Should porcelain tile be sealed? In this article, we discuss both sides of this debate…
From DIY to pro-grade, in this article, we dive into what really gives the best (and longest lasting) shine to porcelain tile.
Table Of Contents
- The Most Common Methods To Shine Matte Tile Floors
- Why Aren’t Standardized Glossy Sealers Enough To Shine Matte Tile?
- What Is The Best High Gloss Tile Sealer For Porcelain?
- How Do You Use Tile Sealer?
- Applying High Gloss Tile Sealer
- How Long Does Sealer Take To Dry?
- What Are The Best Practices For Keeping Tile Clean?
- A Word Of Caution Before Using Homemade Cleaners
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The Most Common Methods to Shine Matte Tile Floors
Which Does The Best Job To Make Matte Tiles Glossy?
Popular common methods may make matte tile look shinier than before, but they are not all made equal. Read below as we evaluate which option does the best job..
Homemade Cleaning Products
- It’s common knowledge that white vinegar is a wonderful, natural disinfectant, that might add a decent shine to matte porcelain tile. But the truth is it can erode the protective coatings on top of the tile, as well as the grout and adhesives keeping the tile in place. Also, in places like hospitals and daycares with concerns for scent allergies and sensitivities, the pungent stench of vinegar is not always welcome.
- Baking soda is another popular natural ingredient that is very helpful when cleaning stubborn stains. But when used to clean and shine tile floors, all that scrubbing (especially with a tough scrubber) can add a multitude of micro scratches over the surface. Over time, the amassing scratches will make flooring tiles more dull and matte looking.
- Bleach and Ammonia are extremely toxic and harsh chemicals which can directly weaken grout and make floor tile become loose. While ammonia can help enhance tile color, it must be used carefully in a properly ventilated environment. The combination of bleach and ammonia together is highly noxious and produces extremely dangerous fumes!
Flooring Wax and Polish
To use wax and other “floor polish” is certainly a much harder, more labor-intensive application procedure. The results wear off quickly and can even lead to dull wax buildup in areas. The initial cost at the local store is rather inexpensive, but the additional money spent for more product and additional time put in for the labor of reapplication will certainly add up.
The exact purpose of a high-gloss tile sealer is to add a beautiful, glossy shine to your porcelain tile. Compared to other methods, using glossy tile sealer is more expensive up front. But it produces the best results without posing any health concerns to your family or your patrons. High gloss tile sealer is specifically designed not just to make tile floor shinier, but also to protect it and prolong the floor’s lifespan.
What Are The Typical Results Of Standardized Glossy Tile Sealers? | Why Aren’t They Enough To Shine Your Matte Tiles?
The type of tile sealers typically available at your local home improvement store are best described as standardized sealers. Meaning, they are standardized by being manufactured with a lower concentration of active ingredients.
We find that standardized sealers from big brands in the flooring industry only have about 12 to 15 percent concentration. By making sealers with reduced active ingredients, they are able to reduce the production cost, and that trickles down into the retail cost. The inevitable trade off is their performance.
Most of those standardized products dry only in 20 or 30 minutes, and that is just not sufficient time for the sealer to bond to porcelain tiles. A low solid sealer that’s not specially developed to bond to smooth, dense tile will very quickly result in delamination.
As soon as your start to clean with any water based solution/procedure, that delamination and moisture sensitivity will quickly become apparent. Within weeks, or maybe a few months in best case scenarios, the high gloss sealer will lift and peel.
So What Is The Best High Gloss Tile Sealer For Porcelain?
When you are searching for a proper sealer to give your porcelain tiles a shiny, glossy finish, inspect the description. Look for any indication from the manufacturer of where the product can be used and where it can’t – this is where most standard sealers fall short.
Our GlazeGuard High Gloss tile sealer is specifically developed to protect and add gloss to dense, glazed, non-porous tiles – specifically porcelain and ceramic tile floors. We took the time and care to formulate it with the highest percentage of active solids. Our latest version of GlazeGaurd is close to 50% active solids content.
Additionally, it bonds to porcelain tile better because of our proprietary adhesion promoters. From shine to longevity, our particular formula is what makes GlazeGaurd the superior product for when you want to make matte tiles glossy, shiny, and get a more stain and scratch resistant tile floor overall.
With GlazeGaurd’s gloss as smooth as glass, dull flooring tiles are simply no match. GlazeGuard will last three to five years on porcelain tile compared to these standard fast-drying acrylic sealers that may last one or two months.
How Do You Use Tile Sealer?
The question is how to add gloss to porcelain tiles, but in all truth the answer is relatively the same when using any type of sealer on any type of surface: Each step will almost always follow the same procedure:
- Prepare Your Intended Floor
- Gather Equipment
- Follow Manufacturer’s Instructions
How To Prepare Your Porcelain Tile Floor For Sealing
Before you seal, you need to prepare your porcelain tile floor by making sure that floor is spotlessly clean. The sealer needs to bond directly to the tile so there can’t be anything on the surface that would interfere with adhesion.
You must clean off any previous sealers, and any dirt, oil, grease, or paint. Follow these guidelines to make sure that the surface is correctly prepared and the sealer will properly adhere to the clean tile.
How To Determine If Tile Has Already Been Sealed
If you are dealing with an existing tile surface, there is a quick and easy way to determine whether it’s been sealed or not. This is to do a water test to check the absorbency of the tile and the grout itself. It’s very simple: get a small amount of water and pour or splash that onto the surface.
In many cases, you will be able to detect the sheen produced by a topical sealer on top of the tile and grout. However, this same visual test can’t be used to detect an old penetrating or impregnating sealer.
After five minutes, wipe that water away and observe if there is a dark spot or patch. If there is, that’s an indication that the tile is still absorbent and it hasn’t been sealed.
If the water beads up and there’s no darkening, then that’s telling you there’s likely a sealer on the surface of the tile.
This is true for grout as well. If it is non porous and resists the water, then the chances are it has a penetrating sealer, which is more difficult to strip. This would need some etching to remove.
Use something like our PreTreat or our Surface PrepWork. These are acidic solutions that will microscopically etch and remove the penetrating sealer from the top of the tile surface. We highly recommend performing a stripping product test in a small, discreet area before using it over your entire floor.
If there is just an existing, old, topical sealer that has started to lift and peel, make sure to remove or strip it off the porcelain tile surface. At CoverTec, we would use something like our FloorStrip HP to remove that old topical sealer.
The floor must be clean and dry before sealing, and we always recommend going around one final time with an easy mop to pick up any dust or dirt. Remember that the better the sealer can adhere to the porcelain, the longer it will last (years) so this is the time to be rather fussy about how well you clean that floor.
If the surface has not been previously sealed, our CT50 is a good way of deep cleaning and prepping the surface prior to sealing it with GlazeGuard. Use CT50 with warm or hot water which will give your tile and grout a great clean. Then rinse it off, and let it dry while you gather your equipment.
Applying High Gloss Tile Sealer
Applying GlazeGuard® porcelain tile sealer in High Gloss is a just like applying paint; their procedures are very similar:
You will need:
A good quality roller (we recommend ⅜ nap microfiber)
A roller tray
And a small brush or smaller roller for sealing around edges in in tight corners
Use a mixing stick and slowly mix the material before pouring it into a roller tray. Then complete this step by rolling it out just like you were painting the floor. Make sure the room is well lit and that your motions are smooth and steady.
Be careful, however, to only mix as much product as you can use in 60 to 90 minutes, after this time, the sealer will start to cure and become hard to work with.
How Long Does Sealer Take To Dry?
How long any sealer takes to dry depends on temperature, air movement or current, and the thickness of the applied coating(s). This means that topical sealers, too, will dry on porcelain tiles at different rates depending on the environment.
Be sure to mark off the area, to avoid any foot traffic while they are sticky. A single wrong step can make a mess. For residential settings, it is especially important to barricade that floor from pets and children, both for their safety, and for keeping the tiles clean while they dry (so nothing gets permanently stuck in the sealer).
Make sure the sealer is dry before you walk on the tiles. Waiting two hours is a good rule of thumb for light foot traffic, and then wait six hours before having any kind of heavy traffic.
Our GlazeGuard products, which are two part polyurethanes, take about 12 hours to dry at temperatures above 70 degrees and with reasonable air movement. If the ambient temperature gets below 70 and there’s little air movement, that dry time can be extended.
What Are The Best Practices For Keeping Shiny Porcelain Tiles Clean?
Maintenance and cleaning should be much, much easier, now that your porcelain tile floor is sealed. There is no need to use harsh chemicals like bleach and chlorine (what we call high pH, or aggressive, cleaners).
These substances will break down the repellency of the sealer and that can lead to dull porcelain (again). Highly acidic solutions yield the same results if too concentrated. Straight white vinegar is a valuable household cleaning agent, but because it is so strong, it can break down the sealer and even burn it, reducing the sealer’s overall performance over time.
Do not scrape with stainless steel! That is one of the surest ways to scratch your ceramic and porcelain tiles.
It is better for the floor and yourself to use microbial cleaners. We recommend those tile cleaners, like our Emerald Floor Maintainer, because they will actually break down and consume oil and grease without damaging the sealer or leaving any residue on top of the tile.
It comes in concentrated form, which makes it a very cost effective product. And the CoverClean AE is another great product for cleaning shiny tiles and grout. These are both easy to use. We also have our neutral pH and concentrated GlossCleaner which you can use at a very low dose in order to maintain the gloss and sheen of your topical sealer.
A Word Of Caution Before Using Homemade Cleaners
If you want to make your own homemade tile cleaner or polish remedy, like degreasers or different types of mild soapy solutions, be wary of the concentration – dilute in water! Don’t use something too strong (on either side of the pH scale) on your porcelain tiles. Remember those cleaners were originally designed for other uses. For these solutions, we recommend only one or two ounces per gallon of water.
Too concentrated, and they can likely damage the finish or the sheen of your topical tile sealer, or they will simply leave a residue on top of the tiles.
This is from things like baking soda in particular, which is an undeniable lifting and cleaning agent, but will leave a residue and dull the surface of your flooring if you don’t have the right proportions diluted in water.
Also, be aware of the chemicals that you’re mixing together, because sometimes you can concoct a chemical byproduct that actually outgasses your home or building by accident. For example, the chemical byproduct ammonia and bleach can produce even more toxic fumes that would be very hazardous to breath in, not just for you, but also your family, pets, your customers at your business, etc.
As we just mentioned, homemade cleaning remedies will usually leave a residue once the water evaporates off the top of the porcelain tile. This actually doubles the cleaning, making even more work for you. This completely negates the ease of maintenance provided by your tile sealer.
This is why manufactured chemical cleaners are better on tiles because they have already been scientifically proportioned and thus save you more labor than any DIY tile cleaner. Products with specifically designed purposes work better, longer, and safer.
Now you know all about keeping your porcelain floors shiny and clean. Just use a proper tile sealer that will actually bond to smooth porcelain and manage any messes as they happen.
As always, if you have any questions about which product is the best for your unique situation, call us at: 754-253-3401
About Our Expert | Charles Idowu
Charles Idowu started his career as a civil engineer in 1983 in the UK. After achieving his MBA and his Chartered Engineer qualifications, Charles quickly became the waterproofing and coatings expert for a renowned British construction company. His international work landed him in South Florida, where he combined his engineering experience and passion for business to start CoverTec Products.