How to Apply Grout Sealer

Applying grout sealer or tile and grout sealer is not a difficult process, but it can be nerve racking for someone who has never done it because the results are so permanent. In reality, the process is very easy and forgiving. You just have to follow a few easy steps and read the directions on your grout and tile sealer carefully before starting.

  1. Make sure the surface is clean and dry
  2. Read the directions carefully
  3. Apply sealer to tiled surface and/or grout lines
  4. Wipe off excess sealer
  5. Test sealer
  6. Apply additional coats as necessary
  7. Do not use the tiled area until the sealer is completely dry
  8. Reapply grout sealer as necessary

1. Make sure the surface is clean and dry…

In order to prepare a surface for sealing, you need to make sure that it is clean, dry, and free of any waxes, coatings, or finishes. There are products that you can buy that will strip wax and acrylic finishes if you need to. Keep in mind that this only applies to the surface that you are sealing. In other words, if you are sealing the tile and the grout at the same time, you need to make sure that both are completely clean. However, if you only are sealing your grout, then it does not matter if your tile is sealed nor has a finisher on it. If you are sealing a new installation, then it is important that you allow the tile adhesive and grout to cure for 48 – 72 hours before sealing.

2. Read the directions carefully…

Tile and grout sealers come with very clear instructions on the bottle. Once you have chosen the sealant you are going to use, your next step should be to read all of the instructions carefully to make sure you have all the application materials that you need and that you understand the process you will need to operate under. You do not want to have to keep going back to the instructions over and over again during the sealing process because some of the steps are time sensitive. Make sure that you can recite the directions by heart before you start or that you have a partner who can constantly refer to the directions while you work. If you need help with selecting the right grout sealant, go here.

3. Apply sealer to tiled surface and/or grout lines…

The exact application process for tile and grout sealants varies from product to product, but basically the actions are the same. You will put the sealer on the tiled surface and/or grout and then use some tool to spread it around evenly. Application tools can be anything from a paint brush to a sponge; or a mop to a cloth pad. You may have to pour the sealant on to the tile surface and then spread it around with your application tool. You may have to spray the grout and tile sealer on and then spread it around with your application tool. No matter what action you are supposed to use to put the sealer on the tiled surface (pour, spray, etc.) or what tool you are supposed to use to spread it around or apply it, the directions on the package will tell you. When several options are given, you might want to have several options available at the start of your project until you figure out which applicator works best for you.

Some sealers that are meant for only for grout lines come with their own applicator attached to the bottle for precision application. Examples would be a small applicator brush, a wheel, or a thin squeeze nozzle. Other grout specific sealants tell you to use a toothbrush or small paint brush for application. Still another option is an aerosol spray can where no application tools are needed because you spray the sealer directly on the grout lines.

4. Wipe off excess sealer…

Even the best grout and tile sealing professionals will have times when too much sealer was applied or you have applied it unevenly resulting in puddles or pools. If this happens, the grout and tile sealant packaging will give you instructions on how long to wait and when to wipe away the excess. They will also recommend what tool to use for this process. The most common tool is a clean cloth cleaning pad. Be sure to read the instructions carefully for clues on when the best time is to remove excess sealer.

If you are sealing the grout only and you do not want sealer on your tiles at all, then you need to wipe away the sealer that inevitably gets on the tiles during the application process immediately after application. If you do not remove excess sealer, you could be left with hazy looking tile or other obvious flaws. Removing completely cured sealer is much harder than wiping away the excess when it is still tacky. Make sure that you do not skip this step.

5. Test sealer…

The best way to test whether you have enough sealer on your tile and grout is a water droplet test. Sprinkle a few drops of water on the sealed area and look to see how the water reacts. If it is absorbed by the tile or grout, then you need at least one more coat of sealer. If the water beads up on the surface, then your tile and grout are completely saturated with sealer and you do not need to apply any more coats.

6. Apply additional coats as necessary…

If you failed your water test, you will need to apply at least one more coat. Keep repeating the water test and adding more coats until the grout and tile are completely sealed. Check the instructions on your sealer packaging for an indication of how long you should wait between coats. You do not need to wait for the sealer to cure completely before adding a additional application. Repeat the test and this step as many times as necessary to completely saturate your tile and grout with sealant.

7. Do not use the tiled area until the sealer is completely dry…

Most tile and grout sealers will give you instructions on how long to wait before using the tiled area again after sealing. This wait time can be anywhere from 2 hours to 24 hours depending on the product. Sometimes they will give a two step instruction that indicates that you can use the area mildly after one amount of time but the sealer will not be completely dry until a second amount of time has passed. Usually you want to avoid getting the area wet until the sealant is completely dry. It is important that you abide by these instructions because otherwise the sealer could be disturbed leaving voids in the coverage.

8. Reapply Grout Sealer as Necessary

There is a large debate over how often you should apply grout sealer. Some grout sealer packages will say that the sealer will last two to three years. Some sealants claim that they will last for as long as twenty years. Some homeowners and contractors recommend that you reapply several times a year for high traffic areas. The truth is that you will have to work out what is best for your tile and the sealer you choose to use. Periodically test the grout sealer to make sure water still beads up on the surface. If not, it is time to reapply. Once you test and reapply a few times you will get an idea of how often grout sealing needs to be done and then you can start to plan your reapplications before your grout and tile are exposed to possible contaminates.

One of the best features of penetrating grout sealer is that it can be reapplied on top of an old application without removing it. There is no need to use a grout sealer remover every time you need to apply a new coat of penetrating sealant. However, there are sealer and coating removers on the market for circumstances where you need to remove a haze or streaks that are formed because you didn’t wipe off the excess sealer from the tiles or you got sealer on a glazed tile surface. Coating sealers on the other hand, should be removed before starting a new application to ensure uniform protection.

When Should I Apply Grout and Tile Sealer for the First Time?

Grout sealer needs to be applied as soon after the tile and grout installation as possible. The longer that the grout and tile remains unsealed, the longer it is exposed to possible stains and contaminates. However, you cannot apply grout sealer before the grout and tile adhesive is completely cured. As grout cures or dries, the water in the grout paste evaporates through the voids in the grout. If you apply the penetrating grout sealer too soon, the pores or voids in the grout will be plugged and the water will never be able to escape so the grout will never dry completely. That being said, some people recommend that you wait as long as thirty days before applying grout sealer. However, most contractors or tile supply houses will recommend forty eight to seventy two hours. There are also some products on the market that claim you can start sealing as soon as six hours after installation.

When Not to Apply Grout Sealer

There is one case where you do not need to apply grout sealer at all. Most grouts are cement based, but there are other types of grout including epoxy grout. Epoxy grout sealer does not exist because you technically do not need to seal epoxy grouts. They are impermeable to liquids and resist staining on their own. They are also water proof so mildew growth is not an issue. So if you have 100% solid epoxy grout, you do not need to use grout sealer. Epoxy grouts are recognizable because they look like they are made of shiny plastic rather than cement.