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Grout & Mortar

Regular & with additives

How to:

Seal | Clean | Repair | Protect
Strip & Restore | Easy Care

kitchen white grout
Grout - color and natural - cleaning and sealing Grout - color and natural - cleaning and sealing

Advantages to this material:

The great variety of colors allow for a wide spectrum of design options.
Using smaller tile pieces (3"x3" or less) creates more grout joints and that increases traction where needed.
Grout repair:
Unless sealed with one of the acid resistant sealers, do not use cleaners containing any level of acid, even citric acid. Over time these will eat away the cement paste and change the texture and color. Check out "degreasers" as a safer stain removal option.

Typically, the greatest potential problem area of any installation is not the surfacing. It is the grout. There are many problems that can occur. Some, like cracking, are usually caused by structural movement. Other common problems are batch color mismatches, food stains, acid damage, etc. All are preventable or fixable. All of these issues are covered in Problem Solving

You should review the other suggested pages referenced on this page, however, most stained grout can be repaired with a good grout restoration product. One of the greatest sources of stain problems with grout is because an installer or supplier might claim that grout does not need to be sealed. Simple logic says otherwise. If a surface (grout, stone, tile, etc.) will darken under a water drop, it will absorb a staining liquid.

Modified Grouts (with additives, waterproofers, etc.):
These can cause some problems if you are not aware that additives can remain behind on the surface face. Look for names and descriptions that include the words: poly, modified, latex, acrylic, polymer. If this happens, you need two stages of cleaning.

First use an acidic cleaner for removing the cement portion of the grout residue.

As the polymer additives do not react with that type of formula, the second step is using lacquer thinner or whatever petroleum solvent is available.

Any additive residue on the surfaces must be removed completely prior to sealing to make sure it does not interfere with the new sealer. Test with water drops and compare to unsealed grout. If there is a noticeable difference, treat the situation along the guidelines found in the Problem Solving section on the page Redoing a Previously Sealed Surface! This is because any additive residue remaining in or on the surfacing is identical to the condition of some sealer left below the surface after stripping.

Note: the same condition can occur from polymer type setting materials also, if the installation of the tile got to be a messy process and setting material got on the tile face.

As mentioned above, some manufacturer's of these grouts market them as "waterproof" and therefore, not needing to be sealed. This is because of the additives used in the grout formulation. The problem is that the water repelling characteristics of these grouts may not last more than a few months. Unfortunately, these grouts can be tricky to seal because the "waterproofing" additives could repel a sealer until they break down a few months later, and uneven absorption characteristics can create uneven color enhancement. You have two options to deal with this:

Seal the grout as soon as dry.
Or test the grout every 2 months until the additives have broken down enough to allow a water drop to darken underneath. At that point the grout is able to absorb a sealer enough to get it protected properly, but test thoroughly. If absorption is uneven, it is best to choose a non-color enhancing sealer so the final color is uniform.

Installing Grout:
If the tile surface will trap grout: (all but the slickest finish will do this to some degree) Do not pre-seal (seal before grouting)!
Instead, prevent grout smears, surface scratching and keep grout residue out of any surface texture characteristics, prevent grout "additive" residue - by coating with a grout release before grouting. These are a non-sealer water soluble coating that comes off easily while grout is being cleaned up the normal way with water and a sponge.

Grout is a cement product. Overuse of acidic cleaners can remove the top layer of cement paste and change the look to a more grainy appearance with emphasized sand particles. If it is too late and there is grout residue to be removed - use a non-acidic cleaner or an acidic cleaner greatly diluted.

To see what to do for many of the common problems with grout, see Problem Solving

Your Choices for Sealing

A main consideration may be what is the easiest sealer to clean overflow off the face of the surfacing. If so, consider a water base penetrating sealer with no gloss.

Our suggestions to test are:
  • Water based penetrating that is usually invisible when dry.
  • Click here to see What effects you can expect from each sealer type.

  • Click here to see our suggested sealers, cleaners, and application tools.
Most people have no idea about the history and characteristics of their flooring. You can click this link to see how to easily test with water drops and understand which sealer is most appropriate for your goals.

Some questions you may not be thinking to ask right now that could become important:
    . Was it sealed in the past? Does that matter?
    . Will a new sealer be compatible with whatever was used before?
    . What sealer will give the visual results you want?
    . Will you also be able to have a sealer solve problem(s)? ( Answer: yes. Just know which to pick.)

Items of Interest

How to select a sealer
To select a sealer it is good to have some idea of the absorption rate so you achieve the gloss level (none to high) and all the other benefits available without using more sealer than necessary. Also, you can test for (and protect against) acidic liquid sensitivity.

A sealer can do far more than just bead water and look pretty! To see what that is click here.

Important: If your project has had any sealer applied in the past, it must be evaluated differently. To see why, Click here!

Sealer "solids" levels?
This discussion applies only to the petroleum solvent based sealers. With the water based sealers, solids level is not a consideration.

A porous surface will require more gallons (more money) of a lower solids sealer than using a higher solids level sealer. That, plus different surfaces have different requirements. It is only a matter of which is best for your needs.
The more porous the surface, the more solids will be required to achieve the desired effects of gloss, strengthening, stopping efflorescence, etc.

The more porous the surface, generally the greater the need for the sealer to create a stronger surface.

An old sealer below the surface, even after stripping, will lower the absorption and porosity to some degree. Sometimes it is uneven below the surface and can create an uneven coloring effect with a color enhancing sealer applied later. Another reason to test first.

Do not believe yet that you have the type of surfacing you were told:
There is no need for confusion or problems brought about by misidentification of a surface type, yet it happens all too often. Sellers use fancy marketing names that can be misleading about the true nature of a surfacing. For instance, a customer was told they bought "Petite Granite" for a bar surface. But, unlike granite it was etching circles from wine drips. After simple testing, it proved to be a limestone which is treated very differently than granite. It was easily restored and protected after a 60 second test. Please review our "Surface Types" page to compare pictures, descriptions, and testing if needed, to confirm you have what you were told.

Colors fading?
The iron oxide pigments used in concrete products, and the colored clays in clay products, do not fade . The appearance of fading is actually from tiny efflorescence particles (white powder) in the pores. It can be removed and color restored with a good efflorescence cleaner and then stopped from returning, and color restored, by sealing with the appropriate "color enhancing" sealer.

Renew a glossy finish
Re: "penetrating sealers": do not apply thin layer upon thin layer. Apply a sufficient quantity to insure below surface penetration & bonding. A layer of sealer on top of another layer of sealer can result in poor bonding between layers and that can cause separation peeling that looks grayish.

Concerned about Doing It Yourself or what your contractor says?
If you are concerned about doing it yourself - consider that the satisfaction of a project is directly related to YOUR knowledge of what needs to be done and how. Who actually does the work is less important.

The goal for contractors is - NO CALL BACKS. A good contractor will understand the logic of not taking shortcuts.