I have lost count of how many times I have spoken to clients about this problem.
I received a call yesterday from a very frustrated gentlemen telling me that his Limestone floor cost several thousand pounds to lay, but has deteriorated in its appearance from day one and was contemplating having it taken up because how grubby it looks, and has failed in his attempts of keeping it looking like new!
They usual comment “it was never sealed properly when it was laid”.
What is a sealer? What is an impregnator?
Both names are used in the same context, but vary considerably, but let’s start with Sealer.
Sealers are a blend of acrylic resin and co polymers solution, which dresses the floor with a shine. It’s important to find the right sealer as some are said to allow the stone to breathe and assist in keeping the surface free from dirt build up and making the cleaning and maintenance considerably easier.
Impregnating solution is mainly solvent based but are quite smelly, so is advisable to wear protective clothing and a suitable mask. They use oils, pigments and plant extracts to produce an invisible protective shield, which helps repel water and oil based stains. Water based impregnators do not have such toxic smells but generally doesn’t protect the surface quite as well as the solvents.
Generally a tiler will impregnate the tiles with a solvent based solution prior to laying, to make the clean up process easier, as not to stain the natural stone with cement / grout residues.
Once laid, a tiler will impregnate again to make sure they are protected, but not all do the first treatment or even the last, as it can be quite a costly and time consuming process, so the customer sees the finished product looking fantastic, pays the invoice, and so on.
Most customers won’t ask the tiler has it been impregnated /sealed.
How best do I clean the floor?
The customer goes about their lives caring for the newly laid floor, your proud of your new purchase, the floor sets the tone for any room, it’s also the element that has the longest life expectancy, usually being replaced long after furniture and furnishings as with most things when its new, you care for it, clean it etc, so you purchase a so called floor cleaner from the supermarket, and set upon your first clean.
That’s where the problem starts, most house hold floor cleaners contain Non- ionic Surfactants, (Shampoo / Soap) which is an alkaline they will have a PH of 9-14, “So what?” I hear you ask! Would you wash your hands and not wash the soap off? No, but that’s what happens to your natural or ceramic floors, you apply soap to the floor but never rinse with plain water, so the process of soil attracting residues start.
The more you wash the floor, the more it attracts the soil so the more detergent you put in your bucket.
What should I use?
A neutral floor cleaner or plain water, this is where you will see the benefit of having impregnated / sealed floors, you don’t need harsh chemicals to clean as the impregnator will do the job for you of repelling the dirt.