Should porcelain tile be sealed? In this article, we discuss both sides of this debate…
Learn the right treatment options to increase the slip resistance of your tile without sacrificing the appearance – whether it’s inside your bathroom or outside on your home patio.
Table Of Contents
- Why Should You Seal Your Tile Floor?
- What Happens When You Don’t Seal Tile?
- Why Should You Not Seal Your Ceramic Or Porcelain Tile?
- How To Deal With Tile Grout?
- What Are The Different Types Of Tile Sealers?
- What Are The Typical Results Of Average Anti-Slip Coatings?
- The Best Tile Sealer Of 2022
- How To Make Tile Less Slippery
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Why Should You Seal Your Tile Floor?
There are several reasons why someone would want to seal their tile floors or even their tile walls. First and foremost, you can seal tile to protect it from staining, wear and tear, in doing so make it easier to clean and to maintain.
Next, sealing tiles can change the look of them, so it is an option for those who want to change their tile’s appearance for aesthetic purposes. In this case, some people are wishing to make tile floor more shiny, or less shiny. They want to enhance or bring out the colors or maybe give it a wet look.
The third concern is usually about the safety certain slippery tile floors. Most property owners recognize the liability of slippery tile flooring and thus want to make them apply some sort of anti-slip tile coating to increase friction and reduce such risks.
When people talk about sealing their floor, sometimes all they are truly after is sealing and protecting the grout. If you’ve got porous tile and porous grout, you will definitely want to use a tile sealer to make it easier to clean and maintain as well as increase the tile’s longevity.
While sealing a very dense, non porous, glazed tile like porcelain is not exactly necessary, using a sealer could do the work of enhancing the overall appearance by protecting the grout and help keep it clean.
If that very smooth tile surface (without any anti-slip coating products) is causing people to skid when wet, then using the right sealer can provide slip resistance as well.
What Happens When You Don’t Seal Tile? | The Better Question
Without sealing, you are greatly decreasing the longevity of your floor as well as greatly increasing the maintenance needed to keep it clean.
If you have a porous tile and grout and you don’t seal it, then there are a number of problems that will occur. Most importantly, it’s going to be much more difficult to keep that tile and grout clean. You will get water based stains, dirt and bacteria getting trapped, and all soaking into the tile. This transforms your beautiful tile surface into a nightmare to keep clean.
From a residential bathroom to a restaurant floor, these environments are exposed to excess moisture from water and harsh cleaning chemicals. This will cause more staining and deterioration of that tiled surface than if it was sealed.
Odor is a big problem with the grout of a floor in particular. The water, moisture, and bacteria just become a haven for mold and mildew. So if you want to keep your floor much more clean and far more sanitary with a lot less maintenance, consider using a tile sealer for both tile and grout.
Why Should You Not Seal Your Ceramic or Porcelain Tile?
If you have a glazed tile floor that’s very dense and impervious, then you don’t necessarily need to seal it. Whenever you seal something, there will always be a maintenance issue. Sealers aren’t indestructible, they don’t last forever – their purpose is to take any damage so the tile underneath won’t have to and get irreparably damaged. Sealing your floor tile means you will always have to come back and reseal. It is key to understand that when you seal the tile, then there is some extra care and effort that’s needed, particularly on a very dense, very smooth surface.
For example, think of an industrial/commercial kitchen: there’s a lot of oil and grease and excess water that can all cause slippery hazards. Using a topical sealer for the tile in that environment can actually make it more slippery. If it’s not necessary to seal the tile, you may still want to address the grout as it is typically very porous and much harder to keep up clean tile floors.
How To Deal With Tile Grout
The grout between tiles can easily trap bacteria, which will lead to odor problems. Foul odors due to poor sanitation are a big concern for both commercial places like restaurants and public bathrooms, as well as family homes with children and pets. These places are faced with a lot of organic material that will stain porous grout as it decays.
Those messes should be handled with a good microbial cleaner – like our CoverClean AE and our Emerald Floor Maintainer, which are great deep cleaning treatments.
The microbial organisms in these formulas will actually consume the odor forming bacteria, oil, and grease, without leaving a residue and will help with tile slip resistance of a tile as well. These types of microbial cleaners are also great when you’re just dealing with cleaning grout without sealing it.
Another option for dealing with porous grout is to use penetrating sealers (those work on porous tile). A penetrating or impregnating sealer soaks into the tile and doesn’t form a film on the surface, therefore it does not change the tile characteristics to cause any slip hazards.
In our example of the commercial kitchen with porous grout, or quarry tile as they call it, using a penetrating sealer would work to repel water, oil, stains, etc. Our CoverSeal Premium penetrating sealer is extremely oil and stain resistant.
What Are The Different Types Of Tile Sealers?
The types of sealers that are available for use on tile and grout are divided into two broad categories: penetrating or impregnating sealer and topical sealer. Penetrating sealers soak into the surface, and don’t change the appearance. Topical sealers form a film on the surface, and that thin film acts as an absolute barrier.
But the film forming sealers will change the look of the tile; they can bring out the colors and even create a new sheen, like glossy or matte. Topical sealers give enhancement and some depth as well as the protection. (In order to address any slippery issues, you can use an additive to your sealer – like our CoverGrip.)
Penetrating sealers work by absorbing into the tile’s surface, as opposed to bonding overtop. This is what makes penetrating sealers perfect for use on porous tiles like natural stone, saltillo, and other unglazed tile without changing their beautiful natural appearance.
Average topical sealers or concrete sealers will not bond to denser ceramic and porcelain, which is why you might see recommendations against using topical sealer on those tiles. Very dense and impervious surfaces can’t take a regular concrete sealer or acrylic-based sealer and produce long term results.
Instead, the flooring industry has needed to specially formulate topical sealers to properly bond to those smooth tiles. We have done exactly that at CoverTec, with proven results from our GlazeGuard and GlazeGuard Plus. They are made specifically for ceramic and porcelain. Our products were carefully developed to contain adhesion promoters, or simply, chemical ingredients to allow the sealer to bond at a microscope level to these very dense and very hard services for many years.
A good topical sealer will be able to seal both the tile and the grout. And it puts a clear barrier across the floor that will make the tile and grout much easier to maintain.
Polyurethane vs Acrylic
For topical sealers, the main chemistries available are either acrylic or polyurethane, and either of those can be water based or solvent (chemical) based. Acrylic sealers are typically a single component product. There’s no mixing involved and they tend to be easier to apply and dry faster. Although the acrylic polymer is not as tough as the urethane.
Water based urethane sealers usually come in two parts. That means you’re mixing an ‘A’ and a ‘B’ together. Those two parts will chemically combine, or crosslink, to form a much tougher polymer on the surface of your tile.
So both acrylic and polyurethane can make good tile sealers depending on what you’re looking for. But the truth is that the polyurethane tile sealers are more durable with longer lasting results. The trade off is that they come in two parts that you have to mix carefully and they take longer to dry.
To seal ceramic and porcelain, you will need a polyurethane sealer because acrylics do not create a strong or long lasting bond over that smooth, dense surface. Just make sure that the polyurethane sealer you want to use has advanced adhesion promotion.
Water Based vs Solvent (Chemical) Based
Every sealer needs to be in some kind of a liquid solution – something for the polymer itself to be carried in. That carrier is either in the form of water or a chemical solvent solution. During application, that water or solvent evenly distributes the sealer across the tile, and then evaporates off, leaves the protective ingredients behind.
Older technology used to always contain solvents for an inexpensive, easy to use, and quick drying experience. But now with modern water based technology, we have the advantage of using a much safer product.
There’s no harmful or foul odors or flammable liquids in water based sealers. These are easier to manufacture and the end product is less sensitive to moisture. This makes water based tile sealers ideal to use indoors. You will find that near all of the available tile sealers currently on the market are water based because it is safer and permits better adhesion. Our GlazeGuard contains special adhesion promoters that allow a superior bond to denser, smoother tiles like ceramic and porcelain.
What Are The Typical Results Of Store-Bought Anti Slip Coating?
The type of sealers that you will typically find in a big box or DIY home improvement store are standardized sealers. Generally, those are made with a lower concentration of active ingredients. That is how they can produce these sealers at such a reduced cost, but of course the trade off is their durability and performance over time. Standardized sealers are just quick polished shine made for unglazed, porous tile. They only have about 12 or 15 percent active ingredients.
A low solid sealer that’s not designed for a porcelain or ceramic tile will very quickly result in delamination. That means it is going to lift and peel within weeks, or maybe a couple of months at best. Very soon, you will see those products lift and peel. When you start to clean with any kind of water based cleaner, you’re going to see moisture sensitivity and delamination. Most of those standardized products dry very quickly, in 20 or 30 minutes, but that is not sufficient time for the sealer to bond to a ceramic or porcelain tile.
GlazeGaurd Ceramic & Porcelain Tile Sealer | The Best Tile Sealer of 2022
So when you are searching for a proper tile sealer, look in the description for where it can be used and where it can’t. Our GlazeGuard tile sealer in particular is designed specifically for dense, glazed, non porous tile.
We formulated it with the highest percentage of active solids, or ingredients. We’re close to 50% active solids in the GlazeGuard product, and ours contains proprietary adhesion promoters that allow us to bond better to ceramic and porcelain tile.
Our GlazeGuard has a drying time of 10 to 12 hours. And that is very important in terms of getting a long term bond between sealer and floor. Fast drying acrylic sealers just will not bond well or long term to a ceramic or porcelain tile. GlazeGuard will last three to five years on a tile compared to these standard acrylics that may last one or two months.
GlazeGuard, our star topical sealer, is easily applied in a single coat with a ⅜ nap microfiber paint roller.
We highly recommend testing a new sealer in a discrete area of your floor first before using over the entire surface. However, do take the time to check out the fully detailed process on “how to apply tile sealer in order to best prepare and seal your tile floor.
How To Make Tile Less Slippery | Treatment Options
So it’s important, particularly with topical sealers that smooth out the surface, that you are aware that they may not be very slip resistant when wet, like showers, or high-traffic kitchens. You should always check with a test area to see if you are satisfied with the sealer’s results in terms of slip resistance.
If you are looking for an anti slip treatment to make floors less slippery, then we have additives like theCoverGrip that can be mixed into the sealer at the time of application. Or, we have a product like our GlazeGuard Plus that already has the CoverGrip additive in the product and it’s been proportioned accordingly. That provides an excellent anti-slip surface and all you would have to do is mix it up and roll it out.
Both of these will dry out and leave the surface with more roughness or texture that you can feel and will grip your feet rather well. And because it uses such a clear and fine aggregate, it does not significantly change the appearance of the tile.
We also have treatments available for ceramic, porcelain, and natural tile that don’t involve sealants. Our Surface GripTreat is an effective way of changing the surface characteristics so that the tile is much less slippery when wet. It’s an excellent choice for exterior tile, and of course, one advantage of that product is that it’s very easy to maintain. So you don’t have to worry about lifting and peeling, particularly in those wet areas and/or high traffic areas.
The trade off, of course, is that it’ll be a little harder to keep clean. And the more additive you put in the more the, the rougher the surface and the more it traps to the more difficult it is to keep clean. There’s no perfect answer but the CoverGrip does provide an effective solution and we have a number of grades to make that trade off between cleanability and slip resistance much more acceptable for the end user.
You asked the question: how to make matte porcelain tile shiny? We sincerely hope this answer guide has explained how to use a high gloss tile sealer to to make ceramic tile and porcelain tile glossy. Always remember to properly care for your tiles to keep their glossy sealer intact for the best lasting shine.
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.