Before my days as an experienced person in this field, I always felt like letting grout sealer sit for 3-4 hours after applying it would be the perfect amount of time for it to dry off completely.
Now, I am a perfectionist, and being right is a guilty pleasure of mine, so it is with immense grief that I have to announce that my feeling could not have been more wrong. So, exactly how long does grout sealer take to dry?
If you are new here and need a short description of what does grout sealer do, it is a substance that protects the grout from damage. It is important to let it dry properly; otherwise, the protection you seek is out of the question, as the un-dried sealer will crack and peel off if used before it dries.
How Long Does Grout Sealer Take to Dry?
Grout sealer takes 1-3 days to dry completely. Drying time can be affected by factors such as type of grout sealer (water-based dries faster than solvent-based), type of grout (acrylic-based dries faster than epoxy-based), humidity, and temperature.
Factors Affecting Grout Sealer Dry Time
As you might have inferred from above, the grout will be damaged if you do not let the sealer dry completely before using the area. And unless you fancy having black mold and mildew growing between your tiles, you will need to redo the sealing. You should let it sit for over a day, but how will you know how long you will have to wait before it is fully dry? The factors below should help you determine the waiting time:
Type of Grout Sealer
We will consider two types of grout sealers: water and solvent-based formulas. Water-based formulas are eco-friendly alternatives, which are a plus if you are an environmentalist; however, they are more expensive than their counterparts. These sealer types are easy to apply and provide you with a “matte look” after application.
Water-based sealants have a shorter curing time than solvent-based ones, so I would say most of them will be fully dried after the 24-hour mark.
On the other hand, solvent-based sealers, while not as eco-friendly, will still offer as great protection as water-based sealers, with some specialists claiming that they are superior to water-based formulas protection-wise.
These sealers penetrate the grout and can give you a sort of “wet look” after application, which many people tend to go for lately. Solvent-based sealers have a longer curing time, sometimes up to 72 hours, to be fully dry.
Although I have provided you with an approximation of how long these different types of grout sealer need to dry, you should always read the instructions in the packaging as drying times may vary even between same-type sealers.
Type of Grout
Grout sealers were probably a given factor, but did you know that the grout type you use is another determining factor on how long does sealer take to dry on grout? Yes, you read it correctly; different grout types can shorten or lengthen the time for grout sealer to dry.
You can find many grout products nowadays, each with different characteristics and compositions. Due to their composition differing, the sealer you will use may need more or less time to cure. For example, if your grout is acrylic-based, chances are most sealers will not take too long to cure.
On the other hand, if your grout is epoxy-based, the sealers will need longer to dry fully. As with grout sealer types, you should still read the instructions provided in the packaging to avoid mistakes.
Another factor you should take into account is humidity, whether you are sealing grout inside or outside. This condition can accelerate or slow down the curing process, so you should always consider it before applying the sealer.
Humidity relates to the percentage of water vapor available in the air. Perhaps you may have noticed how clothes tend to dry slower on cold, humid days. The same logic applies to sealer curing. If the humidity in the air is high, the sealing process will take much longer due to water vapor increasing and having no more capacity to hold additional water vapor.
On the contrary, if the humidity outside or inside the house is relatively low, you may have gotten lucky, and your grout sealer will dry faster.
All in all, this is a crucial factor to bear in mind before you decide to seal your grout if you want to save time on it. Since humidity levels can fluctuate during the day, try to get the job done when humidity is at its lowest.
Another weather factor to remember while thinking about when to start sealing your grout is temperature. Although the temperature is a more steady factor than humidity, as it will mostly stay constant, it can still fluctuate during the day and nighttime. I will be assuming that most of you like to finish tasks such as grout sealing during the day, so in that case, the temperature is unlikely to change drastically.
Contrary to how humidity works, higher temperatures mean good news for the curing process. The higher the temperature, the more likely you are to get the job done quicker. The lower the temperature, the more your process will slow down, as the evaporation will take longer, and the chemical reactions necessary for curing will slow down.
To avoid having the curing process take longer than necessary during cold weather, if you have to seal your grout during cold days, you can turn on air conditioning to warm up the area (if the area is located inside the house).
Porosity of the Grout
Grout porosity is one of those aspects that people forget about or are unaware of its importance. The porosity differs depending on the grout type.
One of the main reasons we seal grout is so that it does not absorb water or other liquids it may come in contact with. Most sealers, especially solvent-based ones, will penetrate the pores and settle in them. If you use such sealers on porous grout types, the substance will sink in faster; thus, it will take less time to sit and dry.
On the other hand, using these sealants on non-porous grout types will result in a slower curing process due to the sealer needing more time to penetrate the pores.
This one goes without saying, but the thickness of the layer you apply will definitely affect its curing time.If the coat applied is thin, it will cure faster, as the amount of substance needed to dry is small. Otherwise, if you apply a thick coat, you will need to wait more for it to dry fully.
How Long to Expect
Need more information on how long does grout sealer take to dry? No worries, I will guide you through the details once more and throw some extra ones in the mix.
First things first, depending on the type of sealant you have, the waiting time differs. Acrylic-based sealers will require less time to dry than epoxy-based ones. So, acrylic ones will start to dry after about an hour, whereas epoxy sealants may need up to 12 hours to feel dry to the touch. And, of course, both types will need over a day before traffic commences.
Second, the sealer’s state will also affect its drying time. If you buy a sealer in liquid form, it will need plenty of time to dry. About 2-3 hours is the mark at which the sealer may stop feeling sticky, but it will take much longer than that (2-3 days, depending on the sealer) for you to safely walk on it.
Sealers in spray form will need about 5 hours to dry and may be safe to walk on after that, but the general rule is to let sealants sit for at least 24 hours to avoid damage.
Is it Safe to Walk?
Obviously, we cannot have you walking around on grout newly sealed right away, as that is a sure way to damage the sealer coating. Generally, you will need 24 hours, sometimes up to 72, for the grout to be completely cured and safe for foot traffic, but there may be some exceptions to the rule if you use spray sealers or types of sealers such as acrylic-based ones.
Not letting the grout sit and fully dry before using the floors (or showers) could ruin all your hard work. You cannot and should not use your floors moments after applying your grout sealer. Although it may look dry, it takes much longer to actually dry. Stepping on grout sealer that has not dried yet or showering in such instances will damage the sealant.
Once damaged, the sealer will fail to protect your grout from getting dirty or mildew and mold growing on it. If you accidentally damage the sealer, you should quickly apply another coat to fix the issue.
How to Test if the Grout Sealer Is Dry
The water test is a quick and easy test to ensure your grout sealer is fully dry. You can perform this test in a few easy steps:
- Wait for the sealer to dry. Wait for the necessary time for the sealer to dry before performing this test. Waiting time varies, so read the packaging for more information.
- Fill a spray bottle. First, you will need to fill a spray bottle with water. Make sure that the spray is in mist form.
- Spray the sealer. After filling the bottle, spray the sealer with the water mist just a little. Try to spray different areas to check if all areas have properly dried (or not).
- Let the water set. Wait for a couple of minutes for the water to set before assessing the results.
- Check for water droplets. If the sealer has properly dried, the water mist will form little water beads, indicating that the sealer has dried. Otherwise, the sealer has not dried, and it has most likely not properly been applied and will need one or more additional layers.
Maintenance of Grout Sealer
Grout sealer is used to protect the grout, but you will need to care for it so that it does not wear off quickly. To maintain the sealer, you should clean it from time to time since debris and other residues will fall on top of it and collect there. The proper way to clean the sealer not to damage it is by using dish soap and warm water and cleaning the grout lines with a cloth or brush.
Another alternative for cleaning the grout sealer is by creating a baking soda paste. All you need for this mixture is water and baking soda. Mix them until a paste-like consistency is formed, and apply it to the sealer. Scrub the surface until it is clean.
Additionally, you should know that grout should be resealed. If you have applied it properly, it will last for about 3 to 5 years. Perform the water test yearly to see if the sealer is still intact or needs to be reapplied.
Does Grout Sealer Expire?
If you accidentally bought a large bottle of sealer and it is not even halfway finished, you are probably thinking of using it again in a couple of years. But does grout sealer expire? Yes, grout sealer can expire. The shelf life of grout sealers typically ranges from 2 to 5 years.
You can tell if it has expired in many ways:
- Mold and mildew. These two is the most obvious telltale sign of a grout sealer’s expiration. If you open the bottle and see mold or mildew has started growing, the sealer is expired.
- Check the sealant’s consistency. Take a look at the grout; if it looks thick and sort of rubbery-stringy, it has expired.
- The smell test. You can tell a grout has expired by its smell. If you have sealed grout before, you have probably taken note of its mild chemical smell. If there is no smell at all or if the chemical-like smell has severely heightened, the sealant has most likely expired.
You can perform a drying test if none of the above signs apply. Take some sealer from the bottle and apply it on a piece of unneeded plastic or glass. The sealer has expired if it does not dry within the time range specified in the instructions.
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