Imagine you've just moved into a new home that comes complete with a brand new kitchen. Its tile floors are gorgeous but they seem like a pain to keep up with. Many people are advising you to seal the tile floors, but you thought it was just the grout that needed to be sealed. What's the proper way to take care of your beautiful tiles?
Should You Seal the Tile or the Grout?
It's important to realize that there are two parts of a tile floor: the tile and the grout. Most of the floor is made up of the actual tiles but the grout is just as important. It's the often overlooked material that holds the tiles in place. Grout needs to be sealed. It's naturally porous and will stain easily. Most installers of tile floors do not seal them because grout has to cure first. It's something you should do to keep your grout looking its best. As a bonus, sealed grout is much easier to keep clean.
When to Seal Tiles
Sealing is done to strengthen tile or grout's defenses against dirt, spills, and erosion of grout, but not all tile needs to be sealed. If your tile is ceramic or porcelain, it probably won't need to be sealed. There are some exceptions to this, so check with your manufacturer to be sure. If your tile is stone (slate, marble, granite, travertine, etc.) then it will need to be sealed. Stone is naturally porous and will absorb spills and stain fairly easily.
How to Tell If Grout Is Sealed
You can sometimes tell if your tile or grout has been sealed by spreading a few drops of water on them. If they darken or change color, they are probably not sealed. If they stay the same, they may have already been sealed.
It's always a good idea to follow your manufacturer's instructions on a schedule for sealing grout and tile. If a tile job was completed years ago, it may need to be resealed. If your tile work is in an outdoor area the elements will likely wear it down faster. However, grout in unventilated bathrooms is exposed to a lot of humidity and moisture which can cause it to break down. If you notice loose tiles or your grout flaking off when you wash the tub it might be time to have it redone.
Cleaning Sealed Grout and Tiles
While sealing your tiles and grout will help protect them from stains, accidents still happen. If you notice a stain on your tiles, just rub it with a mild bleach solution. Be careful not to scrub your tiles with anything too stiff, like a metal brush, that could scratch or damage the tiles. Grout usually needs to set for about a month before it can be sealed. If it gets stained before it's sealed just use the mild bleach solution and scrub lightly. If you seal the stained grout, you will probably never be able to get the stain out again.