Why should you use grout sealer and how do you apply it? Today I’m sharing the how-to and why’s of applying a grout sealer to your tile floors, showers, and backsplashes.
I have a love/hate relationship with my ceramic tile floors. I love them because they are beige and hide a lot of dirt, because the dog/s can run around and not destroy them with scratches or dirt, and because they are a nice neutral colour that I can put almost anything with.
The hatred is because of the grout.
For reference; this is what colour the grout should be:
(I apologize for some of the photo quality in this post – I remembered to video the process, but forgot to take photos of each step, so I had to screen shot from the videos)
This is what my grout tends to look like:
Muddy paws, shoes, spilled food, everything that happens when your patio door is off your kitchen, settles into the grout lines. I deal with it for awhile, but twice a year I get down on my hands and knees and scrub every single tile and grout line with my drill brush and/or my steamer… sometimes both. It’s a giant task (my tile floor runs through my kitchen, hallway and throughout my foyer) so it takes hours. Generally I wait until after all the Spring rain so that the muddy paw damage is done, then again before the Holidays so my family doesn’t see the shit-show that it is.
I don’t know, maybe no one notices but me? Maybe people think I just chose a more brown grout?
Regardless, I know it’s filthy and germ-ridden. Below you can see the cleaned area pretty easily.
I’ve been on the fence about sealing the grout for years. I wasn’t sure how effective it really was, I didn’t want to go to the lengths to scrub the floor before applying it, it’s not super-expensive, but it’s not cheap either – all of these kept me from applying any grout sealer.
After approaching a few friends – contractors so that I was getting legitimate opinions and not just drinking the koolaid – they agreed whole-heartedly that sealing your grout does make a difference and that it should be done.
Why use grout sealer?
Grout sealer is used to seal the sand/cement grout between each tile from moisture, dirt, and stains. It’s made with silicon to provide a protective, water-resistant layer over porous surfaces so that dirt and moisture can’t get in. Grout sealer also helps protect grout from erosion, so it keeps your floors lasting longer.
Without grout sealer?
As you can see from the photos above, any spills or dirt that get on your tiles and get into the grout lines will stain. The tiny molecules of wine for instance will penetrate the porous grout and stain down into it – beyond what surface cleaning can reach.
What are the types of grout sealer?
There is penetrating grout sealer, which is the most common type, and non-penetrating sealer. Non-penetrating sealer provides a surface coating on your grout, and while it does keep stains at bay, it does not allow any moisture previously trapped in the grout to dry/evaporate which can cause mildew issues. Your choice of grout is going to depend on the room you’re using it for. A shower or bathroom would be better treated with a penetrating grout, while a kitchen floor or hallway (which doesn’t see as much moisture) can be treated with a non-penetrating grout.
How to apply grout sealer
This is probably obvious, but just in case (there are tide pod eaters in the world), your grout needs to be as clean as you can possibly make it.
I scrubbed every single tile with pinesol and my drill brush (Amazon affiliate link). This removed the majority of dirt. I then used my HomeRight steam cleaner (Amazon affiliate link) to go over the grout lines a second time to “melt out” anything that was deeper into the pores of the grout. Finally, I used my steam mop (Amazon affiliate link) to remove any remaining pinesol residue on the tiles (to protect my dog’s paws).
Your floors/grout must be COMPLETELY DRY before applying any sealer.
I know, the floor still looks kinda dirty – but that’s why we chose this particular tile; it hides a LOT of dirt from pets.
After two days of scrubbing and 12 hours of drying time, I was ready to apply my grout sealer.
I did a bit of research to see what grout sealer had the best reviews, and I opted for a Rust-Oleum product; Miracle Sealants 511 Impregnator (aka penetrating for those not familiar with sex) grout sealer.
This runs between $50-$65 CDN for just shy of a litre. I needed two containers to do all the flooring and my kitchen backsplash with 2 coats. I do have some leftover, but better to have too much than too little I think.
Applying penetrating grout sealer
I poured out about a cup of the impregnator sealer into an empty tuna can and used a foam brush to apply.
It’s okay if you get some sealer on your tile, it can be wiped off if caught within a few minutes. If you didn’t catch it while drying you can also apply some grout sealer over the other, which will soften it, then you can wipe it later.
The best bet is to try and stay within the lines as best you can.
I will say that a paintbrush might have been better? It would have dripped more, but the foam brush did cause bubbling – so 6 of one, half-dozen the other I guess?
The Miracle Sealant did darken my grout slightly when wet, but once dry I really didn’t notice a colour change? It is something to be aware of though because some people have complained of a colour change on white grout. (For the record, my backsplash has white grout and I didn’t notice a colour change even after 2 coats)
How many coats of grout sealer should you apply?
Once your first coat is completely dry – 24-48 hours – it is recommended that you add a second coat. Since grout is so porous, the first coat will ooze down through and might not fill every single minute gap. The suggested application for this particular penetrating sealer is between 1 and three coats – so pick a weekend when the kids are at sleepovers and the dogs can be contained and off of your hard work.
How do you know if the grout sealer works?
Apply a drop or two of water; if the water beads up and isn’t absorbed into the grout, you know you’ve done a good job!
If I was braver, I would have added a couple of drops of food colouring to the water to really show you the effectiveness. If the grout wasn’t perfectly sealed, the food colouring would stain the grout permanently.
I’m not that brave.
But I did do a good job. A LOT of work went into this project.
I’m just chicken.
How often do you need to apply grout sealer?
From what I’ve read it depends on the amount of activity the surface sees. My kitchen floor and backsplash shouldn’t need another application for 2-3 years. Shower grout, on the other hand, will need re-coating once per year.
I *think there are companies out there that will clean and seal your grout for you, but if you can handle some manual labour on your hands and knees, you could save hundreds of dollars.
It’s taken me 18 years to get off my duff and finally seal my grout, and I’m kicking myself now because my floors are so much easier to wash now and my grout isn’t full of gunk and bacteria.
It was certainly worth the effort.
Have a great one!