The Complete Care and Maintenance Guide for Stone Countertops
So you’ve finally installed a beautiful kitchen countertop—congratulations! Now you’re probably inspired to start whipping up your favorite dishes. But, like your commitment to cooking, the upkeep for your countertop should be pretty solid, too.
Countertop cleaning and care isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. How you keep it spick and span also depends on the material it is made of. Generally, you’ll want to keep your countertop scratch-free by using a proper cutting board. You also don’t want to overexpose the surface to excessive amounts of heat.
Beyond the basics, however, you can take specific care and cleaning practices for each countertop material. In this article, we focus on the three most popular materials for this fixture: granite, marble, and engineered quartz. These tips are guaranteed to keep your countertop clean and ensure that it lasts a lifetime.
Because of its durability, granite has become a popular countertop material for decades. This natural stone is tough thanks to the extreme heat and pressure that formed it over time. And because it is a natural product, each granite slab is one of a kind and therefore adds a unique character to your home.
Granite also comes in an array of colors, so it’s easy to find one that will match your kitchen’s interiors.
Advice on cleaning granite countertops abound, but this material is pretty easy to maintain. Take note of the following measures:
a. Seal Your Granite Countertop as Necessary
Contrary to a lot of articles you’ll find on the internet, not all granites require sealing. Many of these stones are highly dense that even an impregnating sealer won’t penetrate their surface. Before heading out to your nearest home improvement store to purchase a stone sealer, ask yourself first:
If you’re not sure, it is always best to figure out this first to clarify the confusion. Knowing the right information about your counter should help you save time, effort, and money from doing something unnecessary.
Granites are generally tough and resistant to spills and stains. Most granite colors, like the “Absolute Black” and “Ubatuba,” are non-porous; but some light-colored ones, such as the “Salt and Pepper,” are not as dense. Hence, they need to be sealed every one or two years, or as necessary.
If you are not sure whether your granite countertop requires sealing, it is always best to first ask your contractor or stone supplier. They’d surely know what advice to give for the granite you’ve chosen for your kitchen.
You may be wondering, how will you know when it’s time to reseal? The simplest way is to place a few drops of water on your granite countertop. If the water droplets bead up on the surface, that means that the sealer is in effect. Otherwise, if the surface darkens, then it’s time seal again.
Should your granite countertop need resealing, don’t worry. It’s relatively easy. You just need to apply the stone sealer throughout your granite’s surface using a dry cloth or a paintbrush. Then, let it dry. That’s it! Often, we recommend applying a second coat after 24 hours just to be sure. If you’re a bit skeptical, you can always just follow the instructions listed at the back of the product you purchased.
b. Always Clean as You Go
Cleaning your countertop is pretty straightforward: just wipe up your granite’s surface after every use.
Avoid using harsh or abrasive cleaning solutions. Keep your granite countertop away from anything with bleach or ammonia. You also need to avoid acidic substances, such as vinegar, lemon, or lime. Although it’s tempting to use these natural products as a “green” alternative to commercial cleaners, unfortunately, these substances can weaken or break down the sealer applied on your countertop’s surface. Once your sealer loses its effect, liquids can easily penetrate your granite’s surface.
Instead, you should use a specially formulated stone cleaner and a soft, clean cloth; a microfiber cloth works well, too.
You can use mild soap and warm water to clean up your counter. But we don’t really recommend it. Soapy water, with continued use, builds up on your countertop’s surface even if you rinse it. Doing so creates a cloudy haze on the surface that dulls its shine over time. If you think you’re saving money by using a generic cleaning product, well, think again. Eventually, you may need to spend more cash trying to bring back your old countertop’s charm.
Again, just get your hands on a high-quality stone cleaner. It keeps your granite countertop in excellent condition and preserves the effect of your stone sealer.
Finally, if there aren’t any major spills, you can even just stick to water and washcloth. Just make sure that you rinse your cloth after every use.
c. Keep Your Countertop Dry
Keeping your countertop dry is equally important as keeping it neat. After cleaning, you need to wipe it off dry with a clean cloth or a paper towel. A microfiber towel works well, too.
Should any spill or drip occur, blot with a paper towel immediately (even if your granite is sealed). Don’t wipe it off as it can spread the stain.
Professional granite installers will seal your countertop before or during installation. These stone sealers, however, do not provide an absolute impenetrable shield against staining. The solution only increases the window period of blotting time, allowing easy removal of liquid should any spill or drip happen. As such, we recommend wiping off your countertop after every use. Doing so prevents liquids from seeping into your stone’s surface.
If you’re not fond of wiping up spills and drips from time to time, use coasters and trays instead. These items should protect your counter from staining, especially from colored liquids.
Also, wiping off your countertop dry prevents the accumulation of hard water deposits. Mineral deposits are often left behind on the counter’s surface as the water evaporates, mostly when neglected. Hence, you’ll sometimes see white ring marks (from glass bottoms) and sediments around the faucet and sink.
But don’t worry. Hard water deposits are not only removable but also preventable. For this, simply use a razor blade to gently scrape off the mineral deposits on your counter. Try it out first in an inconspicuous area of your granite to see if you can get rid of the eyesore.
Lastly, store your liquids in the cabinet. Don’t keep them on top of your countertop. Vinegar, soy sauce, and cooking oil often drip or leak unnoticed. And when left overnight, these substances can stain your granite’s surface. Always store these items in your cupboard after every use.
d. Avoid Preparing Food Directly on Your Counter
Always use a cutting board when using a knife. Never cut or chop directly on the granite’s surface. Because the stone is harder than your knife blades, it will only dull or damage their edges quickly.
Also, remember to put trivets or hot pads under heated pots and pans. Sure, natural granite can withstand extreme heat. After all, that’s how it was formed deep within the Earth millions of years ago. As such, you can place a hot pot or pan directly on your counter. But, of course, it won’t hurt to be a little extra cautious. Placing cookware directly on your countertop can lightly scratch the granite’s surface by chance. Better safe than sorry, right?
Ultimately, if you don’t want the trouble of having your granite countertop repaired, it is always best to prevent scratches from happening. Be mindful of the things you place on your counter and make that a habit.
e. Use Your Countertop Only for its Purpose
The countertop is the workhorse of every household kitchen. Not only is it known for its beauty, but also for its practicality and durability. As such, it is one of the most used, abused, and misused fixtures at home.
Its primary purpose is to serve as a working space for most of your kitchen preparations. It’s where we prepare our meals, cook our food, and wash our dishes.
As sturdy as it seems, your countertop is built only to support items as heavy as your kitchen tools and small kitchen appliance. It is not meant to be sat on or stood upon. Should you need to reach something in your upper cabinets, pull out a chair from the dining area. If you need to change the light bulb, use a step ladder. But never, ever put your weight on the counter. If there’s too much weight on one spot, it can crack. Worse, your cabinet and countertop may all crash down in an instant.
Use your countertop for its purpose; use your common sense at all times.
Beautiful, classy, elegant—all these words perfectly describe marble. As a countertop material, marble easily lends its timeless look to any kitchen space. Additionally, it adds to your home’s resale value since it is a premium material. Marble, after all, is the Cadillac of all countertops. As it ages, it’s appearance also changes as it steadily acquires a beautiful patina, which adds more character to your countertop’s appearance.
Like granite, marble is a stone that has stood the test of time. It is also a natural material, which means no two slabs will ever look the same. Hence, you’ll never find a marble slab anywhere that’s exactly what you have at home.
In addition, marble offers a variety of finishes. There’s honed marble, which has a very low sheen and a matte texture. Leathered marble, on the other hand, is brushed, which makes it look more antique. Then there’s the polished marble, the glossiest and arguably the most popular choice among consumers. Whichever finish you choose, a marble countertop definitely makes for a statement piece in your kitchen.
Another thing that makes it ideal for the kitchen is that it’s cool to the touch—perfect for someone who’s always cooking something up. It’s an excellent surface for making pastries and candies, too.
Marble, however, requires a bit more TLC compared to other kitchen countertop materials. When cleaning up your marble counter, refer to the following list to ensure that you are providing the best kind of care:
a. Seal Your Marble Countertop Regularly
For all its inherent beauty, marble has one notable drawback: it needs to be sealed once or twice yearly.
Natural marble is porous. Hence, you have to seal it to protect from staining. Otherwise, water and any other liquids can quickly soak into its surface when left untreated. As such, it can be vulnerable to discoloration from red wine, juices, and even coffee.
Sealing not only protects your stone, but it also makes cleaning a lot easier. Once sealed, you can easily wipe off spills and drips as liquids bead up upon contact with your counter. This makes cleaning a lot more manageable, especially after meal preps and dishwashing.
Even when your marble is sealed, however, it may still be susceptible to staining. Contrary to most of our customers’ expectations, the solution does not make marble completely hydrophobic. Stone sealers only delay the time for liquids to get into your marble’s surface. Thus, you still have to wipe off stains immediately. More importantly, you also need to be mindful of the things you put on your counter all the time.
b. Keep It Away from Acidic Substances
Calcium carbonate— it’s what makes marble beautiful, but, it’s what also makes this stone “soft.”
When you expose this mineral composition to acidic substances, the result is a corrosive reaction on your marble countertop’s surface. This interaction causes the surface to wear away, leaving a raw, unfinished surface of the stone. This is called “etching.”
An etch mark isn’t a stain. It’s a rough, dull spot on your marble’s surface. Like a scar on your stone, it is corrosion on your counter when acidic substances, such as orange juice, tomato sauce, or red wine, react with marble. On the other hand, a stain is a discoloration of the stone once liquid seeps into your stone.
So how do you prevent marble etching?
The best (and only) way to prevent etching is to keep it away from acidic substances. Avoid placing containers of citrus juice, wine, coffee, yogurt, soda, and vinegar directly. Don’t cry over spilled milk either. Clean it up immediately so it won’t etch your marble.
Sealing helps— but it’s not a guarantee. It only protects your stone from staining, but not etching. Nevertheless, it reduces your marble’s porosity so you can quickly wipe up that splash of lemon on your countertop.
As with granite, it is essential to clean up spills and drips immediately. Doing so helps prevent stains and etches from ruining your marble’s beauty. When left for a prolonged period, liquids can leave a permanent mark on your marble countertop.
Also, never let food and drinks come in direct contact with your marble’s surface. Always use coasters and trays under every glass, bottle, and can. During meal preparation, always use a cutting board. Prevention, after all, is still better than cure.
But how do you repair an etched marble?
Etching, unfortunately, is irreversible. It is, after all, a result of a chemical reaction. Indeed you’ll find several products online that promise to restore your marble’s old finish. The outcome, however, will never be as good as new. The only way for you to bring back your marble’s beauty is to sand down the entire slab and repolish the whole surface.
If you find etch marks an eyesore, we recommend using other countertop materials, like engineered quartz, that resists acid.
Honestly, as a stone professional, we find etch marks beautiful. They paint a picture of your daily life in the kitchen. From every ring mark to every glass drip, they each remind us of a story behind it. Etch marks are a subtle layer of our memories floating over marble’s contrasting veins. You just need to look at it from a different perspective.
c. Always Clean with Care
As with granite, gentle is best. Since marble reacts to abrasive substances, avoid household cleaners with bleach, citrus, or vinegar. For cleaning your counter, refrain from using mild soap either. Again, soapy water can build up on your countertop. Even if you flush it thoroughly, it wears out your stone’s shine eventually.
Likewise, a specially formulated stone cleaner is your best friend for maintaining your marble countertop. Not only does it provide the cleaning you need for your kitchen, but it also ensures that the sealer on your counter remains there.
d. Don't Sit or Stand on Your Countertop
A wise man once said:
Compared to its counterparts, marble is a softer countertop material. It can break or chip easily under the pressure of a heavy object or a sudden force. Hence, as with granite, you should neither sit nor stand on your marble countertop. And although you may have a 3/4″ marine plywood underneath to support it, you really shouldn’t risk it. Your plywood is flexible, but your stone isn’t. Thus, it can break along the cutouts for your cooktop or sink. Or, it can develop cracks within its natural stress lines.
Again, if you need to fix a flickering light bulb, just pull out a chair or use a step ladder. Avoid leaning or dropping anything on your counter, as well. Lastly, if you have other workers in the area, please instruct them not to use your marble countertop as a workbench.
e. Remove Stubborn Stains from Your Marble
Sometimes, however, a stain becomes unavoidable, and all that’s left to do is to find ways to remove it. Here are some you can try, should an unfortunate stain tarnish your counter:
Option 1: Use a pH-neutral Stone Cleaning Product
Look for a pH-neutral stone cleaner especially made for marble. Ensure that the product is streak-free, rinse-free, and oil- and water-resistant. Before you apply, carefully follow the instructions on its label. Test the product first on a small, inconspicuous area of the marble to ensure that it won’t cause any corrosion.
Option 2: Apply a Poultice Overnight
If a stone cleaner doesn’t work, the stain, most likely, has seeped into your countertop’s surface. For this, you need a poultice to draw out the impurities.
First, mix a spoonful of baking soda with water until you get a consistency similar to peanut butter. You may need more than a cup of the mixture, depending on the size of the stain. Adjust the ratio of the two ingredients accordingly.
Next, wipe up the area with a soft, clean cloth. Ensure that the surface is free from dirt and grime. Afterward, wet the area with a small amount of water.
Then, lather the poultice unto the entire stain using a spatula or a spoon. Cover up the mixture with a transparent plastic sheet and tape all sides to the surface.
Let the poultice sit there for 24 to 48 hours. As it hardens and dries, it will absorb the stain that has seeped into your marble.
Remove the tape and the plastic sheet. Dampen the poultice by adding a small amount of water. After, scrape off the hardened poultice using a wooden or a plastic spatula. Clean up the residue with water and pat dry the surface.
Repeat the process if the stain is not thoroughly removed. For difficult stains, you may need to reapply a poultice several times.
As always, though, a professional stone fabricator knows how to best solve any stain problem on your marble. If you want to be on the safe side, don’t hesitate to call your countertop supplier and ask for assistance.
Quartz is an engineered stone that does not require as much upkeep as natural stone, like granite and quartz. Formed from stone aggregates and bonded by polyester resin, quartz is a highly durable material that resists staining, scratching, and chipping.
As such, unlike natural stone, it does not require regular sealing. It’s also safe from etching. Hence, you can casually place your glass of wine on your quartz counter without worrying about any slips or drips. This does not mean, however, that it’s maintenance-free.
Here are some cleaning and care tips for your quartz countertop:
a. Always Keep the Surface Clean and Dry
For common household spills, use a dry cloth or non-abrasive sponge to clean up the mess.
For gunk and grime, scrape away the surface using a plastic putty knife. Then, wipe up the area using a damp cloth to remove the residue.
Finally, for everyday cleaning, use a specially formulated stone cleaner for your quartz countertop.
Again, don’t use mild or dishwashing soap for your counter. Contrary to the advice of most guides online, we highly discourage our customers from using soap and water in cleaning their countertop— even if it is quartz. With repeated use, soapy water creates a cloudy haze on your counter’s surface that dulls its shine.
Also, avoid using generic household cleaners, especially those that are highly alkaline or acidic, as they can ruin your countertop’s finish. Use an appropriate stone cleaner instead.
Upon cleaning, dry the surface with a soft, clean cloth. Ensure that every spot, especially around the sink area, is free from moisture. This prevents hard water deposits from accumulating on your quartz countertop over time.
b. Avoid Using Harsh Chemicals on Your Quartz Counter
Although quartz is resistant to chemicals, this does not mean that it can withstand strong, abrasive substances, like bleach and Hydrochloric acid.
Mild cleaners are okay, but, unfortunately, most commercial household cleaners in the market today are not.
As such, it is essential to avoid using highly alkaline or acidic cleaners for your counter. These products can easily damage the surface of your engineered stone. Moreover, prolonged exposure from these substances can leave permanent damage to the surface. Thus, you should never let any of these products come in direct contact with your countertop.
Additionally, never use a scouring pad for cleaning quartz. “Scotch Brite,” for example, contains Aluminum oxide (the same abrasive in sandpapers) that can dull your countertop’s shine. Use a soft, clean cloth or a microfiber towel instead.
Unlike granite or marble, engineered quartz does not need to be sealed. Its surface is impervious to liquids. In fact, sealing may actually do more harm than good on quartz. Once you apply a stone sealer on it, the solution will simply sit there and evaporate— leaving a thin film of residue on your countertop’s surface. More importantly, the product is made for natural stones only. As a solvent-based product, a stone sealer may react adversely with your quartz’s polyester resin components. As such, it is best left unsealed.
Likewise, quartz does not require the application of wax either. During production, each slab is sanded down and polished. Hence, the shine you see is from the stone itself, just like a diamond. Besides, your stone’s surface finish, whether polished or honed, is permanent (unless, of course, it is damaged). Therefore, applying wax is unnecessary. With repeated use, the compound builds up on the surface and turns yellow over time.
To keep your countertop shiny, always keep it clean. Don’t let dirt and grime accumulate on its surface. This way, your stone’s inherent luster remains pristine for years.
c. Use Trivets or Hot Pads Under Heated Pots and Pans
Never let any heat source come in direct contact with your countertop. As such, avoid putting hot cookware directly on your counter. Unlike granite and marble, too much heat can damage quartz. The reason is the resin.
Because of its polyester resin composition, quartz is vulnerable to high temperatures. Resin melts when heated. As a result, excessive heat can burn or discolor your quartz countertop.
To prevent this, always use trivets or hot pads under every heated pot and pan before placing it over your counter. Not only is this habit practical, but it’s also more economical. After all, if you can prevent any damage on your counter, you won’t need to spend on repairing or replacing it in the future, right?
d. Keep it away from Direct Sunlight
While it’s highly improbable that your kitchen is located outdoors, it’s still good to remember that quartz is an indoor fixture (for any other home improvement projects in the pipeline). The material doesn’t work well when exposed to the elements. Direct sunlight, in particular, can cause your engineered stone to fade or “yellow.”
The reason, again, is the resin. Quartz’s polyester resin components react to UV overexposure and cause the stone to discolor. Should you wish to use quartz outside the house, ensure that it’s under the shade of your outdoor kitchen or gazebo.
e. Keep in Mind that Quartz is NOT Indestructible
Quartz can hold up to just about anything your daily kitchen life can throw at it, but keep in mind that it’s not indestructible.
Although you can cut directly on a quartz surface, we don’t really recommend it. The stone may be highly resistant to scratching, but it can be damaged when done purposely. Hence, remember to always use a cutting board during meal preparation.
Also, avoid putting too much weight or pressure on your quartz countertop. Never sit or stand on it. Doing so risks the structural integrity of your base cabinet underneath. Instead, get a stool or a step ladder to reach things in your upper cabinet or to fix the light bulb.
Additionally, avoid dropping heavy objects on your counter. Though quartz is a highly-durable material, any sudden force or impact can damage your stone. It can chip or crack, especially on its edges or along the cutouts (for your cooktop and sink). Always be careful when working around your counter.
To conclude, although engineered stone requires less upkeep compared to natural stones, it still needs constant cleaning and care to maintain its beauty. With proper care and maintenance, you can expect a lifetime of service from your quartz counter in the years to come.
When in Doubt, Ask the Stone Experts
If you’re not sure how to repair or install your stone countertop, give us a call. Don’t worry, we’re always just a phone away to answer all your queries and concerns. Should you need a stone sealer or diamond tools for your project, visit any of our branches in Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, and Iloilo City. You may also check out our affiliate in Manila, Saint Mark Construction Supply, if you are based in Luzon.