Humans have been using tiles and grout in bathrooms for a very long time, with tiles as we currently know them dating back to ancient Rome.
Glass and earthen tiles very similar to current ones were even found in ancient Egypt, making grouted tiles one of the oldest, most successful building and decorative products made in human history.
Earthen tiles, like ceramic, have always been used in wet areas in dwellings and public facilities, especially glazed tiles, as they are water resistant, easy to clean, and incredibly robust. However, as tried and tested as grouted tiles are, they are not indestructible and need a little protection and care if they are to reach peak life expectancy.
One of the best ways to protect your tiles and grout is by applying a sealant. So what is a sealant, why is it necessary, and how does a sealant work? Read on to find out more.
Why do tiles and grout need a sealant?
Natural stone and earthen building products, such as ceramic tiles, natural stone, and cement, are porous. Pores are tiny micro holes that naturally occur during the manufacturing process and can be likened to the pores in your skin.
These micro holes in the tiles and grout allow contaminants and pollutants to enter the substructure, including things like:
Mycotoxins and more
Over time, these pollutants can break down the tiles and grout prematurely, leading to discolouration, cracking and other degenerative issues.
This breakdown can lead to moisture breaching structures beyond your waterproofing, like under floors and behind walls, damaging property and accelerating the growth of potentially harmful mycotoxins, like fungus, mould and mildew.
Although mycotoxins are common in nature, they can be dangerous to humans, especially when an overgrowth occurs in a confined dwelling.
Excess exposure to mycotoxins has been linked to a variety of adverse health conditions, including:
Chronic ear, nose and throat irritation
Sinus irritation and lung disease
Heart disease, stroke and much more
Applying a bathroom sealant is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to prevent premature degradation of tiles and grout by providing adequate defence against moisture damage and reducing the chance of mycotoxin growth.
What is a bathroom tile sealant?
A tile and grout sealant is a natural or chemical solution that creates a protective film over tiles and grout or within the substructure of unglazed tiles and grout.
Once the sealant dries, it creates a protective film, reducing porosity and water absorption, protecting the tiles and grout from pollutants and contaminants.
There are different types of sealants for bathroom tiles and grout, and the one you use will depend on the type of tile and grout in your bathroom, the level of protection you desire, and your budget.
More often than not, a bathroom will feature glazed tiles, meaning the tile surface is relatively well sealed. However, unsealed grout can still let moisture in, breaching the rear of the tile, which is likely still porous, compromising the tile’s structural integrity and the adhesive’s hold.
Different kinds of grout sealant
For bathroom grout and tiles, there are two main types of sealant; chemical and naturally formulated, both with a range of pros and cons and different life expectancies between reapplications.
Chemical grout sealant
Chemical-based bathroom grout sealant is the most common form, as it offers the most longevity between sealings. There are three common types of chemical bathroom grout sealant, including:
Petroleum distillate sealants
These chemical sealant sub-types offer exceptional protective performance and can last for years or even decades, depending on the product’s quality and manufacturer specifications.
Natural grout sealants
A natural bathroom tile grout sealant formulation is almost always oil-based, as oil is a natural water repellant. The oil formulation soaks into the grout, making the grout itself more water resistant.
There is a range of common oils used in natural grout sealants, including:
Tung oil and more
Although oil-based grout sealants are effective, they are not as reliable and durable as chemical sealants. In addition, they must be replenished regularly, often annually or more frequently in high-traffic bathrooms.
Sealants can also be categorised as topical or impregnating sealants (also known as penetrating sealants). A topical sealant creates a film across the porous surface of your tiles and grout.
A penetrating sealant, however, works its way into the porous substructure of the grout, offering deeper, more effective and longer-lasting protection, and is the prefered sealant type of tile and grout trade professionals.
The benefits of using a bathroom tile sealant
While some online DIY home specialists debate the benefits of using a grout sealer, the opinion among tile and grouting trade professionals regarding the importance of sealing your bathroom floor grout is unanimous.
Bathroom floor tile and grouting is an expensive element of your washroom and should be protected to ensure your investment and utility are kept in good condition and working order.
A summary of the benefits of sealing bathroom floor tiles and grout include:
Increased protection of your investment
Extended life expectancy of your grouting and tile work
Minimising or preventing staining and discolouration of your tiles and grout
Ensuring the ongoing protection of your bathroom’s critical structures behind your tiles
Reducing the chance of potentially harmful mycotoxin growth
Ease of cleaning and more
The bathroom is one of a home’s most important, heavily used utilities, yet it often gets overlooked for care and maintenance.
Whether you plan to sell your home or not, it is nice to know that your main financial asset will get optimum returns on the real estate market. Your tile work is one of the most expensive elements of your bathroom’s construction, and the look and condition of your bathroom can significantly impact your home’s overall worth.
Though quality tile and grout sealants can vary in performance and price, they will always cost significantly less than tile and grout repairs or replacements, making bathroom floor sealing a good financial decision for your property.
Which sealant is best for bathroom floor tiles
The best type of sealant to use on a bathroom floor depends on the type of tile and grout installed and its current condition. However, for optimal protection and longevity, a chemical-based grout will almost always give you the best, most cost-effective solution.
If you do not know the type of grout used in your bathroom and have no contact with the installer, you may want to contact or hire a tile and grout professional for advice. If you are performing a DIY grout sealing, then it is always wise to test the sealant on a hidden spot to ensure no discolouration or staining occurs before continuing.
How is a sealant applied?
Unlike natural stone and concrete sealants, bathroom tile and grout sealants are considerably easier to apply; however, ensuring the tiles and grout are correctly prepared and getting the right consistency and coverage is essential.
While some professionals may use a spray system on large surfaces and outdoor areas, bathroom tile and grout sealants are often applied by hand.
Brand new tiles will likely have a sealant applied after installation; however, if you are applying a sealant to existing tiles, it is essential to ensure the tile and grout surface is thoroughly cleaned and dried before application.
Although time-consuming, using a stiff brush on your grout to remove mould, mildew growth, and soap scum before applying your sealant is advised. All sealants will have a manufacturer-recommended application method, and it is always advised to follow manufacturer instructions directly.
The most common way to seal bathroom tiles is by generously applying the pre-mixed sealant with a soft sponge or cloth. Allow the sealant to soak into the grout and tile joints for the maximum recommended time, then wipe your tiles clean.
Do not leave the excess sealant on the tiles longer than recommended, as it may result in discolouration, staining or inconsistencies in the tile aesthetics.
Enviro Clean and Capture: The industry-leading tile sealing service Sydney-wide
For over 20 years, our highly experienced and qualified technicians have provided cutting-edge tile cleaning and sealing solutions for residential and commercial properties in Sydney and surrounding New South Wales communities.
From the garden to the bathroom, there is no job too big or small for our dedicated team of professionals to undertake.
As well as Bathroom tile and grout sealing, we also provide a complete range of indoor and outdoor services, including tile cleaning and sealing of:
Indoor and outdoor tiles
Pavers and more
For more information about bathroom tile and grout sealing, or any of our other services, call 1300 415 213, or send your inquiry and details via our online contact form, and one of our representatives will respond promptly.