Tile and Stone Sealers (Part 2)

by Roger

Proper Expectations and Applications

Not seal -Sealer - Seal-E-R!

Not seal -Sealer – Seal-E-R!

In Tile and Stone Sealers Part 1 I explained how sealers work. If you haven’t yet read that please do so. It will give you a base understanding of how they get into your tile and what they protect against. It will help you understand what you’re looking for and also help decode some of the terms you may find here.

When choosing a sealer the first decision you should make is what you are trying to protect against. Silicone-based sealers protect against water-based stains – coffee, tea, beer Pepsi, stuff like that. Fluoropolymer-based sealers protect against oil-based stains – cooking oil, body oil, shampoo, stuff like that.

Easy enough so far?

One thing to keep in mind is Fluoropolymer sealers will protect against water-based stains to an extent but silicone sealers will not protect against oil-based staining. So you get both types of protection with fluoropolymers, but only water-based protection with silicones. 95% of my residential installations receive fluoropolyer-based sealer.

Although these different sealers will protect against different types of stains there is one thing that they will not protect against – etching. Etching is caused by an acid eating away at the molecular surface of your calcium-based stone. It is caused by things like lemons. Throwing lemon slices onto your marble countertop will etch away the surface of the marble – sealed or not. So there is nothing you can use to prevent etching from acids short of simply taking care not to get any types of acid on your tile.

Okay, time for a little reality check – send away the squeamish! One of the main sources of acid which will ruin any type of calcium-based natural stone is from your pet. You know, the dog that bursts into flames when you don’t properly waterproof your shower? (If you don’t know – you should read my blog more often – just sayin’…) Urine contains Uric acid. Uric acid will etch stone (and grout) and slowly eat away the surface of the stone. This is only on the molecular level, but continued etching will eventually become a macro problem. If you have pets and continue to have a mysterious problem with the surface of your stone in certain areas – that may be the cause. Sealer will not stop this.

Strangely enough this problem may show up around your toilet or on your shower floor. This normally happens when you have males in the house between the ages of five and ninety-five. We don’t aim well – unfortunately sealer will not solve this problem either.

In part one I also discussed the different types of carriers in sealers. The carrier is the vehicle which drives the sealer into the pores of the tile then dissipates. Once the carrier dissipates the sealer is left behind. This is how the sealer cures. The two base types are water and solvent. Solvent carrier-based sealers are better for tile and stone with smaller pores.

To determine which type would be best for your stone you can splash some water onto the surface of your (unsealed) tile. If the water is absorbed quickly then a water-based sealer should work fine for your installation. Stones like travertine, limestone, unpolished marble, unglazed ceramic and all cementitious grouts are suitable for water-based sealers.

Solvent-based sealers are best for tile and stone with smaller pores such as granite, polished marble and other polished stones, glazed ceramic and porcelains. Solvent-based sealers work on porous materials as well as materials with smaller pores!

You may have noticed the word porcelain up there. Yes, porcelains. While porcelain tile is less porous than ceramic (it will absorb less than 0.5% by weight) it still has pores in it. The pores in porcelain, however, are not simply test-tube shaped pits in the surface, they are shaped like little pyramids. They are very tiny at the top and get larger down into the body of the tile, beneath the glaze. It will only absorb that percentage of water, but oil-based substances have smaller molecular structures and will get into the porcelain more easily. So porcelain will still benefit from sealer, although it’s not normally necessary in a residential setting.

Nearly every tile product will benefit to some degree with a good sealer, provided the proper one is used. For the greater part of my time as a tile contractor I have used Miracle Sealant’s products. There are, however, a great many very good sealers available. DuPont and StoneTech are two brands that I’ve used, and still use periodically.

Sealer is another product where you will get what you pay for. So if you choose to seal your tile or stone you need to spend the extra money for a good one! Cheaper sealers, for instance, may not be UV stable (UV transparent), which means they may get a yellow tint to them over time.  Seriously, spend the money for the good stuff.

The Good Stuff

As I stated I like Miracle Sealant’s sealers. Here are the ones I use based on what I’m sealing.

My go to sealer is Miracle Sealant’s 511 Impregnator. It is a fluoropolymer-based (polymerized silicone) impregnating sealer (solvent carrier) which works well for most any application.

If you have an extremely porous stone, like tumbled travertine, I prefer the 511 Porous Plus.

If you need or prefer a water-based sealer you want the 511 H2O Plus.

If you want to enhance your stone installation so it has a deeper, richer color (like when it’s wet – but not as ‘shiny’) you want the Seal & Enhance.

They also have basic grout sealer and a few other types of specialty sealers. Most really good sealer companies carry a sealer with comparable abilities, just call the company’s tech support line and tell them what you’re looking for. They’ll know what you’re talking about – and now you do too!

When sealing your tile installation put some thought into it, figure out what you really need and what benefits you are looking for and decide on one with realistic expectations. They are not a magic product, there is a LOT of research behind tile and stone sealers and they have specific benefits based on specific needs. As long as you know what to expect and choose the proper product for your application a good sealer will make your maintenance chores much easier.

They DO NOT, nor are they designed to, waterproof your installation! They do not waterproof your tile and stone. They are not an acceptable fix or magic cure for improper or non-existent waterproof substrates for your shower or other wet areas. They will, however, prevent cherry Kool-Aid from ruining your marble countertop – as long as you clean it up quickly enough. They will help keep nasty stuff from staining your beautiful tile and stone.

And who doesn’t want that?

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Charlotte

Roger, think I have the answer I asked previously. So, how about a wax or something that will give a shine but not gloss to the floor? I don’t want to think about ripping it al out and starting over. Hoe I hear from you. Thank you. Charlotte

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Charlotte

Roger, have researched to death. Installed glazed porcelain tile thruout house but it looks dull. Can or will impregnator penetrate the already glazed tile so I can get a more wet look or am I stuck with a dull floor. Thanks.

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Paris

We just installed light color porcelain tile (combination of matte and polished )in our office area, but have problem with keeping it clean because of scuff marks especially on the matte finished porcelain tile, I just wondered if there is any sealant available that can be used to help with this issue.
Thank you

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Laurie Moodie

Thank you or all of the info on your site. I read thru some answers and suspect that I know the answer but want to double check.
Question: Can I put Aqua Mix on and follow with Miracle?
We bought Miracle 511 Impregnator for polished marble and also wanted to use it for natural stone. On a test, we realized that the 511 didn’t enhance the natural stone. My installer has some Aqua Mix Enrich N Seal which obviously does the enhancement. Question: Can I put the Aqua Mix on and follow with the Miracle? (The Miracle seems to have more desirable properties as a sealer component.)
Thank you

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Roger

Hi Laurie,

You can, but you won’t get the benefits of the 511. Whenever you seal a stone the FIRST sealer you use is what is going to be sealing the stone. Anything over that is essentially useless. If you want an enhancer with the 511 properties use miracle sealant’s seal and enrich or seal and enhance.

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Chris

Installed 18×18 travertine floor, crosscut, honed and filled. This includes the kitchen, what’s your recommendation for sealer that’ll give it a wet but not too much shine look. Also, I was told to do a pre-grout sealer because travertine but I think that person thought I had unfilled travertine? Is a pre-grout sealer helpful and/or necessary when it’s honed and filled? About to grout, please advise…

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Roger

Hi Chris,

Pre-grout sealer is not necessary, but it does help. I would use miracle sealant’s mira-matte.

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Jen

I’d like to seal stripped saltillo tile. I’d like to color enhance and also end up with a glossy shine. I’m a bit confused about how to approach the issue. Can I apply 511 Seal & Enhance then follow with either Mira Matte or the High Gloss Finish Sealer? I want to be sure that the finishing sealer can adhere. All sealers mentioned are Miracle Sealant products.

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Roger

Hi Jen,

Call miracle sealants and ask them. You want to use only one sealer, but I honestly don’t know which one (I don’t deal with saltillo around here). I do know that using more than one does nothing, the first one you use will be the only one that changes any appearance of your tile.

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Tara

We moved into a resale home with 2×2 unglazed porcelain tile in the shower. The previous owner had put a sealer on that had a slight sheen. I accidentally scrubbed too hard and too some of it off. So I took it off the rest as well.
I was told if I wanted that same look to use Miracle Sealant High Gloss Finish. However, now it is chipping or peeling off some of the tiles. (Only been on a couple of weeks). Will the Miracle product Stripper Seal Finish take it off? If so, what then what sealer would you recommend for unglazed porcelain.
I would really appreciate your recommendation to fix my shower floor.

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Roger

Hi Tara,

Yes, the stripper seal will take it off. I would try Mira matte But first I would contact Miracle sealants and see what they recommend for that particular tile.

I will say this: You will not find a sealer that will change the look of your tile significantly. It’s a product of the tile installed, if they wanted a slight sheen they should have installed a tile with a slight sheen. If they wanted no sheen then they installed the right stuff. :)

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Kevin

So I just installed porcelain tile in my shower. I like the wet look, if I use the 511 seal and enhance do I have to use the impregnator first or just the seal and enhance?

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Roger

Hi Kevin,

Just the seal-n-enhance.

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Joseph

I have a white ceramic tile in on bathroom floors which doe not have much of a glaze and it marks up easily. will a sealant prevent this?

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Ricardo

Hi,

I installed glazed sliced pebble stones on the shower floor and porcelain tile on the walls. What sealer do you recommend? I do like the wet, darker look on the stones and grout. Do I also need to seal the grout on the walls? I do not want a sealer that leaves a haze.

Thanks!

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Jeff Masters

We have just installed ceramic tiles in a new mudroom. This room will function just as named, so there will be lots of mud and dirt(we have a farm and grandchildren). Please advise about what sealants I might need. I want to protect the tile and grout, and make clean up easier.

Thanks.

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Joseph

I would try Drytreat stain proof +
It it’s best for dense stones especially for countertops

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Madeline

Great article! Thanks so much for posting. We just installed a cement tile backsplash, and we’re ready to apply the 511 Miracle Impregnator Sealer. We want to do two coats before we grout. Do you have any tips for how long we need to wait between coats?

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Roger

Hi Madeline,

Two hours between coats.

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Steve

Hi Roger,
I’m just finishing a tree image in sliced pebble stone in one of our shower walls and round pebble floor in another. I have read it is wise to seal the pebbles before and after grouting, however, I don’t want to darken the grout and so am hesitant to seal after grouting since I won’t be sealing the rest of the porcelain tiles and don’t want the grout in the tree to be darker than the rest of the tiles around it. I assume that a solvent based sealer would be better for the pebbles and was thinking of using Miracle Seal and Enhance to also bring out the rich tones of the pebbles to make the image pop (my other option was to use Aqua Mix Enrich N Seal or Aqua Mix Sealer’s Choice Gold). Questions:

1. Am I correct that a solvent base would be better for these pebbles?
2. Do you know of a sealer that will not darken the grout?
3. If not, then am I ok in not sealing after the grouting? Will I have problems later on when reapplication might become necessary with darkening?
4. Any suggestions?
I can’t thank you enough, I built 3 complex showers with the help of some of your books and your posts and they came out perfect.

Reply

Roger

Hi Steve,

If you use the enrich and seal or the seal and enhance before you grout, then use a regular sealer like sealers choice gold AFTER the grout you will enhance the stone with the first, then the sealers choice will seal the grout without darkening it. Any good sealer that is not of the enhancing variety will not change the appearance of tile or grout.

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Paul

Can I use an enhancing sealer over a regular sealer that I suspect is the impregnating kind to get an enhanced look that was missed first time around?

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Roger

Hi Paul,

You can, but it won’t do any good. The first sealer you put on it is what you get.

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Paul

Great material here, thanks for writing it!

Question: I just had my tile contractor install a 12×12 honed limestone vanity counter in the bathroom. It was sealed with two coats of Impregnator Pro, which list described as a “solvent-based” product. I’ve used it before on marble with good results, but I’m seeing stains on this new vanity. Something as simple as Softsoap (purple of course) has stained the tile. Is this because Impregnator Pro is not a silicone or fluoropolymer product?

Reply

Roger

Hi Paul,

Impregnator pro is a fluoropolymer I believe. The likely issue is the limestone – it’s a VERY porous stone. You may not have enough sealer on it.

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David Uro

We have a kitchen ceramic tile floor and leaving room, that we typically have to have professionally cleaned every 3-4 years because of all the dirt and stains that penetrate the micropores which vary in size. While the pores give it the tile somewhat of a natural look, they are a nuisance when it comes to cleaning. What kind of sealant do you recommend for this situation, I understand that the majority of the tile is not the concern, its just those pores that are causing a problem.

David

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Roger

Hi David,

I would use miracle sealant’s 511 impregnator.

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Glenda

We have a slate shower that was sealed a number of years ago by the installer. I want to seal it again but I have no idea what product was used in the first place. What should I use and what steps should I take. Thank you in advance for your help

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Roger

Hi Glenda,

You can reseal it with any good sealer. I like miracle sealants or aquamix. Doesn’t matter at this point what was used in the first place, unless it’s an enhancing sealer of some sort.

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Dorothy Morin

My husband has just installed marble tiles (24″ x 24″ x 3/4″) in our living room which he got on “trade”. The grout has a sealer in it. What would you suggest we use as a sealer. We want to protect the marble for as long as possible.

Thanking you in advance for any and all help you may provide.

P.S. – a reply asap as my husband does not want to move the furniture back in the living room until this is done.

Reply

Roger

Hi Dorothy,

Any good stone sealer will work fine. I like miracle sealants and aquamix.

Reply

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