What kind of sealer is best for bathroom floor tile & grout?

Written by sarabeth asaff
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What kind of sealer is best for bathroom floor tile & grout?
Textured, nonporous tiles can still benefit from being sealed prior to grouting to help release the grout. (bathroom image by david hughes from Fotolia.com)

Applying a sealer to your bathroom floor can have several advantages. Sealers can help increase the slip resistance of floor tiles, which can help make bathrooms safer. Sealers also help impede staining of both the tile and the grout, making it easier to maintain. Many types of sealer are on the market today. Choose one based both on the amount of wear the floor will get and on what type of tile is installed.

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Grout Sealer

Grout is made of Portland cement mixed with pigments and sometimes sand. Cement is porous and can absorb moisture and therefore stains. Protect your grout with an impregnating sealer. Silicone-based sealers hold up best in wet areas, but water-based sealers can also work well in powder and half baths. Avoid using topical sealers on grout; a topical sealer will not prevent most stains on grout but will give the grout a shiny, noticeable finish.

Stone Floor Sealers

Seal a bathroom floor made of stone with an impregnating sealer made of silicone and formatted for porous tiles. Polished and honed stones can be sealed all at once with the grout using the same sealer. Tumbled stones and slate tiles may benefit from a second sealer that deepens the colour of the tile. This topical sealer is applied after the impregnating sealer; avoid getting it on the grout joints to avoid giving the grout a shiny appearance.

Porcelain Sealers

Porcelain tile and glazed ceramic tiles are nonporous and do not require sealing to protect them from moisture. Both products, however, can be slippery when wet. Impregnating sealers applied to the surface, allowed to dry for 10 minutes and then wiped away, will increase the slip resistance of these tiles. Additionally, polished porcelain tiles and some textured ceramic tiles can be sealed prior to grouting to help the grout release, which will make the tiles easier to clean up and help eliminate grout haze.

Terracotta Floor Tiles

Unglazed terracotta tiles and Saltillo tiles with red clay bodies should always be sealed, particularly in wet areas. To leave the colour of the tile alone and not change its finish, use an impregnating sealer. To leave the colour alone, but create a glossy finish, use a urethane-based floor sealer. To deepen the colour of the tiles, mix linseed oil with paint thinner and apply up to four coats on the tiles. All sealers should be applied in at least two coats for maximum protection of the tiles.

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