Do You Need to Seal Ceramic Tile Backsplash?

Installing a ceramic tile backsplash can add style and protection to your kitchen. But once the tiles are up, many homeowners wonder if they need to apply any sort of sealant. Here’s what you need to know about sealing ceramic tile backsplashes.

What is a Ceramic Tile Backsplash?

A backsplash is a vertical surface, usually positioned behind a sink, stove, or countertop, that protects the wall from water damage, stains, and splatters. Backsplashes are commonly made from ceramic or porcelain tile. These tiles are adhered to the wall surface using thinset mortar.

Ceramic and porcelain tiles are very durable and resistant to water. Glazed ceramic tiles have a glass-like coating fused to the surface, making them impervious to moisture. Unglazed tiles absorb almost no water as well.

Do You Need to Seal Ceramic Tile?

In most cases, sealing a ceramic tile backsplash is not necessary. Here’s why:

  • Ceramic and porcelain tiles are non-porous. When installed properly, water and oils cannot penetrate the surface. This means sealing is not required to prevent stains.
  • The grout needs sealing, not the tiles. Grout is porous and will absorb liquids. But a grout sealer is typically applied after installation.
  • Sealing may change the look of the tiles. A surface sealer can darken the color and create a shiny, plastic-like sheen. Many homeowners prefer the natural look of unsealed tiles.
  • Sealers wear away over time. Sealers are not permanent. They require reapplication every 1-2 years. Skipping this step leads to a uneven look.

So in most cases, sealing ceramic or porcelain backsplash tiles is an unnecessary step that changes the natural look of the tiles.

When You Should Seal a Tile Backsplash

There are a few instances when sealing a ceramic tile backsplash could be beneficial:

  • If using unglazed, porous tiles like natural stone or saltillo. These tiles can absorb moisture and staining.
  • If the tiles have noticeable pores or pitting. Sealing will help fill small holes and crevices vulnerable to stains.
  • In bathrooms if concerned about moisture seeping into grout lines. Applying a penetrating sealer protects the grout.
  • For heavily used backsplashes near stoves. Sealant provides an added layer of protection from oil splatters.
  • If regularly using harsh cleaners on the tiles. A sealer prevents chemicals from soaking into the porous grout.

Even in these situations, sealing is still an optional step. Properly installed ceramic and porcelain tiles hold up well without sealants.

How to Seal a Ceramic Tile Backsplash

If you choose to seal your ceramic tile backsplash, follow these steps:

Clean the Surface

Use a tile cleaner to remove any dirt, oils, or soap scum. Rinse thoroughly and let the tiles dry completely.

Apply the Sealer

Use a sealant formulated for glazed ceramic and porcelain tiles. A penetrating or impregnating sealer works best as it soaks into the pores without altering the surface appearance.

Apply a thin layer using a paintbrush, roller, or sponge. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes before wiping away any excess. Allow to fully cure for 24-48 hours.

Re-apply as Needed

Expect to reseal the backsplash every 1-2 years depending on use. Regular maintenance cleaning should not remove the sealant. Look for signs of staining or darkening grout to determine when to reapply.

Maintaining a Ceramic Tile Backsplash

Basic maintenance is required whether your backsplash is sealed or unsealed. Follow these tips:

  • Use a gentle tile cleaner for routine washing. Avoid harsh chemicals.
  • Rinse soap and grime from the tiles after each use to prevent buildup.
  • Re-seal the grout if it becomes stained or discolored.
  • Immediately wipe up any food, grease or oil spills on the backsplash.
  • Use a grout brush to scrub dirt and debris from grout lines.

Proper installation and regular cleaning are the best ways to keep your ceramic tile backsplash looking new. Sealing is an optional extra step for added protection.

FAQs About Sealing Ceramic Tile Backsplash

Should I seal a ceramic tile backsplash in my kitchen?

Sealing a glazed ceramic tile backsplash in the kitchen is usually unnecessary. The glass-like glaze prevents moisture and stains from penetrating the tiles. Focus on sealing the grout instead for added protection.

What kind of sealer is best for ceramic tile?

Look for a penetrating or impregnating sealer formulated for use on ceramic and porcelain tiles. This type of sealer soaks into pores without altering the appearance. Topical sealers leave a shiny coating that can discolor tiles.

How long does a sealer last on a backsplash?

A sealer on a backsplash typically lasts 1-2 years with proper maintenance. The lifespan depends on the type of sealer applied and how often the backsplash is used/cleaned. Reapply as needed based on the appearance of the grout.

Should I seal a ceramic tile backsplash before or after grouting?

It’s best to apply a sealer to ceramic backsplash tiles after grouting. The grout needs to fully cure first, usually about 72 hours. Sealing before grouting seals the tiles but leaves the grout vulnerable to stains.

Can I use a granite sealer on ceramic backsplash tiles?

You can, but it’s better to choose a sealer formulated specifically for glazed ceramic and porcelain. A granite sealer may not penetrate or bond effectively to the smooth, glassy surface of ceramic tiles.


Ceramic and porcelain backsplash tiles are durable, water-resistant, and unlikely to stain when properly installed. This makes sealing typically unnecessary. Focus on sealing the grout instead to prevent stains and discoloration.

Only consider applying a penetrating ceramic tile sealer if using very porous tiles, in bathrooms with excess moisture, or around stoves where oil splatter is common. Resealing will be required every 1-2 years. With routine care and cleaning, your beautiful backsplash can stay looking new for years to come.