crema Marfil Herringbone 1X3 Polished Marble Mosaic Tile layout should always look this fresh!
It’s a common misconception that tile grout is designed to last forever. The truth is that grout can last for a very long time in ideal conditions but unfortunately, it’s not designed to last forever! Traditional grout is cement-based, and whether sanded or un-sanded, it’s highly porous by nature. Picture a sponge with thousands of little holes in it, where each of the holes traps any water, dirt, or oil that comes into contact.
Guess what happens? Then you wash or mop the surface, you actually pick up the surface dirt instead of clearing the pores. The result is grout that gets even dirtier and more gross. In addition to looking unsightly, your tiled area also becomes unsanitary as the water soaks up through the pores and creates the perfect breeding ground for mold! Since it’s nearly impossible to get rid of mold without removing the entire grout, you not only end up re-grouting the area but also removing and ruining all the beautiful tiles you’ve just invested in for your home.
Don’t worry! By adding a protective sealant layer, you extend the life and appearance of your grout and tiles. We’ll cover the best materials and ways to do this in the next sections!
Pro Tip: The only exception to this rule is epoxy-grout - an alternative to cement-based grout- that offers stain and chemical resistance. Although it’s more expensive, its durability makes it an ideal choice for wet and high traffic areas. As an added bonus, epoxy grout never needs to be sealed due to its non-porous nature!
Myth #2: Should you seal grout with any kind of grout?
There’s an assumption that all grout and tile sealers provide the same standard of protection.
The truth is, no one sealer is best suited for all situations. Depending on your tile and its location, you can narrow down your grout sealer choices to two main categories: penetrating sealers and membrane-forming sealers.
Penetrating grout sealers absorb into the grout and help protect it from stains and grease infiltration. As the porous grout absorbs your chosen sealer, the material fills in all the gaps and keeps moisture out. This type of grout sealer helps fill the pores within the grout rather than coating the top, meaning the grout can still breathe. That’s why it works best in areas that are exposed to a lot of water, making it ideal for sealing tile showers, tubs and bathroom backsplash areas, which are more likely to have long term water, mildew, and oil exposure.
Penetrating sealers also have different color options, which may lessen visible stains or discoloration in the grout. Unlike regular colored grout, penetrating grout sealers with color goes directly into the pores of the grout and helps protect it from damage while working to maintain its original color and prevent stains.
Non-penetrating grout sealers (membrane-forming sealers), on the other hand, are ideal if you’re looking for a basic layer of protection. These sealers just create a coating on the surface of the grout that resists water penetration, which eventually prevents water that’s trapped underneath the tile to evaporate and can lead to mold and mildew. Therefore, they are best to use in kitchen floor and backsplash areas, you should not use this to seal grout in showers, bathrooms, or other damp areas. It does not adhere to glazed tiles, making it a better option for natural stone tiles.
Pro Tip: Should you need to seal grout in showers or a kitchen backsplash are, our first choice is Stonetech sealant – the leader in grout sealers offers both sealer types in various options that fit a variety of different budgets and needs!
Myth #3: Sealing grout is not a DIY job!
Does grout need to be sealed by a professional? Not at all! The truth is, you can seal it yourself with proper care and some research! If you don’t know how to seal grout, we’ll now prove to you how easy it is once you’ve got the correct sealer and right tools in hand.
Assuming that you’ve already chosen your grout sealer, all you need are some protective gloves, clean dry towels, painter’s tape, and a foam brush or grouting sponge. Follow the steps below to complete your DIY Tile Sealer!
- Start by taping off other surfaces (such as baseboards or fixtures) to prevent unintentional staining.
- Slowly start applying the sealer using the foam brush (we prefer using a brush or sponge over a spray or roller to ensure the best coverage), coating the grout lines and making sure to cover the grout joints completely. If the sealer gets on the tiles, just take a damp cloth and quickly wipe it away!
- Allow the first coat to soak before adding multiple coats, as instructed by the manufacturer of the sealer.
- Finally, wipe the sealer off with a clean dry towel and allow the sealer to cure for up to 48 hours before cleaning or getting wet. That’s it - you’re done!
To test the success of your job, flick a few drops of water onto the grout line. If water puddles on top of the grout, congratulations! You’ve successfully sealed your grout by yourself!
Pictured - Extra Large Grouting, Cleaning and Washing Sponge from Home Depot
Pro Tip: When you have new tiles and fresh grout, allow it to cure for at least 48 to 72 hours before sealing.
If you’ve got old grout, you need a few extra steps to help prepare the area before sealing. You can find the details on how you should seal existing grout in the following section!
Myth #4: You can’t seal old grout!
While sealing grout as soon as you install your tile is the best way to protect your investment and lower maintenance over its lifespan, it’s never too late to seal old grout to avoid future damages.
If you’re working with existing tile and not sure if it's properly sealed or not, first test to see if it’s time to reseal. To do so, just put a few drops of water on the dry grout and see if it beads up and sits on the surface or soaks in. If the water is absorbed and completely disappears into the grout, it’s time for a reseal!
Pictured - Aqua Mix Sealer's Choice Gold 24 oz. Penetrating Sealer from Home Depot for Natural Stone tiles and Grout
Even if you know how to seal grout, there are a few additional steps when dealing with old grout: deep cleaning and repairing. You can use an old toothbrush or a grout brush – it’s time to get down on your knees while you scrub the grout for a deep clean. Whether you’re planning on sealing a tile shower, kitchen backsplash, or bathroom floor, old grout must be cleaned as thoroughly as possible prior to sealing.
Make sure your grout lines aren’t cracked or chipped before treating with a sealant. If they are, repair them by applying some touch up grout and allowing 48 to 72 hours to cure before sealing. If it gets stained before it's sealed, just use a mild bleach solution and scrub lightly. Be careful not to scrub your tiles with anything too stiff, though, like a metal brush that could scratch or damage the tiles.After sealing a tile floor or wall with a stain, there will be no way back as you’ll have sealed the stain into the tile!
Who said sealing grout is not possible after 20 years?
Pro Tip: A penetrating sealant with color can instantly freshen up and bring back the beauty of tiles especially in old and worn out grout areas!
Myth #5: Sealing tile is not as important as sealing grout!
It’s just as important to seal porous tile as it is to seal grout!
If it’s that simple, then why don’t we seal all tile surfaces? Well, sealing is not necessary for all tiles, as all tile surfaces are not the same. Ceramic and porcelain tiles are popular due to their durability and longevity, and most of the time there’s no need to seal their surfaces. However, sealing tile is a must when the ceramic or porcelain is left unglazed.
While all kinds of natural stone tiles are beautiful, they can be more likely to show scratches or stains ,particularly in heavy traffic areas. Natural stone tiles benefit from sealing to avoid potential staining and preserve the life of your tiles.
Why is sealing tile so important? Similarly to sealed grout, a proper tile sealant keeps dirt, liquids, and debris out of porous materials, avoiding their chance to penetrate and ensuring that stains can come up without issues. Another reason to seal porous tile is to prevent damage during grout and mortar application, because failure to seal can result in grout that’s absorbed into the tile and ruins the finish.
If you’re serious about maintaining your stone tiles, applying sealer once or twice a year is a must. The frequency may also vary depending on the location and type of stone. For example, travertine is a highly porous material which should be sealed more often than other natural stones. If installed as a kitchen backsplash or behind the stove - areas vulnerable to cooking spatters - you will probably need to seal even more often!
Pro Tip: Seal all unglazed tiles, including dense porcelains, prior to grouting. This protects the tile from grout stains, especially when using a dark colored grout and a light-colored tile.
Myth #6: Grout sealant can last for years!
Not only do you need to seal your grout after installation, but it’s recommended to do this once a year on average to keep grout looking its best.
Depending on the wear and tear your tiled area experiences, it is recommended that your grout is also steam cleaned once a year. Although some sealers on the market promise to be extremely long-lasting, The Tile Council of North America recommends that you have your grout sealed every two years at the outside. High-traffic areas may also require sealers applied more frequently than low-traffic areas in the house.
Myth #7: Sealing means you don’t have to worry about maintenance!
Think of tile sealer as a breathable layer of protection, just like wearing a jacket when you go out on a rainy day. You still get wet eventually, but takes longer for the water to soak through, right? Sealers are similar; they provide a good barrier against stains but they cannot protect against chemical damage.
So, how do you clean sealing around showers and stone tiles? Is there a different grout cleaner for a kitchen backsplash? What if acidic food is spilled on your kitchen backsplash or toilet bowl cleaner drips on your white marble floor tile?
Most importantly - react fast, and clean it up before the spill can settle or be absorbed into porous surfaces! A Ph neutral floor tile and grout cleaner is the safest way to regularly clean and maintain your surfaces without worrying that you’re wearing out the sealer. Stay away from bleach unless you want your grout to peel off and become discolored. The North American Tile Cleaning Organization recommends a Stonetech's All Purpose Cleaner as a safe option to clean even the most delicate natural stone tiles.
The clean lines on a dynamic subway tile wall can stay as fresh as this contemporary powder room with our Glacier Gray 8X16 Polished Glass Tile - the key is the right tile sealer!
Ensure the longest life for your tiles and the least maintenance for your grout by ensuring you seal them properly!
Sealing tile and grout may seem like a minor detail that is less important than the look and price point of your project. However, a sealer is your surface’s first line of defense.
Don’t overlook the importance of sealing your tiles and grout! This is one simple extra step, but it’s essential to preserving the look and wear of your tiles!
There are new grouts, like our preferred brand, Laticrete Permacolor, that have STONETECH® Sealer Technology already in the grout mix. However, sealant should be reapplied every 6-12 months, especially if water is settling into the grout rather than beading on the surface.
We had a new shower installed and the tiler said the sealer was in the grout. I was wondering if it would hurt to put a sealer on top of that? When my floor was installed, that tiler said the same thing and the grout looks horrible, absorbs spills and is falling out. Thanks
Do you recommend caulking a shower before sealing, or sealing first?
Hi Sara, we recommend only using sealing materials that are specifically for grout – clear coat may not properly bond with the grout composition.
Why can’t you just paint over the grout with acrylic clear coat? Why can’t it just be sealed forever?