A kitchen backsplash serves both decorative and practical purposes. Made from tile, glass, metal or other materials, it protects the wall from water damage while also adding visual interest to your kitchen design. However, unsealed backsplashes can absorb stains over time. Applying a sealer creates a protective barrier that prevents this absorption, while enhancing the backsplash’s color and shine.
Sealing a new backsplash is a crucial step in the installation process. For existing backsplashes, periodic resealing helps maintain their appearance and function. With the right sealer and application technique, you can create a long-lasting, easy-to-clean surface. This comprehensive guide will teach you everything you need to know about how to apply sealer to backsplash for optimal results.
Choose the Right Sealer for Your Backsplash
The first step is selecting an appropriate sealer for your specific backsplash material. Using the wrong type of sealer can lead to a poor seal, or even damage. Consider the following sealer options for common backsplash types:
Tile Backsplash Sealers
For natural stone tile like granite, marble or travertine, a penetrating stone sealer is best. These soak into the stone, sealing pores and preventing staining without altering the surface appearance. Popular brands include Miracle Sealants 511 Impregnator and TileLab SurfaceGard.
Ceramic and porcelain tile backsplashes require a surface sealer that adheres to the glazed tile surface. This type commonly uses silicone or acrylic. Aqua Mix and Custom Building Products both make reliable tile sealers.
Glass Backsplash Sealers
Unsealed glass backsplashes stain easily from water spots and grease splatter. A quality glass sealer fills in microscopic pits in the surface, enabling easy cleaning. Try products like Hope’s Perfect Glass Sealer or Glass Sealer by Black Diamond.
Metal Backsplash Sealers
Metal backsplashes like copper, stainless steel, or aluminum benefit from a protective sealant made for that specific metal type. For instance, Minwax Metal Sealant guards copper against oxidation, while a formulated stainless steel sealer prevents water stains and corrosion.
Other Specialty Backsplash Materials
For unique backsplash materials like quartzite, limestone or concrete, consult the manufacturer’s care instructions for sealing recommendations. Water-based silicone sealants often work well for composites and natural stone. Perform a spot test first to ensure compatibility.
Prepare Your Backsplash for Sealing
After selecting an appropriate sealer, proper prep work helps ensure it adheres well:
- Clean the backsplash thoroughly with a non-abrasive cleaner. Remove any grease, soap residue, or existing waxes which can impede sealer penetration.
- Allow the backsplash to fully dry. Sealing wet or damp surfaces prevents the sealer from properly soaking in.
- Mask off any areas you want to avoid sealing, like countertops or floors. Apply painter’s tape around the outer edges of the backsplash.
- For new grout, allow it to cure fully before sealing, generally 7-10 days.
- Follow any special prep directions from the sealer manufacturer, like acid-etching for some tiles.
Proper prep allows for optimal sealer coverage across the entire backsplash surface.
Apply the Sealer Correctly
Always read and follow the product directions for application. In general:
- Use a paintbrush, paint roller, or clean rag to apply a thin, even coat across the entire backsplash surface.
- For penetrating sealers, thoroughly wet the surface and allow time for it to soak in, then wipe off any excess.
- Allow the sealer to fully cure per manufacturer directions, often 24-48 hours. The surface should be completely dry to the touch.
- For additional protection, apply a second thin coat following the same steps.
- Work carefully from the top down to avoid drips. Maintain a wet edge and spread sealer smoothly.
- Thoroughly rinse brushes and equipment with water afterward. Promptly wipe up any sealer drips or spills.
Sealer coverage depends on the product, but is typically 100-400 square feet per quart. Avoid applying too much sealer, which can leave a shiny film or cause puddles. Careful application provides a satin, natural look.
Maintain and Reapply Sealer Over Time
Sealers are not permanent. Over time, exposure to moisture, cleaning chemicals and daily wear will gradually break down the protective barrier. To maintain the backsplash:
- Use mild cleaners, avoiding anything too abrasive or alkaline.
- Rinse well after cleaning to remove any chemical residues.
- Immediately wipe up spills to prevent stains.
- Reapply sealer yearly or as directed by the manufacturer. Look for signs of deterioration like fading color, water absorption or difficult stain removal.
- Reseal any cracks or chips as soon as they appear to prevent water getting behind the surface.
With proper care and maintenance, a sealed backsplash will stay protected and vibrant for many years before needing resealing.
Tips for a Flawless Backsplash Sealing Process
Follow these tips for best practices when how to apply sealer to backsplash:
- Seal backsplashes before installation for optimal coverage, especially for natural stone.
- On tile, apply sealer in a circular motion following the grout lines.
- Allow new grout installations to cure fully before sealing.
- Shake or stir sealers thoroughly before applying for maximum effectiveness.
- Wipe up all sealer drips immediately to prevent shiny spots.
- When resealing, thoroughly strip the old sealer first for proper adhesion.
- During application, ventilate the area well and follow any safety precautions.
- Hire a professional if unsure about selecting or applying the right sealer for your backsplash.
Common Questions About Sealing Backsplashes
Still have questions about the sealing process? These commonly asked questions provide helpful answers:
Does all backsplash tile need to be sealed?
Porous, natural stone tiles require sealing to prevent staining and damage. However, glazed ceramic and porcelain tiles do not require sealing for water resistance, only for ease of cleaning.
How long does backsplash sealer last?
Most quality sealers will last 1-5 years before requiring reapplication. Penetrating sealers tend to have greater longevity than surface film-forming types.
Can you use grout sealer on backsplash tile?
Tile and grout sealers are formulated differently. For backsplash tile, use a sealant made specifically for that material to avoid potential issues with bonding and appearance.
What’s the difference between sealing and waxing a backsplash?
Sealers soak into the pores on natural stone or bond to surfaces like ceramic tile. Waxes merely coat the outer surface and require more frequent reapplication. Always use the product designed for your backsplash material.
Should I seal backsplash tile before or after grouting?
Ideally, seal the tile prior to installation. If sealing after grouting, allow the grout to cure fully first. Protect grout from sealant by taping off joint lines.
How do I know if my backsplash needs resealing?
Signs like water absorption, stains setting in, damage around grout lines or overall faded appearance indicate a backsplash needs fresh sealer. Streaks appear when water is applied.
Can I use a sealer on painted backsplash?
Yes, use an acrylic sealer formulated for painted surfaces. It adds a protective, easily cleanable layer while enhancing painted colors.
Properly sealing your kitchen backsplash helps prevent damage, stains and wear over time. By selecting the right sealer and applying it carefully, you can maintain the beauty and functionality of your backsplash for years before needing to reseal. Follow the recommendations here for how to properly apply sealer to backsplash in both new installations and periodic resealing of existing backsplashes. With this helpful guide, you can complete the sealing process like a pro.
Sealing your backsplash is an important process that helps maintain its appearance and extend its lifespan. By using the appropriate sealer for your backsplash material, preparing the surface properly, applying it carefully and conducting occasional resealing, you can achieve maximum protection with a beautiful, professional result. With the knowledge gained here for how to apply sealer to backsplash, you can tackle any sealing project confidently.