Care & Maintenance for Marble, Granite and Quartzite Countertops

Cleaning and maintenance of your stone countertopsWith all the new developments in sealers for marble, granite, and quartzite, maintenance for new stone countertops is practically non-existent if properly sealed. However, there are some things you do need to know about maintenance and caring for your countertops.

First off, you don’t need specialty cleaners. You can use them, but they’re just an extra cost to you. All of these countertops (marble, granite, and quartzite) can be cleaned with just 1-to-3 drops of dishwashing soap and a few cups of warm water, and a good rinsing.

If you do go heavy on the soap, expect to put in extra time and effort cleaning. If you don’t rinse the counter thoroughly, you’ll notice over time that the stone will look and feel oily or greasy. That oily, greasy feel is soap residue! It means you’ve been using too much soap and not rinsing well. Soap and water is a simple solution, but you must make sure you rinse the entire surface well when you do use it.

Caring for Marble Countertops

Marble is a natural stone, which means each countertop is unique—a quality many owners like. Marble is also very porous and can be damaged by spilling an acidic substance such as milk, wine, tomato juice or lemon juice on the counter—whether it is sealed or not. Sealing slows down the etching, but if left on the surface can still hurt it. Prevention is critical with marble countertops. One splash can etch the unsealed marble, leaving a permanent, dull scar.  So, don’t use your marble countertop until it has been properly sealed. Your installation team should do this before they leave your home or site, or before delivery. They’ll also explain what they’ve done, the type of sealer they’ve used, and what you’ll need to do to maintain it properly. You can keep your marble scar-free and looking like new for years if you care for it correctly.

The good news is, with new technologies around sealing stone, sealers can now last for 3-5 years or longer. That means homeowners can use marble in the kitchen and in higher traffic areas like bathrooms without worry.

More good news—you don’t need any special chemicals to clean marble. Mild soap and hot water will do just fine. To clean, just wipe sudsy water on the counter with a soft cloth or sponge—nothing with any kind of abrasive texture. One-to-three drops of dishwashing detergent to four cups of water is fine. (Soap and water will remove any dirt, but it won’t heal any etching or stains.)

Even with a sealed countertop, it’s essential to mop up spills with soap and water as soon as they happen, so they don’t have time to etch the surface. Never use vinegar, Windex or bleach on marble. A single use of these acidic substances will eat into a marble countertop’s surface and dull the stone. Marble is easily scratched, so don’t use abrasive cleaner or pads.

Extra Care and Stain Removal

Even with high-tech sealers, your marble countertops still require some extra care. Don’t be afraid. Extra care isn’t that difficult or time-consuming. It just means being aware that your countertops are soft, so you always need to use a cutting board when knives or mixing bowls are used. You’ll still need to wipe up spills and smudges immediately. And, if you have children, you’ll either need to make sure they follow these same rules or consider getting a different countertop until they’re grown.

If you do get a stain on marble, you can rub on hydrogen peroxide mixed with a few drops of ammonia to remove it. Ammonia is a weak acid, so don’t use more than a couple of drops, just enough to dissolve the stain. Clean the stain immediately after the hydrogen peroxide and ammonia scrub with warm soapy water and rinse afterward. Use just enough to dissolve the stain.

If you’re remodeling and get a paint stain on the counter (cover your counters when working around them!) use a dull razor, or one of the new plastic razors on the market, to carefully scrape it off. Rather than risk damaging your marble, especially if the stain is large, you can hire a professional to remove the surface sealant and the stain. Check with your countertop installer to determine when and what kind of sealer you need to seal/reseal with over time.

Caring for Granite Countertops

One of the great things about granite is that it is extremely resistant to bacteria, a very desirable quality for countertops. For those who love shiny surfaces, granite is has a glossy shine that is prized by many. Granite isn’t as porous as marble, so it is less prone to soaking up oils, spills, and stains. That doesn’t mean it can’t soak them up, just that it’s less likely to. You’ll still need to mop up spills as soon as they happen so they won’t penetrate.

Cleaning Granite Countertops

Like Marble, the best cleaner for granite is warm, soapy water and a sponge (1-to-3 drops of dishwashing detergent is fine). Wipe the counter down with soapy water, then rinse with clean, warm water. You can also use a 50:50 solution of isopropyl alcohol and water.  Never use vinegar, Windex or bleach on granite. Frequent uses of these acidic substances will dull the granite and weaken the sealant. Don’t use abrasive cleaner or pads, either, because granite can be scratched. The good news: like with marble, you don’t need specialty cleaners for granite. If you feel better using a product designed for granite, that’s okay to use, but you’re just paying for something you really don’t need. Mild dish soap and warm to hot water will do just fine. Specialized granite cleansers can tend to darken your stone, so either test them in a corner or just don’t use them at all. You don’t really need them.

Maintenance and Stains

Even with the best of care and attention, it’s entirely possible to stain your granite. The good news is, it’s relatively simple to remove most stains. Just make a paste of baking soda and water. Gently scrub the spot with the paste and a soft cloth, nothing abrasive. Rinse thoroughly. You may need to rinse, scrub and repeat several times to get a stain out. If the stain is really stubborn, you may need to leave the paste on the stain for 1-to-3 days. For these tougher stains apply the paste, cover with plastic wrap and tape down the edges with painters’ tape (easy to remove and doesn’t leave adhesive residue). Let the patch sit until the paste dries out. Once the paste is dry, use warm water and a clean cloth to wipe away the paste. Rinse with warm water and dry.  Check with your countertop installer to determine when and what kind of sealer you need to seal/reseal with over time.

Caring for Quartzite Countertops

Quartzite is the hardest of all countertop stones. It is actually harder than granite. It’s much less porous than either marble or granite, although it should still be sealed to get the greatest protection. One of the things many homeowners love about quartzite is that it looks like marble, but doesn’t have the softness or porosity of marble. It’s harder than granite and is actually less expensive than either marble or granite. Don’t confuse quartzite with quartz. Quartz is manmade, quartzite is natural. Quartzite’s price ranges from less than, to more than either marble or granite based on the coloring, patterns, and hardness.

As hard as it is, quartzite should still be sealed and cared for much like marble and granite. Use warm, soapy water (1-to-3 drops of dishwashing detergent is fine) and rinse with clear warm water and dry with a soft towel.

Maintenance and Stain Removal

Because the hardness, makeup and other qualities of quartzite vary from stone to stone, it’s best to check with your installer to determine the best kind of cleaner for your particular stone. The good news is, most stains can be cleaned with soap and water and a little elbow grease (hard scrubbing). Don’t use an adhesive pad or sponge as it may scratch the stone. Check with your countertop installer to determine when and what kind of sealer you need to seal/reseal with over time.