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Your Grout and Tile Sealer Questions Answered

Have you chosen tiles for a beautiful kitchen backsplash, nice flooring for the foyer, or a spa-worthy bathroom design? First of all, congratulations - you’ve made an extremely durable investment for your home! Whether it’s a small upgrade or a large remodel, tile is one of the most stylish and long-lasting materials for a quality design that you can enjoy for years to come. In fact, a well-cared tile floor or wall can even last a lifetime - that’s where a good tile sealer can come in!

Calacatta Gold Penny Round Tile Shower for a Modern Bohemian Bathroom

Who doesn’t want to keep their shower tiles and grout spotless, especially when with such a gorgeous marble like the Calacatta Penny Round Mosaic Tile ?

A newly tiled shower, floor or kitchen backsplash looks clean and brilliant, but you definitely want it to look this way forever. It goes without saying that tiles need to be cared for to preserve their appearance and value, but we hate to tell you that your regular cleaning routine will probably not be enough to keep your investment in its best shape! 

That’s why we usually answer the question 'Do I have to Seal Grout and Tile' with a big yes!

You've probably heard that "sealing your grout and tile" is a good idea, but may be thinking if it’s a process you can actually skip. Even when you decide to use a tile and grout sealer, there’s a good chance that other questions are bubbling up; When is the best time to apply a tile sealer? What type of grout sealant do I need? Why do I need a tile or grout sealer, anyway? 

In this post, you’ll find the answers to all common questions regarding sealing grout and tile – the most effective process to prolong your tile investment! Whether you have tile renovation plans in the near future, or you’re looking for ways to extend the lifespan of your existing tiles, we’re here to help you avoid more severe damage and keep your tiles sparkling for years to come! 


Should I Seal Tile, Grout or Both?

White Marble Backsplash Tile for a Gorgeous Kitchen with Copper Accents

No need to shy away from the bright, crisp aesthetic of a shell and white marble backsplash such as Square Rombus Pearl White Thassos Shell Tile in this kitchen, when all you need is just a bit of tile and grout sealer to keep them sparkling clean! 

No matter how hard you try to protect your tiles and keep the grout clean, accidents can happen. Add time and exposure to moisture, dirt and grime, your grout lines can start looking dated if you don’t care for them correctly. So, the short answer is yes, most grout and tile will require sealing to prolong their look and lifespan.

But, what does a sealer really do? 

To understand the function of a tile sealer, let’s first understand the nature of the surfaces we’re dealing with. Don’t worry – it's not as confusing as it sounds! 

Sealing Grout to Reduce Cleaning and Increase the Life of your Tiles

Grout sealing image via North American Tile Cleaning Organization 

Let’s start with grout. We know that grout is the material that fills the spaces between your tiles and it’s generally a mixture of water, cement, and sand. Of course, there are a variety of different types of grout – such as unsanded grout, sanded grout and epoxy grout – which you choose depending on the type of tile you have. Among different various tile grout options, the most common one you’ll be using is ‘sanded grout’, which is extremely porous once it has been applied and dried. By permeating the grout with a sealer, you prevent moisture from working its way into the sand, and even under your tiles!  

If you hate scrubbing grout lines, this is a great way to keep them fresh and clean without having to put too much elbow grease into keeping them that way! Regularly sealing your grout can help preserve fresh white grout lines. 

Good to Know: Unsanded grout does not contain sand and is a less common choice in tile applications. Although it’s not as porous as sanded grout and therefore less permeable to water, it’s still recommended to finish with a sealer especially in wet or high-traffic areas. 

White Marble Shower Tiles - Seal Them to Keep them Pristine

Add an extra layer of protection to this beautiful white marble shower to prolong the elegant look and avoid discoloration of the tiles or the grout.

Any porous and unglazed tiles need a sealer prior to grouting tile. What do we mean when we say ‘porous tile’? Think natural stone - including marble, slate, limestone - as well as terracotta tiles and other unglazed tiles.

Sealant can help prevent staining from dirt, spills and even the grout that’s used while filling in the joints. Failure to seal natural stone or unglazed ceramic tiles can lead to spilled substances soaking into the material of the tile itself, requiring a lot of scrubbing and sometimes even replacement tile to look good again! On the other hand, glazed and non-porous tiles are already coated and have their microscopic imperfections filled prior to installation, which naturally protects them from stains. 

Good to Know: Non-porous tiles have a pre-existing layer that can wear down over time too, so you can still have man-made tiles (such as ceramic or porcelain) sealed prior to grouting as well as after. There’s nothing wrong with being too cautious, but make sure to check manufacturers recommendations of your tiles before making the final decision on getting a tile sealer!

Taking everything into consideration, what’s the conclusion? Make sure to have all sanded grout and porous tiles protected with a sealer - sealing helps them strengthen while protecting from dirt, mold, bacteria, erosion and more! 

The Epoxy Grout Exception

We always recommend sealing grout unless you’re using epoxy-based grout. Because epoxy grout is a very tough, water resistant material, it doesn’t require a sealer thanks to its ability to naturally shed water! The good news is, you can avoid using a grout sealer and opt for this waterproof grout solution that lasts a lifetime but the bad news is, it may not always be the right solution for your tiles. Check the full break-down of pros and cons of using an epoxy-based grout here to decide if it’s the right choice for your job!

Epoxy based grouts are made of resin mixed with a filler - that combination makes it more waterproof than cement-based grout.

Blush Frost Diamond Glass Tiles for a Glamorous Bathtub Surround

Often used with glass and other non-porous tile - such as with our stunning Blush Frost Diamond Glass Mosaic Tile for this gorgeous statement wall – epoxy-based grout gives the most protection against water and stains, making it a smart choice for wet rooms!

Now that we’ve explained what kind of tiles and grout would require sealing, now comes a critical question: When Do I Know It’s Time to Seal? We’ll be explaining this in the following section!

When Should I Seal Grout and Tile?

Porous Natural Stone Tiles Should be Sealed for the Best Finish and Style

Worrying about spilling a glass of wine over this Pike Peak Thassos White & Bardiglio Marble Mosaic Tile backsplash? If you seal your tile and grout, no worries -all you need is just to wipe off the mess with a cloth!

While porous grout and tile need regular sealing, it’s important to apply the sealant protection as soon as your tiles are freshly laid out!

When you have a beautiful tile renovation, start with porous tiles as they should be sealed prior to grouting (and ideally prior to tile installation). Because the surface of some softer tile, such as the travertine, can easily absorb grout and mortar if it’s unsealed during installation, you may quickly end up with a heavily stained look. To make the whole tile-install safer with less time for clean-up, sealing any natural stone tiles beforehand is a smart decision to help everything go smoother!

After making sure that your tiles are freshly installed and grouted, then it’s time for sealing grout! Once you make sure your grout lines are clean without any cracks or chips, give it at least 48-72 hours to ensure it’s completely dry and cure before applying the sealer.  

How to Test When to Seal Tile and Grout

The water test demonstrates whether tile needs to be sealed or not - if it beads on the surface, you have a good seal! Image via Home Depot 

If you’re sealing existing tiles and grout instead, you may need to observe your grout and tile to monitor its water exposure. How will you know if your tiles or grout already have an existing sealant? Is the old sealer still able to keep the surface protected from stains? The best way to know this is the water test! 

Place a few drops of water in your palm, then sprinkle it at various places around the tile and grout. If unsealed, grout will absorb water immediately and the tile will quickly darken in the first 5-10 minutes. If that’s the case, you know that it’s time for a new layer of tile and grout sealant!

How Often Should I Reapply Tile and Grout Sealer? 

Many people make the mistake of assuming that sealing grout and tile is a one-time process. Unfortunately, they do require on-going maintenance. Depending on the traffic of your tiled area and the cleaners you use, you may need to apply your grout every six months to a year.

When to Seal Bathroom Floor Tiles - Especially for Kid's Bathrooms

Lighter color natural stone materials like this charming Thassos And Azul Cielo Double Hexagon Marble Mosaic Tile may require more frequent sealing to preserve the stone’s one-of-a-kind beauty - especially when used in a kid’s bathroom where spills and splashes are common!

Although the rule of thumb is to seal them about every year, don’t forget that sealants are applied as needed.  Highly trafficked floor tiles and tiles in high moisture areas will need sealer applied more frequently than other types of tiled areas. 

To check if it’s time to reseal or not, perform the same basic water test and get the answer in a few minutes. Don’t forget that only a couple of minutes can save you thousands of dollars!

Now that you’ve gone through all the basics of sealing grout and tile, you think you're done, right? Well — almost. Choosing the best sealer is the last critical step of this process – move on to the next section to find more!

Preserve the life of your tiles by sealing White Marble

White Thassos Marble and Glass Patterned Tiles for a Detailed Kitchen Backsplash

Keep your white backsplash like Thassos Octagon With Light Blue Glass Marble Mosaic Tile as gorgeous as possible by regularly sealing marble tiles.

Who doesn’t love the enchanting beauty of white marble tiles for your kitchen or bathroom? The natural stone elegance of Calacatta Gold marble or the luminous sparkle of Thassos marble can instantly elevate your bathroom floor design or create a stunning spa experience in your shower!

While white marble shower tiles and bathroom floors are a classic favorite, you’ll want to take some extra steps to preserve that gorgeous creamy stone. White marble contains naturally occurring iron deposits that can oxidize over time and exposure to water, creating a surface stain that looks like rust.

If you love a white marble kitchen tile backsplash - and who doesn’t? - you’ll also want to keep your kitchen glowing when using honed marble.

How can you avoid those stains from appearing on your white stone floors and walls? Sealing your white marble tiles is an essential step to keep them pristine! 


How to Choose the Best Sealer for your Tiles and Grout

 

Here’s what you need to know before choosing your grout and tile sealer.

Penetrating vs Non-Penetrating Grout and Tile Sealers

You’ll find that there are two main categories of sealants – penetrating and non-penetrating (surface). 

A penetrating sealer is the most common option which is great to prevent long term water, mildew, and oil damage.  It soaks into the surface without changing the color or texture of your grout or surrounding tile. Penetrating sealers come in color options too – if you’re looking to lessen already existing stains or discoloration in your grout, color sealers can work to protect from future damages as well as restoring the original grout color. 

Non-penetrating sealers, on the other hand, not only offer protection but also add a shiny look to your tiles. Also called a ‘surface coating’, these sealers are great if you’re looking for basic protection for places with moderate water and dirt exposure. While non-penetrating sealers work perfectly to protect kitchen floors or backsplashes, areas that are exposed to a lot of water such as showers and tub surrounds are better protected with a penetrating product. Because they don’t allow water that’s trapped underneath the tile to evaporate, these sealers can lead to mildew in bathrooms or areas that tend to get wet! 

Choose the best grout and tile sealer based on your application area and exposure to water, but don’t forget to look for a product that’s designed for your tile material too. 

Our favorite sealer to preserve the beauty of natural stone and marble tiles is STONETECH® BulletProof® Sealer, a professional grade water-based sealer that’s ideal for porous stone, tile, masonry & grout. It’s a good all-purpose sealer that will handle almost all residential sealing needs!

Should I clean tiles before sealing them?

When applying a sealant to your tile or grout, keep in mind that it’s purpose is to preserve them as-is. You should make sure your tiles and grout are as clean as possible before applying a sealer or stains may be sealed in place.

See resources on  how to Keeping Marble Tiles Clean for more tips on how to preserve or recapture the beauty of marble. Whether you want guidance on how to prevent spills from happening in the first place, or deep cleaning tips to help draw stains out of white marble, we’ve got you covered!

We also recommend making sure you have the right cleaning product to keep your tiles pristine before you apply sealer, or in between sealing rounds. Avoid harsh, chemical-based cleaners for most marble, shell, mirror, and ceramic tiles to keep the finish as beautiful as possible! We recommend a cleaner that won’t etch the tile, like STONETECH® KlenzAll™ Cleaner which is a water-based, alkaline formula safe for stone while being tough on stains!

French Kitchen with a Vintage Range Hood and White Marble Shell Mosaic Tile Backsplash

An elegant French-inspired kitchen is always a good idea - like this gorgeous white design with our Pearl Chic White Marble & Mother Of Pearl Waterjet Mosaic Tile - and regularly sealing your backsplash will preserve that beauty!

Whether you prefer a DIY project or choose to hire a professional instead, sealing your tile investment is such an easy process. Remember that it’s always better to be safe than sorry – don’t skip this step as sealing grout and tile does provide everything from water and oil-based stain resistance to delaying grout discoloration and avoiding mold and bacteria. Isn’t this extra step worth taking? 

Hopefully we’ve covered all the basics about this important process including all the reasons, benefits, and much more. Still have questions about sealing your grout or tile? Leave your question in the comments! 

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