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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  • Zach P McKillip

    Thoughts on Miracle Sealants Tile and Stone Sealer vs. 511 Impregnator?

    • Roger

      Hi Zach,

      The both work very well, the 511 is a better product.

  • Lowell Garner

    Roger, Your posts are fantastic. As a (college chemistry major) building contractor they speak to me. I only wish I had read your entire “course” before trying out my hand on an American Olean UNglazed porcelain mosaic 2×2 https://americanolean.com/series.cfm?series=53 in light smoke speckled floor in a bathroom I am doing. I laid the tile— beautiful. I consulted with my tile contractor of 40yrs experience. He nonchalantly mentioned to seal it prior to grouting with Aquamix Sealer’s choice gold— I did it or at least thought I had. I waited an hour. Then I grouted with Laticrete (your favorite but didn’t know it at the time) Permacolor Smoke Gray at 1030am. Followed the directions. About 430pm my heartache began when after the final cleanup and drying the tile almost became indistinguishable from the grout: lost ALL its richness (photo shows the floor compared to the shower floor that has not been thinsetted yet). Thinking I had left residue behind, I washed the floor with water and a clean mop 3 times that evening with no change. In a panic the next morning I contacted my installer who confirmed grout haze, which I had never come across, and told me to take 1 cup of white vinegar in 2 gallons of water and a white scrubie (I used a Mr. Clean white melamine pad), leave it on for 1 minute, and then wipe off with a sponge. There was slight (placebo?) improvement by two different observers so I thought all I needed to do was to repeat it. I tried a higher strength vinegar (what I had seen on the web 1V:4W) but no further improvement. Now I started to get a really sick feeling. At this point I had read a few things on haze (not your blog of course) and decided that afternoon to get some REAL acid. But once at Home Depot my better judgment told me “if the bottle says you need a 7 day cure before using” you better use caution. So I left HD empty-handed to try vinegar (4:1) yet again but this time using an orbital sander with a white Scotch pad (better elbow grease) and a dry microfiber towel to wipe up (perhaps the sponge was just re-smearing the haze). More of the same with each drying although it looked great wet. So I switched gears and began to wonder if they make a product that would just enrich the tile because with wetting it looked exactly like I wanted it to.

    It was then I found your post on sealers (and a lot more of what you have written). This jumped out at me: ” 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.” This is why I was making no further progress after the initial vinegar wash! The pyramids are full of grout! That’s why the tile looks so chalky. Am I right?

    Roger, can anything be done? Or in fact should I just use an enhancer like Seal & Enhance as you mention above. Also I still have to do the shower floor . Should I repeat the same faulty process I used for the floor (using the same incorrect sealer) in order to make the shower look the same? My apologies for the lengthiness of my comment. Thank you in advance, Lowell

    • Roger

      Hi Lowell,

      If that is the case then nothing is going to get the color OUT of the tile. If it looks the way you want it to wet, though, then seal & enhance should give you what you’re looking for. Use the seal & enhance on the shower floor before grouting, it’s has a solvent carrier so it will better protect the tile from the intrusion of the grout pigment.

  • Tom G

    Hello Roger your site is very informative and a great guide for my shower installation
    I have reached the point where it is time to seal the grout and caulk the corners on gloss porcelain tile I am using the miracle H2O sealer and will be caulking the corners and where the tile meets a mosaic tiled shower pan My question is what should I do first seal the grout and then caulk the corners or caulk then seal the grout
    Thanks Tom

    • Roger

      Hi Tom,

      Seal first, then caulk.

    • Tom G

      Roger,
      After applying 2- coats of miracle H2O sealer to the grout on the porcelain tile in my shower and letting it cure for 72 hours areas of the grout still gets darker when it gets wet. I applied the sealer with a small nylon brush and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes before removing the excess from the surface it was starting to dry on the porcelain surface
      Is this common should the grouted areas still have a wet appearance when contacted by water or do I need to reseal the grout one more time
      Thank you,
      Tom G

      • Roger

        Hi Tom,

        Sealers should have been named something else – it DOES NOT seal out water. It only assists with cleaning and prevents stains from soaking in as quickly (although they will still soak in if left long enough). What you’re seeing is completely normal and does not mean your tile is not sealed properly.

  • Brandon Lee

    Hi Roger,

    I’m looking at the 511 Porous plus and the 511 Seal and Enhance products. Our new slate shower needs the protection of the PP (i know, don’t pp in the new slate shower ‘etching’ :) ) but i also want to have the enhanced look of the S&E. Can one be used on top of the other? Do I need to just pick one? I’m an American consumer!! ….. I … just… can’t … make….decisions!!!!! lol!
    Thanks for all your help, here’s a look at my ALMOST finished shower….. yeah it’s been 2 years… don’t judge me!
    -Brandon

    • Roger

      Hi Brandon,

      You can not use one over the other. Well, technically you can, but it won’t be effective. Whichever one you use FIRST will be the one that affects your stone in the manner you want. So if you want enhanced, you need to use the enhancing. If you use the porous plus first the enhancing will not enhance it. And neither one will protect from etching.

  • SUZI

    HI ROGER! JUST LAID 2X2 GREEN SLATE ON A SHOWER FLOOR AND NEED TO MAKE A DECISION ON SEALER. THE STONE HAS AN IRIDESCENT QUALITY TO IT AND I DON’T WANT TO COVER THAT UP. WOULD 511 SEAL AND ENHANCE BE A GOOD CHOICE? THANKS IN ADVANCE!

    • Roger

      Hi Suzi,

      Yes it would be a good choice.

  • Tara

    After scrubbing our 2×2 unglazed porcelain tile in shower stall, I have some tiles that look like the finished has been removed. How can I put a sheen back on these tiles and bring the floor back to a consistent low sheen finish? I have recently used 511 impregnator on the floor. Will either mira matte or seal and enhance leave a slight sheen and be durable in a shower stall?
    Thank you

    • Roger

      Hi Tara,

      Mira-matte will, but you’ll need to clean it very well first. The most common reason for unglazed tile to dull is not because a finish of any type was removed, but because something else was added into the pores of the tile. There is no finish on unglazed porcelain, so nothing to remove.

  • Colleen

    Thank you! I’ve been looking all over for this information. I don’t trust the guys at Home Depot to be knowledgeable enough about stuff like this. I still have a couple of questions. I’m doing 12 x 12 sandstone, beautiful stuff, under the wood stove and in the front entryway. It’s pretty porous.

    1. Can the Seal & Enhance be applied to the tile before it’s installed as long as I’m careful not to get it on the sides? I’d rather do it outdoors so I don’t get dizzy, whether or not it’s going to kill me in 10 years.

    2. I’ve read conflicting opinions about whether this stuff can also act as a grout release. Do you recommend using a separate grout release on top of this?

    I’d welcome any other thoughts you might feel like spewing about working with this type of stone.

    • Roger

      Hi Colleen,

      1. Yes, you can use seal & enhance before it’s installed.
      2. It also works as a grout release. Grout release works more effectively, but a good sealer works well also.

      • Colleen

        Would it be OK to put grout release on top of the (cured) sealer, kind of a belt and suspenders kind of deal?

      • Colleen

        Follow-up question. If the seal & enhance acts as a grout release, does that mean I want to be careful not to get it on the sides of the tiles before grouting?

  • Jessica

    We purchased a home with beautiful slate flooring however it is obvious that the previous owners had many pets/accidents. Will sealing “seal in” the smell of urine? We have tried everything to get it out.

    • Roger

      Hi Jessica,

      Unfortunately no it will not. It will seal the urine in, but only in the sense that it becomes a permanent part of the stone. Nothing that I know of will get the urine out of a porous stone. I honestly don’t think it’s possible to actually remove it from the stone itself. A topical coating or wax ‘MAY’ get rid of the smell, but I don’t even know if that would work very well.

  • Laura Lee Williams-May

    very informative articles and written well. makes complete sense. I will use 511 porous plus on the sandstone and 511 with solvent on the mosaics, which are marble.

  • Frances

    I am in the process of tiling three bathrooms and a powder room, all with porcelain tile. Same for the main floor of my house. I plan to use the Laticrete Pro epoxy grout you recommended as I have radiant floor heat. Do I understand correctly that, after grouting and removing all haze, I should clean the tile well and then apply Miracle Sealant’s 511 Impregnator on every tile surface?

    I also would appreciate your advice on grout and sealer for the stone tiles I will install in my entryway. Thank you.

    • Roger

      Hi Frances,

      You do not need to seal porcelain, but you can if you want. No need to, though. The 511 will work very well for the stone.

      • Frances

        Thank you!

  • Tara Siderowicz

    I had used miracle sealant high gloss finish on 2×2 unglazed porcelain tile shower floor. It looked great at first but then started to flake off where the water hit it the most. I have since removed it and was wondering about apply Mira matte. Is this finish more resistant to water or do you think I will have the same results?

    • Roger

      Hi Tara,

      The miramatte is a fully penetrating sealer whereas the high gloss is partially topical. The miramatte will be more durable.

  • Erin

    Thank you for all the advice. My contractor states (from our sub tile guy) that my river rock shower floor does not need sealing. Is this accurate? It is already in and grouted, but I would love to use an enhancer sealer for that “wet” look. The grout is by Prism, used supposedly because it doesn’t need sealing. What do you think?

    • Roger

      Hi Erin,

      The prism grout does not require sealing. Your river rock can be sealed, but doesn’t have to be. If you want an enhancing sealer on it go for it, it’s not gonna hurt anything.