Grout Sealing - Why It's Important and How to Do It Yourself

3 Materials
2 Hours

Most people don't realize that they need to seal their tile grout, and even fewer realize that you should be doing this annually. Yes, annually. The good news is that it's an easy (and inexpensive) DIY job, and I'm going to show you how to do it.
WHY YOU NEED GROUT SEALER: Grout is basically a mixture of sand and cement.  As a result, if you don't seal your grout, it will absorb water, bacteria and stains.  Adding a grout sealer protects your grout so it's waterproof and will repel moisture and germs.  Sealing the grout helps prolong the look, texture and consistency of your grout and it prevents mildew and mold.  Your grout will look better and last longer. This article was originally posted on my blog where you can see more details (including the best grout sealer to use:
Epoxy grout is a tough, water-resistant material that doesn’t require sealer.  But it’s not right for all types of tiles. It's used most often with glass and other nonporous tiles and is used most often in areas prone to water such as showers and backsplashes.  Epoxy grout remains flexible, compared to cement-based grout, so it's less susceptible to chips and cracks.  This also enhances is resistance to water and stains.

After you've installed new tile, you want to wait at least 48 to 72 hours for the grout to dry and cure.  Your grout should be clean and dry and make sure the grout lines are cracked or chipped.  If they are, then touch up the grout and then wait an additional  48 to 72 hours before you start sealing the grout.
Generally, no would not seal the tile, assuming that your tile is glazed ceramic or porcelain.  If you have unglazed tile/clay (e.g. unglazed terra cotta...not very common these days) or natural stone, you would seal these as they are porous.  (But this is a different type of sealer...I hope to write about that soon).
Be aware that you should NEVER apply grout sealer to the surface of non-glazed tile or natural stone.  If you do, the tile will absorb it and it will never come out (and it may be discolored).
No, it's easy to apply grout sealer yourself.  It's a bit tedious, and takes some time, but even a novice DIYer can easily do this. If my mom can do this, I know you can, too.  When you have larger tiles (e.g. 12" x 12"), it's pretty easy; when you have smaller tiles, then you have more grout lines and it will take a bit longer.
Choose your sealer based on the type of tile you have and its location.  There are 2 types of grout sealers - penetrating and non-penetrating sealer.

  • Penetrating Grout sealers use a water base that allows the formula's particles to penetrate the grout.  Grout is porous, so it absorbs the sealer and then keeps the moisture out.  Penetrating sealers the the best choice for damp areas such as bathrooms and shower areas.
  • Membrane-forming grout sealers create a coating on the grout's surface that resists water penetration.  These are great for kitchen floors and backsplashes, but they aren't good for bathrooms because they won't allow water that's trapped underneath the tile to evaporate...and this can lead to mildew.  Membrane-forming sealers are good for unglazed tiles such as natural stone.  Be aware that these grout sealers won't adhere to glazed tiles, such as most ceramics and subway tiles (they will slide off the surface).
There are 3 ways to apply grout sealer - you can paint or roll it on, or you can spray it on.  Painting and rolling is basically the same process, it just depends which type of instrument you prefer.
The brush applicator is more difficult for some because sealer doesn't feed smoothly into the brush and sometimes requires you to go back and reapply in dry areas where sealer failed to apply.

Rollers are not perfect, but many feel they are better than brushes. Sealer remains relatively close to the seam line without slopping too far over onto the tile surface.

I'm not a big fan of spraying.  It seems like it's easier, but it's really not.  You save some time in the application, but you spend way more time on cleaning the tile and you usually have residue that dries on the tile and it takes a while to get this off (and no you, you shouldn't just let it wear off naturally (as some cans may indicate).  And, because the spraying method is a bit less purposeful, sometimes areas don't get fully coated.  Plus, sometimes the spray goes where you don't want it to (e.g. walls, glass) and I'm not crazy about the aerosol and inhaling that.  I'd recommend brush or roller.

Click on my original blog post to find out the best grout sealer to use as well as the tools to make this job faster and easier.

Suggested materials:

  • Grout sealer
  • Brush applicator
  • Rags

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Debbie Gartner

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

1 question
  • Fin32712701
    on Jul 6, 2018

    I just had 3 x 6 travertine tile installed on the floor (like brick pavers). I thought the installer would wipe down the tile once the grout dried to remove the dust and seal the floor. I'm left with dust and excess grout, barely able to see the natural brown of the tile. Like whitewash, how do you clean? If you zoom in you can see the ungrouted floor and its beauty and then you can see in the background the grouted floor is almost gray in the background.

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