Sealing Marble Shower Tile & Grout

Carrara Marble Shower

Carrara Marble Shower

QUESTION:

I just installed new marble tile in my bathroom on the shower walls and floor.


What is the best sealer for grout and tile in a marble shower?

Also, I need to know if I should seal the bathroom floor tile and what is the best sealer? Before sealing should I first polish/clean the marble?

ANSWER:

The short answer.... SenGuard Permanent Stone Sealer is the best sealer for marble showers. It can be applied to both the tile and grout.

Why is it the best?

First, Senguard forms permanent bonds with the stone which means you only have to seal the marble one time. No periodic re-sealing is necessary as is required with all other sealers.

Also, its advanced technology allows for better penetration (particularly on dense, low-absorbency stones), more thorough coverage for enhanced protection against both oil and water-based stains and it's super-easy to apply.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves here assuming that applying a sealer is required. There's a bit more to the equation...

Do Marble Showers Need Sealing?


As a general rule you don't want to apply a sealer to marble or natural stone in a shower (with one exception discussed below) or other wet environments because you run into situations where the sealer may trap water in the tile causing many problems including degradation of the stone.

You may read or hear that ALL stone MUST be sealed no matter what... just not true. It depends on the stone, the location and intended use of the stone installation. Also, some marbles, granites and other stones are naturally dense, stain-resistant and don't need sealing.

Applying a sealer is done to reduce the risk of stains in marble or stone. This is very helpful in areas like the kitchen, dining room or high use floors or countertops in a bathroom.

The risk of staining in marble showers is near zero unless you regularly toss a salad or drink some wine in there!

Think about it... you use very few products in the shower, and when in use water is constantly washing them down the drain.

You'd have to leave a leaky bottle of something sitting on the marble tile for it to ever have a chance of staining.

Plus, marble actually is not very porous and does not stain easy.

Marble will etch easy and people always confuse etching (whitish dull spots from chemical corrosion) with staining, but these are two different marble maintenance issues.

And even if it did stain, marble stains can be removed in nearly every case.

Some people mistakenly believe that the reason to seal shower tile is to prevent the shower water from absorbing. No... also not the case (with one exception... see below).

Some water may absorb into the marble or travertine tile while showering, but it quickly evaporates and does not cause any problems.

You don't gain any real benefit by applying a sealer since your stain risk in a marble shower is minimal. BUT... you do risk creating unwanted problems by sealing a stone in a wet environment.

In truth, the sealer itself won't "cause" a problem out of nothing, so don't worry if you've already sealed your marble shower.

However, in a case where water gets behind the tiles of a sealed shower, it will block evaporation potentially making damage a lot worse.

Exception to the Rule: White Marble Showers


White marble showers are an exception to the general rule to avoid applying a sealer in wet environments.

White marble like Carrara marble, Calacatta marble and others can contain small iron deposits . Water can oxidize these deposits, which may lead to a rust stain that is difficult to remove.

This is most often a problem on floors after a flood or from a plumbing leak. Meaning the tiles and the iron deposits must be exposed to water over an extended period of time or from a continuous source.

In a shower, this could sometimes occur from water behind the tiles and not simply from water absorbed while showering.

First, marble is not that absorbent and water would have to be on the surface for quite a long time (maybe 15-30 minutes or more) before it even starts to absorb.

Honed marble tile will absorb a bit more readily, but shiny polished marble tile has a very low rate of absorption and water may not absorb at all.

Also, since tiles are never really submerged in water in a shower, it is typically absorbed only into the surface (if at all), doesn't saturate the tile and dries quickly.

Thus, any iron deposits within the tiles (unless near the surface) are not exposed to water long enough to oxidize or rust and stains rarely occur.

Floors, benches and shelves are at greater risk for rust stains in white marble showers since water is left standing on these surfaces allowing more time to absorb and potentially oxidize embedded iron deposits.

Better safe than sorry; so, sealing white or Carrara marble shower tiles to help prevent iron oxidation is a good idea, although polished marble often can't be sealed as explained below.

Addition Marble Shower Sealing Tips


Poorly installed shower tile is a problem. You may have gaps, cracks or voids in the grout letting water flow behind the tiles where it gets trapped. But sealing won't help a lick in this instance... in fact, it would make it worse as noted above.

If you decide you'd like to apply a sealer in the shower, then first perform the water test for sealing to determine if your marble could even absorb a sealer.

Sealers must absorb into the stone to work. Dense, low-absorbency stones (like polished marble) typically do not need sealing and often "cannot" be sealed because the sealer won't absorb.

Obviously, it would be absolutely useless to attempt to apply a sealer to a stone that can't absorb it and doesn't need a sealer.

Applying "just to be safe" doesn't work here. You're only looking for trouble. The result is wasted time, effort and money and a streaky sealer residue on the stone.

Waiting 2-3 weeks after shower installation is necessary before applying a sealer to allow the stone, grout and all installation materials to dry out completely or you'll trap water in the stone.

Sealing the bathroom floor is not a bad idea though. The "general rule" discussed above still applies, however, floors, benches, shelves or anywhere you may store products are at the highest risk in the shower but still pretty low-risk.

I suggest using one of these recommended marble & granite sealers.

Again, SenGuard is the best available.... head and shoulders above every other on the market. We really like this product and highly recommend it.

No need to polish marble prior to sealing unless you are repairing etch marks. Better to repair first, but you can always re-apply a sealer to any spots where etch marks were repaired.

Sweep and clean the floor tile prior to sealing. Sealers don't form a topical coating, so it won't trap dust or dirt, but you want a surface free of gunk or debris to ensure easy absorption for the sealer.

Comments for Sealing Marble Shower Tile & Grout

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Company
by: Alvaro Castellanos

very good article good description

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Thank goodness for this artical
by: Anonymous

I didnt buy marble for my tub area for it to be another headach of having to baby another project around the house. After doing the lemon and oil test it seems i have a very hard polished marble that is not porus and does not have to be sealed like most other sights tell a person that they should. Thank you for this artical

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happy,happy,happy I read this!
by: julie

We just invested so much in the marble and Granite. So you know we want to keep it new forever!

This article kept us from putting anything in our shower (floors, seating, walls). We only had to do the large floor of marble. cha ching!

And the granite counter tops are a dark gold, brown & black, so, nothing to do there! cha-ching! thank you

===== Countertop Specialty comment:

Just FYI... your granite countertops may need sealing. Darker colors often do not need a granite sealer, however, the only accurate way to know if your specific countertop slab should be sealed or not is to perform the
water test for sealing granite.

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Carrerra White Marble Shower
by: Anonymous

So I read your comments .... we have installed Carrera White Polished Shower Tiles (we had them installed) in our walk in shower, around the shower sill, around the marble vanity, and then larger tiles on the floor.

Do you recommend sealing ALL or just outside the shower area?? Thanks in advance.

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

White marbles like Carrara can develop rust like stains due to oxidation of iron deposits within the marble. Oxidation can occur with repeated cycles of water absorption and evaporation.

Now, water absorbing is not a problem for the marble. With most marble there is no need to seal simply to keep water from absorbing (i.e. in a shower).

However, you do want to seal white marble, Carrara marble in order to prevent rust / oxidation stains from water contact.

I suggest applying a sealer to all surfaces that will be regularly exposed to water. Certainly in the marble shower, but possibly the floor, vanity top, etc. No real need to seal any walls outside the shower though.

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marble mosaic on shower floor
by: Anonymous

We were planning to use a marble lattice moasic on the shower floor.

It is made of: Athens Gray, Asian Statuary, Wooden Beige
Finish: Polished
Sold by the Sheet- each sheet measures 13"x13" (1.17 sq.ft.)
Thickness: 10 mm

Would you recommend sealing this product if placed on shower floor since there is some white marble mixed into it?

And other care info I should be made aware of?

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

I would check with the manufacturer first, but yes.... white marble is the one exception where a shower should be sealed in order to keep water from oxidizing possible iron deposits that are common in white marble.

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Still Confused
by: Todd

We've just installed white arabescato marble in a bathroom. It's on the floor, around the toilet, vanity counter, and shower floor walls and bench.

I've looked at multiple sites and am still confused on whether I need to seal the Marble and even then if it needs to be an impregnate seal. Can you shed some light on this? Thanks.

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

You should apply an impregnating sealer to the marble in the shower at least.

Now, the proper thing to do first is perform the "water test" (see link above for instructions) to determine if your stone needs sealing or not.

Polished marble often is very slow to absorb, and thus, at very low risk for staining. Such stones typically don't need sealing since they are already naturally stain resistant.

Also, if water takes a long, long time to absorb (15-20+ minutes), then it's going to be a problem to get the sealer to absorb as well. When a stone is already dense with low-porosity a sealer does not need to be applied.

If testing shows absorption in less than 10 minutes on you floor and vanity, then it may be a good idea to seal it to guard against stains. This won't guard against etching of course.

The shower is different only because of all the water. For nearly all other stone the water itself is not a problem and usually sealing a shower is unnecessary.

However, with white marble you have possible iron deposits in the marble that can rust if exposed to water causing rust stains on your marble shower tile.

For this reason, white marble tile showers should be sealed to prevent water absorbing and possible rust stain.

For dense surfaces like polished marble where getting the sealer to absorb can be difficult... you need to use a sealer that absorbs better like Senguard Sealer rather than a standard sealer.


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sealing carrara marble showers
by: Anonymous

Thank you for this excellent advice. I find it very enlightening as I was about to seal my new marble shower.

Now I know to wait for 2-3 weeks to seal only the shelves and bench where products and water may lie for a time.

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Greecian White Subway tile for shower
by: Marsha

I ordered 115 pieces of Greecian White Marble Subway tile, Premium Mosaics, for a walk in shower that is going to be built.

I was told at Home Depot, where I ordered it, that I would need to seal the tiles "before" grouting them and then "after" grouting. This is due to absorbency issues with marble tiles.

Is this true....because the tile guy at Lowe's said to not do that to their tile that I ordered for the back wall of the shower.

Of course their tile is mixed with white and tans. The reason I am asking is I don't want to do unnecessary sealing. I read your blog about white tile needing sealing but saw no mention of double sealing. Don't want to make a big mistake!!

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

Sealing marble tile or any stone tile prior to installation is sometimes recommended as a way to make clean-up after grouting easier, but this reason is very debatable.

The real reason you might want to seal marble shower tiles prior to grouting is if the grout is a darker color than the marble.

If so, the moisture and dye / color from the grout can absorb into the marble tiles creating a stain all around the edges which looks like a picture frame.

Such stains run through the full thickness of the tile, so it will be permanent.

However, if you are using a light-colored grout basically the same color as the tile, then you shouldn't have any problems of this sort and can wait to apply a sealer to the entire finished shower.

And yes, you do want to apply a sealer to white marble in the shower. Typically, shower tiles do not need sealing. No real risk of staining.

However, white marble contains iron deposits that can cause rust stains with repeated water exposure, so white marble shower tile is the one exception where you do want to apply a sealer.

I recommend using Senguard Sealer for Marble & Granite. It's the most advanced and permanent.

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Enhanced sealer on carrara floor
by: KP

The contractor just laid a carrara floor in our master bath & used an enhanced sealer. We now see smudges & marks everywhere. Does anyone know what this is & why it happened?

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

Well, it depends on what these smudges and marks look like, but it could be due to sealer residue on the surface. It may be that the sealer did not absorb well and/or residue dried on the surface.

Try cleaning with acetone in a small area and see if it clears it up. Acetone won't harm the Carrara marble, but it will hopefully remove any residue.

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Cream Colored Travertine Shower Walls and Bench
by: Mike

Hi! Thanks for your valuable info! Should we leave our cream colored travertine subway size tile on our shower walls and bench in the shower as is or follow the same rules as the white marble? Thanks!

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

Travertine shower walls are at virtually zero risk for staining and the "white marble" issue doesn't apply so no reason to seal the walls.

The bench you may want to seal only because water and other products left over from showering or from leaky bottles set on the bench, etc., could cause a stain.

Still not too big a risk on the bench, but probably the most likely place in your shower (along with shelves) to get a stain and easy to seal it.

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You didn't mention the grout
by: TS

A customer of mine pointed this article/blog out to me, I am a stone restoration professional with 10 years in business.
I agree with most of what has been said in this article, and it it very refreshing to see that there is some "Real" advice out there as far as sealing natural stones goes.

The only thing not mentioned was that the grout is very porous and will soak up water even on the walls. Remembering that the edges of the tiles that the grout is up against is rough cut and not finished like the face of the tile, this makes it tremendously more porous, thus the need for a sealer to guard against water intrusion through the sides of the stone (like was mentioned with the grout color penetrating through the sides).

I have seen marble showers where the water soaked in through the sides and down to the lower tile and a half, making the appearance of fish bowl waves.

My only point is that the grout will be porous no matter what the tile is.

Very good article, just my two cents. I can tell by the products that you recommend for maintenance on your site that you are very knowledgeable about how to care for your stone, keep up the good work!

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

Thanks for your input! Yes, grout is porous, although, when properly installed water absorption is not an issue.

The amount of water absorbed during a shower is minimal and will quickly evaporate.

When water does cause damage it is nearly always because of cracks, voids or faults in the grout (or from poorly installed tile / grout) allowing a much higher volume of water to enter and get behind the tile. This is especially true on walls where water never has a chance to pool.

When water gets behind shower tiles it will not evaporate quickly and will start to cause damage or consistent mold issues, etc.

And when the tile and grout have been sealed the evaporation of water behind the tiles is slowed even more. Even though modern stone sealers allow the stone to breath, it is not the same as an unsealed tile and water behind a tile is effectively trapped.

For the above reasons, it is unwise and unnecessary in most cases to seal stone or grout in a wet environment (except for white marble tile showers).

But also, it is very important to routinely inspect grout lines for cracks and voids. Allow the shower to dry out thoroughly and make needed repairs in order to maintain the long-term integrity of your shower tile.


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Sealing statuary white marble shower tile
by: Anonymous

Thanks for the article. It says polished marble does not absorb much so sealing in the shower is not necessary. Then there was a comment from the site recommending sealing a polished Carrara marble in response to another person's question.

Should you seal polished statuary marble inside a shower? Or floor as well? Thanks so much!

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

You may have missed the section about "exceptions" to sealing marble shower tile. White marble is the exception since it can contain iron deposits that can cause rust stains with repeated exposure to water.

So, yes.... you should seal statuary white marble shower tile even when polished.

It is true that polished marble can be nearly non-absorbent so the risk of rust stains on a polished (vs. honed) marble is lower, but white marble in a shower is the one case where it is beneficial to apply a sealer to a low-absorbency stone.

Rust stains from embedded iron deposits are basically permanent, so you want to do everything possible to avoid them. Just be sure to apply the sealer correctly and do not allow it to dry, wipe off all excess after absorbing and then wipe the marble completely dry and buff out any streaks.




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even water can't escape gravity
by: Anonymous

The wall grout where the water bounces off of the person showering will soak up enough water to be pulled into the edge of the tile by gravity.

A simple test would be to towel off those areas after showering. If the water didn't penetrate the grout then it should not remain dark from the water, if it remains dark then the water has penetrated the surface of the grout and gravity will take it from there.

=== Countertop Specialty comment:

True, grout is porous and will absorb some water. However, it is not a sponge and the amount actually absorbed (especially on a wall) is minimal, at the surface only, and will evaporate before it does any real damage.

Gravity may take it into the stone or the stone itself may absorb some water when showering, but again... it's only at the surface and so minimal that it will quickly evaporate without leaving a trace. And this repeated process can go on for years and years without any issue, damage or staining.

It's only when significant amounts of water get behind the tiles and grout that staining and damage occur. And significant amounts of water don't enter unless via cracks and voids or poor installation... not from surface absorption.

Now if the shower had really bad ventilation and never dried out, then I'd agree that even the minimal surface absorption could become a problem as more water is added with each use of the shower. Certainly, you'd have a mold / mildew issue but could also get staining and other damage to the tile and grout from the constant water exposure.

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Sealing To Prevent Rust Stains White Marble Shower
by: Anonymous

I have a white marble shower saddle that was sealed. Then they installed the shower door with a stainless steel screw.

The screw hole rusted and we have to replace the saddle. We don't want this to happen again.

Should we be sealing after the shower door is installed? It seems like water will always get down the screw hole.

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

Yes, this could be a recurring problem unless you find a way to seal off the screw hole from the marble. I know stainless steel is not supposed to rust (in theory) but it still does under certain conditions.

You should be sealing inside the screw hole, but this won't completely stop a rust stain from developing.

I'm sure the screw hole is collecting water that just sits there oxidizing the metal. The rusty water then eventually absorbs into the marble.

Note that a sealer cannot absolutely prevent absorption. Sealers dramatically slow down absorption, but don't completely prevent it.

If the water sits long enough the marble will absorb it even when sealed.

I think the key here is that all parts used to install the door must be 100% stainless steel (not just plated), but then if possible, caulk around the screw hole to prevent water collecting and remaining around the screw.

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Sealing honed marble shower floor against etching
by: Floyd

We have a newly installed hex mosaic honed carrara marble shower floor.

The shower went unused for a good 3-4 weeks from install before we started using it. We unknowingly used some cleaners that produced a few etch marks before reading up on the proper care of marble.

Our tile guy said we could use any kind of cleaner, bad advice. Anyway, I bought some etch remover and the proper cleaners for stone and I also want to seal the marble to prevent future etching or iron stains because the stone is soft and more absorbent than polished marble.

My question is, how long should I let the floor dry after showering or cleaning before I apply the sealer?

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

Since you let the tile and grout dry out real well for 3-4 weeks after install you won't have to wait so long this time.

That is assuming the installation was done well, grout is all tight with no cracks or voids that could have allowed water to get under the tiles. Most likely everything is fine, but just letting you know the variables.

I'd let the shower dry for a week prior to applying the sealer.

But note.... a sealer will prevent stains and water absorption that could lead to rust stains from the embedded iron deposits found in Carrara marble.... however, sealers won't prevent etching.

Etching is physical damage to the marble. It's like a burn. So, expecting a sealer to protect against this is like expecting car wax to prevent a scratch in the paint from a key or some other hard object.

Etching in a shower 99% of the time is due to use of the wrong harsh cleaners (which is most common cleaners) to clean the marble.

You should use the Soap Film / Hard Water cleaner as your regular shower cleaner.

This product is specially formulated for use on marble, travertine and all natural stone without any damage or etching. And it is super-effective cleaning the films that are the biggest problem in showers.

So, fix the etch marks, seal it (I recommend SenGuard Sealer) and then clean it with the right product and you won't have any more problems.

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Grout separation from natural stone shower
by: Anonymous

Thank you for explaining how to care for your white, off white in our case, stone.

Unfortunately, our shower is beyond the prevention stage, and has been exposed to water for over a year, and has turned orange-the grout being much worse than the stone.

A larger concern is the grout connecting the floor and the wall has pulled away from the wall, and water continues to get behind it.

I do not know how to proceed with preparing this area before moving on to the sealing.

I've considered using a chisel or dermal tool to remove the grout, or a portion of it, and then replace it, but am afraid I will make matters worse, or create a huge problem.

I am looking for an educated suggestion on how I should move forward with this project.

=== Countertop Specialty comment:

The only way to move forward with this problem is to remove the old grout. This shouldn't be a problem. You run very little risk of damaging the marble.

However, as you stated the marble has turned orange it may not be worth saving.

The orange coloration is rust staining.

White marble contains iron deposits. When the tile gets saturated these iron deposits oxidize and the rusty water moves to the surface and evaporates leaving the orange rust stain.

This type of rust stain is permanent. It is too deep in the tile to remove.

It sounds like you let this go far too long and, honestly, I'd seriously consider ripping it all out and installing a new tile shower.

But if you want to go with repairing this one, then you need to stop using it for a week or two to let it dry out completely. Water is likely trapped under the tiles and this needs time to evaporate.

Given your description of the current condition, I'm surprised you don't also have mildew everywhere.

Anyway... let the shower totally dry out. Then remove all the grout using a Dremel, chisel, or scraper or however seems effective. Then re-grout.

Wait another 2 - 3 weeks to allow the grout to dry and any remaining moisture to evaporate and then apply a good sealer.

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