Updated: June 8, 2015
How to Care For Marble and Granite CountersDuring the last decade, all upscale kitchens and bathrooms have moved towards solid surface counter tops, with a focus on natural stone materials like granite and marble. Walk into any designer home, and you'll find very earthy kitchens and bathrooms with earth tones, tile and slate surfaces, and of course counters. But cleaning and caring for polished stone surfaces is different than wiping down an old formica or butcher block counter. Marble and granite need special sealants and cleaners to keep them looking their best and maintaining their good looks over the years. Below, we will review some of the best granite cleaners and sealants, and also look into marble care and cleaning. With a little extra work, you can keep your bathroom and kitchen looking like new.
Caring for Granite and MarbleOf the two stones, granite is much more durable and tough than marble. The cliffs of Yosemite are solid granite, and they have stood up to hundreds of years of eroding glaciers - they can probably handle your kitchen! Granite is harder (though surprisingly more porous) than marble, resists most chemicals, and can withstand high heat and temperatures better, such as placing hot pots and pans directly on its surface. Granite also does not chip or crack like other stone materials. Granite also comes in a huge variety of colors, from dark black and greys, to oranges and greens, to creams and white. Granite measures a 7 out of 10 on the Mohs hardness scale, meaning a measure 6 metal cutting knife won't scratch it - again, this makes granite a prime candidate for kitchen surfaces.
Marble is a much softer stone, but actually LESS porous stone than granite. Marble is basically the compressed shells of ancient sea creatures -- calcium carbonate, which means it is subject to contact with acidic substances, including sodas, ketchup, and orange juice or lemonade. It can be damaged by cleaning with harsh chemical, even things like lemon or vinegar cleaning solutions. You also don't want to use abrasive cleansers or powders, or abrasive scrubbers like steel wool. Especially when marble is used in a bathroom setting, you need to be careful for things like hairspray which can mar the marble surface.
Granite Sealant - Sealing Granite and Marble CountersHow can I protect my granite countertops? This is a common question for homeowners that plunk down thousands of dollars for expensive marble and granite. The first step is to apply a stone sealant - many times this is done initially when the counter is installed by the stone professional. Unsealed granite is semi-porous, and wine, grease, water and other liquids can be absorbed causing stains, especially on lighter colored stones. However, even the polished finish of black granite can show the marks of liquid absorption stains. Using a sealant, the pores of the stone are "sealed", shielding the counter from damage. Most professionals recommend sealing your granite and marble every year. You can test for yourself by placing a few water drops on the clean counter and seeing if they retain their perfect bubble shape after 15 or 20 minutes - if they have begun to spread out and diffuse, chance are your counter is absorbing some liquid. Most granite sealants come in spray form, but some also come in liquid. You either spray or wipe them liberally on the surface of the counter, allow to set in, and then apply a second coat (follow the directions on your specific sealant product) if needed, allow to stand, then wipe off and clean counter as normal. Where can I buy granite and counter top sealant? Try Marble-Cleaning-Products.com for a selection of granite and marble sealers - Granite Guard Protector ("Granite Guard Protector produces an invisible barrier, preventing staining from food, water, oil and dirt; because they stay on the granite's surface, for easy cleaning") is $23 for a 16 oz. size bottle, which seal up to 400 square feet of granite. They also sell the NeutraClean Cleanser for Granite - $9 for a 32 oz. bottle. Also check out StoneCare.com - they offer a variety of granite cleaning products and sealant products. They have Stone Spray N Seal ($39 for a quart) and Marbamist Stone Counter Cleaner ($25 per gallon). They also offer Stoneglide wipes, which are becoming more popular as a cleaning alternative. Like a damp paper towel, you grab one and wipe down your counters, without spraying, without mess. Cost is $14 for 50 sheets, which could last you almost 2 months at 1 per day.
So plan on sealing your granite or marble counters every year, and plan on cleaning them with special marble and granite cleaning products. Avoid 409 and other generic cleaning products - choose granite and marble designed cleaners. With a little effort, you will keep your counters free of dirt, germs, and scratches for many years.