Maintenance of Natural Stone
Maintenance is probably the biggest fear people have of natural stones. However, natural stone requires about the same level of care and maintenance as any countertop or floor. The best care you can give your natural stone is preventative care. Preventing stains or scratching before they happen is far easier than getting rid of them after the fact.
On floors, the best preventative measure is regular cleaning. The movement of dirt and grit as it is ground into marble tiles can wear away the finish. So the regular use of a dust mop can help keep dirt off the floor and preserve the finish. Use mats at all entry points to further ensure the long life of your floor's beautiful finish. Wet mop regularly with very hot water, and change the rinse water frequently. If the floor is particularly dirty, the use of a neutral stone cleaner or a mild dish detergent (one that is not oil-based) is perfectly acceptable.
In bathrooms, marble tend to attract soap scum, just like manmade tile. Keep a squeegee handy for shower walls, and rinse vanities and natural stone sinks with hot, clean water regularly. Then towel them dry.
The use of sealers is also a powerful preventative measure. You will need to reapply the sealer periodically, though. The frequency of applications will depend on the sealer, and on the type of stone you have. Penetrating sealers are also available for flooring and bath areas. Likewise, the application of additional coats of sealer will depend on the type of stone, the frequency of use, and the manufacturer's
If stains and scratches do occur, there are many things you can do on your own to remove them. On granite countertops, remove oil-based stains with acetone, mineral spirits, or bleach or ammonia diluted in water. (NEVER mix ammonia and bleach!) Food stains like coffee, tea, or fruit juices can usually be removed with hydrogen peroxide, combined with a few drops of ammonia. On marble countertops, avoid harsh cleaners and acidic cleaners, including vinegar.
For stubborn soap scum in the bath, ammonia can be used sparingly. Ammonia will, over time, dull the finish on marble, so use it with caution, and only when the soap scum cannot be removed with a mild, neutral detergent and hot water.
Water spots and rings occur because of minerals in water, and can be removed by buffing the spots gently with steel wool. Likewise, small nicks and scratches can often be removed the same way. Larger scratches, nicks, and pesky stains may require professional help, which can be located by calling your local stone dealer.
Care & Maintenance
The care required for natural stone surfaces varies slightly depending on the stone type, but if you follow the same Do’s & Don’t on all stone types, you are developing a good habit that will help maximize the beauty and longevity of your natural stone surfaces.
Blot up spills when they occur.
If a spilt product contains acids like tomato, citrus, vinegar, etc, they will degrade the Sealer, leading to absorption and potential staining and etching. Spills blotted up with paper towel within a few minutes will likely not cause any issues. If allowed to remain and absorb into the stone, not only will you have a stain, but acids will etch the surface. This is particularly important with calcious stones like marble. Remember to blot the spill, as wiping will only spread it out over a bigger area.
Clean with mild soapy water.
Mild soapy water with a soft cloth or sponge is all that is needed to keep your countertops clean. Regular household cleaning products contain ammonia, which will degrade the Sealer and etch the surface of natural stone. Rinse the surface with fresh water after cleaning. This will help avoid the buildup of soap residue over time, which would give a dull appearance to the surface. Alternatively, you can use a natural stone cleaner specifically for the job.
Rinse your countertop with fresh water.
Wiping your countertop with fresh water will dilute and rinse away any remaining spilt product. Rinsing after you have cleaned your countertop with mild soapy water will also help minimize soap residue buildup.
Reseal your countertops if needed.
With proper care your countertops should not need resealing for many years. The way to tell if resealing is required is to puddle a little fresh water on the surface. If it beads up like water on a waxed car, resealing is not required. But if it disappears into the surface leaving a dark spot, resealing is needed (the dark spot will go away as the stone dries). You can have your countertops resealed by a professional stone restoration and maintenance company, or you can buy a natural stone Sealer from your local big-box hardware store (follow the manufactures instructions).
Use coasters under bottles, cans, and glasses.
Bottles, cans, and glasses that contain acidic drinks may degrade the Sealer and etch the surface. This is a particularly important point in bathrooms.
Use a cutting board.
The use of a cutting board to protect your knives is a good habit to be in. Granite will rapidly dull the edge of your knife. A good cutting board is one that is softer than your knife (typically wood or plastic). The use of a cutting board also makes cleanup quicker and easier
Don’t use harsh cleaning products.
Using abrasive and or chemically harsh products can dull the finish, and damage the stone. Many household cleaning products contain ammonia, which will degrade the Sealer and etch the surface.
Don’t put hot pots directly on your countertop.
Whilst Granite is more than capable of withstanding the heat without damage, carbon and other grit trapped between a heavy pot and your countertop may put fine scratches and dull the surface over time. It is just a good habit to always use trivets on your countertop as a matter of course
Don’t leave bathroom products on your countertop.
Use a tray under toiletry products. You know what toothpaste does to your teeth, so think of what it will do to your stone. Nail polish remover will strip away the Sealer, so leaving a bottle with a damp bottom sit on the countertop will leave a ring, which will get etched into the surface. An aerosol can in a humid bathroom environment will rust on the bottom, leaving a rust ring on your countertop. It is a good habit to use a tray under toiletry products, and avoid these potential issues.
Don’t sit or stand on your countertop.
Granite may be a strong material, but point loading from the weight of a human body will put stresses in the stone that may cause it to crack.
Identifying what caused the stain is the first step to removing it, as different types of stains are treated in different ways. The prompt attention to a stain helps minimize the effect. The Marble Institute of American has a video on their website called; “Care and Cleaning of Natural Stone in the Home.” This video touches on basic stone care, and the initial treatment of stains. If you’re uncomfortable with any of these procedures, you should contact a professional stone restoration and maintenance company