Cleaning and Caring for Slate Countertops

slate countertops in a kitchen


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Slate is a gorgeous countertop material. It has a beautiful texture of stone and a nice spectrum of light to dark gray colors, and may also contain deep rich colors of blue, green, red, purple, brown and black. Slate countertops are hard countertops that are rarely seen in kitchens. More often, you'll find slate materials on buildings, floors, and roofs due to their strong and sturdy nature. Typically an alternative to granite or limestone countertops, slate tops offer a durable and unique look in the kitchen, whether going for a rustic or classic style.

Pros and Cons

Slate countertops have many positive characteristics. Slate resists heat well as a countertop surface​ can easily be cut into thin sheets, and absorbs minimal moisture—even when faced with freezing water. Beautiful and less porous than granite or marble, slate becomes more resistant to stains and etching. More affordable than granite and marble, slate can also cost less than most quartz, concrete or crushed glass countertops, running around $50 to $65 per square foot.

While slate has a lot to recommend it as a countertop material, it can be sharp around the edges and is not as tough as marble and granite. It is brittle and can crack and chip away much more easily than other stones. Several professionals have recommended to round off slate corners to prevent cracks and injuries during installation. While slate is a more subdued color compared to other countertop options, incorporating a variety of colors in the surrounding interior design can be a complementary solution to the natural slate look.

Cleaning and Maintaining Slate

Dusting and sweeping once a week with a microfiber cloth to reduce dust and surface grit is highly recommended. Avoid cleaning slate with abrasive cleaners, oily sprays, and products with lemon or vinegar, as they may etch the surface. Additionally, avoiding cleaners that contain wax is important as placing heated appliances or pans on slate countertops with wax may cause the wax to melt and stain the stone. Cleaning slate countertops with a damp cloth and a pH-neutral stone cleaner will help fend off water spots. Leaving the cloth for 10 to 15 minutes can also help loosen tough spots with dirt, but may require some deeper scrubbing. Wiping slate countertops dry after cleaning will help prevent mineral deposits and spots caused by water.

Even though slate is better at resisting stains, it's still recommended that you seal slate countertops. When drops of water splashed on the surface of the countertop don't form beads, it's time to reseal. Using a sealer that penetrates the slate will offer your countertop higher protection, while topical sealers will wear away faster.

The most important time to seal your slate is right after installation, as sealing helps protect against damage. To protect and maintain slate countertops, you'll need a natural stone cleaner, sealer, soft cloths, poultice, mineral oil, and an old towel. After cleaning and sealing, applying Mazola (corn oil) to slate countertops can help with polishing slate to make it shine.