kitchen remodel with white cabinets

Natural stone has become the de intriguer material for home kitchen countertops because of its beauty and the value it imparts to the home. There is nothing like the richness and glow of natural stone, and granite in particular can hold its own against other countertop materials for durability and function. However, most people are afraid that natural stone countertops like granite require a whole lot of maintenance. After all, even if granite countertops are tough, it is not stainless steel.

In most cases, granite can last as long as stainless steel and it can stand quite a surprising amount of use and abuse. When used in fireplaces, however, it can get damaged when subjected to frequent and rapid exposure to extreme temperatures. This is because granite stone expands and contracts in reaction. This is the reason why many installers recommend sections of granite instead of one solid slab for use on fireplaces. The smaller sections are less likely to break under temperature stress.

That said, you will find that caring for your granite surfaces, especially your kitchen countertops, is relatively easy. Regular maintenance usually only means daily washing with warm water and a mild, non-abrasive cleaner such as dishwashing liquid, and a thorough wipe down with a soft, dry cloth.

Here are several tips for how to keep your granite countertop not only clean but also sparkling

Wipe up messes immediately

Granite is tough, but it can stain and scratch because it is slightly porous. To keep coffee stains and wine spills from becoming a permanent part of your countertop, wipe them up immediately with a soft cloth or paper towel. Granite reacts most strongly to oil, so avoid putting a hot pan or pot with a greasy bottom directly on the surface. Use a heat pad or trivet to keep oil and extreme heat from marking your granite countertop.

Remove stains and scum

If you forgot to wipe up the spilled wine the night before, and now have stubborn stains on your stone, there is a good trick to get rid of it. Make a paste of baking soda and water. Apply it generously over the stain, making a ½-inch thick poultice, and leave it on for about two days. To avoid accidentally wiping it off, place a plastic sheet over the area and tape it down. After 48 hours, scrape off the dried gunk using a silicon spatula and rinse the area with clean water. Wipe it down and let the area air-dry

If your problem is soap scum, your solution is hot water. Give your granite top a regular hot water bath and dry with a paper towel. If the scum is set like concrete, you can gently scrape it away with a razor blade, dry grade 00 steel wool, or no-scratch Scotch Brite pad before giving it a good wash. Avoid using strong or abrasive cleaners or anything with ammonia; it will eat away the protective seal of the stone.

Disinfect as needed

You can disinfect your countertop with hot water and mild dishwashing liquid before and after using it, especially if you use it to cut fruits, vegetables, and meat. Granite countertops are tough enough to use as a cutting board; knives will not scratch it. However, bacteria that come with many raw foods can remain on the surface unless thoroughly cleaned.

DO NOT use bleach or ammonia-based cleaners; it will kill your seal faster than you can say “bacteria.” If you are nervous about spreading E. coli to family members or dinner guest, make a one-to-one mixture of 91% isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol, makes sure it says “91%” and not “70%” which is more common) and water in a spray bottle. Spritz the entire surface generously with the liquid and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Wipe off with a paper towel or clean microfiber cloth.

Seal regularly

Granite is porous, so manufacturers apply a resin coating to it before installation, and installers give it a final layer after installation. However, the seal wears out over time and use, and you may need to put in another application every one to three years, depending on use. This is especially important if you have light-colored granite, which tends to be more porous. Darker, or black granite, are very dense and do not require sealing as often, if at all. When in doubt, ask your granite countertop supplier for recommendations to keep your countertop looking sleek.

If you cannot remember when you had your countertops installed or last sealed, you can do the beading test to find out if your counter needs resealing. Drop some water on the surface and check if it beads. If it does, it means your seal is intact. If it does not, and you notice that the surface becomes dark while drying out, it means it is time to call in a professional sealer. You can also apply a sealer yourself if you want to, but be careful about the product you choose. It may not be the recommended one for your type of granite.

Remove scratches

Granite is scratch-resistant but not scratch proof ( check out granite test video). If you have unsightly scratches marking the surface of your beautiful granite countertop, don’t despair. If the scratches are minor, you can probably rub it off with a little water and a non-scratch pad.

If the scratches are still there, try using a diamond sanding pad instead. Wet the scratched area with clean water and move your pad in a gentle circular motion over the scratches. Keep rubbing, all the while keeping it wet, until the scratches disappear.

For deeper scratches, you will have to take a little risk and remove a bit of the sealer to apply a color enhancer. You can do this by rubbing a bit of clear acetone (nail polish remover) over the scratched area. Test the enhancer on as small portion go the affected area to see if it takes on the color of the neighboring areas. If it does, you can safely apply it to the rest of the surface. Apply two or three coats until the scratches disappear. However, if upon testing the color enhancer darkens the area too much, do not use it. Remove the color enhancer with acetone and call in a professional to repair the scratches.

Cleaning and taking care of your granite countertop is not rocket science. If you give it reasonable care and attention, it can last a lifetime.