Sealing your grout is essential for preventing stains, mold, and mildew from appearing. Grout is a very porous substance, and thus, it absorbs liquids very easily. Grout should be resealed about every two years to ensure maximum protection or annually for grout that is subject to lots of water, such as in the shower.
Moldy grout. Sealing your grout is important, but it is not a completely foolproof method of preventing mold and mildew from forming, especially if the grout experiences a lot of moisture. Be diligent about cleaning to avoid stains and mold growth.
Steam cleaning utilizes the steam from hot water to sanitize and remove dirt from the surface of tile and grout. A tile and grout cleaning expert will have the most effective, professional-grade equipment.
Hot water extraction uses pressurized hot water to remove dirt and stains from tile and grout. The dirty water is then extracted with a vacuum mechanism. Hot water extraction works especially well for textured tile and heavily soiled grout.
Sealing tile creates a protective barrier from dirt and stains and helps keep the surface cleaner over time. Generally speaking, porcelain and glazed ceramic tile do not need to be sealed. Unglazed ceramic tile, however, must be sealed to protect the porous material against stains from dirt and other materials. Tile made of natural stone, such as slate, limestone, or marble, should also be sealed. These natural materials are quite porous and will stain if left unprotected. Be sure that any natural stone or unglazed tile is sealed before grout is applied. This will prevent the grout from staining the tile during the application process.
A simple way to determine if tile would benefit from being sealed is to test it with water. Spill a couple of tablespoons of water on a small portion of the tile’s surface. After about five minutes, wipe it dry. If the area is slightly darker than the rest of the tile (this shading is temporary) and it is in a room where spills are likely, such as a kitchen, then it is porous enough to justify sealing.
Types of Sealers
Topical sealers form a protective barrier on top of the tile’s surface. They are cheap to apply and provide a layer of armor that absorbs most of the damage that would otherwise afflict your tile. Topical sealers are typically softer than the material they are protecting and will require consistent reapplication or buffing to mask scratches and scuffs.
Impregnating sealers, on the other hand, work beneath the tile’s surface, blocking its pores and making the tile much less absorbent. Most impregnators will not affect the appearance of the tile, and they usually last for several years before requiring reapplication.