Granite has been a staple building material for us going back to ancient times, but the past few decades have seen granite countertops, in particular, explode in popularity. Striking just the right balance between decoration and utility, granite countertops are as much a work of art as they are a practical investment into your home.
Speaking of investment, it stands to reason you’d want to arm yourself with the knowledge needed to keep your granite and other natural stone looking as good as the day it was installed. There are indeed a few specific considerations you need to keep in mind when maintaining your natural stone, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll get into one of the most common issues you’ll face: water stains.
Two Types of Water Stains:
Granite is a naturally porous material, meaning even something as innocuous as water can seep beneath the surface. You’re likely to encounter two forms of water stain, though. A simple water stain is when a spill or condensating glasses on the counter leads to a dark mark or ring in the granite. The second type is more difficult to remedy, and that is a build up of mineral deposits from hard water.
Simple Water Stains:
Most visible in lighter examples, simple water stains are simply dark spots in the granite from water seeping beneath the surface. There is good news and bad news here. The good news is that if this is just water, then it will eventually evaporate and disappear. The bad news is that this is a clear sign that your granite needs sealing.
When your granite was initially installed, it was given a protective sealing layer to prevent liquids and other undesirables from making their way beneath the surface, but that seal can and will wear away with use. Water seeping beneath the surface can be benign, but if the surface stays wet for too long, it can harbor bacteria and mildew in these tiny pores, more on this later.
Hard Water Stains:
The minerals in hard water leave a different sort of stain. When hard water is allowed to sit and dry on a granite surface, it will leave a visible mineral deposit often in the form of white rings. This is especially common around sink fixtures or anywhere water containers are set down without a coaster.
It might be tempting to remedy these stains with an acidic or otherwise harsh chemical, but this is ultimately counterproductive with granite and other natural stone. Acidic chemicals will eat away at your protective seal and can ultimately chemically etch the surface of your granite. That’s why it’s always important to use a pH neutral cleaner that is specially formulated for use on natural stone, like Granite Gold Daily Cleaner®.
Use the cleaner with a safe-on-stone scrub sponge, such as Granite Gold Scrub Sponge® or a blue Scotch-Brite pad (other pads are too harsh on stone), or nylon brush (like Granite Gold Grout Brush® we include with Granite Gold Grout Cleaner®) to finally scrub and clean. Once the spot is removed, rinse and dry with a soft, lint-free microfiber cloth.
In order to prevent simple water stains and make hard water stains easier to clean up, your granite should always be treated with a high-quality granite sealant. This will prevent the absorption of liquids into the stone surface and help to prevent acidic spills from marring the surface.
In general, most professionals recommended to re-seal your stone every 6-12 months depending on use, but the only reliable way to know for sure is to perform the water test:
The water test:
Pour water (about 3 inches in diameter) on the stone in several locations and let sit for roughly 30 minutes. If you see a dark spot, that means water is penetrating into the stone and it’s time to reseal.
How to seal your stone:
Sealing should be done in roughly 3-foot sections at a time. Spray Granite Gold Sealer® evenly over the section and immediately buff the solution into the natural stone with a clean microfiber cloth. Be careful to not allow the sealer to dry on the surface, as this can lead to hazing.
Once the sealer is applied, buff the area with another clean microfiber until the surface is dry to the touch between applications (20 minutes should be plenty). It’s not a bad idea to repeat the process 2-3 times to ensure a solid, long lasting seal.
Other possible stains:
While water may be the most common possibility for staining, there are others to worry about. Cooking oil can make its way beneath the surface of un-sealed stone, only this can leave a permanent stain if not taken care of.
Organic spills such as wine, coffee, tea, tomato sauce and citrus can not only leave a stain, but the acidity can leave a permanent chemical etching on the surface. This can look quite similar to a hard watermark but is the result of the acidic substances eating away at the surface. If allowed to get bad enough, the only way to remove this damage is with the help of a professional stone restoration specialist (which isn’t cheap).
This again demonstrates the importance of maintaining a proper seal on your stone. Small maintenance here and there can prevent expensive and time-consuming repairs down the line!
Have any more specific questions or concerns on how to care for your granite, marble, quartz or other natural stone? Feel free to reach out to our team of Stone Care Experts with more than 50 years of experience at 1-800-475-STONE. Also, be sure to check out our full line stone care products to keep your granite looking as nice as the day it was installed!