Now here’s a common myth – “porcelain doesn’t need protecting”. And, while we’re at it, how about “porcelain is maintenance free!”
These statements are familiar for many of us and they’re cropping up even more, now that external matt porcelain is so popular.
Let’s look at protection first.
As a general rule of thumb, polished porcelain tiles should be sealed. The aesthetic of a polished finish causes confusion; it looks ‘sealed’ and glossy, yet the actual polishing process opens up the tile’s porosity, making the porcelain more vulnerable to stains.
Some tiles receive a coat of sealant as part of the manufacturing process and this offers a level of protection, especially during installation. However, even if this is the case, a further coat of sealer after installation is generally required – to protect the tile and the grout joint – and customers should always seek expert advice.
Matt porcelain doesn’t need to be sealed but it will benefit greatly from application of a ‘barrier’ treatment. Generally, matt tiles have a textured finish which provides slip resistance underfoot. They can very easily become stained by grout and fixing residues and it’s a particular issue in external applications, where brush-in jointing compounds are often used. Resins accumulate in the tile’s high/low surfaces and once congested, the texture is lost along with the tile’s slip resistance.
A quality barrier like LTP Porcelain Tile Protector, applied before grouting, will help protect tiles from staining and make the removal of residues easier. It will also promote an easier installation, as it will improve/increase grouting working times, and a final coat after fixing will make ongoing maintenance easier.
It’s also important to consider the grout joint. Whilst a matt porcelain tile isn’t porous, most cement-based grout is. New installations will very quickly be ruined by a dirty grout joint. Application of a grout protector is always recommended, to help prevent stains from penetrating beyond the surface.
Now to the maintenance-free myth. Porcelain certainly is an incredibly robust material – and it’s generally far more resistant to stains than a natural surface – but it’s not maintenance free.
A good cleaning regime with a suitable detergent is important, to maintain a tile’s aesthetic and its slip resistance. If dirt is allowed to accumulate in a textured surface, or on the face of a polished tile, it will become slippery and dull.
These issues can also be created by using an unsuitable, waxy cleaner, which will leave a residue behind. Any residue will also create a key onto which dirt will stick and the surface will be more difficult to keep clean.
Even outdoors, tiles should be maintained correctly. A blast with a jet wash may seem like the best option but it will only wash dirt off the surface, and over use can in some cases damage and remove grout.
A specialist treatment will react with ingrained residue and organic matter, ensuring that the tile texture and aesthetic is retained.
Mark Atkins is Technical Director of LTP.
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