With the increasing popularity of porcelain pavers, it’s no wonder that the discussion surrounding maintenance has increased.  And there’s one issue, in particular, that keeps cropping up – should an external porcelain tile be protected and, if so, should a barrier treatment or a sealer be used? 

Routine sealing of natural stone laid indoors is now common practice. Even the advice to seal external stone pavers is gaining traction, bring with it benefits in terms of performance and aesthetics.  Porcelain pavers, however, are seen as a different animal.  Because matt porcelain doesn’t need to be sealed, it’s generally laid and assumed that it will look after itself. 

In some respects, this is correct.  Only porcelain tiles with a polished finish need to be sealed.  This is because the polishing process exposes capillaries – effectively, lots of microscopic pin holes – which remain porous. If the surface of the tile isn’t sealed, grout and spillages will penetrate quite easily and stain the tile. It will also be vulnerable to organic stains once installed.  Many matt porcelain tiles, on the other hand, don’t need to be sealed.  However, if the tile has a textured surface – which is generally the case in external applications – it will benefit from application of a quality barrier treatment before grouting.

What is the difference between a sealer and a barrier?

The difference between a sealer and barrier is down to the active ingredients.

For example, ECOPROTEC Pre Grout Protection is a barrier treatment designed for use on textured, matt porcelain tiles. It protects the surface of the tile from grout and jointing compound during installation, making it easier for the residue to release and be cleaned out of the textured finish.  Its formulation is very different to that of our sealers, which have smaller ‘actives’ and, in the case of MPG Sealer, contain nano waxes.  The carrier within Pre Grout Protection is mildly acidic. This allows for deeper penetration into the fissures of textured porcelain tiles, where it then dries and leaves the active ingredients behind. As they dry, they cross link within the low points of the glaze. This provides protection against penetration from cement and resin-based grouts, making the removal of any residues much easier. The treatment is completely invisible once cured, so it doesn’t alter the appearance of the porcelain. ECOPROTEC Pre Grout Protection is primarily used as a pre-grout solution, but it can also be applied to help assist with ongoing cleaning and aftercare, especially on external 20mm porcelain paving.

Polished porcelain sealers have a completely different formula.  As well as having anti stain-based ingredients, they also include a blend of nano waxes that, following application and drying, are polished into the surface either mechanically or by hand. Polishing forces the nano wax into the open pores within the polished surface, giving it an enhanced, smoother finish.  For these types of surfaces, we recommend MPG Sealer H2O from our LTP range.

The ‘actives’ in ECOPROTEC Pre Grout Protection are too large and will not penetrate a polished surface as efficiently, so they will not work well on this type of surface.  Equally, a stone sealer, like our own ECOPROTEC Ultimate Sealer, cannot be used on a textured porcelain surface as it will just dry onto the surface without penetrating. This can often result in a micro film that remains following application and turns white/opaque when exposed to moisture.

Ongoing maintenance

Just like indoors, outdoor tiles will benefit from a periodic clean.  Keeping the surface relatively clean will prevent a build-up of dirt in the textured surface.  This, in turn, will make ongoing cleaning easier and will maintain the tile’s slip resistance.  As a general rule of thumb, it’s worth cleaning porcelain paving every couple of months or so – ideally, three times during late spring/summer and twice during the winter.  Surfaces that are regularly cleaned will be far easier to keep clean.  Regular cleaning of inside-to-outside surfaces, like those that run through bifold doors, will also help maintain a seamless aesthetic.  

Jet washing may seem like the best method for a fast clean but it will only wash dirt off the surface of the slabs. High pressure water will also damage grout joints. A specialist treatment, like ECOPROTEC General Cleaner, will react with the dirt and organic matter, and will help break it down. 

For more advice and information about other ECOPROTEC cleaning and sealing solutions, please visit www.ecoprotec.co.uk or contact the ECOPROTEC technical team on 01823 666213, email technical@ecoprotec.co.uk  and browse ECOPROTEC TV on YouTube.

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For media information and photography, please contact Angela Fitzhugh PR Ltd on tel. (01579) 673026 or email angie@afpr.co.uk

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