Should porcelain tile be sealed? In this article, we discuss both sides of this debate…
In this article, we’ll explain the best ways to keep your luxury vinyl tile and vinyl plank flooring clean and beautiful for longer.
Table Of Contents
- What Happens When You Don’t Seal Your Luxury Vinyl Flooring?
- What Are The Different Types Of Sealers For Luxury Vinyl Tile And Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring?
- What Coatings Should You NOT Use On Your LVT Floors?
- Common Problems With Common Sealers For LVT FLooring
- What’s The Best Way To Protect Luxury Vinyl Tile Floors To Keep Them Cleaner For Longer?
- How To Detect If Your Vinyl Flooring Has Already Been Sealed?
- How To Apply Sealer To Luxury Vinyl Tile
- How To Maintain Your Luxury Vinyl Tile Flooring
- Get The Most From Your Luxury Vinyl Tile Flooring
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The best way to keep your luxury vinyl tile clean is to proactively keep dirt and other contaminants off of the floors entirely! This is best done with a specifically designed flooring sealer that will repel dirt and moisture and make cleaning and maintenance even easier.
Let’s start by explaining how beneficial it is to seal your luxury vinyl plank and tile flooring:
What Happens When You Don’t Seal Your Luxury Vinyl Flooring?
Luxury vinyl tile flooring actually comes with a protective water-based urethane layer which is applied at the factory. It’s a thin layer over the top of each tile or plank that is by no means indestructible.
This factory-standard layer is easily scratched and eventually gets worn off. So if you don’t seal and further protect your LVT, then your luxury vinyl floors are more susceptible to irreversible damage. Once the print layer has been visually marred, that vinyl tile or engineered hardwood flooring plank must be replaced to keep the appearance of the floor as a whole. Repairs are extremely difficult, if at all possible.
If your vinyl tile floor is in a high traffic area, or maybe where there’s potential for a lot of water exposure, then it may be advisable to put an additional protective layer on that surface to prolong the life of that floor.
Unlike ceramic or porcelain tile, there’s no grout with luxury vinyl flooring; the pieces (planks or tiles) simply snap together. So at least we don’t have to worry about moisture and bacteria creeping in through porous grout!
What Are The Different Types Of Sealers For Luxury Vinyl Tile and Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring?
There are a few different types of sealers used on vinyl tile floors, and choosing the right one for your project is much easier once you know what makes them unique.
Instead of using polymers like urethanes and acrylics, nano-coatings use ceramics or silicates mixed into a carrier solution. When this solution dries on the surface of lvt flooring, they form a protective layer, or a “capping” layer. To increase the shine of a nano-coating, you would burnish or polish them, like you might do for a stone or concrete floor.
You’re putting this tough but micro thin covering; maybe 20 layers of a nano coating would perhaps equal one layer of a wax or an acrylic coating. Let that ratio give you an idea of just how micro-thin these nano coatings are. In being so, we can put on multiple layers over the lifespan of the floor and not need to strip them.
When you use a polymer like a floor wax or an acrylic, it builds up after five or six coatings, particularly in the edges. These would then need to be scrubbed and stripped before you add more fresh layers.
The hard, nano coatings, like our Vinyl Diamond eliminate that step, but they do have to be maintained using burnishing machines, and are really more for the larger, commercial applications that are expected to be high traffic environments. These include the floors of airports, hospitals, even schools.
For smaller commercial floors like those of waiting rooms and bathrooms, or residential spaces like the family home, that type of maintenance is probably not practical. That’s why we recommend you use the urethane sealers, which can be applied to small areas where cleaning and maintaining of the floors can be done using just standard mop and low speed equipment.
What Coatings Should You NOT Use On Your LVT Floors?
We would not recommend using a solvent based sealer on vinyl floors as it will damage the print, the surface, and the protective layer – and certainly void your warranty. Again, we would strongly advise against using floor finishes made of acrylics that require stripping and waxing to maintain them.
Oftentimes, LVT comes in a satin or a matte finish. It is unlike the VCT because it’s not typically a high shine type flooring. The vinyl composite tile was commonly polished or burnished up to a very high shine. We see this usually in hospitals, schools, and shopping malls. But those are now being replaced now with a more satin or matte-finished LVT that doesn’t require those additional high-shine cleanings and sealers.
Common Problems With Common Sealers For LVT Flooring
The types of sealers that you find in a big-box shop like your local home improvement store are typically low-solid acrylic sealers that will require regular maintenance. This means routine stripping and waxing to replace them or to maintain them.
Again, we don’t want to be using products like that on our flooring, which are going to require stripping chemicals and/or stripping pads, because they can break down the protective layer and damage the print layer on your luxury vinyl tile. Once that happens, it’s very hard to recover. Now, you’d have to replace sections of your floor.
You must mind your warranty as well. Because of this danger of damaging the tile on your own while you maintain these standardized acrylic floor sealers, you’ll void the warranty.
What’s The Best Way To Protect Luxury Vinyl Tile Floors To Keep Them Cleaner For Longer?
Because of the potential damaging effect of stripping chemicals and pads, the best sealers for LVT are ones that don’t need to be stripped off and only need to be reapplied very infrequently.
That’s why we would first recommend using what we call a nano coating, like our Vinyl Diamond. This coating goes on in very, very thin micro- layers that are then burnished or high-speed polished.
Nano coatings are good to use because the layer is so thin, you can periodically put more layers on rather than having to come back and strip them off. You can just add one layer on top of the other and still end up with a protective film that is very, very thin.
A proper luxury vinyl tile sealer will need reapplication infrequently. And a proper example would be our Vinyl Diamond sealer, which is made from a ceramic-type material in a solution that’s put on micro-thin on the surface, and maintained just by polishing and burnishing.
Then down the road, if the floor needs more due to the wear of high foot traffic and whatnot, you would just add subsequent layers. There’s no need to strip the existing surface before applying a top coat.
The other option to protect your vinyl flooring is to use polyurethane, in the same way that there is an existing polyurethane layer on top of the vinyl tile straight from the manufacturer. Being proactive, we can put an additional and more durable urethane layer on top, using our water-based urethane sealer, our Vinyl Gaurd.
Once sealed, the vinyl flooring is maintained by simple routine cleaning – no need to strip the urethane off the surface. And when it’s time, you would just lightly sand or scrub the flooring with water and reapply.
So those are two ways of using a urethane or nano coating on your vinyl flooring.
How To Detect If Your Vinyl Flooring Has Already Been Sealed?
There are two basic ways to determine if your luxury vinyl tile has already been sealed. This is an important step if you are planning to apply your own sealer to the floor as it can affect how you prep and what products you use.
The self-evident ‘visual’ test is the easiest; simply have a close look at your floor and look for any sheen that might be appearing different depending on how much the coating or sealer has broken down due to the volume of traffic (wear) an area has been subjected to.
Also, you can try the water test to detect protective layers on your LVT. Simply splash an ounce or two over the surface of your luxury tile and observe how the water behaves. If it seems to seep in, that means there’s likely no protective coating. However, if the water remains beaded or balled up on the surface, the tile has some protection on it.
If your tile is harder than it used to be to keep clean, or showing marks more easily than it used to, that is another sign that any protection on the LVT has been worn off or broken down.
How To Apply Sealer To Luxury Vinyl Tile
The first thing we’d recommend on vinyl tile, (LVT or LVP) is to use a lower gloss, more matte sealer. Our Vinyl Guard Matte and our Vinyl Diamond which comes in satin and matte finished.
These are going to show less wear and less marks. Superficial scratches won’t show up in the sealer surface the same way as they would in high gloss sealers.
If working on a brand new floor, then prep the area by using a neutral cleaner and allowing the floor to dry fully. Then, roller apply the Vinyl Guard in a single coat with a ⅜” nap roller. It requires about 12 hours to dry.
The Vinyl Diamond is applied in two coats with a microfiber flat mop, used to spread it out very thin on the surface. With this product, you get very high coverage, about 3 to 4,000 square feet out of a single gallon. (Again a proponent of how thin the nano-coatings are.)
We recommend this satin finish because there’s no need to burnish or polish up the shine. The Vinyl Diamond gives a very natural look with very good protection. Remember, scratches are glaringly obvious in a shiny sealer, but are not in a more matte sheen.
How To Maintain Your Luxury Vinyl Tile Flooring
So now let’s discuss how to clean your vinyl flooring. Well, now that your floor is sealed, maintenance and cleaning luxury vinyl flooring will be a much easier care process. The necessary factor in choosing which tips to follow or which cleaners to use is to focus on not damaging the sealer’s integrity. That could lead to damaging that beautiful print on the vinyl floors altogether. Your granite-style tile or hardwood-style planks could turn to an unattractive blur if that print layer gets damaged!
Don’t use any harsh chemicals to clean vinyl plank and tile flooring. Instead, use a neutral cleaner, like our GlossClean or our signature Emerald Floor Maintainer, which is an enzyme-based floor cleaner that is perfect for maintaining both the sealer and the flooring.
Our Emerald Floor Maintainer is a concentrated cleaner that gets diluted with only one or two ounces in a single gallon of water. This mixture is then applied with a low pressure pump up sprayer or a mop. Dab off any remaining cleaner and then let it air dry. So it is very easy to use to clean and maintain.
The most convenient way to keep luxury vinyl tile and luxury vinyl plank cleaner is to use things like doormats to keep the dirt and dust from coming into the home/building/facility. That will definitely help extend the life of your floors and minimize the wear and tear on the flooring sealer.
You can also dust mop regularly to pick up the everyday dirt and grit to minimize scratching and damage to the floor sealer.
LVT has such a high-end printed pattern on it in order to give the whole floor that beautiful and realistic look. So you want to be very careful that you don’t damage it in your cleaning process. Make sure that whatever chemical ingredients and/or stripping pads you’re using don’t damage that protective layer. You don’t want to use anything too aggressive, so it is better to use a soft mop to clean luxury vinyl.
So when making your own cleaners at home, watch the concentration of your ingredients. If you’re using citric acids, they must be mild and diluted down. If you’re using high alkaline (or high pH) products, like baking soda or any kind of poultice, be careful about the abrasiveness. LVT floors only need gentle, neutral cleaners.
If you’re finding that you have to use harsher or more concentrated cleaners on your LVT, we’d again recommend using a sealer that will make that floor easier to clean – something like our Vinyl Guard or, for a higher-traffic area, our Vinyl Diamond.
The truth is any sealer can get scratched, so it is better to use a lower sheen in order to minimize the appearance of scratches and marks. That will extend the time before you need to go back and address those blemishes. And better yet, with our Vinyl Guard and Vinyl Diamond, you don’t need to strip off the surface in order to address those scratches.
You can just lightly scrub or sand the surface of the sealer now and then reapply another coat of the same sealer, as opposed to completely stripping off your sealer and risking damage to the pattern itself.
For the safest, most effective cleaning, we recommend microbial cleaners. Our Emerald Floor Maintainer is the more economical choice, perfect for everyday use to clean in average foot-traffic areas. On the other hand we have our heavier-duty CoverClean FG, which is food-grade approved for use on vinyl flooring, like food prep areas with food based oils, fats, and grease. The beauty of microbial cleaners is that they don’t leave any residue!
Remember: cleaning up residue from baking soda and vinegar, after you’ve already cleaned your floor, is just double the work.
Get The Most From Your Luxury Vinyl Tile Flooring
There is no perfect solution to sealing any floor. If you want a shiny LVT floor, you must realize that it will show scratches more and you will have to maintain it more. But your options for cleaning and maintaining it will then be more limited, as well. We would direct residential or smaller commercial projects to using our Vinyl Guard in the gloss finish. Just realize that eventually they are going to appear to have more superficial scratches. Those scratches in your LVT can be dealt with more polishing of the floors, but of course, more polishing and burnishing to clean means more frequent reapplication of the sealer – more so than what you would need for a sealer with a less shiny finish.
Bonus Section: But What Is The Difference Between VCT & LVT?
The standard VCT is made – like the name suggests – from vinyl (a PVC vinyl) and it’s mixed together with some filling material. This material fill could be crushed limestone, cork, and clay. Back in the day, they even used asbestos.
And it’s all mixed together, compressed and rolled, and then cut into sheets that could be two or three layers thick. VCT comes in standard colors and is generally smooth. This flooring has a long history being used in anything from hospitals, to classrooms, to grocery stores.
VCT is protected by using a floor finish, like a floor wax or an acrylic. And in reality, most of us have seen these floors growing up and still see them everywhere today.
The luxury vinyl tile (LVT) has come into the luxury vinyl flooring market forefront only in the last five years or so. Premium vinyl flooring has been around for longer than that, and while it’s always been made from PVC vinyl, it is now made from higher quality vinyl, with more layers.
So, simply put, LVT is a better quality product for floors and it’s thicker – so it is more comfortable underfoot, especially for home vinyl flooring. And because of the higher quality of the vinyl, we can print on it more extensively. We can print better quality flooring patterns, emboss it, we can stamp it and get textures as well as print patterns that look like stone and even hardwood planks.
That’s where the ‘luxury’ element comes from. This type of flooring can be made with an incredible visual likeness to wood and stone, but is far more comfortable (and less expensive in comparison).
The LVT comes in tiles, sheets, and planks, and we’re seeing more and more of it in the flooring market.
The key difference is the level of protection LVT and VCT have. The manufactured protection of LVT flooring is a little different to that for VCT flooring; the LVT has a protective urethane layer on it whereas the VCT does not.
You have to be mindful about putting sealers on top of that urethane because, if those sealers need to be stripped and waxed, that chemical action as well as the stripping pads can irrepably damage the print layer. LVT floors are a lot more sensitive to stripping and waxing, and a lot of the manufacturers will tell you not to use acrylic and wax finishes because of that exact reason.
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.