Do Porcelain Tiles Need to Be Sealed?

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Porcelain tiles are some of the most common tiles used in different areas, such as bathrooms, kitchens, fireplaces, and balconies. These tiles are extremely durable and have an absorption rate smaller than 0.5, which makes them less susceptible to cracks and water damage, hence their popularity. 

Chances are that you will or have already made an installation made of porcelain tiles and are thinking do porcelain tiles need to be sealed? Most variations will do well with no sealing or some barrier treatment, whereas porcelain tiles, such as polished ones, have a higher absorption rate than normal and will benefit from a sealant.

Are you curious about more information on sealing your porcelain tiles or not? Here is a quick guide to get you started.

Do Porcelain Tiles Need to Be Sealed?

Porcelain tiles, especially polished ones, can benefit from being sealed to prevent dirt and debris from penetrating the micro-pores and causing stains or damage. Sealing can also protect from chemical degradation and make cleaning easier. However, some porcelain tiles may not require sealing due to their low absorption rate.

What Happens if You Don’t Seal Porcelain Tiles?

What happens if you don’t seal porcelain tiles? Dirt and debris, as well as any spills of oil or water, can penetrate the micro-pores of the tiles and leave stains over time. Water penetration in showers is particularly common and can become a serious issue. Additionally, unsealed porcelain floors may become damaged once grout is applied.

The dirt and debris, as well as any oil or water spills, will penetrate your lovely tiles through their micro-pores, and after a while, they will leave stains.

Water penetration in showers is especially very common and can become a serious issue. Sometimes, the trapped residue will make the floors slippery. Furthermore, unsealed porcelain floors may become damaged once you apply the grout.

Benefits of Sealing Porcelain Floor Tiles

Sealing porcelain floor tiles that are polished is a necessity to ward off any damage. Applying the sealant to the tiles will ensure protection from accidental spills and dirt that settles on the tiles. Sealers will make the process of cleaning polished porcelain tiles much more effortless. 

Additionally, sealing the tiles will shield them from marks or stains that may occur otherwise, as well as any cracking from dropping heavy items (which happens more often than you might think!).

A crucial benefit that is sometimes overlooked is protection from chemical degradation. Many people use harsh chemicals, such as bleach, to clean tiles, which can chemically damage or discolor them. The application of sealing will sheathe the tiles from such harm.

Drawbacks of Sealing Porcelain Floor Tiles

We have already looked at the benefits of sealing polished tiles, but what drawbacks are observed when you leave them unsealed?

One drawback of not sealing polished porcelain tiles is that dirt and debris can easily accumulate in the micro-pores. While regular cleaning can remove most of the dirt that has penetrated the tiles, they will quickly become dirty again.

Although a thorough cleaning will eliminate most of the dirt that has penetrated your tiles, they will quickly and easily become dirty again. As I mentioned in the benefits, you could easily spill water, oil, or food on the floor, depending on where your tiles are located, and just like the debris, they can and will settle in the pores, creating stains that are difficult to clean.

Furthermore, if you or one of your family members move or drop something heavy on the floor, you may notice little marks or cracks that you could have avoided had you sealed the tiles. Lastly and most importantly, the previously-mentioned chemical degradation. This one is no joke; it will cause discoloration and corrosion, so be careful what cleaning materials you use if you want to go down the no-sealing path.

porcelain tile installation

Which Type of Porcelain Tiles Need to Be Sealed?

Does porcelain tile need to be sealed? — Some kinds of porcelain tile do, like polished porcelain tile. Why? Because some of these nice-looking tiles, despite their appearance, are more prone to absorption than their counterparts. Absorption leads to a dirty, unpleasant look, cracks, stains, and more. But are polished porcelain tiles the only ones needing sealing? Let’s find out.

Polished Porcelain Tiles

Once again, polished porcelain tiles do need sealing. The surface of such tiles has these micro holes or pores due to the polishing process. Due to this occurrence, polished porcelain tiles have a higher absorption rate than the “less than 0.5” we specified earlier. 

When installing polished tiles, grout can get inside these microscopic pores; the same could happen with the adhesive you may use. The residue that dries out will form what is known in other terms as “grout haze,” and removing grout haze from porcelain tiles is a really hassle.

Polished porcelain remains porcelain; hence, compared to many other tile types and subtypes, it is still more durable, but sealing will ensure its initial beauty remains intact.

Unpolished Porcelain Tiles

Logically, you would think that since polished porcelain needs sealing, it is not a requirement for unpolished ones. For the most part, that is true. However, I would argue that a barrier treatment would benefit even unpolished porcelain tiles. Unpolished porcelain tiles are somewhat textured, and the textured surface can collect residue. 

The build-up created on the surface will slowly affect the tiles’ look. Moreover, depending on what the residue is comprised of, it could result in a slipping hazard. Hence, although you can skip the full sealing process, a treatment would aid in avoiding unclean and slippery tiles.

Matte Porcelain Tiles

Some people think that matte porcelain times are synonymous with polished porcelain tiles, and I am here to put an end to this common mistake. Matt porcelain is a simple porcelain tile type that is non-shiny due to a layer added on top to remove the shine. 

Because they do not get polished, such tiles are not porous enough to get dirty and slippery quickly because of residue. On the contrary, matt porcelain tiles are a perfect choice when you want your floors to be non-slippery.

However, I still suggest sealing your matt floors if you want to be extra cautious. You do not need to, but remember that when you are first making the installation, and it is time for the grouting, or if you plan on regrouting, the grout will stick on the surface. It will be easy to clean if you have applied sealing; otherwise, it may take longer and require much more effort. 

Glazed Porcelain Tiles

A glazed porcelain tile is essentially made the same way as unpolished porcelain, with the slight difference that before inserting the tile in the kiln, a layer of glaze is added onto it, which merges with the tile during the firing process.

Unlike the porcelain tiles mentioned above, you will find little to no benefits from sealing glazed porcelain tiles. The glaze will act as a protective layer; you will find no difficulty cleaning these tile types. You will notice that there will barely be any residue to complain about.

sealing porcelain floor tiles project

Do Ceramic Tiles Need to Be Sealed?

We have gone into detail to answer “does porcelain tile need to be sealed,” but I shall also let you in on the explanation to “do ceramic tiles need to be sealed” as porcelain and ceramic are rather similar. Essentially, these two belong to the same family despite many using the words as synonyms. 

The biggest difference between the two that gives us insight into whether or not ceramic tiles need sealing is their absorption rate. Unlike porcelain’s less than 0.5% absorption rate, ceramic’s is higher. Ceramic tiles are less dense than porcelain; therefore, they are more porous, which is why they absorb water faster. 

Considering that ceramic absorbs more water, it is safe to say that if you have ceramic tiles, they would greatly benefit from being sealed. The sealing will protect it from debris, cracks, and water, oil, or food from penetrating the pores, thus, hindering the cleaning process.

Best Sealer for Porcelain Tiles

Convinced that you should seal your porcelain tiles and want to know the best sealer for them? Here is what you need to know.

I can go ahead and mention many brand names and specific products for you to choose from, but I would like to teach you what to look for in a sealant instead. That way, you can make the best choice for your porcelain type after carefully checking the available products.

Two types of sealants will work with the dense porcelain material: surface level or topical and adhesion promoter sealants. 

sealing a tile

Starting with surface sealants: these are usually used when your tiles are somewhat damaged and need a quick repair. Topical sealers form a thin layer on the tile’s surface, which acts as a shield from contaminants.

The film on the surface often changes the tile’s look, making it appear brighter or glossier. However, they do not always work well with dense porcelain tiles unless the packaging specifies that.

On the other hand, penetrating sealants get absorbed in the tile’s surface; hence the appearance remains unchanged. The sealant settles into the micro-pores and cures, making sealants of this type a highly-preferred choice.

You can find solvent and water-based sealants, and while solvent sealers are quicker to absorb due to the chemicals used, water-based ones are safer if you are worried about the sealant damaging your tiles.

How to Seal Porcelain Tile

After answering the “does porcelain tile need to be sealed” question and more, I will quickly guide you through applying sealing on your tiles.

  1. First and foremost, clean the surface thoroughly. You do not want any remnants of dirt or food crumbs stuck between the tiles and the protective layer you are about to apply. You can either clean your tiles with a store-bought product or make your own by mixing vinegar with water.
  2. Use an applicator to apply and distribute the sealant evenly. Do not try to get all tiles at once, but keep it simple and work on one at a time. Normally, you will need about a 32 oz bottle of sealant for areas such as a kitchen. 
  3. Let the sealant cure for a couple of minutes.
  4. After the sealant has properly cured, carefully clean the excess sealant with a cloth.
  5. Wait for at least a day before using the sealed tile floor heavily, as the sealing layer needs around that amount of time to be completely ready. You can walk around the room if needed, but avoid excess use for one day to ensure that the sealant has fully dried off.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, porcelain tiles are a popular and durable choice for various areas in the home. While most variations of porcelain tile do not require sealing or barrier treatment, polished porcelain tiles have a higher absorption rate and can benefit from a sealant.

Sealing porcelain tiles can prevent dirt and debris from penetrating the micro-pores, protect from chemical degradation, and make cleaning easier. Not sealing porcelain tiles can lead to stains and damage over time. It is important to consider the specific type of porcelain tile being used and the potential benefits and drawbacks of sealing before making a decision.

Overall, sealing porcelain tile is an important step to protect the longevity and appearance of your tile installation. And with that, I wish you good luck with the sealing!

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As the founder and editor-in-chief of Tile Sealing, I am committed to providing accurate and reliable information to our readers. Together with the team, I ensure that every article that gets published on our website is factually correct and trustworthy.

I am dedicated to making decisions that are in the best interest of our readers, rather than succumbing to pressure from companies looking to gain positive coverage for their products.

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