Seal of approval

Not that kind of seal!

How they work

Sealers, I’ve discovered since starting this site, are one of the most misunderstood products used for tile and stone. There are so many different brands, types and uses that it’s difficult to figure out what you actually need for your particular installation. So I’m gonna try to clear some of that up for you.

This will only cover a very small portion of the entire market for this type of product. I’m going to explain the different basic types of sealers and how they work, as well as the proper use for most common installations. This is NOT an all-encompassing article and will not include every scenario and installation. It is only a basic instruction on different types and uses.

Be sure to research any specific product you choose to utilize and always – ALWAYS – test the product first on a spare piece of your tile or stone to ensure you will not run into any incompatibility issues.

As with any product recommendation around here all opinions are mine and mine only, you will have your own and others may have different ones. I use what I know works for me – your installation may require something different. It is impossible for me to cover every scenario – so I won’t try. Feel free, however, to ask any questions and I’ll do my best to give you an accurate answer.

The above is something I feel necessary to state because we are playing with chemicals here, potentially dangerous stuff if misused. So drink AFTER you play with the chemicals – mmm’kay? (Beer or adult beverages – never drink the sealers, even when you’re done…)

What is a sealer?

I think a large part of the misunderstanding stems from the name of the product itself – sealer. People see the word sealer and assume it can be used to waterproof tile and stone – why use waterproofing substrates? If my shower is leaking can’t I just soak the tile with sealer and fix it?

No. And don’t laugh – I get those questions weekly. Sealer is not manufactured to waterproof. It does not make your tile or stone waterproof. It WILL, to an extent, make it water-resistant, but not waterproof.

Sealer is manufactured to prevent staining agents from entering the pores of the tile or stone. That’s it. It prevents staining and helps make your installation much easier to clean. Cherry Kool-Aid? It can help with that (even though it’s made with toxic waste).

It does this by entering the open pores of the tile or stone (where there would otherwise be the cherry stuff) and, once cured, forms a seal in those pores to prevent anything else from entering them.

Sounds simple enough, right? It is. Well, it is once you understand how they work.

Coatings and Sealers

There are two types of ‘sealers’ commonly sold. One is a topical sealer, which is technically not a sealer – it’s a coating, and the other is a penetrating, or impregnating, sealer.

A topical sealer, or coating, sits on top of the tile or stone and blocks all the nasty stuff by forming a shield, of sorts, over the face of the tile.

I do not like coatings.

Coatings wear unevenly. It will wear more in the traffic lanes, where you walk, and dissipate and eventually be gone. Once this happens you must strip the entire installation and install a new layer. You cannot simply reapply more of this sealer to the areas in which it has worn out. It is also not as effective, in my opinion, as a penetrating sealer.

A coating sealer is normally used on natural clay tiles such as Saltillo and Mexican pavers.

A penetrating, or impregnating, sealer on the other hand, actually enters the pores of the stone and, once cured, will not change the look of the tile or stone. It is specifically made to not alter the look of your installation while still protecting it.

It can be spot sealed, which means you can apply more to only one specific area without worry. To reseal or apply more you do not need to strip the existing sealer. It’s a better option and the one that should be used in most residential installations.


In order to get the chemicals into the pores there must be what is called a carrier attached to the sealer. This allows the silicone or fluoropolymers (I’ll cover these in a moment) to penetrate the pores of the stone and cure below the surface to allow better resistance to staining. The deeper the penetration the better the protection.

There are two types of carrier: water or solvent. So your sealer will be either water-based or solvent-based. Solvent-based sealers will penetrate deeper into the tile or stone.

Solvent molecular structures are smaller than water molecules. It’s that simple. When using a sealer the carrier carries it into the pores then dissipates leaving behind the protection layer.

So you must take into consideration the penetrating power of the sealer as well as the dissipation rate (water evaporates more slowly) which can be affected by temperature and humidity factors. Water-based sealers have a limited window of temperature with which they can be used – solvents have a much larger window.

It is my opinion that a solvent-based sealer is normally always the best option. Which brings us to the part everyone freaks out about…


VOC stands for volatile organic compound. They are organic chemicals with a high vapor pressure. This simply means that they cause large numbers of molecules to be released into the air (vapors) as it dissipates or evaporates. Research indicates that VOC’s will negatively affect the ozone layer. I’m sure everyone has heard of VOC’s.

One highly misunderstood (or ignored) fact is that VOC’s only react with the ozone. They do NOT negatively affect your skin, health, breathing, etc. over the long-term. You will smell it for a while before it dissipates, and it can cause you discomfort, dizziness, etc. It’s meant to, it tells you to get away from it until it dissipates. But long-term effects from short-term exposure do not exist. It is temporary.

Certain chemicals in any sealer may negatively affect these things (read the msds and product sheets), but VOC’s ONLY affect the ozone layer, that’s it. Always wear a mask and gloves when handling these chemicals! But again, it is not a permanent condition.

VOC does not equal toxicity! If something has a higher VOC count that only means that it interacts with the ozone more than a product with low VOC. It has nothing to do with your health, air quality in your home, etc. Again! Individual ingredients in a product may have these effects, the fact that a product has VOC’s does not indicate that it will. Water-based sealers also contain VOC’s, just less of them than a solvent-based sealer.

Once the sealer cures these VOC’s no longer exist! They do not continue to ‘off-gas’ as some stones do, which you may have read about, nor do they continue to dissipate forever. Once it’s cured they’re gone.

This is a subject for a different post, I just want to make sure you don’t associate VOC count with any type of negative health effect or home air quality. I point this out because a lot of solvent-based sealers may have higher VOC counts than water-based or a lower quality solvent-based sealer. It will not negatively affect your health or home. Again, read the msds sheets and product literature.

I’m unsure how to word this exactly to get my point across. It will smell, it will make you dizzy if you inhale enough of it. But these conditions are temporary and do not lead to long-term effects. Again, VOC does not equal toxicity.

Protection sources

Protection sources are the base product in the sealer – what the carriers are carrying. The base protection source will determine what the sealer will protect against. There are two different main sources – silicone and fluoropolymers.

Silicones protect and seal against water-based staining agents – the aforementioned cherry Kool-Aid, for example, coffee, tea, etc.. It is just like the silicone in the tubes you use to seal your corners – same principle.

They will not completely prevent absorption into the surface! They will, however, slow the absorption enough that you can get it cleaned up without staining the stone in a reasonable amount of time. Silicone sourced sealers are a base sealer to prevent regular water-based stains on your tile or stone (or grout).

Fluoropolymer protection sources protect and seal against oil-based staining agents like, well, oil. Cooking oils, body oils, shampoos, etc. It is, in my opinion, the best option for most residential applications.

All fluoropolymer sourced sealers, to my knowledge, are solvent-based. Fluoropolymer sealers also have limited water-based stain repellent properties, they will repel water-based stains as well as oil-based. Not as effectively as silicone sourced sealers, but to some extent.

Bored yet?

So to wrap-up a bit, the sealer you choose must match your installation requirements. This is why it’s difficult for me to give a general answer to “what sealer should I use?” It depends on what you need your sealer to do.

For most residential applications, which is what I do, I use a penetrating solvent-based fluoropolymer sealer. Depending on the particular type of tile or stone I’ll normally use Miracle Sealant’s 511 Impregnator or Miracle Sealant’s porous plus.

If you read anything on my site you’ll get the feeling that I’m a die-hard Laticrete fan. That’s accurate. I’m just as zealous about Miracle Sealant’s sealing and care products. I think they’re superb! (Did I really just type ‘superb’??? I need a beer Pepsi…)

So which of those should you use with what types of tile or stone? That is the subject of my next post, I’ve already bored you enough with this one. Next time we’ll cover more in-depth uses and needs as well as what works with which tile.

Go get a drink – you need it.

{ 138 comments… add one }

Leave a Comment

  • Stephanie

    My shower is 6 months new and is starting to show an ugly white film when it dries. The shower is used very lightly and is always dried completely after used. The tile on the outside of the stall has a beautiful, almost wet look while all the tile just inside the stall walls is starting to have the white haze. The installer came once to “fix it” and you can see his 4 inch pattern where he wiped something on the walls but the spots he missed are now jumping out as soon as the shower dries. What can I do to rid the missed spots of the white film? Thanks!

  • Luke

    I want to enhance and seal my shower which is primarily travertine. I want a high gloss finish, and purchased Dupont Professional high gloss. Now for the stupid question – It says not to use it damp areas……..What high gloss enhancer, sealer could I use in damp areas? I have been looking online but have not been able to get a clear answer from manufacturers.

    Thanks for the assistance,

    • Joseph

      Intensifa from drytreat I find the best
      On Travertine, I give it 2-3 coatings (1 coat every 24 hrs)
      Let it cure for 1 week (if possible)
      Far more superior than its competition
      I’ve had no good longevity with DuPont’s sealers the last 2 years

  • Kathy

    I was wondering what would work best to seal the tile in my steam shower? Not sure what to use since it gets so hot in the steam shower. Do you have any ideas?

    • Joseph

      Depending on the stone, stain proof original from drytreat is the best.
      These are commercial rated sealers
      Best so far that I’ve ever used.

  • Dennis

    Have old floor tiles that smell musty. Want to carpet over. What sealer on the tiles before carpeting? Thanks for your help.

  • Errol viator

    My home has red brick exterior walls an the interior walls are all ceramic blocks. All ten rooms are the same, this home was built in 1958. The cement or mortar between the inter walls have started to crumble due to age,weight,weather and age. I live in lower Louisiana our ground here is what the call black jack,very tough.

    • Roger

      Hi Errol,

      Awesome! Thanks for the rundown. Did you have a question? :D

  • Louise

    Greetings Roger- We picked out a Mosaic Tile from Home Depot for our shower. It is typically an accent tile but we put it on the shower floor. It looks like natural stone but I’m actually not sure what it’s made of because it doesn’t say on the box, only that it’s made in China. It’s called Carrara Block Mosaic Tile. Not sure what to seal it with. Wanted to also give it the wet look but the contractor can’t find anything to do that on this stuff. Are you familiar with this product and can you give advise on what to treat it with to make the grey and white squares look black (as when wet) and brilliant white, and also protect it from staining in the shower.
    Thanks for you help!

    • Roger

      Hi Louise,

      Unless it’s just a color they call it – carrara is marble. You can use miracle sealant’s enrich n seal (seal and enhance?). Any good enhancing sealer should do it if it is indeed marble.

  • Tim

    Hi roger
    I’m putting natural stone flat pebbles on shower floor. Is the stone have to be presoaked first? Do I seal it after installation but before grouting? And if so, is there anything I’m suppose to put down after grouting?

    • Roger

      Hi Tim,

      No, you do not have to soak it. Or you may. It depends on the type of natural stone. The sealing, again, depends on the type of stone.

  • Lynne

    Hi Roger,
    I just laid wood looking porcelain tiles in my townhome downstairs. The contractor used muriatic acid to remove the grout haze (undiluted to my knowledge). They bleached the grout out and came back to regrout and then used a different color grout (bad contractor). The kitchen tile looks like it has been etched and is blotchy and dull. The living room looks better but due to grout issues looks like a different floor. How can I tell if they etched the porcelain tile and what can I do to fix it….it was about 700 square feet total. Should I seal the tile will that help or resolve the etching.

    • Lynne

      Hi Roger,

      Also, I can’t tell if they got all the grout haze removed – the tiles look cloudy to me. If I try and clean myself – what can I use and will the haze come off? I don’t trust this guy anymore….

      Thank you,


      • Roger

        You can try a grout haze remover. It’s sold in the tile section of any big box store.

    • Roger

      Hi Lynne,

      Shine a light across it and look closely, if the acid etched the coating of the porcelain it’ll be apparent. Unfortunately there is no way to repair it (that I know of) with porcelain.

  • Sharon

    Hello. I can’t get anyone to get it. I have 4×4 travertine that is used in border of tub surround and ledge. Also the middle bath they just grouted that one which was about the same as the one I stopped them from grouting except it now has grount in my very porous tumbled travertine. I kept telling them needed to be sealed prior to putting up. In the main shower large ceiling is all tumbled travertine butted together. SOOO I need to somehow above my head keep grout of the holes. I have read that you can use 511 impregnated sealer on it or the enhancer sealer or someone said you could cover every little dang piece with tape and grout first then seal. I think the middle bath is just a loss or live with deal. But I need to make sure the large tub surround and monstous shower my husband got from being ruined. I also read somewhere is the holes were large in the stone to NOT use impregnated 511. I have the miracle cleaner, even though it is new, it was not protected immediately in baths. Also the tub deck has small cut 4×4 tumbled travertine as well that I did get covered with plastic right away but it will have to be cleaned as well from what I have read. What are YOUR reccomendations on these issues. The large shower has nearly 55sq feet of 4×4 tumbled holey travertine on the ceiling put up today believie it or not.


    Sharon House is killing me (remodel)

    • Roger

      Hi Sharon,

      Depending on how large the holes are the 511 impregnator may or may not work. It will only seal the pores of the stone, not the ‘holes’ or cavities in the stone. It makes the grout easier to clean out while grouting, but it won’t prevent it from getting in there. Secondly, you really DO NOT want unfilled cavities in your travertine in your shower! That is just a breeding ground for all sorts of nasty stuff to grow, and you CAN NOT get it all cleaned out to prevent that. It’s simply a bad choice for a shower if you did not want the cavities filled. I strongly suggest filling the entire face of the tile with grout.

  • Rick

    Hello Roger,

    I installed small natural stone mosaic tile to the inside of my niche as well as a border going horizontally across all walls of the shower. These tiles are approximately 3/8 in by 1 to 2 inches in length. There are a lot of small natural pits in the stone pieces. Here are my questions:
    1. Should I use a sealer to cover the surface of the tile before I apply the grout to prevent the grout from filling these pits?
    2. The grout lines range from 3/32 to 1/8 inch. Should I use sanded or un-sanded grout?
    3. After I apply the grout and begin the cleaning process, do I need to do anything special to get the grout out of the pits in the stone tile?

    Your help and advice is always greatly appreciated!


    • Roger

      Hi Rick,

      1. Yes.
      2. Unsanded would likely be your best bet.
      3. Just make sure you go over the face of the tile really well before the grout cures to ensure it’s all out of the pits.

  • Carol D

    We wanted our tumbled stone travertine to be enhanced and then sealed, assuming that was the way it was done across the board. Our installers ( who were quite clear on the fact that we definitely wanted the stone enhanced) put the sealer on first then tried to use the enhancer which of course didn’t work be as it oils the get past the sealer!

    My problem now is, the manufacturer is no longer in business so I can’t get the enhanced sealer by the same maker now!!! I want to somehow enhance this floor – it looks dusty to me w/o the enhancer which is how we chose the stone in the first place – everywhere we went, the salesman would dampen the stone with a wet sponge to allow us to know what it would look like enhanced!

    I have feeling these guys used us to practice on. I don’t think they had ever installed a stone floor before. They also did not use an “underlayment” but instead installed it over the wood floor in some places and directly on the subflooring in the den. We have it in our kitchen, den, hallway and front entry. The grout is pulling away from the tile in the den and cracking – big time – we don’t have enough left over stonr to repair what we have now and we can see that the rest of the floor is probably going to do the same thing based on the grout that is pulling away and also I other areas – kitchen and hall have hairline cracks clear across many of the larger 16×20 tiles.

    What are we in for here??? Can anything short of tearing out all the old – which is impossible to do w/o them breaking, right? Be done? Is it a given among carpenters/installers that they always use an underlayment of some kind?

    As far as the fact that the stone was sealed before it was enhanced, what choices do I have if I use now a sealer/enhancer made by a different maker since the other no longer exist. I do still have the containers which list everything about their product – th original, I mean.

    Sorry this is forever long, but wanted to convey to you the two major oroblems we are dealing with. I finally just this past week put a coat of liquid wax (I think of the mop and glow type) over the floor in the den, and then wouldn’t you know, o finally read that there was a way – use a sealer/enhancer. Now I guess I will have to strip all that off, right?

    One more thing, the installers said when they put the enhancer on, they couldn’t walk on it because it was too slick, so they took it off. DUH! We were out of town during this time so had no input as the process was going on. Help! And f my email is too long, let me know and I’ll make it more concise ! But if you read it through, and tell me you can help me, I’ll send you a bottle or bottles of the best wine in the region! Think I’ll go open one right now! So discouraged after spending so much money on this project! Makes me ill!

    Ok, I’ll stop now. Here’s to you helping me, hopefully, and to finding you after my first google
    Carol & Paul from Wichita

    • Roger

      Hi Carol,

      I’ll give you the bad news first – nothing can be done with your floor that will solve the problems short of removal and replacement.

      Once you seal a stone, with any sealer, that’s the look you’re gonna get, no matter what you put over it. The initial coat seals the pores, anything else is not going to penetrate (ie an enhancing sealer) and do what it was designed to, short of more of the same type of sealer.

      The bigger issue is the installation. YES, we always install tile over a proper substrate of some type – what you have there is not it.The grout is just fine, it’s the tile moving and cracking the bond between the grout and tile. You stated it’s pulling away from the tile – it isn’t. It isn’t doing anything except what it’s supposed to – just sit there and fill that space. The problem is that moving tiles are constantly changing the amount of space it’s supposed to fill, due to your substrate (or lack of, more specifically). I know it’s simply semantics, but I get these questions a lot.

      Whoever installed your floor had no idea what they were doing, with the installation or the sealer.

      • Carol D

        How do I tell if I have penetrating sealer or a topical sealer? I know the enhancing didn’t work, but if they used a topical sealer, maybe I can still save the day????

      • Carol D


  • Brigitta

    we have been happily tiling our new home…. Over 800 sq ft is done… Some places we have finished grouting as well.

    We just found out that our new well is of the salt water variety… So salty it isn’t treatable. We mixed all glue and grout with the salt water.

    Any idea what this salt water may have impacted?

    • Roger

      Hi Brigitta,

      It depends on the particular thinset. Call the manufacturer and ask for their tech department, they can give you specifics.

  • Carolyn Bacchus

    Hi Roger
    I’ve got a natural stone mosaic floor in the bathroom but no sealer or anything on it….. I would like to protect the floor from stains and make cleaning easy so the cleaning cloth or whatever glides over the floor (at the moment the surface is a bit rough to clean). I would also like the stone to have a sheen or gloss (which would also make cleaning easier I would imagine – plus it looks nice, vital of course :lol2: ) Can you advise the best course of action/product please… :w :corn: Thank you

    • Roger

      Hi Carolyn,

      You want to clean the stone really well first, then use miracle sealant’s seal-n-enhance (or seal-n-enrich) over it.

      • Carolyn Bacchus

        Thank you :lol1: :dance:

  • Dirk

    Hi Roger,

    I have two tile showers, one with 1 inch glass tile throughout and one with ceramic tiles throughout. Can I use the Miracle sealants 511 Impregnator on both tiles and grout?

    If so, is the best way to apply it using a sponge and wiping away with a clothe?


    • Roger

      Hi Dirk,

      Yes you can. I prefer a spray bottle and buffing it off with a microfiber towel, but the sponge works also.

  • Louise Wilson

    Sorry I hit a wrong key…….

    I have a trazzano or travertine or concrete shower floor that is 40 years old. It doesn’t leak but just looks ugly because the finish is worn off. It’s white with grayish speckles and is rough in several places. This may be what you call etching or pitting. I wanted to lay ceramic tile over it the the plumber said it wouldn’t work because of the drain.
    (I replaced one in another shower and it took a jack hammer to remove it.) Is there some sealant that I can use to freshen up the look. The ceramic tile walls must have been replaced by the previous owner & it would be foolish to tear them out. Please give me some options/suggestions. Thanks.

    • Roger

      Hi Louise,

      You can google ‘shower drain extender’ and yes, you can tile over it.

  • Norman

    I have an indoor pool on the 2nd story and it is completely surrounded by 1 x 1 tiles with 1/8″ grout spacing (The deck, not the tiles on the vertical walls of the pool). Water is leaking through the seems. The seems are in generally good shape but upon close inspection you can see where the grout had separated slightly from the tile.

    It would be a huge job to score or remove the grout and re-grout so I am wondering if there is a sealant that will fill small gaps and stop the leaking?

    • Roger

      Hi Norman,

      No, there is no sealer that will make your tile or grout waterproof. If you have grout cracking it is also indicative of a larger underlying issue such as swelling in the substrate. Grout does not shrink any more than it does in the first 28 days after installation. If it’s cracking there is movement of some type beneath the tile.

  • Kelly

    Your commentary was rather helpful, but I do have a question as well. My stone shower was installed without a shower pan beneath it. A shower pan was then put on top of the shower stone floor, thin set, then pebbles on mesh. Grouting was then done and a sealer was used to help with stains. It leaks :/ I believe the leak to be where the shower pan edges meet the stone at the edge of the shower. The shower pan is no longer visible due to the grout covering all aspects. Is there something I can use to waterproof the wall to floor shower junctions?? I have been reading up on flex seal, bc someone recommended it. It is some kind of rubber spray. Any suggestions. And thanks for your time!

    • Roger

      Hi Kelly,

      The only recommendation I can give you is to remove the walls and redo the shower floor so it runs under the shower walls as it needs to. Anything else is akin to putting a bandaid on a cut-off limb.

  • Kim McInnis

    Our water based sealer is all but gone on our travertine covered outdoor kitchen. Can I use Miracle Sealer on top. We scrubbed with Miracle Cleaner.

    • Roger

      Hi Kim,

      Yes you can.

  • Bryan

    Hi Roger, I had the same misconception about sealers. My question is, can I put a waterproofing product over the sealer? I am working on cultured stone outside. Thanks

    • Roger

      Hi Bryan,

      What type of waterproofing product do you mean?

  • Dan

    What type of sealer would you recommend for pavers in kitchen and utility? The pavers come pre-sealed with a sheen but I want to protect against grout stains.

    • Roger

      Hi Dan,

      Miracle sealant’s 511 impregnator.

  • Hung L

    Me Roger, which is the reasonably price sealer brand for grout, stone and tile? I here can I buy it at? Thank you

    • Roger

      Hi Hung,

      Miracle sealant’s 511 impregnator is what I use. I have no idea what you have available near you.

  • Greg

    Hi Roger: My new quartzite kitchen floor is much darker than I expected it to be. I bought the ostrich grey color because of the silver streaks but the sealer I used has really darkened the overall effect I was shooting for. Is there a way to brighten the tiles now? I used 511 Seal & Enhance.

    Many thanks,


    • Roger

      Hi Greg,

      Once you enhance it that’s what you have. The quartzite will tend to suck in a bit more of the sealer base, which can dissipate a bit over the next couple of weeks. So it may lighten a bit, but there isn’t really anything you can do to un-enhance it.

  • Mary

    Great postings. I had Scabos travertine installed and cannot decide if I would like an oil based sealer with color enhancer. Would it be possible to use an oil based penetrating sealer with NO color enhancer and if I change my mind ,re-seal the travertine with an oil based color enhancer sealer? Thank you.

    • Roger

      Hi Mary,

      As long as the brand of sealer you use is the same. If you seal it without the enhancer, and decide to enhance it, use enhancing sealer from the same manufacturer.

  • Dawn

    Roger, will Miracle sealant work for slate?

    • Roger

      Hi Dawn,

      Yes, miracle sealant’s porous plus is best.

  • Worth

    HI Roger,
    I bought pretty cement moroccan tiles for my shower walls. What is the best sealer to use. The dealers website recommends “mosaic sealer” – I can only find it available in the UK. Can you recommend something I can easily purchase here?

    • Roger

      Hi Worth,

      Miracle sealant’s 511 Porous Plus would be what you need.