Generally, consumers can choose between two types of impregnating sealer
As their name indicates, solvent-based sealers sometimes referred to as “oil-based” or spirit based, contain a significantly higher level of organic solvents than water-based sealers. These solvents are responsible for the strong odour noticeable in buildings that have been freshly sealed. Incorrectly used, they can also be potentially hazardous for both human health and for the environment which is why concerted efforts are being made to reduce or remove their presence in sealing solutions without negatively impacting on performance.
The function of organic solvents in an impregnating sealer relates to certain properties it brings – it facilitates the sealers application, it’s drying, and the formation of an even seal below the surface of the tile. During application and drying, the solvent evaporates. A fully cured sealed floor no longer contains solvent. However when they evaporate, these solvents release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere, with a negative, toxic impact on the environment.
To avoid the solvent problem advances in technology mean that modern, water-based sealers, also referred to as acrylic sealers, are increasingly replacing organic solvents based sealers across a broad range of applications. Furthermore legislation is increasingly being put in place to support this trend.
From a performance standpoint, advances in water based technology mean that high quality water-based sealers are in many respects equal to or superior to their solvent-based equivalents. High quality impregnating sealers offer excellent durability, quick drying time, and the emission of fewer odours.
Not all Water-based sealers contain zero solvents, though. Many contain what are called co-solvents, solvents present in lower concentrations and meant to help push the rest of the water out of the coating as it dries. But since water-based solutions have either no, or considerably less solvents, they are a great way to lower VOC output.
Once applied and cured, water- and solvent-based sealers function in a similar fashion. They are both tough and durable. Both types also will provide stain protection, so various spillages can be removed before permanent staining occurs.
Both water- and solvent-based sealers typically are available in fully formulated, ready-to-apply liquids and are easy to apply
One key difference between water-based and solvent-based sealers is their appearance solvent-based sealers tend be clear as the sealer polymer and the solvent form a continuous clear solution, whereas water-based sealers appear milky white because the polymers are present as separate particles and scatter visible light differently than the water in which they are dispersed.
Advantages of using Water based Sealers
The main advantages of water based sealers are:
Low VOC’s :
Water based sealers are less toxic and much less harmful to the environment and human health, they are the sustainable alternative to sealing and protecting tiled surfaces.
This is especially relevant for all internal projects and those involving historic buildings
Because water based sealers are fully transparent to UV light, they will not undergo the photochemical breakdown experienced by some more UV-absorbent solvent based sealers. The UV resistance can lead to extended service and protection especially when used externally
Some of the more attractive benefits of water-based sealers is that they are non-hazardous for transport and shipping, are non-flammable, and have no or very minimal solvent odour, and allow for quick and easy clean-up once the application is complete.
As a general rule water based sealers tend to go further than solvent based sealers with a typical extra coverage of between 10 and 20 % on most surfaces.
At the end of the day the finished performance properties of water-based and solvent-based sealers are fairly similar, and provide a long lasting and high level of protection to newly finished or aged tile surfaces. It’s just that the momentum has swung in favour of water based solutions.
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