Have you ever wondered what the best tubeless sealant is? Well, if you have, you’ve come to the right place because we’ve carried out a series of controlled tests to try to find out.
There are a number of different options when it comes to which sealant to use in your tubeless road tyres or mountain bike tyres, with brands opting for either latex-based formulas, higher viscosity, or using hole-plugging additives. We’ve delved into more detail in our buyer’s guide at the end of this article and you can find out more about how our testing went in the video below.
If you’re new to the world of tubeless tyres, we have an explainer on tubeless tyres that tells you everything you need to know, as well as a guide on how to repair a punctured tubeless tyre. We also have a guide to the best tubeless pumps and inflators. Elsewhere, we explored whether tubeless sealant is bad for the environment.
The best tubeless sealant for bike tyres in 2022
- Stan’s No Tubes Race Sealant: £32 / $39 for 946ml
- Effetto Mariposa Caffélatex: £20 / $28.99 for 1 litre
- Orange Seal Endurance: £16 / $16.49 for 237mm (with injector)
- Schwalbe Doc Blue: £21 for 500ml
- e*thirteen Tire Plasma: £19.95 / $17.95 for 1 litre
Stan’s No Tubes Race Sealant
- £32 / $39 for 946ml as tested
This is one of the most effective sealants we’ve tested. It plugged holes made by a 6mm-diameter screwdriver with minimal fuss, only losing 5psi from the starting pressure of 30psi, and holding 30psi after sealing. The relatively runny solution sealed sidewall holes quickly too, and all punctures were plugged with minimal leaking.
When we tested a number of sealants, it was the only one to plug a hole made by an 8mm screwdriver, which it managed after three rotations of the wheel.
It’s considerably more expensive than some sealants that perform almost as well. We’d recommend Stan’s Race Sealant for keen racers or regular tyre-rippers, but there are other suitable options for more cash-conscious riders.
Effetto Mariposa Caffélatex
- £20 / $28.99 for 1 litre as tested
This is one of the best-value sealants here. It was one of the cheapest in our testing, but it was the second most effective.
The low-viscosity foaming solution plugs hard-to-reach sidewall punctures with the least air loss, sealed holes made by a 6mm screwdriver with 10psi air loss, and sealed 30psi with minimal leaking once the hole was sealed.
It couldn’t plug a 6mm hole as quickly as Stan’s Race Sealant, and couldn’t plug a hole made by an 8mm screwdriver, but that’s not uncommon. Additives are available from Effetto that are claimed to increase the effectiveness of Caffélatex with larger holes, though.
Orange Seal Endurance
- £16 / $16.49 for 237mm (with injector) as tested
We found Orange Seal’s original formula to be one of the most effective solutions for sealing large holes in the past, but it degraded quickly. This Endurance version is claimed to last up to four months between top-ups. The included valve injector makes topping up the tyre easier too.
Although it plugged sidewall holes well, it couldn’t match the original version when it came to larger holes. After successfully sealing the hole made by a 6mm screwdriver, the seal broke as it was re-inflated above 20psi.
Schwalbe Doc Blue
Doc Blue is made by Stan’s No Tubes. While we’re not sure if it’s exactly the same formula, it performs just like the original Stan’s sealant (not the Race Sealant in this list) in our tests. The only real difference is the blue colour, and the fact an empty 60ml dispenser bottle and a valve-core remover are included, making installation easier.
It’s considerably more expensive than the original Stan’s solution on which it’s based (which costs £16 for a 473ml bottle). Like Stan’s original sealant, it performs well with smaller holes, but doesn’t plug larger ones as well as the top performers here. The 6mm screwdriver resulted in almost all the air being lost.
e*thirteen Tire Plasma
- £19.95/$17.95 for 1 litre as tested
At under £20 for a litre bottle, this is one of the cheapest sealants we’ve tested. It was able to plug up to 6mm holes quickly, with similar pressure loss to Orange Seal Endurance Sealant. It was similarly mid-pack when it came to plugging sidewall holes too.
It must be shaken vigorously then poured immediately for the small particles to get into the tyre. Although it coated the tyre well and plugged holes quickly, it never completely sealed them. When testing with a Michelin Wild Grip’R 2, the holes we made all leaked very slightly (like a slow puncture) after sealing.
What is tubeless sealant?
Tubeless sealant is a liquid designed to plug small holes in a tyre’s casing, thus preventing punctures. It works a bit like blood clotting to prevent bleeding. There are two main types: latex-based and latex-free.
Most sealants use the coagulating properties of natural latex to clog punctures. Latex is a dispersion of polymers (long-chain molecules) in either water or a water-based solution of ammonia. Inside a hole in the tyre, the air pressure drops and there is a rush of air. This causes the water/ammonia solution to evaporate, leaving the latex molecules to coagulate (knit together), plugging the hole.
The problem with latex-based sealants is that, as air is pumped in and out of the tyre during normal use, the water/ammonia solution slowly evaporates. This causes the latex to coagulate inside the tyre carcass, resulting in a dried-up mess, which after a few months, won’t seal punctures.
Most latex-based sealants also contain small particles, such as glitter or small fibres, suspended in the liquid.
These help to provide a surface for the latex to coagulate around (like how snowflakes form around a particle of dust), thereby helping it seal holes more quickly and effectively. The downside is these particles accelerate the rate at which latex coagulates inside the tyre, reducing its lifespan.
These have no latex and no chemical change occurs inside the tyre. Instead, they rely on a more viscous (thicker) liquid, containing a wider variety of sealing particles, designed to physically plug punctures.
These last far longer inside the tyre, but, in our experience, don’t plug punctures as well.
How we tested
The problem with real-world testing is that it’s impossible to test each sealant in the same conditions. The tyre, temperature and the type or position of the puncture all affect the sealant’s ability to seal. Therefore, we performed comparative tests in our workshop, controlling the variables as much as possible.
All the tyres needed to be identical because the tyre casing makes a big difference to its ability to seal (generally, thicker casings seal more easily). Also, worn-out tyres may not seal the same as brand-new ones, so we used box-fresh tyres for all sealants.
In an ideal world, we would have used a different tyre for each sealant, but this would be extremely wasteful. Instead, we used two of the same model of tyre (Michelin Wild Grip’R 2), and tested three sealants with each tyre (please note that the tyres shown in the video are not the tyres used in our tests).
After we’d finished testing a sealant, we thoroughly cleaned the tyre with water and rags, plugged the existing holes in the tyre with tape, and tested the next sealant on a different section of tyre. Using this method, we can be fairly confident that the order in which the sealants were tested didn’t affect the results.
After thoroughly shaking the bottle of sealant, we installed 100ml of each into the tyre (27.5in x 2.3in), inflated to 30psi, then span and shook the wheel to ensure the tyre was evenly coated.
We then stabbed the tyre on the outer casing, between the tread blocks, using a 2mm pick. The tyre was spun until the hole was sealed and the pressure loss was then measured, before re-inflating to 30psi.
The same hole was widened by inserting a 4mm screwdriver, and the process was repeated. We then tested with a 6mm, then an 8mm screwdriver, or until the tyre would no longer hold 30psi.
We also inserted a 2mm pick halfway up the sidewall of the tyre, spun the wheel in the vertical plane, and measured how much air was lost from our 30psi starting point. This test was intended to see how easily the sealants could access the harder-to-reach parts of the tyre.
Those that sealed the biggest holes, or held the most pressure with a given size of hole, were deemed to perform the best. We also considered the cost per unit volume when scoring and ranking the sealants.
The limitations of our testing
However, we should acknowledge the shortcomings of this protocol. First, due to the demand for the destruction of brand-new tyres, we weren’t able to repeat the test with the sealants in a different order or to allow a fresh tyre for each sealant. This limits the reliability of our results, so if someone else were to repeat this test, they may get different results.
Also, the longevity of these sealants was outside the remit of this test. This is because to make a longevity test fair, we’d need to leave each sealant inside different tyres for several months before testing.
Again, this would demand the destruction of too many tyres. Simply using the sealant on a bike for a few months would introduce too many variables because not all sealants would be used in the same way.
Finally, a sealant’s ability to seal a hole made by a cylindrical screwdriver may not necessarily correlate to its ability to seal a real-world puncture, such as a rip in a sidewall. We used screwdrivers and picks because they produce measurable and repeatable holes. As is often the way with product testing, we compromised realism for repeatability.