Installing a beautiful backsplash is an excellent way to enhance the look of any kitchen. However, without proper care and maintenance, the grout lines between the tiles can quickly become stained, discolored and unattractive. Sealing grout can help prevent this problem and keep your backsplash looking fresh and clean for years to come. Here is a detailed overview explaining why sealing grout is recommended and the steps for properly sealing grout.
What is Grout Sealer?
Grout sealer is a protective liquid coating that is applied to the grout lines between tiles. It works by sealing the pores within the grout, creating a barrier that prevents stains from penetrating into the grout.
There are two main types of grout sealer:
- Penetrating sealers – These soak deep into the grout lines and form a protective barrier within the pores. This is the most effective and long-lasting type of sealer.
- Topical sealers – These coat the outer surface of the grout lines only. The protection is not as durable compared to penetrating sealers.
When applied correctly, grout sealer makes the grout repel water, oil, grease and other contaminants. It allows the grout to be easily wiped clean without absorbing stains.
Why Seal Grout?
There are several benefits to sealing grout:
1. Prevent Staining
One of the biggest reasons to seal grout is to prevent staining. Grout is porous, meaning it has microscopic holes that can allow liquids and grime to soak in. This leads to difficult-to-remove stains that can ruin the look of your backsplash.
Applying a sealant fills in those pores with a protective barrier. Daily spills and splatters will sit on the surface of the grout instead of soaking in. This keeps the grout lines looking clean.
2. Easier to Clean
Sealed grout repels dirt, grease and other contaminants. This makes regular maintenance and cleaning much simpler. Foods and liquids will not adhere as strongly to sealed grout. Grimy buildup is less likely to form.
With sealed grout, most messes can be cleaned up with just a damp cloth or sponge and mild cleaner. No heavy scrubbing or harsh chemicals needed. Keeping your grout tidy becomes quicker and easier.
3. Reduce Mold and Mildew Growth
The porous nature of unsealed grout also makes it prone to growing mold and mildew. Dampness seeps into the pores, creating the perfect environment for mold spores to thrive.
Sealing the grout prevents moisture from penetrating the surface. This deprives mold of the damp conditions it needs to form. It also allows the grout to fully dry out after getting wet.
Regular sealing is an effective way to discourage mold growth on grout lines in bathrooms, kitchens and other damp areas.
4. Lengthen Grout Life
Exposed to daily wear and tear, unsealed grout can begin to crumble and deteriorate prematurely. The sealant adds a protective layer that extends the lifespan of the grout.
It prevents damages caused by repeated exposure to moisture and common household products. Sealed grout stays intact and looks fresher for longer compared to unsealed grout.
5. Enhance Appearance
Staining, mildew and cracking all detract from the appearance of grout lines. Sealing provides a shield against these problems.
It keeps the grout looking clean, uniform and vibrant. Your tiled backsplash maintains its visual appeal instead of becoming an eyesore. The sealant can also enhance color consistency between grout lines.
For any backsplash, sealed grout is key to maintaining the beauty and integrity of the design.
When Should Grout be Sealed?
It is highly recommended to seal grout during new tile installations. Apply the sealer to fresh grout once the installation is complete and before the area is put into use.
Sealing new grout has several benefits:
- The sealant will penetrate deeply into unsoiled grout for maximum protection.
- It prevents staining and damage right from the start.
- Allows an easier initial clean up after grouting is finished.
- Locks in the original color of the grout.
Previously installed grout should be sealed as part of routine maintenance. Re-apply sealant as needed to supplement previous applications. Check grout lines periodically for signs of wear, staining or water absorption. Reseal any areas that appear to need fresh sealant.
For high traffic areas such as kitchens, bathrooms and entryways, plan to reseal the grout every 1-2 years. Less used backsplashes may only need resealing every 3-5 years.
Signs Grout Needs Resealing
Watch for these cues that existing grout needs a fresh sealant application:
- Grout appears dingy, discolored or darkened.
- Stains easily soak into the grout.
- Dampness lingers on grout lines after wiping.
- Grout seems powdery and crumbles easily.
- Existing sealant feels uneven or worn.
- Mold or mildew begins forming in grout joints.
- Ground-in dirt difficult to remove from grout.
How to Seal Grout
Sealing grout is a relatively simple DIY project. Here are the basic steps:
You will need:
- Grout sealer – Use a penetrating sealer for best results
- Clean cloths
- Small paintbrush or sealant applicator
- Masking tape (optional)
- Bucket of warm water
- Mild detergent or degreaser
- Clean bucket and sponge
Clean the Grout
Proper sealing relies on having completely clean grout. Remove any dirt, grime or existing sealant:
- Sweep or vacuum up any loose debris.
- Mix detergent with warm water in a bucket. Dip a sponge and wring it nearly dry.
- Scrub grout lines to remove residues and soils. Work in small sections.
- Rinse sponge and wipe area with clean water.
- Allow grout to fully dry before sealing.
Apply the Sealer
Follow the product directions to correctly apply the sealer:
- Mask off any areas you don’t want to seal using painter’s tape.
- Shake or stir sealer thoroughly before using.
- Apply a thin, even layer of sealer directly onto grout lines using the paintbrush or applicator.
- Let sealer penetrate for 5-10 minutes.
- Wipe away all excess sealer with a clean cloth. Avoid contact with the tile surfaces.
- A second coat may be needed for porous or heavily worn grout.
- Remove painter’s tape immediately after application.
- Allow sealer to cure fully before use, usually 24-48 hours.
To keep your sealed grout looking its best:
- Sweep or mop tiles regularly to prevent dirt buildup. Use mild cleaners and avoid harsh chemicals.
- Watch for signs of wear and reapply sealer as needed.
- Reseal grout lines every 1-2 years for highly used areas.
Proper sealing and maintenance will keep your backsplash’s grout lines protected for years to come.
Frequently Asked Questions About Sealing Grout
Should all tile grout be sealed?
Sealing is highly recommended for any grout that is exposed to frequent moisture and traffic. Kitchen backsplashes, bathrooms, laundry rooms, entryways and outdoor areas will benefit the most from sealing. Less utilized areas may not need regular sealing.
Can I use a grout sealer on sanded caulk?
Sanded caulk has properties similar to sanded grout, meaning a penetrating sealer can also be effective. Make sure the caulk has fully cured first. Follow the same sealing process used for grout lines.
How long does grout sealer last?
With proper application, penetrating grout sealers generally last 1-5 years depending on usage and exposure. Topical sealers may only last months. Check grout lines periodically and touch up any areas that need it.
Should I seal grout before or after cleaning?
Seal grout only after thoroughly cleaning and drying the lines. Sealing soiled grout will lock in stains and dirt. Make sure old sealant residue is also removed before resealing.
Can I apply sealer to discolored grout?
Severely stained or discolored grout will need to be cleaned and possibly re-grouted prior to sealing. Sealing over stains is not effective. For mild stains, vigorously scrub with baking soda or oxygen bleach before sealing.
How long should I wait before sealing new grout?
It’s best to seal grout once it has cured for the time specified by the grout manufacturer. Typically 24-48 hours. Sealing too soon can lead to a poor seal.
Sealing your backsplash grout is a simple, inexpensive way to keep it looking pristine for years. Periodic resealing will maintain the integrity and appearance of the grout against common damages. With proper care, your beautiful backsplash will continue looking like new.
Regular sealing of grout lines is highly recommended for any backsplash. Using a penetrating grout sealer provides a protective barrier that prevents staining, dirt buildup, and mold growth. It allows for easier cleaning and extends the life of the grout. Newly installed grout should be sealed right away, and existing grout should be resealed every 1-2 years depending on usage. With periodic reapplication, sealing grout is an effective maintenance step to keep your backsplash looking fresh, clean and colorfast for years of beauty and enjoyment.