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Tile and Stone Maintenance

How To Remove Sealer and Sealing Residues?

Most weeks I receive calls from people asking how to remove a sealer residue. Sealer residues occur when an impregnating sealer is incorrectly applied. Impregnating sealers (or penetrating sealers as they are sometimes known) are intended to be in or below the surface of the stone rather than ‘on’ it. So, the correct application involves applying the sealer to the surface, allowing a short time for penetration (this might be around 5 minutes, depending on both the sealer being used and the material being sealed) then any surplus sealer, remaining on the surface should be removed with something absorbent, ideally a white paper or cotton towel.All too often though, for various reasons this cleaning away of surplus, whilst still wet, does not take place. Reasons include not reading the instructions and my favourite: “I’ve been using sealers for years, always done it like this and never had a problem.”

A sealer residue can appear in a number of ways: as a dry, white powdery deposit; streaky marks or shiny spots; with some sealers, the residue can take the form of a wet or greasy coating. There are a number of ways in which the problem might be rectified, depending on the circumstances.

For example, if a solvent sealer was used, it is sometimes possible to use a little more of the actual sealer, the solvent carrier-fluid it contains can sometimes re-dissolve the residue allowing it to be wiped away with an absorbent cloth.

For other residues, we would recommend the use of a micro-abrasive cleaner like Microscrub. First apply a little water to the affected area, and then add a little Microscrub and scrub. Rinse well and dry down with paper towels. For really stubborn or thick residues that have been left for some time, a stripper may be required. In such situations we would recommend a solvent based sealer stripper or remover, applied neat and left on for a minimum of 30 minutes before scrubbing with a white nylon pad.

Apart from the last remedy (using a stripper) the others should not result in the need to re-apply more sealer afterwards. So, it need not be the end of the world if a sealer residue is left on the surface, but it is of course better to avoid the problem altogether, by applying the sealer correctly in the first place.

Copyright Ian Taylor and The Tile and Stone Blog.co.uk, 2013. See copyright notice above.

16 Comments

  1. Hi, Just sounds like over application, Yes you applied 2 coats but every stone is different and this two coats is usually a guide, the stone will take in what it needs until it is saturated. Most impregnating sealers need to be applied , allowed some time (a few minutes) to soak in or penetrate, but then they should be wiped up – no wet sealer should be allowed to remain on the surface.

    I think that you have just left a bit too much on the surface,

    First thing to try is apply a little more – I know this sounds odd when I just said you have applied too much – but you are just using the solvent in the sealer to help remove the surplus (which has not fully dried or cured yet as it is still tacky) so, just try a little in a test area, apply a small amount of the sealer, rub it around to try to free up the sticky residue, then, buff it completely dry – so remove the now re emulsified residue.

    let it dry completely then check to see if it has got rid of the problem – if it has then this is great as it means you have removed the residue without removing any sealer from within the stone and you can do the same all over.

    If it does not work, then I suggest you contact your sealer supplier/manufacturer for their advice.

    Hope this helps

    Ian

  2. Hi Ian,
    I’ve recently sealed a area of sandstone around a pool and it has left it white in colour what could I do to fix this.I used a sandstone sealer and limestone sealer I’ve sealed other areas at a different time and have not had this problem.
    Thanks mick

  3. Hi,

    Some sealers are moisture sensitive, and will turn white if exposed to too much moisture during the curing period. Others will appear white if they are applied and not adequately wiped off (the surplus that is) – as impregnating sealers are meant to be inside the stone as opposed to being left on it. With sandstone that is porous, in most cases this does not become an issue as the very porous nature of sansdstone usually means that the sealer is pulled well in to the stone and no discernible residue is left, and so many people do not feel the need to actively remove any surplus. However in some cases, sealer is left at the surface and this can dry as a white deposit.

    Try applying a little more in a test patch, see if the wetting action of the fresh sealer makes the white marks translucent or disappear if so then buff it dry, allow it to dry sometimes this works as you are re emulsifying the residue then wiping it away.

    If this does not work you may have to consider stripping it and starting again, if this is the case I suggest contacting the manufacturer of the sealer you used for their advice.

    Hope this helps

    Ian

  4. Hi

    I’ve got Basalt granite and have had hot wax from a candle pour all over it.
    I’ve removed the wax but it has left a stain on the tiles.
    How do i remove this?

  5. HI,

    It can be tricky.

    Couple of things you can try:

    Assuming the stone is not sealed, try pouring some hot water AROUND but NOT ON the stain so that this warm water can get under the stain and saturate the stone, with the aim of preventing it spreading deeper into the stone. Now, mix a high alkaline degreasing floor cleaner with warm water and apply it to the stain itself. Leave to work for a few minutes, rub with a cloth and mop up the water, uses an absorbent cloth to absorb as much moisture form the stain as possible, repeat a couple of times.

    If this does not work, try using s little bit of a solvent in place of the detergent – do a test first on an inconspicuous part of the floor or a spare piece of stone to make sure it is not affected.

    If the stone is sealed then you wont be able to saturate the area around and beneath the stain, but you can still try the cleaning method., just apply less off it and quickly try to absorb the cleaner up.

    You can also try a poultice, again if you can pre wet the area around it then great, then take the poultice, if it is a ready mixed one, or mix a powder poultice with a degreasing detergent and water, apply the poultice to the stain, overlapping the footprint of the stain by about 20%. Cover the poultice with cling film, and leave for 24 hours. Lift the film and leave the poultice to dry out for an hour or so, then, carefully with a plastic scraper so as not to scratch the stone, lift the poultice, clean the area with water and let it dry. Inspect, if it has worked great, if it has begun to work, and pulled a large portion of the wax put the repeat.

    Hope this helps
    Ian

  6. Hi Ian-

    Hopefully you can lend some advice. We recently had our new limestone French pattern pool deck sealed. It happened to rain about two hours after, so that caused the sealant to bubble and not stick properly.

    They came back and resealed again, and it’s just all stick and blotchy all over. Even had some pink residue as well. Now it’s just all sticky and dirt just sits in it. It comes off when I hit it with a deck brush but no matter what stays sticky and blotchy.

    Do you think pressure cleaning would remove this sealant or would we need to strip it in your opinion?

    Thanks Ian.

  7. Hi Pressure cleaning may help, but I think you will at least need a little mechanical scrubbing, whether by had or by machine – a rotary scrub machine will help significantly. If you can get residue off like this then you may be able to apply a thin coat to top up, making sure to remove any residue while still wet this time and you could be fine. IF you cannot get this off using a scrubber then you will have to resort to using a proprietary stripping chemical and that will necessitate a re seal.

    Hope this helps

    Ian

  8. Thanks Ian. I’ll give this a try a report back.

  9. Hey Ian, my wife and I are just about finished with building our house. We had brick pavers (Alpha Concrete Brick Pavers) installed thoughout most of the common area of the house. The floor came out great other than we thought it had too much of a dull/matte finish. It was sealed twice with the same penetrating sealer (Omni Brand). Once before grouting, once after grouting. The floor supply place gave me a sample of high gloss sealer in the same brand. I tried it in the pantry (test spot), and it added a better shine. I went back to the floor place but they were out of the high gloss sealer. Couldn’t find it at the other local floor places either so I ended up at Lowes and I picked up their brand of high gloss sealer (Miracle). I started in the dining room which seemed to be ok. We haven’t gotten the power turned on yet so I’m going on the outside light coming in windows and a small work light. When I step away and can definitely see a shine on the floor from the reflection of the outside light coming through the window. I then started in the family room but as I got half way through, I started looking at what I had already done. That’s when I noticed that the floor looked chalky (for a lack of better words) as it was drying. Its not a residue like chalky, it’s almost like it changed the color of the brick paver giving it a cloudy appearance. It’s not ridiculously noticeable, but it’s definitely noticeable. I started doing a little research on the Internet about it and read about a couple possible problems. One site said that moisture can be a factor. Another said that using two different brands of sealer can have an affect also. Not sure if there are any other possible reasons but I wanted to get your opinion on it. Thanks in advance for your time and opinions.

  10. Hi Mark,

    OK, for sure moisture during application can be an issue with these types of sealers – it can make them go a little white/opaque. If so there is really only one remedy and that is to strip back, allow it to dry out and then re apply. Also, absolutely it is not great practice to use different products, they are very likely to have slightly different appearances to each other.

    There is one other potential issue though and that is this: most modern coating sealers (a high gloss sealer is a coating sealer) do not need a sealer beneath them, in fact using a penetrating sealer before using a coating sealer is a bad idea. If you think about it, the job of a penetrating sealer is to seal, that usually means creating a surface that will repel liquids to some degree. Problem is that these modern penetrating sealers are now so good that they also repel coatings. It is highly likely that the coating sealers (both/either of them, the brand is not important) will not be able to get a good purchase/key on the tiles because it was initially sealed with 2 coats of penetrating sealer. Instead they will be held up at the surface and this can cause them to puddle/pool i.e not lay nice and flat and so you get too much or too great a thickness and it dries in any number of incorrect ways including looking dull or patchy, chalky or not to dry correctly so they can be streaky and sticky. If there is excess moisture around then this can compound the issue as you have more residue of coating to turn white. Even if it all looked fine, the chances are the coatings you have applied will not be sufficiently well bonded as a result of the penetrating sealer, and so will not last as long as they should and can start to come off/peel, wear faster and in an uneven way. Normally the choice between penetrating or coating is down to how you want the floor to look and whether the particular floor will actually work with a coating – it is not normal to use both.

    I believe you are going to have to strip back the coating sealer entirely. You will need a proprietary stripper for this either brand you mention has them. Then when you are back at the tile surface, see if you can live with the floor for a little while, this will allow it a bit of time for traffic and a few cycles of cleaning, to diminish the surface tension, and thus lessen the repelling effect of the penetrating sealer (it does not mean that floor is no longer sealed against staining by the way, just that the temporary surface effect has subdued). Then you can test the floor to see if it will now take a high gloss before going ahead with the whole thing.

    There is a chance that the stripping action will diminish the surface tension enough to do this right away, and you could also go over the floor again with a scrubbing machine and a mildly alkaline liquid to try to accelerate this process – again small tests will be helpful.

    Hope this helps
    Ian

  11. Hi we have a stone wall and frame around a fireplace. When the stone sealer was applied it over sprayed onto our black metal frame of our fireplace making it look oily, greasy and well ugly…any advise would be greatly appreciated, I am worried about damaging the black metal surface.

    Thank you

  12. Hi,

    OK, notwithstanding the fact that I am not an expert on metal and metal finishes, I think just try a number of things, starting with the weakest, least aggressive and go up in stages from there – first though I would check with the supplier of your metal frame for their advice – just in case the black coating is sensitive to any particular cleaners/methods etc

    Once you have checked that you could try:

    1) Warm water and a sponge/absorbent cloth
    2) if that does not work, a mild detergent – a few drops – not too many, of a washing up liquid added to the warm water – then rinse well with clean water and buff dry with soft cloth
    3) After that you are looking at degreasers – alakaline cleaners but you need to be very sure they won’t damage the black coating on the metal

    Hope this helps
    Ian

  13. Hi,
    Our builder has recently laid riven slate in a downstairs room. The sealant was applied on Friday morning after copious cleaning. The sealant was FILA Stoneplus Colour Enhancing Stain Protector. We have been waiting since Friday for the tile to cure and dry out and it is still tacky/sticky, leaving an oily residue on your fingers. It is also quite glossy.
    I was wondering if you had come across this product and if you had any ideas for how this problem can be addressed. It is the right type of sealant to try applying more of the sealant first as you suggest?
    Many thanks for your help.

  14. Hi, I have not used that exact product but what you describe is a common problem, namely over application and incorrect removal of residue.

    If it is meant to be a below surface (impregnating), matt or natural finish enhancer, then it should be applied left to dwell for a few minutes then all excess should be wiped off and buffed dry.

    It sounds as though your builder has just applied it and left it on to ‘soak in or dry’ He is probably used to standard non enhancing solvent based sealers – if he is used to any that is, and has got away with over application of that type of sealer in the past, more out of good luck than anything else,

    Add to this the dense nature of the slate and over application just results in lots of sealer being left on the surface – taking ages to dry hence the sticky/oily and glossy finish.
    Try getting an absorbent cloth (paper towel, old terry towel, microfibre cloth etc, we use a combination of scrunched up kitchen paper towels and old terry towels) and rub a test area, try to buff it absolutely dry. Keep turning the cloth until saturated – if you can get to to matt, dry condition then great.

    Typically these sealers have a drying curve and the sooner you get the residue off the better. IF you cannot get it off in the manor I describe you might be able to with a white nylon scouring pad and a little water – but you may need or check with the sealer manufacturer first. Failing that you may need to strip it off with their recommended stripper and see what it is like after that.

    hope that helps

    Ian

  15. Ian, thanks so much for your quick reply. I just wanted to clarify something. Is your recommendation to rub down the existing tacky surface without adding any more sealant or to add more and then rub down?

  16. Hi Dave,

    From what you said the surface is oily/greasy – if it is mobile then try wiping/buffing off as it is. The reason I sometimes suggest using more sealer is if the sealer used is a) a solvent based one and b) dry, then the idea is that a solvent may be needed to break it down, re-emulsify it, and if a normal solvent is used then it might strip out some or all of the sealer. Using the sealer itself makes use of the solvent present in the product, and at the same time you will leave sealer there where it is needed – as long as you buff off within a d=few minutes.

    So, it depends if as I thought form your first post, the sealer has not yet dried, (oily ) then you should not need it. If it has dried or is very tacky then you could try using a bit more sealer as described above.

    Hope that helps

    Ian

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