There’s nothing quite like that mirror-like finish on a freshly installed slab of granite, marble or other natural stone. Whether your countertops used to look like something off the cover of a home improvement magazine and have lost their shine, or you want to maintain the finish you have now, there are a few best practices to keep in mind.
We see a lot of well-meaning DIY and life-hack sites throw around tips and tricks for cleaning and maintaining natural stone, but more often than not these end up being counterproductive. From mistakes like polishing with cooking oil to cleaning with vinegar or dish soap, there seems to be a lot of misinformation floating around. We’ll set the record straight on these and show you how to maintain the shine of your natural stone.
Cleaning Your Stone the Right Way:
Unlike laminate or linoleum countertops which can be wiped down with regular household cleaners, these can dull or chemically etch the surface of your stone. Any acid-based cleaners like vinegar, lemon juice or citric acid will eat away at the protective seal on your stone first, and then break down and dissolve the minerals on the surface. This will leave what looks like a hard water stain or a general dulling of the stone, but it is permanent physical damage that can require the expensive help of a stone restoration specialist to resolve.
Even something like dish soap can lead to issues, although less severe. There are tallows and other substances included in many dish soaps as a moisturizer for your hands, but these can end up as a film on the surface of your stone, leading to streaking, hazing or a generally cloudy look over time. That’s why it’s important to use a cleaner that is formulated specifically for use on natural stone, like Granite Gold Daily Cleaner®. It’s pH neutral, non-toxic, safe for use on all food-prep surfaces and doesn’t damage the protective seal.
Wiping Up Spills Right Away:
In order to prevent stains, etching or damage to the stone’s seal, you should always be quick to clean up food and drink stains when they happen. Wine, coffee, soda, citrus and some other fruits can etch the surface if left to sit. It’s also important to use a coaster or placemats for this reason, as you may not notice a ring under a glass that can leave a stain or damage.
Even something as seemingly innocuous as cooking oil can leave a difficult to remove stain if it is allowed to penetrate the surface due to sitting. Granite, marble and other stones are naturally porous materials, and even water can leave a stain (if only temporary). If liquids are allowed to sit on the stone with a poor seal, they will penetrate the surface, leaving a stain that can be quite difficult to lift.
While granite is certainly a tough material, it isn’t impervious to scratching and chipping. It’s important to be careful to not drag things across the counter, and some stoneware such as marble cutting boards, pizza stones, china and some ceramics. Precious stones on a ring are another common source of scratching, as well as not using a cutting board.
It’s also important to not use overly abrasive cleaning materials such as brillo pads or steel wool, even on tough stains or grime. These can cause micro-scratches over time that accumulate to show themselves as a general dulling effect on the surface – not to mention that they can strip away and damage the stone’s seal.
Maintaining a Proper Seal on Your Stone:
When your countertops were installed, they were treated with a sealer in order to protect the stone from damaging chemicals as well as liquids seeping beneath the surface, leaving a stain. Unfortunately, that is not a permanent solution, and needs to be maintained and reapplied in order to keep up that luster and shine that it had the day it was installed.
How to tell when to reseal?
The water test is a helpful tool in determining the integrity of your seal. This can be done by pouring a small spot of water (about 3 inches in diameter) onto the stone in various locations and letting it sit for 30 minutes before wiping away. If a dark mark or ring is visible in those locations, that means the water is penetrating the surface of your stone and needs to be resealed.
In general, it’s recommended to seal your stone every 6-12 months, but areas that see heavy use and spots that have been thoroughly scrubbed or cleaned with something like diluted bleach may require sealing more often than that. You can find more info in our sealing guide here.
How to apply a new seal?
The process for resealing your stone is easy. Spray your natural-stone sealer evenly over 3-foot sections at a time, and work the solution into the stone with a clean and dry microfiber cloth immediately. Once the sealer is applied, buff the area with a fresh microfiber until the surface is dry to the touch between applications (15-20 minutes should be enough). For the best results in areas that see a lot of use, repeat the process 2-3 times to ensure a strong seal.
Polishing Your Countertops:
Not only does giving your countertop a nice polish bring out its natural beauty, but it also helps to reinforce the seal and protects against minor annoyances such as water spots and fingerprints.
The process is just as easy as sealing:
Spray your stone polish onto the surface and buff to a shine with a clean microfiber cloth (or a paper towel if needed). Once you’re done polishing the surface, wipe the countertop dry with a fresh lint-free cloth. It’s important to wait 24 hours after sealing your countertop, allowing it to fully cure before polishing.
Note: This process is best left to countertops and other non-flooring surfaces, as it can leave the stone quite slippery.
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. Be sure to check out take a look at our full line of stone care solutions ready to be shipped to your door!