Water Based Concrete Sealer vs Solvent Based (2023)

Water Based Concrete Sealer vs Solvent Based (1)

The skies just cleared from a recent downpour, and your loyal companion - Sparky - is running through your muddy mess of a yard toward the patio. His lovable face is ecstatic, his tongue is flopping in the wind...but his paws are covered with mud.

He leaps and bounds toward your beautiful concrete acid stained patio. You try to stop him, but it's too late. That Island Sand Artist Grade Concrete Stain now features big, muddy footprints.

No big deal, right? All you need to do is bring the hose out, and those footprints will disappear. Well, that's only if quality concrete sealer covers your patio. Mud is challenging to clean because it seeps deep down into the pores of exposed concrete. That's when you'll be hoping your concrete sealer stands up to the task.

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(Video) Difference between Solvent and Water Based Sealers

You did your research and meticulously put in the time and effort to properly clean and prepare your concrete to apply concrete stain. Scenarios such as Sparky's sloppy feet are why we strongly recommend sealing your finished product.

But should you use a solvent based sealer or a water based concrete sealer?

Water Based Concrete Sealer vs Solvent Based (3)

Cosmetic Value

Solvent based sealers tend to have a high gloss and make concrete look like it does when it is saturated wet with water. This over darkening of the concrete can hide many of the nuances in stain as well as the color variances that's desired when acid staining concrete.

Clear Shield water based sealers make the concrete look like it does when it is damp with water - not saturated wet or dry, rather in between, damp. This enhances the colors while still allowing the variances and nuances to proudly show through. The water based sealers have a satin or semi gloss finish. However, if you apply one or two extra coats, you can usually achieve a higher gloss as the sealer builds up to a thicker finish. Make sure to give each coat time to dry before applying another one.

(Video) Water-Based Concrete Sealer vs Solvent-Based Concrete Sealer

Applying Top Shield floor wax in either the high gloss or matte finish allows you to alter the final finish of either sealer to your desired glossiness or lack thereof. So if you intend to wax your concrete floors or even patios, porches and walkways, the gloss level of the sealer is irrelevant.

To Be Slippery or Not To Be Slippery

Because you apply solvent based sealers at such a thick consistency, they can become slippery, especially when wet. A grip traction additive can be added, but it is still more slippery than water based sealers. The other way to help reduce the slippage is to apply a Top Shield floor wax.

Comparatively, you want to apply water based sealers in layers that are as thin as possible. That allows the texture of the concrete surface to still come through a bit, meaning better traction. However, any sealed concrete can be slippery when wet, and while water based sealer is less slippery than solvent based, you can also use the Clear grip or Top Shield with it to ensure extra traction where needed.

Application Coverage and Durability

Water Based Concrete Sealer vs Solvent Based (4)

Solvents go on thick and water based sealers go on thin as previously mentioned. This means that you'll get more coverage from a gallon of water based sealer. Most solvent based sealers cover approximately 800 sq.ft. +/- per 5 gallon pail. Clear Shield Premium water based sealer covers about 2000 sq.ft. at the recommended 2 coats.

(Video) Totally Defend: Solvent Vs. Water based Sealer

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Solvent based sealers were traditionally more durable and capable of withstanding more damage. However, with the newer technologies and breakthroughs, many water based sealers can hold their own quite well. Today there are very few - if any - solvents that can outperform Clear Shield. That's mostly because of the advancement in water based sealers and partially because of the regulations placed on solvent manufacturers in the past 10 years, diminishing the quality.

As a note, several states have either already outlawed or are in the process of outlawing most solvent based sealers because of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs). We previously made Clear Shield solvent based sealer, but the Environmental Protection Agency and several State agencies lowered the VOCs throughout most of the country due to safety and the environment. We found that it was quite challenging to create a quality product with the lowered VOCs regulation, so we turned our focus toward the water based sealers instead. We're very glad we did because the benefits to our customers are numerous.

When applying the sealer indoors, regardless of which you choose, you'll need to apply and maintain a quality floor wax. The wax acts as the sacrificial coat that protects the sealer. However, when outdoors, it is important to note that while Clear Shield water based sealers and many others allow the concrete to breathe, solvent based sealers do not. What this means is that during rain or periods of heavy moisture, the water that is in the ground can wick through the concrete on a path towards the surface. When the moisture meets a solvent based sealer, it is stopped there. With time, this process will eventually work to break the sealer's bond to the concrete, and it will then begin to look horrible and finally start to flake off. Water based sealers that are designed to breathe - such as Clear Shield - allow a certain amount of moisture to escape through the sealer and evaporate, thereby helping to prevent the bonding issue. There's a chance that could also happen with a water based sealer, but the odds are on your side.

Our water based sealer is a safer choice for a few reasons. The first being that it's simply not as slippery as solvent based sealers, making it a bit more family-friendly. It's also a green product. Currently, the new Clear Shield Premium formula water based decorative concrete sealer is by far the most popular sealer, from do-it-yourself enthusiasts to contractors.

Water based sealers are also safer to apply. Solvent based sealers are flammable and require you to turn off all gas and pilot lights. Water Based sealers are not a flammable product. Solvents are also very aromatic, meaning they'll get you high as a goofy kite when applying in an enclosed area and leave you with a huge headache when you come down. If using indoors, you'll need to stay out while the fumes air, which likely means a night at the motel or the mother-in-law's house. Water Based sealers don't come with either of those headaches.


Applying Water Based Sealer

Water Based Concrete Sealer vs Solvent Based (6)

Wondering how to apply water based concrete stain sealer? It's not challenging - promise!

First, ensure your concrete is dry, and any residue from the acid stain has been thoroughly neutralized and rinsed and is free from dirt. Then put the sealer in a paint pan - don't pour it directly onto the concrete!

Use a paint roller to apply the sealer in two very thin, even coats similarly to how you apply paint - back and forth, in varying directions, overlapping and smoothing out. Make sure you don't simply apply it in straight lines, like in the photo below. Allow each coat to dry completely clear, including in any cracks or corners, before applying additional coats. This usually takes about an hour or two - in warm weather and low humidity. Speaking of humidity, don't apply unless the humidity is 65% or less and don't allow moisture on it for at least 12 hours.

Once you have your final coat on, give the water based sealer at least 24 to 48 hours to cure before applying wax or any form of traffic - especially Sparky's muddy, messy feet! The sealer cures completely within seven to 10 days in warm weather and 10 to 14 days with cooler weather, so don't drive your car on it for that amount of time.

With water based sealer, Sparky can walk his muddy paws all over your concrete acid stained surfaces without damage, and your idea of hosing it off will actually work!

(Video) Choosing a Concrete Sealer | Part 2 – Sealing Concrete

Water Based Concrete Sealer vs Solvent Based (7)


Should I use water based or solvent based concrete sealer? ›

Solvent-based sealers will generally darken your concrete more than a water-based sealer. This can be ideal when you have a decorative effect you are trying to achieve, but water-based sealers can give a more natural appearance to your concrete. This is ideal when working with uncolored gray concrete.

What's better solvent based or water based? ›

Solvent-based paints has a tougher finish than water-based paints, making them easier to clean; however, they become brittle on aging. Water-based paints have faster drying times, excellent adhesion, no need for additives, hardness, or thinness.

Can water based sealer go over solvent based sealer? ›

If a solvent-based sealer was originally used, you'll want to reseal using a solvent-based sealer. A water-based sealer cannot be applied on top of a solvent-based sealer.

Can you put solvent based concrete sealer over water based sealer? ›

Answer: In general, putting a solvent-based sealer on top of a water-based sealer is a bad idea. The solvents can eat or soften the existing water-based sealer, destroying both coatings.

What type of sealer is best for concrete? ›

Epoxy concrete sealers are the most durable, making them good for sealing garage floors and high-traffic retail environments. Softer acrylic sealers, which require a sacrificial floor wax, are more affordable and popular for residential concrete floors, including basements.

How long does a water based concrete sealer last? ›

There are two types of acrylic sealers: water-based and solvent based, both of which have shorter life spans than both penetrating sealers and epoxies. They generally last 1 to 3 years.

What are advantages and disadvantages of using water as a solvent? ›

Explanation: The advantages of water as a universal solvent include : 1) water dissolves more substances than any other compound. Disadvantages of water as a universal solvent include that even poisons can dissolve in water. If there is too much water on the Earth, the salts will dissolve and sink deeper.

How long does it take for water based concrete sealer to dry? ›

Most concrete sealers dry fairly quickly and usually dry to touch within 1-3 hours. This is true of both penetrating and topical sealers. Penetrating sealers usually fully dry for traffic in less than 24 hours with topical sealers generally taking up to 48 hours to fully dry for traffic.

Do water based sealers work? ›

Water-based sealers are a good choice when you are looking for a low-VOC, high-performance concrete sealer that is durable and easy to work with, but without the odor and cleanup issues associated with solvent-based sealers.

What removes water based concrete sealer? ›

A water-based sealer can be removed using chemical etching, pressure washing or by mechanical cutting. If you originally applied a solvent-based and now want a water-based sealant, you will have to remove the solvent-base first because the water-based sealant will not be able to adhere to the solvent-based sealant.

Can I apply concrete sealer over old sealer? ›

Before applying a new sealer, it's very important that you make sure the old one is completely gone. This is because any old sealer left on the surface of your concrete can impede the effectiveness of the newly applied sealant, preventing proper adhesion to the concrete surface.

Will Xylene remove water based concrete sealer? ›

Pour the Xylene on the surface and allow it to sit for about 45 seconds. Then, pour on a little more and use a stiff straw scrub brush to lightly scrub and break up the sealer. The Xylene will melt the sealer back into it's liquid form. If you are working outdoors, you can use a power washer to blow the sealer off.

What does solvent do to a concrete sealer? ›

Solvent: This solvent allows the sealer to penetrate more deeply into the concrete when this is required before the application of the final coat. It also helps to dilute and thin existing sealer so the fresh layer can offer better protection and adhesion.

Is it better to spray or roll concrete sealer? ›

The answer depends on the surface's square footage. For large surfaces such as commercial floors, a sprayer is faster and way more efficient. Finally, for small surfaces, such as garages or any other exterior surface, a paint roller or any other type of roller will do the trick. Rolling is a less expensive process.

Is solvent based concrete sealer good? ›

That being said solvent based concrete sealers tend to outperform and outlast water based concrete sealers. They are able to penetrate deeper and bond better to the slab. Water based concrete sealers are excellent choices if you are looking for eco-friendly options.

What are the two types of concrete sealer? ›

There are two common types of sealers to choose from – film forming and penetrating, with each offering their own different benefits and each suitable for different applications.

What is the cheapest way to seal concrete? ›

Acrylic Sealers

Concrete sealers that are acrylic-based cost around $0.85 to $1.15 per square foot. They are some of the most affordable concrete sealers that you can use both indoors and outdoors.

What happens if you put too much sealer on concrete? ›

Heavy coats of sealer, or a buildup of sealer applied numerous times over the years, will cause moisture to become entrapped under the sealer and, in time, the sealer loses adhesion from the concrete.

What time of year is best to seal concrete? ›

As a general rule of thumb, concrete sealing should be performed when the weather is at 50 degrees F or higher, suggests Concrete Network. Though other factors, such as the type of sealant being applied, can adjust the safe temperature to apply sealant, spring is generally considered the ideal time for sealing work.

What driveway sealer lasts the longest? ›

Coal Tar based sealers have long been the gold standard for asphalt sealing durability.

Why is water particularly effective as a solvent? ›

Because of its polarity and ability to form hydrogen bonds, water makes an excellent solvent, meaning that it can dissolve many different kinds of molecules.

What are the limitations of water as a solvent? ›

Water is the sustainable solvent of excellence, but its high polarity limits the solubility of non-polar compounds. Confinement of water in hydrophobic pores alters its hydrogen bonding structure and related properties such as dielectric constant and solvation power.

What is the advantage of using water as a solvent? ›

Water is commonly known as the universal solvent - although it isn't truly universal - because it is able to dissolve more substances than any other liquid. Additionally, its property as a solvent is extremely important to life as it is able to transport chemicals, minerals, and nutrients essential to life.

What happens if concrete sealer gets wet before it dries? ›

Second, the concrete surface must be dry at the time of sealer application. If a polyurethane sealer comes in contact with moisture, a chemical reaction takes place, causing bubbles and foam.

How many coats of sealer do you put on concrete? ›

Concrete sealers are best applied in two thin coats. The first coat of sealer acts like a primer. Most of it will disappear into the concrete surface, and the concrete will probably look fairly unattractive after the first coat. The second thin coat will provide an even finish, color enhancement and gloss.

What happens if it rains on fresh concrete sealer? ›

Rain can also wreak havoc on freshly sealed concrete, causing the sealer to bubble and blister. Be sure to apply the sealer when it will remain rain-free for 24 hours after sealing.

Which is better oil based or water based concrete sealer? ›

Although both types have advantages, water-based sealers' shorter cure time and eco-friendliness make it the better choice in many situations.

Will muriatic acid remove water based concrete sealer? ›

A chemical stripper is a chemical compound that actually destroys the coating, usually turning it into sludge. Another common misconception is that an acid will remove a sealer. Most common acids (such as muriatic, hydrochloric and phosphoric) will have no effect on cured acrylics, polyurethanes or epoxies.

Does concrete sealer make concrete darker? ›

Sealers, particularly solvent-based sealers, will darken concrete. If unevenly applied, it will create light areas where there is less sealer, and darker areas where there's more. If applied by sprayer, it may appear like “stripes”. Uneven roller application may leave darkened roller marks.

Is water based sealer good for concrete? ›

Water-based acrylic cure-and-seals work just as well as solvent-based ones for curing plain concrete — again without darkening the surface.

Does pressure washing remove concrete sealer? ›

A strong enough power washer will blast most types of sealer off of concrete with ease. The trick is to make sure to pressure wash the entire surface area. For more sturdy sealers, it may take a few passes with the pressure washer to get it completely removed.

How do you fix a cloudy water based concrete sealer? ›

If there are white spots or a cloudy light gray or deeper color tone on your concrete after applying a sealer, you will probably need to use chemical products like acetone or xylene. These products are similar and can help with the type of sealer issue.

Why is my concrete sealer sticky? ›

With any one-part acrylic sealer, the plastic resin needs to wet out (penetrate) the concrete surface and form a film as the solvent evaporates. If the solvent evaporates too fast, the sticky, soft resin is pulled into strands by the roller.

How long should concrete sealer dry between coats? ›

A: Most concrete sealers dry fairly quickly and are usually touch-dry after 4 hours. This is true of both penetrating and topical sealers. Penetrating sealers usually fully cure in 24 hours with topical sealers generally taking up to 48 hours to fully dry.

What are the pros and cons of using xylene? ›

Table 2
Reasonably fast drying and leaves no residueCannot be distilled
Reduced fire riskSamples take more time to dry thoroughly
Has a high vapor pressure, and thus does not evaporate fast.Degreasing effect on skin
Hence, cover slipping multiple slides is easy
5 more rows

Will bubbles in concrete sealer go away? ›

As far as getting rid of the blisters and bubbles, there are three common remedies depending on type of sealer and how many and how deep the bubbles and blisters run. For solvent-based sealers, blisters and other surface defects can usually be removed with a solvent bath (wetting the surface with acetone or xylene).

Will vinegar strip concrete sealer? ›

For some reason, this idea that vinegar will remove concrete sealer has become one of the more pervasive myths about concrete, and it is just that: a myth. That's because almost all concrete sealants are made to be resistant to acid, which vinegar is. As if that wasn't enough, vinegar can actually damage concrete.

How do you remove solvent based concrete sealer? ›

How to remove a solvent-based concrete sealer: Start by removing any visible peeling and flaking and use a solvent based stripper such as Xylene to remove the previous sealer. (If concrete was dyed or stained, using Xylene can damage or change the color of the concrete.)

Are water based sealers slippery? ›

Our water based sealer is a safer choice for a few reasons. The first being that it's simply not as slippery as solvent based sealers, making it a bit more family-friendly.

Is Valspar concrete sealer water or solvent based? ›

An industrial-grade, water-based, proprietary concrete sealer designed to strengthen and waterproof concrete in one easy step.

How do you prevent roller marks when sealing concrete? ›

Roller Marks/Streaks: Roller marks or streak marks occur when the sealer was applied too heavily, unevenly, or without maintaining a wet edge. Apply thin, even coats and if roller marks occur use Xylene to correct the problem.

Does concrete sealer make it smooth? ›

Sealants such as the Retroplate system protect concrete floors from staining and prevent dusting and when burnished it creates a high gloss and shine. Depending on grit level; a flat, matte, satin, semi-polished, or highly polished glassy like finish can be achieved.

How long does concrete sealer need to dry before rain? ›

Typically, it can take anywhere from 10-12 hours to dry before being able to be walked on, but they will continue to harden for up to 48 hours after being applied. Concrete sealed with a urethane coating should not be walked on (with the exception of a recoat), driven on, or wet for at least 36-48 hours.

Can I put water based sealer over solvent based sealer? ›

If a solvent-based sealer was originally used, you'll want to reseal using a solvent-based sealer. A water-based sealer cannot be applied on top of a solvent-based sealer.

Is oil-based or water based sealer better? ›

If you have an older driveway that is in need of some extra protection, an oil-based sealer may be the better option. However, if you want a more environmentally-friendly option that is easy to use and quick to dry, a water-based sealer may be the way to go.

What is the difference between water and solvent based sealer? ›

Solvent sealer particles are smaller than water so can penetrate into the dense and most highly polished surfaces. Solvent sealers are still required to highlight or enhance colour in a surface. Solvent coatings give a more brilliant hi gloss than water based alternatives.

What type of driveway sealer is best? ›

If you're sealing an asphalt driveway, use a latex-based sealer. Avoid oil-based sealers because they will likely crack over time. Siloxane and acrylic sealants work well with concrete driveways. It's best to avoid high-gloss, which could make the driveway surface slippery.

Why is my driveway sealer shiny? ›

When they go door-to-door, that usually means you can see where they are working. If the sealer is drying shiny and glossy, that's a very bad sign. Good quality asphalt sealer should dry a flat, black matte. Shiny is slippery and will not endure.

What happens if you put concrete sealer on too thick? ›

Heavy coats of sealer, or a buildup of sealer applied numerous times over the years, will cause moisture to become entrapped under the sealer and, in time, the sealer loses adhesion from the concrete.


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