Guard Industry

Quality water based sealers vs solvent based

Water based sealers vs solvent based sealers

Probably one of the most commonly asked questions between water and solvent sealers is “Is there a need for both?” Yes, and we cover why that is. The base is the carrier of the sealer. Some sealers are carried through a base consisting of water. Some sealers are carried through a base consisting of solvent. The word solvent can mean a whole variety of products also, there are good and bad solvents, cheap and expensive ones, so you may not know what you’re getting without reading up on the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) that will explain exactly which solvent is used. Water is just standard potable water from a tap.

Why does it matter what the base is?

There are 3 main justified reasons that people still use solvent based sealers and a 4th that just needs to be addressed:

  1. Solvent sealer particles are smaller than water so can penetrate into the dense and most highly polished surfaces
  2. Solvent sealers are still required to highlight or enhance colour in a surface
  3. Solvent coatings give a more brilliant hi gloss than water based alternatives
  4. People still believe solvent sealers are superior to water based alternatives – this isn’t true anymore

“Then why use water-based?” I hear you ask?

Mostly because it’s better for you and the environment. Generally water based can match solvent based like for like in all other applications. Then there are the obvious reasons, such as the 3 little letters VOC (volatile organic compounds). Solvents are bad for your health and for the environment. Solvents are flammable and generally travel as dangerous goods so expensive to ship around. It’s very difficult to use solvents in closed low ventilation spaces and not very fun for the person applying them.

Water based products on the other hand have none of these issues or restrictions.

Understanding VOC’s

Lowering volatile organic compound (VOC) content is a huge concern for chemical manufacturers, largely due to increasingly restrictive regulations across the country requiring lower VOC levels in various paint and coatings applications.

Because of the more restrictive regulatory environment, knowing the characteristics of the different types of sealers, which can vary from very high VOC (more than 400 grams per litre) to very low VOC (less than 100 grams per litre), can help you to determine which one is right for your project.

Sealers come in both water based option (typically lower VOC) and solvent based options (normally higher VOC).It’s good to note that Guard Industry® has been working on R&D for over 30 years perfecting the very best water-based sealers and also the very best solvent sealers using new patented technology and Eco Solvents to keep VOC down to 400 grams per litre, while being non-flammable and non-dangerous goods.

Advantages & Disadvantages


Solvent Based Advantages

  • A solvent can typically penetrate deeper into a dense and highly polished surface
  • Can enhance the surface using solvents and enhancers
  • Higher gloss in epoxy and polyurethane type coatings

Solvent Based Negatives

  • Generally more expensive due to solvent costing more than water and additional cost for transport
  • Evaporates quickly in warm weather so hard to use in warm climates
  • Surface needs to be 100% dry before application so hard to use in humid or wetter climates
  • Difficult to apply in closed spaces due to odours
  • Additional PPE (personal protective equipment required) required

Water Based Advantages

  • Excellent for very porous to very dense surface applications
  • Safer to use, indoors, outdoors, around children and pets
  • Non-hazardous, non-flammable, low VOC and normally odourless
  • Can be used in warmer, humid and wetter climates. Surface doesn’t need to be 100% dry
  • Can be used inside and outside without issue
  • Generally more cost effective
  • Easily clean off your tools with water and re-use. Far less wasted tools

Water Based Negatives

  • May not give as high a gloss as solvent epoxy and polyurethane
  • May not penetrate as deep on very dense and highly polished surfaces. 
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