Stone countertops not only add an expensive touch to kitchens, baths, and multi-purpose rooms, but they are an excellent choice for durability. Whether you choose concrete, granite, limestone, marble, quartz, or soapstone, it is important to learn how to care for each type of stone properly to prevent damage. Here are some of the best ways to clean different types of stone countertops.
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You may not immediately think of concrete countertops as stone, but concrete is a mixture of finely crushed stone, sand, cement, and water. The mixture is poured into a mold, and after drying, forms a durable solid surface. The concrete can be left its natural color or stained. Just as with concrete floors, the key to easy care for concrete countertops is how the countertop is sealed. The sealant should be acid, heat, and scratch resistant. Carefully read the instructions on how often the sealant should be reapplied.
- Daily cleaning: One of the most harmful elements to concrete countertops is acid. For daily cleaning, simply mix one teaspoon of dish detergent in four cups of water and keep in a spray bottle. Wipe the counters after cooking or food preparation. Never use harsh, abrasive cleaners or scrubbing pads. And, this is the time to avoid distilled white vinegar as a cleaner.
- If you have hard water in your home, mineral deposits will eventually cause problems on concrete surfaces. Consider adding a water softening system or a water conditioner in your cleaning water.
- Stain removal: Stains that appear from strong acids, like lemon juice, are actually spots where the concrete has become etched as the acid dissolved the cement and left carbonate deposits. These cannot be removed without buffing or grinding away the damage and resealing the surface. If grinding and patching are required, it's best to hire a professional.
- Discoloration stains from foods like coffee or mustard can usually be removed easily with chlorine bleach. Dip a cotton ball or white paper towel in the bleach. Apply directly to the stain and weigh down with a heavy glass bowl. Allow the bleach to work for five to ten minutes and then rinse well with plain, cool water. Do not leave the bleach on the stain for longer than ten minutes or damage to the sealant can occur.
- If oils have penetrated the concrete sealant and stained the concrete, you'll need both a solvent and something to absorb the oil. A good homemade cleaner for concrete oil stains is to mix baking soda and acetone (fingernail polish remover) to form a thick paste the consistency of peanut butter. Spread the mixture about one-fourth inch thick over the stain and cover with plastic wrap. Tape down the edges of the plastic wrap to hold it in place. Allow the mixture to remain on the stain for 24 hours. Remove the plastic wrap and allow the mixture to dry completely, then wipe away. Repeat as needed to draw out all of the oil. The concrete will need to be resealed to prevent further staining.
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Granite slabs come in such a wide variety of colors and formations that it is one of the most desirable stone countertops. Each slab is truly one of a kind. Granite is naturally anti-bacterial and with the proper sealant, an easy to care for finish.
- Daily cleaning: To keep granite countertops shiny, daily cleaning with a mixture of dishwashing detergent and water is recommended. Simply mix a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid and four cups of water in a spray bottle. After food preparation, give the countertops a quick spritz and wipe with a soft, microfiber cloth. Allow it to air dry.
- Do not use harsh cleaners like foaming bathroom cleaners, vinegar, or lemon juice that can dull the finish of granite.
- Always use a cutting board and trivets to prevent scratches from sharp objects and gritty items. Follow your installer's guidelines on resealing granite countertops as recommended.
- Stain removal: For tough stains like red wine or beet juice, use a commercial stone poultice or create your own by mixing baking soda and hydrogen peroxide to form a thick paste the consistency of peanut butter. Spread the mixture about one-fourth inch thick over the stain and cover with plastic wrap. Tape down the edges of the plastic wrap to hold it in place. Allow the mixture to remain on the stain for 24 hours. Remove the plastic wrap and allow the mixture to dry completely, then wipe away. Repeat as needed until the stain is gone. After cleaning, the stained area will need to be resealed to prevent further staining.
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Limestone countertops are popular because they give the expensive look of marble at a much more affordable price. Most limestone is white or off-white in color with random, naturally occurring patterns in the stone. The downside of limestone countertops is that they require more care than other types of stone.
Limestone is porous and scratches or discolors more easily than other stone surfaces. But with the right sealant and proper care, limestone countertops can last for decades.
- Daily cleaning: Never use harsh or acidic cleaners on limestone countertops. Opt for a commercial limestone cleaner or dish detergent and warm water. Clean daily after food preparation with a soft cloth. Skip sponges or scrubbers that may scratch the finish.
- Stain removal: Since limestone is softer and more porous than other stones, it is particularly susceptible to stains from darkly colored and acidic foods like red wine, black tea, and coffee. Excessive heat can even burn or scorch the stone.
- Stains can be removed by mixing baking soda and hydrogen peroxide into a thick paste. Apply liberally and cover with plastic wrap for 24 hours. Wipe away and reseal the area.
- If scratches occur and are not very deep, you may be able to lightly buff them out with 0000 grade fine steel wool or by using a bit of car polishing compound. Again, always reseal the area after cleaning.
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Marble is a classic and elegant countertop treasured by professional chefs for its cool surface temperature perfect for creating pastry. The downside of marble is that the stone is quite porous, stains and scratches easily. Sealing will help with stains but acidic foods will etch marble very quickly.
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- Daily cleaning: The key to keeping marble looking great is prevention. Wipe up food and drink spills as soon as possible. Wipe down marble countertops daily with mild dish detergent and warm water using a soft cloth–skip the scrubbing sponges as well. Never use vinegar, glass cleaners with ammonia, or any type of harsh cleaner.
- Marble countertops should be resealed every three to six months to help prevent staining.
- Stain removal: For food stains or rust marks left by metals, create a paste of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Apply liberally and allow to dry before wiping away. Repeat as needed. Many stains gradually fade over time.
- To remove scratches and etching, use a marble polishing powder. Follow the product instructions carefully and use the lightest scrubbing touch to prevent damage. Reseal after polishing.
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While quartz is a naturally occurring mineral found in many stones, quartz countertops are not a solid slab. Quartz countertops are engineered stone formed by combining randomly sized quartz crystals with resins and colored pigment to form a slab. The countertops are 93 percent quartz and 7 percent resin.
One benefit of this manufacturing process is that quartz countertops are nonporous and do not need to be sealed or resealed. The downside of quartz is that the color will fade if exposed for long periods of time to harsh, direct sunlight. Avoid placing extremely hot items on the surface which can mar the resin.
- Daily cleaning: Quartz is one of the easiest stone countertops to care for since it is not affected by acidic foods and does not scratch easily. For daily cleaning, you can use a glass cleaner or any non-abrasive household cleaner, but stay away from abrasive, scouring pads.
- Stain removal: Since very little stains quartz, use a plastic putty knife to remove dried paint or nail polish. One exception of a stain that is difficult to remove is permanent ink, so protect the surface when using Sharpies.
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Soapstone is another easy-care stone countertop that is nonporous, repels most stains, and is heat resistant. The downside of soapstone is that it is not as hard as some other stones, and the countertops can be easily scratched and chipped if hit with a heavy object.
- Daily cleaning: Freshly quarried soapstone is light gray in color. The stone becomes darker as it is exposed to water and oils. To enrich the color, soapstone countertops are often rubbed with mineral oil.
- Daily cleaning can be done with any household cleaner and water. It is best to avoid scouring powders and pads.
- Stain removal: Since soapstone is nonporous, food and acids do not stain the surface. If scratching occurs, rubbing the area with mineral oil will help hide scratches and any discoloration from hard water spotting.
Additional Tips and Tricks
- Always protect counters from hot pots, pans, and dishes of food. Excessive heat can cause a thermal shock, which may crack stone countertops. Use trivets that allow airflow under the hot item, particularly slow cookers that expose counter surfaces to heat for several hours.
- Never stand or sit on stone countertops. Small fissures in the stone may cause cracks if subjected to excessive weight. Grab a step stool instead.
- Pay attention to spills and wipe them up immediately. Most stone is sensitive to acidic foods like wine, citrus juices, vinegar, and salad dressings. Foods that contain excessive artificial and natural dyes like Kool-Aid and beets should be handled carefully. Even stone counters that are sealed can be etched by strong acids or harsh chemicals like chlorine bleach or ammonia.
- Avoid chopping or slicing directly on the stone counter to prevent scratches. Always use a cutting board.
- If your countertops have been finished with a sealant, it won't last forever. Normal wear and tear removes the finish. How often you need to reseal depends upon the type and quality of the stone and the color of the stone. Light-colored stone usually needs to be resealed every one to three years while darker tints can go three to five years. Always refer to your manufacturer's instructions.