Buyer’s Guide: Grout Sealers
To protect tile installations with a grout sealer, start with our guide to navigating the options—and don't miss our roundup of top-favorite picks among the best grout sealer options available.
Applying a high-quality, long-lasting grout sealer is one of the best ways to protect tile installations from water, dirt, oil and mold. Ahead, we’ve outlined the key considerations to bear in mind and offered details on our top-pick favorites among the best grout sealer options available.
- BEST OVERALL: Aqua Mix Sealer’s Choice Gold
- BEST ECO PICK: SafeCoat Grout Sealer
- ALSO CONSIDER: Miracle Sealants 511 Impregnator
Before Sealing, Know Your Surface
Grout comes in two main varieties, one of which isn’t porous and doesn’t require sealing. So first thing first, determine the type of grout you’re dealing with.
- Cement-based sanded grout is an adhesive mixture of water, cement, and sand that fills in the gaps between tiles. This combination of natural compounds is porous, making sanded grout susceptible to water and grease damage, dirt, mold, and even bacteria. Here, a grout sealer is a must to cover or plug those microscopic spaces and keep your grout clean and fresh.
- In epoxy-based unsanded grout, epoxy resins are combined with filler powders to create an extremely tight bond. This provides certain advantages over cement-based grout: It’s non-porous and easily cleaned, very durable, and almost stain-proof—all without requiring a grout sealer. That said, it’s not perfect. Its disadvantages include its artificial, almost plastic appearance; hard-to-remove grout haze; and pricier installation.
Selecting a Sealer Type
Non-penetrating grout sealer.
If you’re looking for a layer of basic protection from an easy-to-apply solution, a non-penetrating sealer (also called a “surface coating”) may be right for you. Non-penetrating grout sealers will protect kitchen floors and backsplashes from moderate water exposure, dirt, and grease. (Areas that are exposed to a lot of water—bathrooms, tubs, and showers—will be better protected by a penetrating product, described below.) This type of sealer must be reapplied every year or two and often won’t adhere to glazed tiles, so it’s a great fit for grout used with unglazed tiles and natural stone.
Penetrating grout sealer.
To prevent long-term water, mildew, and oil damage—especially on grout surrounded by denser, less porous surfaces—you’ll more likely want to choose a penetrating grout sealer (or “impregnating sealer”). Look for a product that (a) is designed for your tile material (natural stone, ceramic, porcelain, etc.) and (b) provides a natural-looking finish without unintentionally changing the color or texture of the grout or surrounding tile. An impregnator typically protects grout for a minimum of three to five years.
Penetrating sealers come in colorless and color options, the latter of which may lessen visible stains or discoloration in your grout. Unlike grout paint or dye, a color sealer penetrates the pores in sanded grout, helping protect it from future water damage while working to restore the original grout color.
Solvent-based sealers contain heavy chemicals that can be harmful if inhaled or ingested. To minimize exposure to such chemicals as formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and petroleum distillates, consider wearing protective gloves and a safety mask then applying a solvent-based sealer. As well, avoid exposing this type of grout sealer to heat and/ or fire.
Water-based sealers offer a strong safe alternative. According to the North American Tile Cleaning Organization, these water-based grout sealers have lower VOC levels and are generally more effective than their solvent-based counterparts.
The Right Applicator for Your Surface Size
When it’s time to apply a grout sealer, make sure you use enough product—at least two coats. You can apply grout sealer with a sponge, though some products come with a roller-brush applicator or spray nozzle. For precision work, smaller brush applicator tips may be your best bet.
What Expenses to Expect
On average, you’ll typically pay between $.80 and $1.50 per square foot of product used to protect grout. High-performance, lower cost grout sealers do exist, with a variety of applicator styles and formulas to choose from, but expect to pay at least $13 to $15 per quart—call it a small investment for the time you’ll save not scrubbing grout later on.
Our Top Picks
BEST OVERALL: Aqua Mix Sealer’s Choice Gold
For reliable quality, consider AquaMix Sealer’s Choice Gold, a low-VOC, water-based formula that’s excellent for sanded grout. It’s easy to use and dries to a crystal-clear finish. A 16-ounce bottle will cover between 37 and 187 sq. ft. of standard grout lines.
ECO PICK: SafeCoat Grout Sealer
Able to last as long as five years on interior grout (and three years on exterior grout), SafeCoat Grout Sealer is a formaldehyde-free clear liquid that coats and moderately penetrates porous tile grout and other cementitious surfaces—without changing the grout’s color or texture. A 32-ounce bottle covers approximately 75 sq. ft. of standard grout lines.
ALSO CONSIDER: Miracle Sealants 511 Impregnator
Whether your grout lies indoors or out, durable Miracle Sealants 511 Impregnator can provide multiple years of water, stain, and slip protection, without altering the natural look of the grout. A 32-ounce bottle will cover about 125 sq. ft.