Removing Sealer from Porcelain & Ceramic Tile:
This pass summer we had an unusual number of calls from individuals who wanted us to strip and clean sealer off their porcelain or ceramic tile floors. Often times people will move into a home that has porcelain or ceramic tile, both of which are man made products, and they do not like the matte finish or the flat finish of the tile. They want some "bling" to their floor so they look on line at the DIY websites and/or travel to the local hardware store for help. Some of the well meaning individuals will recommend applying a Wet Look Sealer to the entire surface of their man made tile floors. The problem with this is that porcelain and ceramic tile were NEVER made to be sealed, only the porous sanded grout lines that exist between the tiles. After a couple of months the floor begins to look like it has scratches in it or it begins to blister and take on the appearance of sunburned skin where it is peeling in random places.
Sealers are comprised of THREE chemicals - a transfer agent: this could be water or solvent, acrylic: this is the glue that holds it in place, and finally the polymer: the plastic that affords the protection to the grout. When the polymer molecules are enlarged they will give the appearance of a wet look on must surfaces including marble, travertine, limestone, and man made tiles. Because man made tiles are NOT porous they should NEVER be sealed. There are other products that can give you a wet look that are not sealers.
The sealer's number ONE function is to afford protection to either the sanded grout or the natural stone. If you spill something acidic onto a sealed surface, such as pickle juice, the sealer should give you time to neutralize the acid and clean it up before it can etch or eat the natural stone or sanded grout lines. The secondary function could be to provide a wet look to the surface. It is important to add that NOT all sealers will give you a wet look.
If you have a tile floor that is comprised of either porcelain or ceramic and it has a wet look sealer that you want to remove what can you do about it? Unless you are willing to hire a specialist like Liberty Floor Solutions to remove the old sealer then be prepared for some back breaking, knee aching, on your knees type of work. Most of the stripping agents sold in the box stores do not work very well from our experience. Often times you will need to tape off your baseboards, carpeting, hardwoods, etc. and will need to scrub and scrap small areas at a time. It may take hours to remove sealer on a small area of 50 - 100 square feet. Of all the requests that we receive this is usually the most difficult and labor intensive for us.
Before starting a project like this I would advise that you call a professional and have them first take a look at the floor, possibly run some tests on the floor, and see if they can come up with a solution that will be within your budget and time frames. This can be a brutal project and you can waste a lot of money very quickly if you are not careful. One final note PLEASE DO NOT USE ACID ON THE FLOOR. It can and will permanently damage the tile surface and grout lines. If you need assistance in this area please feel free to contact us at (916) 525-2456.
Michael Hull - Owner