There are two main types of sealers – Topical and Penetrating.
Topical Sealers sit on the surface of the tile and grout. They will often give the area a high gloss finish. Topical sealers can lift and flake over time. They usually require stripping prior to resealing. (Note – Total TileCare does NOT deal with Topical Sealers).
Penetrating sealers sit just below the surface of the tile and prevent spills from penetrating and hence staining the tile. It is important to realise that a penetrating sealer is not an impenetrable barrier – it provides reaction time to deal with spills. An unsealed floor can stain immediately, whereas a sealed floor is stain resistant and can have a reaction time of up to 4-5 hours.
There are two commonly used types of penetrating sealer – Natural Look and Wet Look. • A Natural Look Penetrating Sealer leaves the tiles looking like they do in their natural state. To the naked eye, there is no visible difference to the tiles. • A Wet Look Penetrating Sealer leaves the tiles looking like they do when they are wet, often enhancing / deepening the colour. Penetrating Sealers do not prevent acid based spills (eg red wine, vinegar, urine, fruit juice etc) from etching / burning the surface of the tile which can create a dull or frosty appearance. Spills of this nature should be cleaned immediately to prevent permanent damage to the tile surface.
Penetrating Sealers can also be classified as either Water Based or Solvent Based. The distinction lies in the carrier of the actual sealing agent – water based sealers use water as the carrier, solvent based sealers use a solvent as the carrier. Arguments exist for and against the use of both types of sealer but in our experience and opinion, there exists a need for both types of sealer. As a general rule, Solvent based sealers work better that Water based sealers on dense products like polished marble, granite and porcelain tiles. There are a number of reasons why this is so. The reasoning though is highly scientific and involves molecule size and surface tension / energy. Anyone interested in a technical explanation can do further research.
As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. The quality of the sealers available on the market varies hugely. Good quality sealers come with a life expectancy of up to 15 years depending on the quality of the tile, traffic levels, maintenance procedures and so forth. Cheaper products may seem attractive initially but they are invariably inferior and can often cause more problems than they solve. When comparing sealing products and quotes, do make sure you are comparing apples with apples!