In most cases, granite countertops, backsplashes and accent pieces are given a mirror-like polish upon installation. However, given these surfaces serve as much of a functional purpose as they do an aesthetic one, that polished sheen is sure to fade over time. Luckily, in most cases bringing back that shine is an easy and quick process as long as you keep up a modest maintenance routine.
Granite is one of the hardest stone countertop options, checking in on the Moh’s hardness scale at around a 7 (for reference, diamond is a 10 and marble is usually 3-4). That means in general use, you probably won’t be scratching the surface too often, but it is certainly possible. So, let’s get into the five most common mistakes we see when polishing granite at home.
1: Not Maintaining the Protective Seal
Upon installation, your granite was treated with a sealing solution to protect it from staining and etching. The issue is that for as solid a surface as granite is, it’s still a porous material, meaning liquids and other substances can seep beneath the surface and leave a stain.
Case in point, the way you test your stone’s seal is using the water test. This can be done by pouring small amounts of water about 3 inches in diameter in various spots on the counter. If the water seeps through and leaves dark spots after 30 minutes, the water is penetrating the granite and needs to be resealed.
On top of bringing back the shine, you’re looking for, polishing with a natural-stone specific solution will help bolster your seal’s integrity — but you need to have that strong seal as a basis for the polish to do its job.
2: Using the Wrong Cleaners
So, while we’ve established that granite is a physically strong material, it does have an Achilles Heel: acidic chemicals. Granite, like most stone surfaces, contains calcium carbonate which reacts with low pH substances such as vinegar or citrus. This leads to etching on the surface, which might look like a stain or a hard watermark, but is permanent damage by way of chemical burn.
On the other side of the pH scale, alkaline chemicals such as ammonia or bleach will damage the protective seal, and prolonged exposure to bleach can discolor and oxidize the surface.
We recommend using a cleaner that is formulated specifically for use on natural stone, such as Granite Gold Daily Cleaner®, which is pH balanced. This helps maintain a healthy seal while cleaning effectively, setting you up for ideal polishing conditions.
3: Using the Wrong Polishing Tools and Compounds
Using general-purpose polishing compounds or pads on granite can also be counterproductive. Abrasive polishing pads and mixtures in the wrong hands can do more harm than good, and in most cases just aren’t needed. More often than not, a good cleaning with a stone-safe cleaning product and coat of polish on a well-sealed surface is all you need to remove hard water marks, soap scum, and light stains.
As opposed to other general-purpose polishing solutions, Granite Gold Polish® brings back the glossy finish, bolsters the protective seal and also helps to protect against stains, soap scum and soil from taking hold. This makes your job in day-to-day cleaning quick and easy, as things will lift off the surface with minimal effort.
We do not recommend homeowners using any sort of power tool or diamond polishing pads – these should be used by professionals who are trained in stone restoration, as these surfaces are tricky to get right. Even neglected granite should be able to be restored with a stone-safe polishing solution and a lint-free microfiber or paper towel.
4: Making Floors Too Slippery
Granite or other polished stone floors should not be spray polished, as this can make for a very slippery surface. This is especially true of anywhere that sees any decent amount of foot traffic, such as kitchens, bathrooms, and hallways. These areas should be cleaned regularly and sealed, but polishing them yourself is not recommended.
Now anyone who has spent a fair amount of time in train stations, upscale hotels, or museums with stone floors has probably seen people hard at work polishing the flooring. However, these are professionals with specialized equipment and polishing compounds that are designed for use with those tools. Special care is taken to make sure that the stone isn’t slippery in these areas, and they see much higher foot traffic than your home flooring will.
5: Not Cleaning Spills as They Happen
When you’re in the middle of preparing a meal or some sort of project, you’d be forgiven for wanting to wait until you’re done with everything to clean-up, but this can leave lasting effects. More foods than you might expect are acidic and will etch granite, such as wine, vinegar, fruit juice, soda, coffee, and tea. Then things like cooking oil can leave difficult to lift stains if allowed to penetrate the surface.
Another common problem area can be soaps or toiletries left on the counter. At best these can leave stubborn rings and soap scum, but others can damage the seal or discolor the stone. That’s why we recommend keeping soaps and toiletries on trays or on the sink itself (if it’s less susceptible to these issues than stone). It’s also a good idea to use serving trays for dishes, trivets or heat pads for hot pans and cutting boards for meal prep.
To learn more about polishing granite or other stone care tips, feel free to reach out to the experts at Granite Gold®. All our products are safe to use on granite, marble, slate, travertine, and other natural stone. Give us a call today at 1-800-475-STONE, and be sure to check out our full line of stone care products!