Stone countertops add undeniable value and beauty to your home, and can instantly help update a kitchen or bathroom with one simple installation. Natural stone, like marble, granite and slate, are among the most sought after materials by homeowners these days and can be found in a variety of colors, patterns and styles. What some homeowners don’t realize though is that these high-end countertops also require high-end care. If they aren’t cleaned or sealed properly, your expensive Carrara marble kitchen countertops can easily be stained, scuffed or scratched beyond repair.
However, with the proper care, your stone countertops can retain their high shine and elegance through the years, and become a true highlight to your home.
Sealing Natural Stone Countertops
Though tough and beautiful, natural stone countertops are naturally porous, meaning they will absorb liquids like coffee and red wine. Without proper sealing, your beautiful white marble countertops could end up with permanent staining from dark liquids. Even frequent contact with water can change the finish and beautiful properties of your natural stone countertop.
In fact, it’s not just your favorite hot beverages and vino that you have to worry about; oils, lemon juice, tomato sauce and a variety of other different types of organic and chemical liquids, solvents and fats can damage the surface of your natural stone countertop. This also goes for hair dyes, lotions, colognes and other self-care items that you may use in the bathroom.
To keep your natural stone kitchen or bathroom counter looking tip top, it’s best to get yourself onto a schedule for maintenance, and add sealing your countertops to your yearly cleaning routine. Most homeowners will find that they will need to reseal every 6 months to a year, so consider adding sealing your stone countertops to your spring and fall cleaning schedule.
You’ll be able to tell when your stone is in need of sealing again with an easy test; simply apply some drops of water to your countertop surface. When water no longer beads on the surface, and instead starts seeping into the surface or spreading out, you know it’s time for a new sealant application. If your countertops bead off the water droplets like a car that has just been freshly waxed, then you will know your sealant is still working properly.
Many types of natural stone countertops are installed pre-sealed, giving your counters a factory grade, high-quality shine. However, that glossy finish likely won’t last and normal wear and tear will mean that your stone surfaces requires regular sealing maintenance. Sealing granite, marble and slate is a similar process across materials, but the quality and type of stone determines how often you’ll need to reseal.
Lighter colored stones will need to be sealed more often, while darker colored stones can sometimes go as long as three years. Remember that the more you use your countertop surfaces, the more maintenance they will also require. Countertops that are vigorously wiped down and utilized every day will need re-sealing sooner that countertops of homeowners that prefer to eat out most nights of the week.
There are a number of ways you can have your countertops sealed, so be sure to do your research first. If you’re unsure, you can hire a professional to help you apply a high-quality sealant, or you can do it yourself with a variety of paint on or spray on products. Be sure to read the labels and not leave extra sealant pooled on the surface or you may end up with cloudy, splotchy areas on your finish. Using a clean, dry cloth, simply buff off the excess sealant until you get your desired result.
Cleaning Natural Stone Countertops
Like all luxury items, your natural stone countertops require special care when it comes to cleaning. It may be tempting to reach for that bottle of bleach when dark liquids spill and stain your light colored counters. You may also want to use your favorite natural DIY cleaner to help keep your countertops disinfected, but that could be a costly mistake. Harsh chemicals and cleaners with acidic bases tend to be too abrasive, and can etch into the surface of your countertop, ruining the finish of your natural stone sealant.
For most natural stone countertops, a solution of mild dish soap and water is all you need for daily cleaning. Natural home cleaning solutions containing lemon or vinegar are far too acidic and should never be used on natural stone countertops, as it can deteriorate the finish. To be certain you’re cleaning your countertops with the appropriate solution, you can also opt for a product designed specifically for natural stone countertops to help keep them clean and polished every day.
The soap and water method is also recommended for cleaning your natural stone countertops prior to sealing. Be sure to remove all appliances and decorative items and wipe down all surfaces with a soft cloth and a mixture of warm water and mild dish detergent. Then be sure to allow your countertop to air dry completely before you begin to apply your sealant. Using other types of cleaners or natural detergents may be harmful to the application of your sealant, so be sure to use only a mild solution of soap and water to clean prior to re-sealing.
It’s also important to remember to use only soft cloths when cleaning the surface of your natural stone countertops. Scrubby sponges and cleaning utensils with sharp, rough edges can scratch the finish on your natural countertop sealant. This will give it a dull appearance and allow for foods, liquids and bacteria to seep in.
It may seem like a hassle to add the extra chore of sealing and regularly cleaning your natural stone countertops to your household workload, but there’s no denying the beauty and quality it will bring to your home. With proper care and maintenance, granite, marble, slate or other natural stone countertops will help add value to your kitchen and bathrooms and give your overall décor a timeless and luxurious appeal.