I want shiny tile! Topical sealers, coatings, gloss and your floor…

You just moved into a house with travertine floors that have seen better days. You decide to hop on the ‘ol world wide web and have a look around at pictures of what travertine flooring should look like. You know, just to see if yours is supposed to look like this…Immediately you see a picture of a beautiful shiny travertine tile floor and you want yours like this too!  So you call a couple of stone cleaning company’s in the area to get an idea of the cost to clean and polish your travertine.  Once you find out the price is just a bit more than you thought it would be, you decide to take a trip to your local big box store. Invariably, they have JUST WHAT YOU NEED!!!! The ‘very knowledgeable’ store associate, who just started working there last week, walks you to the sealer aisle and shows you a bottle that promises to make your floors sparkle like the late afternoon water at Saguaro Lake.  “OMG SCORE!!!!”  You think to yourself as you stroll to the checkout counter with a few bottles of this little miracle maker. After all, you ARE a do-it-yourselfer!  

 As you make your way to your car you’re contemplating the events of the day and you just can’t believe you considered hiring someone to do this!  “Phfff. A thousand dollars to clean and polish my floors. Puh-lease, I only paid $30 bucks for these babies! What a rip off! Shiny tile… I mean really, how hard could it be?”

STOP!!!!!!!!  The shine in a bottle sealer you are about to use is going to ruin your stone floors and THE COST TO RESTORE  them will now cost you twice as much!

We get asked all the time,  “I want shiny tile. The sealer will make my tile shiny right?”  or “Do you think we should seal our natural stone floors, showers, counters, and walls and what should we seal them with?”  My answer varies based on the type of surface you want to seal but travertine, marble, limestone, terrazzo, flagstone, slate, and porcelain tile are all very different surfaces and must be treated as such. Overall, I am an advocate of sealer.  Solvent-based, penetrating sealers do not give you shiny tile. These merely help in stain resistance. If you want shiny tile you will have to hire a professional to polish your floors.

There is one “sealer” on the market promising a quick and cheap shine that continually shows up on our jobs…a topical gloss sealer. I will NEVER,  and have NEVER,  recommended this type of sealer as it is a nightmare to remove and not a true sealer.  Natural stones such as travertine, marble, and limestone do not respond well to topical coating sealers and should be shined up, or polished, using a diamond polishing process done by a professional stone cleaning company. Hiring a professional stone cleaning company is a must as there are many in the business that will tell you they know how to work with natural stone when in fact, they don’t.

The shine in the picture, at the beginning of this blog, cannot be achieved using a $30 dollar bottle of acrylic milky sealer and a mop bought from Home Depot. In fact, I don’t even like those gloss coatings for flagstone or slate though it’s more reasonable to find a topical type of sealer on those surfaces. The reason is, flagstone, and slate are more porous and take in a topical sealer better than travertine, marble, or limestone would. Topical sealers are those that form a “film” or “top layer” over your stone or porcelain surface. Many of these types of surfaces are not porous enough to soak in and hold these coatings so you wind up seeing scuff marks and often times, peeling of the coating as you move furniture,  slide your chairs in and out, vacuum, etc… These scuff marks happen because the topical coating you put on your floor is, at its core, a wax coating.

Topical coatings trap the dirt making it very difficult to clean your stone or tile flooring using just a simple mop. The picture below shows what a topical sealer looks like after only ONE YEAR of use! Can you believe how dirty it is!!!! OMGOSH!!!!

These particular clients use a cleaning service once a week to vacuum and mop their floors but it doesn’t appear to make much difference. They cannot remove this dirt using a mop because it is now stuck to the topical coating that was applied last year.

Originally, you couldn’t see the mop strokes where they tediously applied their little miracle in a bottle.

Now that a year has gone by, dirt has attached itself to the sealer making it clearly visible where each brush stroke was so lovingly applied. Bless his heart, he just really really wanted shiny tile. 

Our client, like many others, mistakenly thought they were doing the right thing. Many people use these types of sealers as a way to add shine to the floor or countertops without having to hire a professional stone cleaning company. After reading about how horrible topical coatings are for your natural stone floor why would anyone apply one of these urethane or acrylic-based sealers?

There are a number of reasons why a topical coating exists on a stone or porcelain floor. Expense, Ignorance, and Pre-existing Condition.

Number 1:  Expense. Let’s not beat around the bush here. Professional stone cleaning and polishing services are expensive especially if you haven’t been maintaining the floors along the way. This problem of expense is compounded once a topical coating has been applied as an additional step is now necessary before the polishing can begin.

Number 2:   Homeowners have no idea what they should be using on their natural stone floors so they refer to an associate at a big box store who walks them to the sealer aisle and tells them they can magically have shiny floors by using this stuff! UGH!!!!! WRONG!!!!

Number 3: The coating, or sealer, was applied to by the previous homeowners. The new homeowners have no idea why the heck they can’t get their floors cleaned even though they mop it weekly. Many times when a house is flipped, the flipper applies the topical coating to hide imperfections from installation as well as to give it that instant shine without having to fork over the big bucks to make it look good.

So what do you do if you find yourself in this situation? You want a shiny floor but can’t afford it. Well, wait and save up the money until you can afford to have it professionally done. Trust me, it will be worth it in the end. What do you do if you have a coating on the floor already and you can’t get it clean. Call us!

If you really really want to seal your floors, showers or counters this is what we recommend 511 Impregnator. Be aware that this WILL NOT give you shiny tile. This will merely seal your floor and/or grout. Also, we recommend that you buff off any residual sealer from the tile before it dries using a rotary machine.