Marble is a beautiful and luxurious material commonly used for kitchen backsplashes. However, marble requires some special care and maintenance to keep it looking its best. One question that often comes up is whether you need to seal a marble backsplash. The short answer is yes – sealing is highly recommended for marble backsplashes. Sealing creates a protective barrier that prevents stains from penetrating the stone. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about sealing a marble backsplash.
What Is Sealing?
Sealing is the process of applying a protective liquid coating to the surface of natural stone. The sealer soaks into the pores of the stone, acting as a barrier against water, oils, and acidic substances that can stain or etch the marble.
Sealers come in different formulations:
- Impregnating sealers – These penetrate below the stone’s surface and don’t leave a coating or sheen on top. They won’t alter the natural look of the marble.
- Topical sealers – These leave a thin protective coating on the surface that creates a glossy sheen. Topical sealers need to be reapplied periodically as they will wear away over time.
For most marble backsplashes, an impregnating sealer is recommended as it won’t change the natural matte finish of the stone.
Why Seal a Marble Backsplash?
There are a few key reasons to seal a marble backsplash:
1. Prevent staining – Marble is porous and can easily soak up stains from foods, drinks, oils, and other household substances. A sealer prevents absorption and makes stains easy to wipe away instead of penetrating into the stone.
2. Reduce etching – Acidic substances like lemon juice, vinegar, and wine can etch (dissolve) the surface of marble and leave a dull mark. Sealing limits the etching damage.
3. Ease maintenance – Sealing makes routine cleaning much simpler since fewer stains bond with the marble’s surface. Wiping with a damp cloth is often all that’s needed to keep your backsplash looking like new.
4. Retain natural beauty – Sealing protects the luster and polished finish of marble from wear and tear. An unsealed backsplash often becomes dull and stained over time.
5. Increase longevity – By preventing stains, etching, and general weathering, sealing helps preserve the backsplash so you can enjoy it for years to come.
For expensive natural stone like marble, sealing is a worthwhile investment to safeguard its beauty and quality.
What Are the Signs It’s Time to Seal?
How do you know when to seal your marble backsplash? Here are some telltale signs it’s time for a new application of sealer:
- Stains are starting to set into the stone rather than wiping clean.
- Lemon juice or other acidic foods leave dull spots or light etches.
- Water beads and sits on the surface rather than absorbing quickly.
- The marble has lost its shine and luster in areas.
- It’s been over a year since the last sealing application.
Sealing should be done as a preventative measure before signs of damage appear. For heavy use kitchens, sealing yearly or even twice a year is a good idea. For lighter use, every 2-3 years is sufficient.
What Type of Sealer Is Best?
For marble backsplashes, impregnating sealers are almost always the best choice:
Silicone-based impregnating sealers soak deep into marble pores for long-lasting protection. Top brands like Miracle Sealants 511 Impregnator provide excellent stain repellency with a natural look. Silicones don’t alter the slip resistance of stone floors, making them a popular choice for shower walls as well.
Fluorochemical (fluropolymer) impregnators also provide durable subsurface protection without changing the natural appearance. Dry Treat Stain Proof is a leading fluorochemical sealer for natural stone and masonry.
Acrylics and Urethanes
Water-based acrylics and urethanes are cheaper DIY-friendly options. However, they tend to have shorter lifespans than silicones and fluorochemicals, requiring more frequent reapplication. Their moisture resistance is also not as strong.
No matter which type you choose, look for a sealer specifically formulated for natural stone and marble. Avoid sealers designed for grout only.
How to Apply Sealer to a Marble Backsplash
Sealing a marble backsplash is a relatively simple process, but proper application is key. Follow these best practices:
1. Clean and Dry the Surface
The marble must be clean before sealing, so dirt and residues don’t get sealed underneath. Use a non-acidic stone cleaner (like an enzymatic cleaner) and thoroughly rinse away any cleaner residue. Let the backsplash dry completely for 24-48 hours before sealing.
2. Tape and Mask Off Areas
Use painter’s tape to cover any surfaces not being sealed, like countertops, cabinets, and flooring. Plastic sheets or drop cloths can also protect larger areas. Masking prevents sealer drips and overspray.
3. Read and Follow Manufacturer Instructions
Not all sealers apply the same way. Read the product directions to understand correct application methods, drying times, number of coats, and any special requirements.
4. Apply the Sealer
Using a paintbrush, foam applicator, or spray bottle, apply the sealer according to the product instructions. Fully saturate the marble, keeping the surface wet for a few minutes so it can fully penetrate. Thoroughly coat all grout lines as well.
5. Wipe Off Excess
After several minutes, wipe off any sealer that didn’t absorb using clean, dry microfiber cloths. Wipe gently to avoid rubbing off sealer within the stone. Thoroughly buff off the entire surface.
6. Allow Proper Curing Time
Most impregnating sealers take 24-72 hours to fully cure. Avoid water exposure during this time. Some brands also require a second application, so check requirements.
And that’s it! Properly sealed marble stays protected for years. Be sure to reseal as needed when you notice signs of wear.
How long does sealer last on a marble backsplash?
On a backsplash with moderate use, an impregnating sealer can last 2-5 years before reapplying. Topical sealers wear away faster, sometimes within months.
Does sealing prevent all stains?
No sealer can prevent staining 100%, especially from strong chemicals. But it will make the marble far more stain resistant compared to unsealed marble.
Does sealing a backsplash make it shiny?
Impregnating sealers don’t affect the natural matte finish. Topical sealers add a temporary glossy sheen that wears over time.
Can I use a grout sealer on marble?
No, grout sealers are only designed for porous grout. Use a natural stone impregnating sealer formulated for marble instead.
How long should I wait to use the backsplash after sealing?
Curing times vary by products, but play it safe by waiting 24-48 hours before use, avoiding water exposure. Check the sealer directions.
Do I need to seal marble before or after grouting?
Seal the marble prior to grouting. The grout lines will get sealed when you apply the sealer.
How often should I reseal my marble backsplash?
For high use kitchen backsplashes, resealing yearly is a good idea. For low use bathrooms or accent walls, every 2-3 years can suffice.
Caring for a Sealed Marble Backsplash
Sealing is only half the battle. Proper maintenance and cleaning preserves your backsplash for the long run:
- For routine cleaning, use a soft microfiber cloth with warm water and mild pH-neutral cleaner. Avoid abrasive pads or scrubbing.
- Rinse with clean water after cleaning and dry with a soft towel to prevent water spots.
- Immediately wipe up spills – don’t let them sit and absorb.
- Avoid using acidic or harsh cleaners like vinegar, bleach, or alkaline-based soaps.
- Reseal the marble at least every 2-3 years, or whenever you notice signs of wear.
- Use trivets and hot pads under hot pans and dishes to prevent thermal shock.
With the right sealing and maintenance regimen, your stunning marble backsplash will withstand the rigors of a busy kitchen for a lifetime of beauty!
Marble Backsplash Maintenance Checklist
- Initial sealing upon installation
- Resealing every 1-2 years
- Use microfiber cloths for daily wipe-downs
- Clean spills immediately
- Avoid harsh cleaners like bleach
- Never use acidic cleaners like vinegar
- Use trivets for hot items
- Check for signs of wear indicating time to reseal
Enhance Backsplash Beauty With Proper Sealing
A marble backsplash brings timeless elegance and luxury into any kitchen or bath. Taking time to properly seal and care for natural stone ensures it retains its beauty while withstanding decades of use. Keep this comprehensive sealing guide on hand whenever you install a new marble backsplash.
Be sure to use an impregnating sealer formulated for natural stone. Apply it thoroughly to all marble surfaces and grout lines. Buff off any excess once dry. Reseal as needed over time. Follow these best practices for sealing and maintenance to get the most enjoyment from your investment in marble backsplashes.