How to Care for Natural Stone Countertops

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It’s not surprising that one of the most desired features in a home today is natural stone countertops.  It’s also not surprising that one of the first major upgrades people make to their homes when remodeling is changing out the countertops for granite or marble.  Simply put, natural stone offers both elegance and durability that simply cannot be matched in other products.  If cared for properly, a granite or marble countertop will last for many years.  The key is in the care.

Why Granite is a Better Choice in the Kitchen?granite slab

Granite is going to be more durable and require less maintenance on your countertops than marble, travertine or sandstone.  Granite, consisting mainly of quartz, feldspar and mica, is an igneous rock, meaning it was formed from molten rock millions of years ago.  It is heat, stain and scratch resistant. Most of the granite used today comes from mines in Brazil, Italy, India, China and Spain to name a few.

Marble on the other hand, is a metamorphic rock formed from recrystallized limestone or dolomite.  It is composed mainly of calcite which is highly sensitive to acids.  Wine, vinegar, and fruit juices can etch marble.  Marble is also much softer than granite and will scratch easily, which is why it is not often used in kitchens susceptible to damage by normal use.  However, marble offers timeless beauty and has been used for years in fine hotels, homes, and many opulent buildings around the world because of its unique qualities. Today, marble is most often used in bathrooms, on accent walls, and around fireplaces.  Most of the marble we get today comes from Italy, Greece, US, and Turkey.


Caring for your Natural Stone Countertops household cleaners

Put Away the Household Cleaners! Many commercial household cleaners contain lemon, vinegar or other mild acids that can dull or etch marble, travertine or limestone.  Some cleaners can also strip away any protective sealer that may have been applied to your stone. If you do use a commercial cleaner, make sure it is “ph neutral” or labeled safe to use on natural stone.  And always test the cleaner in an inconspicuous spot before using it to see how it affects the sealer.

It’s also very important to remember to keep your countertops properly sealed to help protect against staining.  Sealing the stone will not guarantee that a stain won’t occur; rather, it makes the surface more stain resistant.   An easy way to test to check if your countertop needs to be sealed is to drop a few drops of water on it and see if the water beads up or if the water soaks in.  It should bead up immediately.  You will generally want to reseal your countertops every couple of years with a good commercial grade sealer.  (Note: lighter colored granite is more porous than darker colored granites and will require additional coats of sealer.)

Practice Safe Cleaning

  • Clean stone surfaces with a neutral cleaner, stone soap, or a mild liquid dishwashing detergent and warm water.  (Note – when using mild dishwashing liquid you will need to rinse thoroughly with clean water to avoid a soapy build-up and streaking)
  • Use trivets and mats under dishes and glasses on your countertops.  Again, granite doesn’t require as much care as other stones.
  • Blot spills immediately to avoid spreading the stain.  Clean affected area with warm soapy water.  Rinse well.
  • AVOID Windex unless says it’s safe for natural stone.
  • Again, if you chose to use a commercial cleaning solution, make sure it is safe to use on natural stone.


OH NO, What do I do NOW?

So what do you do when accidents happen?  When the little one accidently uses a magic marker on it, or you find a red wine ring in the middle of the island from the party the night before, or the weekend barbeque warrior leaves his kill on the countertop to thaw overnight leaving a blood ring on your new countertop?

No worries, unless your countertop is white marble!

Here are a few steps to clean up the mess; however, time is of the essence.  Try to remove the stain AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

  • Organic Stains: coffee, tea, wine, blood, fruit etc, use a solution of hydrogen peroxide and a few drops of ammonia.  Rinse thoroughly, dry and reseal.
  • Oil Based Stains: cooking oil, cosmetics, tar, grease, use mineral spirits or acetone.  Rinse thoroughly, dry and reseal.
  • Ink: magic marker, pen, ink. On light colored stones, clean with bleach or hydrogen peroxide. On dark colored stones, clean with lacquer thinner or acetone.
  • Paint: use a razor blade to scrap the surface then clean the remaining with lacquer thinner.  Note:  DO NOT use a razor blade on marble, travertine or limestone as it may scratch the surface.
  • Lastly, if none of the above works,  you can do one of the following:
    1.  Try using a stone specific commercial cleaning product to remove the stain, or
    2. Call a professional.

As mentioned above, granite is virtually indestructible. It does not react to mild acids like marble will and will usually dull a knife before showing any scratches.

Protect your investment by following these simple rules, and your countertops will look as new in 20 years as the day they were installed.

For more information visit: Marble Institute


photo credit: Elizabeth/Table4Five via photopin cc
photo credit: via photopin cc

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