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Beauty of Natural Stone

It’s not surprising that one of the most desired features in a home today is a natural stone countertop. It’s also not surprising that one of the first major upgrades people make to their homes when remodeling is changing out the countertops for granite or marble. Simply put, natural stone offers both an elegance and durability that simply cannot be matched in other products. If cared for properly a granite or marble countertop will look just as good in 20 years as it did the day it was installed. The key is in how it is taken care of.

What's the Difference in Granite and Marble?

Granite, consisting mainly of quartz, feldspar and mica, is an igneous rock, meaning it was formed from molten rock millions of years ago. It is heat, stain and scratch resistant. Most of the granite used today comes from mines in Brazil, Italy, India, China and Spain to name a few.

Granite, because it is generally a harder material will be more durable and require less maintenance than marble, travertine or sandstone and is a preferable material when considering a kitchen remodel.

Marble on the other hand is a metamorphic rock that is formed from re-crystalized limestone or dolomite. It is composed mainly of calcite which is highly sensitive to acids. Wine, vinegar, fruit juices can etch marble. Marble is also much softer than granite and will scratch easily. That is why it is not used often in kitchens where it would be susceptible to damage from normal use. But marble offers timeless beauty and has been used for years in fine hotels, homes and many opulent buildings around the world because of its unique qualities. Today marble is often used in bathrooms, on accent walls, around fireplaces and in kitchens when the natural wear and imperfections are accepted. Most of the marble we get today comes from Italy, Greece, US, and Turkey.

Caring for your Natural Stone Countertops

Put Away the Household Cleaners!

Many commercial household cleaners contain lemon, vinegar or other mild acids that can dull or etch marble, travertine or limestone.  Some cleaners can also strip away any protective sealer that may have been applied to your stone. If you do use a commercial cleaner make sure it is “ph neutral” or labeled safe to use on natural stone.  And always test the cleaner in an inconspicuous spot before using it to see how it affects the sealer.

It’s also very important to remember to keep your countertops properly sealed to help protect against staining.  Sealing the stone will not guarantee that a stain won’t occur, but rather it makes the surface more stain resistant.   An easy way to test to check if your countertop needs to be sealed is to drop a few drops of water on it and see if the water beads up or if the water soaks in.  It should bead up immediately.  You will generally want to reseal your countertops every couple of years with a good commercial grade sealer.  (Note: lighter colored granite is more porous than darker colored granite and will require additional coats of sealer.)

Practice Safe Cleaning

Here are a few suggestions caring for your new countertops:

  • Clean stone surfaces with a neutral cleaner, stone soap, or a mild liquid dishwashing detergent and warm water. (Note: when using mild dishwashing liquid you will need to rinse thoroughly with clean water to avoid a soapy build-up and streaking)
  • Use trivets and mats under dishes and glasses. Again, granite doesn’t require as much care as other stones. 
  • Blot spills immediately to avoid spreading the stain. Clean affected area with warm soapy water.  Rinse well. 
  • AVOID Windex unless says it’s safe for natural stone.
  • Again, if you chose to use a commercial cleaning solution, make sure it is safe to use on natural stone.

What To Do When Accidents Happen

So what do you do when your 2 year old scribbles on your countertop with a  magic marker, or when you find a ring of red wine in the middle of the island from the party the night before, or the weekend barbecue chef leaves his choice cut of meat on the countertop to thaw overnight and you find a blood stain in the morning.  No worries unless your countertop is white marble!

 Here are a few steps to clean up the mess.  Keep in mind the sooner you try to remove the stain, the better.  Time is critical, as the longer the stain remains on the surface the deeper it will penetrate the pours of the stone making it impossible to remove. 

  • Organic Stains: coffee, tea, wine, blood, fruit etc, use a solution of hydrogen peroxide and a few drops of ammonia. Rinse thoroughly, dry and reseal. 
  • Oil Based Stains: cooking oil, cosmetics, tar, grease, use mineral spirits or acetone.  Rinse thoroughly, dry and reseal. 
  • Ink: magic marker, pen, ink - On light colored stones, clean with bleach or hydrogen peroxide. On dark colored stones, clean with lacquer thinner or acetone.
  • Paint: use a razor blade to scrap the surface then clean the remaining with lacquer thinner. Note:  DO NOT use a razor blade on marble, travertine, soapstone or limestone as it may scratch the surface.
  • Lastly if none of the above works, try of the following:
    1. Try to use a stone specific commercial cleaning product to remove the stain
    2. Call a professional

As mentioned above granite is virtually indestructible. It does not react to mild acids like marble will and will usually dull a knife before you can it will show any scratches. But if you follow these simple steps you’ll keep your countertops looking as nice as the day they were installed.

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