How to Seal Tile Backsplash


Installing a tile backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom can greatly enhance the look and feel of the space. However, it’s important to properly seal the grout between the tile to protect it from moisture, stains, mildew and damage. Sealing your tile backsplash will help it last for many years to come.

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the entire process of sealing a tile backsplash, from choosing the right sealer to properly applying it. We’ll also provide tips on how often you should reapply sealant to keep your backsplash looking fresh. Follow these steps and you’ll have a sealed tile backsplash that withstands the test of time.

Choose the Right Sealer for Your Tile

The first step in sealing your tile backsplash is selecting the proper sealer for the job. You’ll want to use a sealer specifically designed for the type of tile you used. Here are some of the most common types of tile sealers:

Stone Sealers

If you used a natural stone tile like granite, marble, travertine or slate, you’ll want to use a stone tile sealer. Look for a sealer designed for the specific type of stone. Stone sealers soak into the pores to prevent staining and etching.

Porcelain and Ceramic Tile Sealers

For porcelain, ceramic or glass tile, look for an acrylic sealer formulated for these materials. Acrylics provide a protective coat to keep moisture out of the grout.

Epoxy Grout Sealers

If your tile backsplash was installed with epoxy rather than cement grout, make sure to find a sealer designed specifically for epoxy. Regular sealers won’t bond properly with epoxy.

Water-Based vs. Solvent-Based

You can also choose between water-based and solvent-based sealers. Water-based is lower in odor and VOC’s, while solvent-based is longer lasting. For a backsplash, water-based is usually sufficient.

Always check the manufacturer’s recommendations to make sure you choose the right sealer for the specific tile used. Using the wrong type of sealer can result in inadequate protection or even damage.

Clean the Tile and Grout Thoroughly

Before sealing, it’s crucial to make sure your tile and grout lines are completely clean. Any dirt, residues or films left on the surface will get sealed into the grout.

Follow these steps to thoroughly clean before sealing:

  • Sweep or vacuum the tile to remove any loose debris and dirt. Pay special attention to the grout lines.
  • Mix a mild detergent like dish soap or an all-purpose cleaner with warm water in a bucket. Use a sponge or soft cloth to wash the entire surface of the tile and grout.
  • For tougher dirt or grease stains, use a grout brush, toothbrush or other small scrub brush. Apply a bit of cleaner directly to the area and scrub.
  • Rinse thoroughly with clean water and dry with a towel. Make sure no soap residue remains.
  • Check for any remaining haze or film and spot clean if needed. Use a grout haze remover if you have epoxy grout.
  • Allow the surface to dry completely before sealing. Lingering moisture will affect adhesion.

Thoroughly cleaning before sealing is a vital step. Don’t skip it!

Read the Sealer Instructions Carefully

Before starting the sealing process, read the manufacturer’s instructions from beginning to end. Pay attention to these key points:

  • Application Method – Most tile sealers are applied using a paintbrush or sponge, but check to make sure.
  • Number of Coats – Multiple thin coats are usually recommended over one thick coat. Make sure you know how many the sealer requires.
  • Drying Time – Don’t walk on the tile or get it wet until the sealer has fully cured. This may take several hours.
  • Cleanup – Use mineral spirits for cleanup with solvent-based sealers. Follow all safety precautions.
  • Ventilation – Proper ventilation is needed as most sealers have strong fumes. Work in a well-ventilated area.

Following the directions precisely will ensure you get the coverage and protection the sealer is designed to provide. Don’t take shortcuts.

Protect Surrounding Surfaces

Sealers can easily stain or splatter onto surfaces you don’t intend to seal. To protect the area:

  • Cover countertops and cabinets near the backsplash with plastic sheeting. Tape down the edges.
  • Remove any decor, curtains or other items from the area.
  • Lay drop cloths on the floor underneath the tile.
  • Cover any exposed metal fixtures like faucets with plastic.
  • Wear old clothes and shoes as sealers can drip onto them.

Shielding nearby surfaces will save you clean-up time later. It also prevents accidentally sealing items you don’t intend to.

Apply the First Coat of Sealer

Once prepared, it’s time to apply the first coat of sealer. Follow these tips for best results:

  • Use a natural bristle paintbrush or sponge mop designed for sealers.
  • Dip the applicator in the sealer and apply a thin, even coat across the tile and grout lines.
  • Start at the top and work methodically downward. Maintain a wet edge.
  • Work the sealer into the grout lines using a scrubbing motion to penetrate.
  • Avoid any pooling or puddling of excess sealer. Wipe up drips as you go.
  • Allow the first coat to dry completely, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Proper drying is critical before adding more coats.
  • Give the tile a quick buff with a dry cloth once dry. This removes any remaining residue.

Take your time with the first coat to ensure you cover all the tile and grout lines evenly and thoroughly.

Apply Additional Coats as Needed

For most tile sealers, more than one coat is recommended for best results. The number of coats depends on the type of sealer and tile porosity. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendation.

When applying additional coats:

  • Wait the recommended time between coats for proper drying.
  • Apply in a direction perpendicular to the first coat, working top to bottom again.
  • Inspect for any missed spots and ensure complete coverage.
  • Apply thinner coats instead of trying to cover in one thick coat.
  • Allow each coat to dry fully before applying the next. Rushing can ruin the seal.
  • Give a gentle buff with a dry cloth after the final coat to remove residue.

Applying multiple thin coats will provide superior protection compared to a single thick application. Don’t skimp on the coats!

Remove Any Excess Sealer

Once the final coat has dried completely, examine the tile carefully and remove any areas of excess sealer:

  • Look for pooling or puddling in the grout lines or corners. Also check for drips.
  • Use a plastic putty knife or wood stick to gently scrape away any thick blobs or drops.
  • For lighter residue, rub the areas gently with a dry cloth to remove the haze.
  • Mineral spirits on a cloth can help remove stubborn sealer film but test first.
  • Avoid abrasive scrubbing as this can damage the protective seal layer. Work slowly and gently.

It’s key to remove excess sealer from the tile surface while leaving the protective coat intact. buffing with a dry cloth is often all that is needed.

Allow Proper Cure Time

Patience is required after sealing to allow the product to fully cure:

  • Do not get the tile backsplash wet or wash it for at least 24-48 hours.
  • Avoid using the sink, appliances, or fixtures near the backsplash.
  • Keep children and pets away from the area during curing.
  • Ensure good ventilation while the sealer finishes curing. Open windows if needed.
  • Don’t replace decor, curtains or appliances until fully cured.
  • Follow all manufacturer instructions for curing time. This may be several days.

Rushing the cure time or disturbing the backsplash can compromise the sealant before it has finished hardening. Exercise caution.

Clean and Reseal Regularly

Sealing your tile backsplash is not a one-time job. To keep the grout protected, regular cleaning and resealing is essential:

  • Use only mild, pH-neutral cleaners on sealed tile. Avoid bleach, ammonia or acidic cleaners.
  • Clean spills quickly to prevent stains. Foods and liquids can still penetrate over time.
  • Inspect the grout lines occasionally for signs of wear, damage or dark staining.
  • Reapply sealer every 1-3 years depending on traffic, wear and usage.
  • For high traffic kitchens, resealing yearly may be needed.
  • If water or oil stops beading on the surface, it likely needs resealing.
  • Follow all the same preparation and application steps when resealing.

Continued maintenance is vital to keeping your tile backsplash sealed and protected for the long run. Be diligent about upkeep.

Tips for Applying Sealer Properly

Here are some additional pointers to get the best results from sealing your tile backsplash:

  • Only apply sealer when temperatures are between 50-90°F. Avoid cold, humid days.
  • Work in a well-ventilated room. Turn on fans and open windows to allow fumes to escape.
  • Use smooth strokes and avoid over-brushing when applying. Gentle is better.
  • Apply an even coat across all grout lines and tile. Don’t leave any spots unfinished.
  • Have a damp cloth ready to wipe up any drips that occur.
  • Pour sealer into a paint tray rather than dipping the brush into the container.
  • Follow all manufacturer instructions precisely for drying times, coats needed, etc.
  • Be patient during application and curing! Slow and steady is key for sealant success.

Careful attention to detail during the sealing process will provide long-lasting results and protection for your backsplash.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does sealer last on a backsplash?

On average, expect to reseal a backsplash every 1-3 years. Higher traffic areas may need it yearly. Know its time when water stops beading on the surface.

Should I seal before or after grouting tile?

Always seal tile after grouting. Sealing before allows sealant to get into the grout lines which prevents a proper bond.

Can I use acrylic sealer on natural stone backsplash?

No, avoid acrylics on natural stone. The acrylic film does not bond well and can discolor. Use a stone-specific sealer instead.

Do I need to seal quartz backsplash?

Quartz does not require sealing as it is non-porous. Save your time and sealer unless the manufacturer specifically recommends it

How do I remove existing sealant to reseal?

Use a sealant stripper formulated for the tile type. Test first and follow directions carefully. Alternatively sand lightly with fine grit sandpaper.

Should I seal subway tile backsplash?

Yes, sealing subway tile grout helps prevent absorption of grease, dirt and moisture. Use an acrylic sealer formulated for glazed ceramic or porcelain.

How long after sealing can I get the backsplash wet?

Avoid water or cleaning for at least 24-48 hours after sealing. Check manufacturer cure times as some may require 72 hours or more before getting wet.


Installing and caring for a tile backsplash is easy when you know how to properly seal it. Following the preparation, application and curing steps above will help your new backsplash stay protected for many years.

Be sure to use the sealer recommended for your specific tile material. A quality sealer prevents stains from penetrating the porous grout lines. Taking time to apply multiple thin coats ensures complete coverage.

Don’t forget to continue sealing and maintaining your backsplash every 1-3 years. Regular upkeep and reapplication of sealant is essential to prevent damage and deterioration over time. With the right sealer and routine care, your lovely new backsplash will maintain its beauty for the lifespan of your home.