Protecting Natural Stone Surfaces
Porous natural stone materials should be treated properly with a protective sealer and properly maintained in order for their beauty to last. This guide from NUVOCLEAN® Surface Restoration will help you get off to a good start caring for your natural stone surfaces.
Do I really need to seal my new stone surfaces?
Okay, first let’s clear up the big myth about stone sealers. You may have been told or read on line somewhere that all stone surfaces must be sealed, period. This is simply not true. While technically it is true that all natural stones are porous to some degree, the fact is that some are so dense, such as most granites, that they could be basically considered non-absorbent and are very unlikely to ever stain.
Whether or not a stone surface can benefit from applying a sealer depends on the porosity of the stone and intended use of the stone. To determine porosity we test the stone’s level of absorbency. If testing determines that a stone does not absorb water or oil, it will likely never stain and therefore does not need sealer to protect it. In fact, if the stone tests as non-absorbent, it will not be able to absorb any sealer either.
Sealing stone surfaces (and grout) is done to reduce the risk of staining and discolouration caused by soil absorption. This is very important for absorbent stones in areas like kitchens, dining rooms, or other busy high-use floors in family rooms, and of course counter tops, back splashes, bathrooms, and shower stalls. It becomes less important for non-absorbent stones or stone surfaces that will get no foot traffic or are installed in areas where there is no risk of spilling anything that might stain.
Unfortunately, instead of testing to determine if a sealer is needed, many tile and stone retailers, installers, and other industry professionals simply recommend applying stone sealers for homeowner “peace of mind”. This approach not only adds unnecessary costs to the homeowner, but can often can cause unwanted problems from sealers that do not, or can not, penetrate the stone and instead leave chemical residues on the surface. Applying a sealer to your stone surface should never be done “just to be safe.”
One of the most frustrating materials in your home to maintain are the grout lines in between the tiles on your floors, tub surrounds, or shower stalls. We do recommend that you properly seal new absorbent grout lines for stress-free floor and shower maintenance even if the stone tiles themselves are non-absorbent.
In a shower stall, the water carries dissolved particulates from the soaps and other products we use deep into unprotected absorbent stone and grout, then when the water dries it leaves behind these residues which can stain and discolour the stone and grout. The build up of this organic material over time becomes a breeding ground for mould and bacteria such as Serratia marcescens to grow and thrive.
And while ceramic or porcelain or granite tiles are usually relatively easy to clean, every time you mop your floor, the cleaning solution and the dirt from the tiles is captured by the absorbent grout lines where it soaks in, discolours the grout, and becomes almost impossible to clean.
Grout Porosity Test
Grout comes in a few different types; standard cement-based, either sanded or non-sanded, polymer-modified, urethane and epoxy. Standard cement-based grout is very absorbent and sealing is recommended. Polymer-modified grout is less absorbent than standard grout but is still absorbent and can stain without sealer. Urethane and epoxy grouts are non-absorbent and do not require sealing.
Most likely you have standard cement-based grout as it is the most commonly used type in new home construction, however a quick porosity test will determine if your grout is absorbent and should be sealed. Basically, if the grout joint readily absorbs water, the grout will benefit from being sealed.
Test by pouring a small amount of water onto the floor over a grout line (or for the shower, by spraying a generous amount of water on a test area of grout), then leave the water there for five to ten minutes, if the grout darkens and the water absorbs into the grout, it could benefit from sealing.
Properly sealed grout will repel water and does not usually change the colour of the grout at all.
Stone Porosity Test
For your natural stone surfaces, the test is basically the same, however, most stones are not as absorbent as standard grout so make sure to leave the test water on the surface for a full 10 minutes.
However, some of these less absorbent stones may still absorb cooking oils even if they did not absorb water in the porosity test. In an inconspicuous area, repeat the test with cooking oil and leave the oil on the surface for 30 minutes.
So which sealer is best to use?
If you’ve determined by testing your stone surface could benefit from sealer, next is to determine the best sealer product for the job. There are many different grout and stone sealers on the market and some are of better quality than others. Sealers available at your local hardware store may not perform the same as professional grade products.
Aside from differences in quality, that there are many different types of stone and grout sealers and some types of sealers are better suited to certain materials than others. There are topical sealers, impregnating sealers, enhancing stone sealers, water-based sealers, solvent-based sealers, cream-based sealers, there are colour restoration sealers for grout, and the list goes on and on.
Also, every type of sealer varies in quality and cost from product to product.
How do you know which one is best for sealing your particular stone?
Well, that’s not always a simple question to answer. You could purchase a few different products, test them, and go with the one that seems to work the best, or we recommend you trust a professional who has experience and has been properly trained to apply the right type of sealer to the right type of stone.
A trained professional understands stone and how sealers work and will apply the sealer correctly to ensure you have the maximum protection for your stone and grout with no risk of damage to your new surfaces. NUVOCLEAN® Surface Restoration can help you with this.
What if your grout is old and already stained and discoloured?
For grout lines that have already experienced staining and discolouration, not to worry, in addition to NUVOCLEAN® Surface Restoration’s professional tile & grout cleaning services, we also offer our Grout Colour Restoration Sealer.
Also known as “grout colourseal”, this grout restoration process not only brings back the consistent, uniform colour of freshly installed grout, but dramatically improves the performance of any grout, new or old, when professionally applied by NUVOCLEAN® Surface Restoration.
Even new grout can be colour sealed instead of a clear penetrating sealer. You may want to change the colour of your grout or just ensure a permanent barrier against stains and discolouration for years to come.
NUVOCLEAN® Surface Restoration’s grout colour seal is a durable aluminium oxide coating for grout that comes in 100 different colours. The coating has a natural-look matte finish, it’s breathable, both water repellent and oil repellent. No other grout sealer on the market today offers this technology or this level of protection.
If natural stone and grout surfaces are new, sealers can be applied within 72 hours of installation. If surfaces have already been in use for some time, professional cleaning may be required before sealers can be applied.
Sealers do not protect against chemical or acid etching of calcite based natural stone surfaces such as marble, travertine, or limestone. It’s important to prevent contact with harsh chemicals and common household acids such as citrus juice, tomato sauce, wine etc. Acids like vinegar and typical grout cleaners will etch polished surfaces of these stones creating a dull spot which can appear like a stain.
Sealers do not prevent your stone surfaces or your tile and grout floors or showers from ever getting dirty again. These surfaces will still need to be maintained on a regular basis and professional cleaning may be required periodically.
The advantage of properly sealed stone and grout is that when it is cleaned, it will always come back to that new appearance again.
Care Tips For Your Stone and Tile & Grout Surfaces
• Never use harsh commercial cleaning chemicals, vinegar, bleach, ammonia, all-purpose cleaners, 3 in 1 miracle products, abrasive type cleaners, or scouring pads.
• Your cleaning solution should be neutral pH so it doesn’t damage sensitive stones, and it should also be a rinse-free formula so it doesn’t leave residues that will dull surfaces and attract soil over time.
• Protect busy floor surfaces with mats or rugs with soft backings and use coasters and place mats on counter top surfaces.
• For floors, regular and frequent sweeping, dust mopping, or vacuuming to pick up abrasive particles plus regular damp mop cleaning with a flat head type mop with a microfiber pad using your neutral pH rinse-free stone cleaner is recommended.
• For counter tops, regular and frequent cleaning with your neutral pH rinse-free stone cleaner is recommended using a soft cloth.
• Clean the kitchen counter daily near the stove top especially after cooking with oil using your neutral pH rinse-free stone cleaner.
• Be quick about picking up spills with paper towel and blot, don’t wipe to avoid spreading.
• In the kitchen, store oil bottles and wine bottles, etc, on trivets and not directly on the counter surface, and in the bathroom, store your cosmetics and soaps on trays.
• Switch to clear liquid soaps in the bath, bar soaps leave heavy residues and will require a lot more maintenance to keep your shower looking clean. Liquid soap and shampoo with dark dyes can also stain and discolour your shower.
• In the bathroom, wipe down and dry the counter top after each use, do not allow puddles of water to remain to dry on their own.
• After showering, rinse off the walls and glass with fresh water and then use a squeegee to dry them up to prevent water spots, soap film build up and mould and mildew growth.
• Clean showers regularity and frequently with your neutral pH, rinse free cleaner and periodically with the soap film remover and mildew remover from MB Stone Care.
• There are many suitable cleaning products out there to choose from, however we recommend all of the products available at MB Stone Care.
• Most importantly enjoy your natural stone and tile and grout surfaces! Don’t worry too much as professional help is always available for stains should they occur and professional service from NUVOCLEAN® Surface Restoration can restore your stone or grout when the time comes.
We offer free, no obligation, in-home consultations and free quotes for all natural stone and tile & grout services including our professional stone and grout sealing services in Vancouver.