How to seal a tile floor: A broad overview

Tile can be mined from the earth or manufactured by combining a variety of materials.

Both sources of tile after being mined or manufactured are shaped and finished to a desired appearance for installation addressing a variety of purpose. Purpose outlines placement and placement defines protection.

Sealing tile is one way we can maintain a tile’s “looks and performance” without much trouble or expense. There are many categories of tile, and each category may offer one or more sub-categories. Most tile formats can and should be sealed if for nothing more than for the purpose of protecting the tile’s finish.

To best understand the “how” of sealing tile, it is important to know the basic categories of the types of tiles and how they respond to a sealer.

Tile Categories

Ceramic tiles are widely used throughout the world due to their lower cost, availability, versatility, and varied colors. Whether glazed or unglazed, ceramic tiles benefit from the correct sealer.


Porcelain tiles are recognized for their ability to offer a flow of continuous design throughout a room including wall to floor design requiring a minimal grout joint. Digital imaging in the tile produces a natural stone slab look that is far less expensive than real stone. Sealing porcelain tile with the correct sealer protects the “natural design” of the tile and increases the non-slip coefficient of the tiles surface.


Stone tiles are formed from materials directly mined from the earth. Organic in nature, stone tile creates a “one-of-a-kind” appearance and offers great a long-lasting life span. Due to the porosity of the stone tile, it is highly recommended for the tile to be sealed to prevent discoloration and excessive soiling.


Glass tiles have become more popular for mosaics and wall designs. Glass tiles are constructed of tiny pieces of glass held together by an adhesive coating and are great at stain prevention and ease of cleaning. Applying a designated sealer for glass tiles can protect the grout joints from staining and premature breakdown while adding to the natural stain resistance of the glass tile.


Concrete Cement Tiles can be found in interior exterior environments and offer numerous finishes, colors, shapes, and sizes. Cement tiles generally receive their color and patterns from a topical enamel. Concrete Cement Tile sealers with an adhesion factor for enamel and concrete will protect the design of the tile, provide a non-slip surface, and prevent mold and mildew.


Metal tiles can be found in kitchen settings both commercially and residentially usually as a backsplash to the cooking area. Predominately constructed of stainless steel, a sealer for metal will aid in the prevention of harmful bacteria growth.

Does tile need to be sealed?

Everywhere we look we can readily observe any number of tile installations. The variations of tile are as numerous as the people groups around the world that create the various tiles, patterns, and designs of tile that reflect lifestyles and applications.

It is better when considering the question of whether to seal tile to also consider the effect the sealer may have on the grout joints. Applying a sealer to the tile system will further enhance the protection provided by the sealer. Creating a thin protective coating over the tile and grout will be more effective in preventing water penetration, slip-fall accidents, mold and mildew growth and premature deterioration.

Whether a tile is natural stone or man-made ceramic and everything in between, tile can benefit greatly from the application of a verified sealer. Tile type, environmental factors, and expectations will all need to be considered in deciding which sealer to use.

Because of the presence of hazardous materials and contaminated wastewater as a result of the stripping process, floor removal professionals need to have their own storage/transport truck for said wastewater, as well as an accessible facility to transport all hazardous materials to for recycling. All of this has to be factored into the overall cost of removing the floor in the first place.

CERAMIC marble PORCELAIN Granite Wood Travertine METAL Mexican CONCRETE Slate Saltillo STONE Sandstone Limestone GLASS

Types of tile sealers

Like there are choices in tile, there are as well choices in sealers. Fortunately, the number of sealer types is limited to two (2): Surface Sealants and Penetrating Sealants. Both types of sealers can be a water based or solvent based in solution form.

Let’s review the differences between the two and it will become more evident which sealer type to consider using on a given tile type. It is as important to consider the degree and type of environment the sealant will be expected to perform in.

Surface Sealants are designed to attach to the surface of tile and form a non-porous, stain resistant protective film. This type of sealer can be acquired in a ready-to-use water-based form or solvent based solution. A Surface Sealant generally alters the appearance of the tile by adding a level of gloss to the tile.

Penetrating Sealants absorb deep into the small capillaries of the tile and fill the small holes throughout the surface. This solution may or may not enrich the natural colors of the tile. Penetrating Sealants are available in ready-to-use and 2-part solutions.

Water based tile sealers are generally purchased ready-to-use and are in whole, a more environmentally eco-friendly but less effective in terms of degree, duration, and level of chemical resistance. Water based tile sealers also tend to require reapplication much more often than a solvent-based tile sealer.

Solvent-based tile sealers may be ready to use but can also be a 2 or 3-part mix. The level of protection given by a Solvent based tile sealer is generally much better than a Water based tile sealer in terms of durability, degree of protection and length of service.

It is important to be aware of the type of tile to be sealed as all sealers do not adhere to all types of tiles.

How to apply tile sealer

The success and effectiveness of a tile sealer will be determined by the level of surface preparedness performed before the sealer application. It is most important that a tiled surface be clean, dry and properly suited for the brand and type of sealer selected for the sealing application.

Let’s review a step-by-step approach leading to a successful tile sealing project.

A before B, B before C and so on…….

Getting started

The fundamental process of a successful tile sealer application is the same for ALL types of tile and EVERY sub-species of tile types. Following is a step-by-step guide from beginning to end of any sealant application. To forego any step of the process opens a door to failure.

Step 1: Remove unsecured items from surface and complete a thorough sweep of the area.

Step 2: Pretreat heavy stains and /or spots with an alkaline spotter. Spray the entire floor with an alkaline prespray, allow a 5–10-minute dwell time and scrub the entire floor to loosen and suspend dirt and grime. Remove the dirty solution from the floor with a wet vac or extractor.


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