Stone paved floors, walkways and roads have been an architectural staple for hundreds of years for good reason: they last. Now in an age of man-made concrete and pavement replacing stone for most of these tasks, a well done natural-stone patio has become quite the luxury for homeowners. A great place to cook, spend time with the family and entertain guests with your own personal styling touches.
While your stone has been forged in the crust of the earth to last the lifetime of your house, the fit and finish takes a little more TLC to keep up on. So, there are some considerations to be made in order to keep your stone looking its best. Whether it be limestone, travertine, slate or granite, there are a few pitfalls you can find yourself falling into when it comes to maintaining your stone patio.
1) Failing to Clean Spills
If you’re cooking or serving food and drinks out on the patio, spills are an inevitability. From spilled grease to dropped plates or spilled wine, it’s going to happen at one point or another. The important thing is to clean up these spills as quickly as possible to prevent staining for two reasons.
The first is that stone is a porous material, meaning liquids and bacteria/mildew can seep beneath the surface. The other reason is that overly acidic chemicals such as vinegar, citrus and wine can break down the top layer of the stone, affecting the finish through chemical etching.
These are both reasons to maintain a seal on your natural stone (more on that in #5).
2) Using the Wrong Treatment for Moss, Mold and Mildew
It’s not uncommon for mildew, moss, lichen and mold to grow on the surface of your stone – especially in continually shady areas of the patio that stay damp. In getting these biological stains up, it’s important to avoid harsh chemicals that are abrasive or acidic, as these can damage the surface and protective seal.
What you can use instead is a solution of half water and half bleach to kill mold and get up these tough stains. Scrub the diluted solution into the stone with a non-scratch nylon pad or bristle brush to agitate and help lift the stains. After sitting for 15 minutes, thoroughly rinse away the bleach. After a thorough cleaning like this, it’s a good idea to reseal your stone.
3) Failing to Sweep Regularly
It’s important to keep your patio free of leaves, sticks, rocks and excess dirt for a couple different reasons. For one, decomposing leaves and moisture can lead to biological stains. Secondly, sticks, rocks and sand can make for an abrasive surface under foot traffic. This opens you up for scratches and wear of the stone’s finish as the debris acts as sandpaper against the stone with every step.
A regular sweep with an outdoor push broom only takes a few minutes and goes a long way in keeping your patio clear of debris, as well keeping excess water from sitting.
4) Using a Household Cleaner on the Patio
Unlike manufactured materials, natural stone should never be cleaned with acidic, abrasive or harsh household chemicals. They can lead to hazing, etching and pitting in the surface of the stone, as well as damaging the grout around it. They also damage the stone’s protective seal, opening you up to stains in the future.
We recommend instead using a cleaner like Granite Gold Outdoor Stone Cleaner® which is formulated specifically for use on natural stone. It’s pH balanced, non-toxic and completely safe for use on outdoor stone food-prep surfaces like stone BBQs and the floors alike.
5) Failing to Seal the Stone
Whether for stone patio flooring, BBQs or backsplashes, natural stone should be sealed regularly. This will protect against etching, stains and help to prevent mold and mildew from seeping into the porous surface. This goes for limestone, travertine, slate, granite and other natural stone features, whether inside the home or out.
How to know when to seal:
One way you can tell if it’s time to reseal your stone is to see if water seeps into the surface. You can test this yourself by pouring water (a 3″ diameter spot works) onto the stone and letting it sit for 30 minutes before wiping it away. If the water leaves a dark spot where the water was, it’s time to reseal the stone.
You might even notice these dark spots as water dries on the stone as you go about your day, giving you an easy reminder that it’s time to reseal.
How to seal the stone:
To seal the stone, sweep away all debris and clean with a stone-safe cleaner. Once dry, you can apply the natural stone sealer in 3-foot sections and immediately buff it into the stone with a clean lint-free cloth. You don’t want to let the solution sit, as it can cause hazing on the surface. For best results in high-traffic areas, apply 2-3 coats, letting the area dry in between.
Looking to read more on natural stone care? We have plenty of guides and how-tos on caring for stone patios as well as floors and countertops made of stone materials such as granite, marble and travertine. Of course, you can always get in touch with the Stone Care Experts at 1-800-475-STONE to see if we can help you with your stone needs. Also be sure to check out our full line of stone care products, carefully crafted with three generations of stone care expertise!