Binary stars evolve into chemically peculiar objects and are a major driver of the galactic enrichment of heavy elements. During their evolution they undergo interactions, including tides, that circularize orbits and synchronize stellar spins, impacting both individual systems and stellar populations. Using Zahn’s tidal theory and mesa main-sequence model grids, we derive the governing parameters λlm and E2, and implement them in the new mint library of the stellar population code binary_c. Our mint equilibrium tides are two to five~times more efficient than the ubiquitous bse prescriptions, while the radiative-tide efficiency drops sharply with increasing age. We also implement precise initial distributions based on bias-corrected observations. We assess the impact of tides and initial orbital-parameter distributions on circularization and synchronization in eight open clusters, comparing synthetic populations and observations through a bootstrapping method. We find that changing the tidal prescription yields no statistically significant improvement as both calculations typically lie within 0.5σ. The initial distribution, especially the primordial concentration of systems at log10(P/d) ≈ 0.8, e ≈ 0.05 dominates the statistics even when artificially increasing tidal strength. This confirms the inefficiency of tides on the main sequence and shows that constraining tidal-efficiency parameters using the e − log10(P/d) distribution alone is difficult or impossible. Orbital synchronization carries a more striking age-dependent signature of tidal interactions. In M35 we find twice as many synchronized rotators in our mint calculation as with bse. This measure of tidal efficiency is verifiable with combined measurements of orbital parameters and stellar spins.