Sealing Tumble Marble Shower

QUESTION:

I am about to install tumbled marble, creamy colored, in my shower surround and bathroom floor. My installer said not to seal it-- is he correct? I like to color my hair blond in the shower... can I do that? Is this kind of marble a good idea in the shower?


ANSWER:

Tumbled marble is great for the shower and your installer is correct... as a general rule... you do not need to seal it.

The one exception here is for sealing white marble shower tiles.

A proper shower installation is key though. The grout lines must at least 1/16 inch, full and tight or water will get behind the tiles and ruin everything.

The reason to seal stone is to retard staining. Most things that will stain are in the kitchen not the shower and even then a substance would have to sit for awhile before absorbing and staining.

Typically, nothing you typically use in a shower will stain the marble especially with water running everywhere.

Marble is really not very absorbent (a popular myth) and polished marble is nearly stain-proof. Although, tumbled marble is more porous and more absorbent than polished.

So, you can seal it, but it's not really necessary because the risk of staining is so small.

Grout can absorb water and break down over time though, so it makes sense to seal grout lines. But then again grout has been used for many decades in showers without sealing and does just fine.

Hair dye is another matter though.

Dyes will certainly stain marble if drips and such are not rinsed off walls. In addition, many
dyes have chemicals in them that will "etch" marble.

Etching is a big problem on a polished marble surface, but is not very noticeable if at all on a honed or tumbled surface.

Now I'm guessing "blonde" hair dye is clear/colorless, so you figure it really won't stain, but it could etch and if used regularly the resulting etching could leave noticeable marks even on tumbled marble. I'm saying it's possible.

This is something for you to consider, because sealing has NOTHING to do with etching.... only staining. The only way to prevent etching is to prevent contact with acid (many foods, cosmetics, etc.) or alkaline chemicals (most cleaning products).

I would recommend that you NOT dye your hair in a marble shower, even though the real risk of damage is probably minimal unless you are really messy with it.

I would go ahead and seal the bathroom floor though since it's more likely that you'll have potions, lotions or drinks, etc. that could spill, go unnoticed and stain tumbled marble. Although again, I'd suggest that you keep these out of the bathroom as much as possible.

To help you decide, you could always test some sample tiles and see what it does. Put some hair dye on a tile and just let it sit there for 15 minutes and observe. Rinse it away and take a look. That would give you the worst case scenario.

Again, tumbled marble is great for the bathroom... a classic look, but if you like to use a lot of products other than soapy stuff, you may consider polished granite with a mosaic floor (for traction) in the shower or porcelain.

Comments for Sealing Tumble Marble Shower

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Haze Over Tumbled Carrara Marble Shower Floor
by: Anonymous

My 2-year-old marble shower floor looks awful.

It has a haze over almost all of it. Almost like a soap film over most of it. (After cleaning of course)

Do I need a cleaner, a sealer? Any ideas?

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

I'm assuming the hazy film has developed over time and was not present right after installation.

Grout and sealers can cause a haze (when not applied properly) that is extremely difficult to remove.

Assuming that the haze has developed over time, what you describe is almost certainly soap scum or hard water deposits.

Generally, you'll see these films on the floor and walls of the lower third of your shower stall.

You'll get this type of film on any shower. At least soap film since soap is always used in the shower. Hard water films depend on the quality of your water.

The problem is that soap film and/or hard water stains cannot be removed by standard cleaners. And most bathroom cleaners will damage or etch marble so cannot be used.

Use this Soap Scum & Hard Water Film Remover to safely and effectively remove these dull films from your shower floor.

A Second Possibility...

The marble floor may be etched. Etching causes dullness and/or a chalky spot or area on the marble.

In showers, most commonly, etching is caused by cleaning with the wrong products. Anything caustic or acidic will etch marble.

As noted most household cleaners are too harsh for marble and will etch it.

Etching corrodes the surface of the marble. It's like a chemical burn that leaves the surface looking dull.

It can be hard to differentiate between soap film and etching. If you can scrape off some film with a fingernail then it is soap film/hard water.

If not, then it is etching.

But sometimes this test is inconclusive and the only way to diagnose the issue is to first clean the marble well.

You noted that the haze exists even after cleaning. Well, it will if the cleaner you used is not the proper formulation needed to clean soap film.

Or you'll get the same result if the floor is etched... it will still look dull even after you think you've cleaned it really well.

If you've used a marble-safe cleaner like the one recommended above 2 or 3 times and the marble shower tiles are still dull, then it's etching.

To repair etching on tumbled marble tile use this Etch Remover Marble Polishing Pads - Drill Kit.

This kit will remove the etched and damaged marble surface and restore the finish to a matte finish.

Sealing is a requirement for tumbled marble
by: Anonymous

Your insane if you don't seal before grouting and after as well. Not sealing tumbled marble as advocated here will just cause major problems down the road and create major installation grout issues.

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

Thanks for your input!

We are not advocating that you should never seal tumbled marble, but we do disagree... it definitely is not a "requirement".

You are right that, in some cases, you could have issues with the grout if you don't seal the tumbled marble tiles first.

You don't indicate what you think those are, but the main issue is picture-framing.

Picture-framing occurs when a darker grout absorbs into the edges of a tile and causes a dark outline around the tile edges that looks like a picture frame.

To prevent this you seal the tiles prior to grouting.

However, this typically is only a problem when using a dark grout color. When using a color similar to the tile color (which is most common) then it is not a problem.

And if the shower tile is installed correctly and grouted correctly, then there won't be any issues simply from not sealing.

Yes, water will absorb a little into the marble tiles and grout during use, but then it will evaporate with no harm done.

The same thing has been happening to the grout in every tile shower installed for decades. (i.e. you don't seal a ceramic tile shower or the grout).

So, it's fine to seal the tiles before grouting if you like (especially when using darker grout) or simply wait until after it is installed.

It's okay to do so in most cases, however, you just don't gain that much from sealing a shower.

The risk of stains in a shower is small and water will not get behind the tiles by absorbing through the tiles or the grout.

When this occurs it is due to water getting through cracks and gaps in the grout or due to a bad installation technique. A poor installation will lead to far more problems than not sealing ever will.

But sealing a shower can exacerbate the issue if water is getting behind the tiles as the sealer will keep it from evaporating. So keep your grout and caulk in good shape.

Just remember, that if you choose to seal the tumbled marble shower tile and grout after installation you need to wait 2-3 weeks to allow all the moisture in the tile and grout to evaporate or the sealer will trap the moisture.

This is only any issue when tile is installed on a floor or wall. Countertops have an exposed underside where any residual moisture can evaporate and so can be sealed right after installation.

Tumbled Marble Tile Has Etched
by: Anonymous

I have a new bathroom with tumbled marble tile.

It has etched something fierce. Don't know how to fix it. Take etching away and then stop it from etching. I like the look of the marble but the upkeep is horrible. Please help.

==== Admin Comments:

You'll find a ton of info about marble polishing & etch repair on our site.

Read the page above to learn a lot and search this site to find more information about this and any other stone care & cleaning issue.

For tumbled marble tile or any non-polished finish you can fix the etch marks following the simple and cheap DIY instructions in the Removing Marble Etching e-book.

Unfortunately, acid etching of marble, travertine and limestone is a chemical reaction that physically damages the surface. The only way to "prevent" it is to avoid contact with acidic substances and harsh cleaners.

Nearly all common/brand-name household and bathroom cleaners are too caustic for use on marble and will cause etching.

Use only products safe for cleaning marble like those we recommend. All are the most effective and totally safe for use on marble and natural stone.


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