Forged over the course of thousands of years through intense heat and immense pressure deep underground, granite is tough stuff. However, that doesn’t mean it’s completely impervious to damage. Accidents, of course happen, but it’s important to be aware of the limitations of what your granite and other natural stone can handle, and what you can do to prevent this damage in the first place. Knowledge is your friend!
Overall, granite is pretty resistant to stains, but even something as benign as water can cause temporary discoloration if it sinks in. Granite is a naturally porous material, and if left untreated, liquids can make their way under the surface and possibly stain. Chronic offenders include cooking oils, red wines, fruit juice, and berries.
If you find yourself with a stain that water and your natural-stone cleaner just can’t get up, which means the stain is deeply embedded into the pores of the surface, all is not lost! A good trick for pulling a stubborn oil stain out of your countertop is to create a homemade paste out of acetone and baking soda (to the consistency of pancake batter). Let this mixture sit overnight, then wipe it clean and rinse with water. This process might take 2-3 times to completely remove the stain, and it is always recommended to re-seal the surface after this process, as acetone will strip away any existing sealer. If the stain remains after 3 attempts, it is so deeply embedded and will require the help of a professional stone restoration specialist with the proper tools and training.
With an organic stain, soak paper towels or a white terry cloth towel in liquid bleach and let it sit on top of the stain for 24 hours before rinsing completely with water. The stain can also be scrubbed with a soft nylon brush, but sometimes time is your friend in getting these stains up. Again, be sure to re-seal the surface in the area you just treated.
There is almost no such thing as over-sealing your granite! Frequently sealing granite and other natural stone surfaces ensures maximum surface protection against staining, etching, and soil build-up. It’s not a bad idea to check the integrity of the seal with a water test you can do yourself.
Drip about 3″ diameter of water onto the surface in several locations (especially high trafficked areas) and let it sit for 30 minutes. If the stone darkens in that spot, the water is seeping into the stone, and it’s time to reseal.
Etching is the result of a chemical reaction on the surface of granite or other natural stone with acidic chemicals or even foods. They can often look like watermarks or a surface stain, but it is actually physical damage. If severe enough, this can require the (expensive) help of a professional stone restoration specialist, so this is definitely a case where prevention is key!
The most common causes of etching are common household cleaners (most of which feature ammonia or are otherwise acidic), vinegar, wine, coffee, and soda. Be sure to wipe away and standing fluids just to be safe. Also, using a cutting board is important not only for being easier on your knives, but they also help to keep these possibly staining or etching fluids at bay while you prepare your food.
To help prevent etching from happening in the first place, again, it’s important to seal your granite! This will help to protect your investment to not only look great for yourself, but for prospective homebuyers in the future.
You might notice a cloudy or hazy effect on your granite, but most of the time this isn’t any real or permanent damage. Often times the cloudiness comes from the wrong sort of cleaning products, as hand and dish soaps can leave a thin film over the surface. The wrong soaps can also be etching the surface, like discussed above, so it’s important to use a cleaner that is formulated specifically for use on natural stone, like Granite Gold Daily Cleaner®.
A good sealer is the first step in preventing permanent damage, and polishing your countertops regularly is a great way to prevent these hazy buildups from really sticking. Soap scum, water marks and rings under soap containers become much easier to clean off of a well-polished surface, all the while reinforcing your sealer in the process (see our guide on sealing here).
4. Impact Damage:
Granite is tough stuff, but it’s not invincible. Chips and cracks can unfortunately happen, especially on corners or edges around a sink. This can happen with heavy appliances being moved around, dropping a pan on the edge of the counter or being knocked by a ladder during a kitchen remodel.
Generally, these chips will be small in size, or might not be easily visible depending on the pattern of your granite, but you’ll still be able to feel them. If you find yourself with one bad enough to need repair, a professional stone restoration specialist can create an epoxy mix that matches your granite and buff it down to blend it down to disappear into the granite around it.
Under normal use, cracked granite is very rare. Most cracking occurs during handling, fabrication and installation. It is possible, however, so there are a few things to be aware of to just be safe. Avoid standing on the countertops, as standing in the wrong place in relation to the bracing underneath can lead to a crack.
Also, although granite is normally pretty resilient to heat, an extremely hot pan right off the stove can cause enough of a temperature differential to crack the stone. For this reason, and more we’ll get into below, it’s always recommended to use a hot pad or trivet under hot pots and pans!
6. Heat Damage
Even if that hot pot or pan doesn’t crack the surface, it can cause other headaches. The sealant and finish on the granite can be discolored and blackened by extreme heat. Even if the damage isn’t visible, your sealant might be damaged enough for it to lose its effectiveness, making you more susceptible to stains and acid damage.
Better safe than sorry right? Always use a trivet or hot pad under your hot dishes, or even just sitting on the burners of your stove until they cool down.
According to the Moh’s scale of hardness, only a harder material can scratch a softer one. Granite tends to rate around a 6-7 on the Mohs scale (for reference, a diamond is a 10). This means that a kitchen knife won’t be able to scratch the surface, but things like precious stones can, so be careful with jewelry on the surface.
Certain stoneware can damage the surface as well, like pizza stones, ceramics, china and marble cutting boards. Also, it should be noted that what might look like a scratch could actually be etching from a streak of acidic fluid.
Notice the common denominator here? A healthy mix of common sense plus sealing your granite is usually all you need to avoid damage to your investment. Keeping your granite properly sealed can help to protect against the first three entries on this list, which are also the most common issues any natural stone owner will face on a day-to-day basis. A quality product like Granite Gold Sealer® is quick and easy to apply, and usually doesn’t need to be done but once every 6-12 months depending on use, be sure to do the water test outlined above if unsure.
These tips apply equally to natural-stone countertops, stone showers and stone flooring. If you’d like to learn more on how to properly care for your stone, give our stone experts a call at 1-800-475-STONE or shoot us an email here. Be sure to check out our store locator for where you can find our products locally, and be sure to check out our full line of stone care solutions ready to be shipped to your door!