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Do Concrete Countertops Stain?

Concrete countertops are made from regular concrete. The concrete ratio mix used to make countertops is a little different than a footing or foundation, but the basic ingredients are the same. Concrete is made from sand, stone and cement that’s mixed with water. Reinforcements like fiber, wire mesh, rebar and chemicals can be used to increase strength and crack resistance. Concrete is very porous and absorbs moisture easily. Because of this, concrete countertops are very easy to stain. They absorb any liquid that’s spilled on them like a sponge. Things like ketchup, wine, coffee, soda, sauce, oil and juices are notorious for staining concrete. Whenever you use concrete countertops in a kitchen or bathroom it’s very important to seal them. A good sealant preserves the concrete’s color and helps prevent stains.

A sealer penetrates into the concrete’s pores and fills them with sealant. It also adds a very thin protective layer to the top of the concrete which sit between the concrete and liquid. Stains can’t get into the concrete because the sealant blocks them. They work very similar to waxing a car. The wax sits on top the paint to protect it. But eventually the wax wears off and needs to be reapplied. The same is true of a sealant.

Sealants are a liquid that you spread all over the surface of the countertops. They not only block stains but also preserve the concrete’s color. Generally, a sealer needs to be reapplied about once every 1-3 years. But natural sealers need re-application much sooner.

To test if the sealer is still working, pour some water on the counters. If the water beads up or pools, the sealer is working. If the water doesn’t bead or starts to absorb into the counter, the sealer has worn off.

Do Concrete Countertops Stain Easily?

Concrete countertops are very porous and easy to stain. Before you use them in a kitchen, bathroom or bar area, it’s important to seal them.

Concrete countertops are easier to stain than granite or marble. Real stone countertops have fewer and smaller pores than concrete. This means stains set in slower and are generally smaller in size. Since concrete has so many deep pores, the stains absorb like a sponge and run deep.

Concrete’s internal structure is the problem. When cement mixes with water, it goes through a chemical process called hydration. The cement turns into a paste that binds the stone and sand together. Then it dries, this is called curing, into a rock like structure. The process leaves lots of small tunnels, called pores, throughout the concrete. These pores are like thousands of little tubes that suck in and hold water.

There’s nothing you can do about concrete’s pores. All concrete absorbs water. However, you can seal the concrete after the countertops are installed. This is a crucial step because it’s the best way to avoid stains when something spills. In addition to staining, concrete also absorbs germs and bacteria. Both can also be blocked by the sealant.

A good quality concrete or stone sealer should be applied when the countertops are first installed and then again as needed. I recommend sealing at least once every 1 – 3 years but some sealers require application more often.

Most sealants contain chemicals but there are more natural products on the market. However, they don’t last as long and need application every few months.

Do All Concrete Countertops Stain The Same?

Concrete is a man made material. It’s made by mixing cement, stone and sand with water. The amount of each ingredient you use is called the concrete mixing ratio. The ratio of ingredients can be adjusted to produce different types of concrete.

Add a little more stone and less sand and you get stronger, denser concrete that’s more porous. Increase the cement and the concrete gets smoother but weaker. Add more sand and the finished concrete becomes gritty.

Making the concrete for countertops is tricky. You have to balance the need for strength and crack resistance with looks and maintenance. The bigger the pores, the easier it is to stain the concrete.

Not all concrete countertops stain the same. If the mix has a higher ratio of stone or sand, it’ll usually be more porous and rougher. This means the countertops are stronger but easier to stain. Use more cement and surface will be smoother and harder to stain. But it’ll crack easier.

The best concrete countertop mix should have a higher ratio of cement which makes the surface smoother, harder to stain and more attractive. But it’ll be weaker. To overcome its weakness you can add fiber and chemical strengtheners to the wet mix along with wire or rebar inside the slab.

do concrete countertops stain vs stone countertops comparison chart

Do Concrete Countertops Stain Easier Than Stone?

Because of how porous concrete is, concrete countertops are easy to stain. Concrete’s structure is made from lots of tiny tubes and pores. These pores absorb and hold water along with organic material and tiny particles. Even things like viruses, bacteria and germs can hide inside a concrete slab.

This is why sealing the concrete is so important. But how does concrete compare to stone countertops. Do they stain easier?

Concrete does stain easier than most other stone countertops but not all. here’s a breakdown:

  • Marble: Concrete stains about the same as marble. Both are porous and absorb moisture easily.
  • Granite: Concrete stains easier than granite. Concrete has larger and more frequent pores.
  • Quartz: Concrete stains much easier than quartz. Quartz is a denser stone with smaller, less frequent pores.
  • Silestone: Man made made quartz is extremely durable and hard to stain. it contains almost no pores and is much harder to stain than concrete.
  • Quartzite: Concrete is much easier to stain than quartzite.

As you can see, concrete is easier to stain than granite, quartz, quartzite and Silestone. But it’s about the same as marble.

In terms of maintenance, concrete is about the same as marble, quartzite and granite which need sealing. Quartz and Silestone typically don’t require a sealant.

Cleaning is about the same no matter what type of stone countertop you use. I recommend treating concrete like a stone. Use anti bacterial warm soapy water and a sponge to wipe down the counters. Rinse them with clean water and dry thoroughly. They’re very easy to maintain.

Are Concrete Countertops Easy To Maintain?

Concrete countertops are fairly easy to maintain. All that’s required is a good quality sealer about once every 1 – 3 years. Natural sealers are less potent and require application about every 3 – 4 months. Other than the sealer, all that’s required to maintain a concrete countertop is general cleaning.

I use regular anti bacterial dish soap and warm water. Soak a sponge in dish soap and wipe down the countertops. Make sure to get soap on all the surfaces because that’s what kills the bacteria and germs.

It doesn’t take hard scrubbing to clean the counters. But I like to use a sponge with a scrub pad on the back. Even smooth concrete is rough compared to granite and marble. A soft sponge can get torn up on the concrete.

Don’t scrub hard on the concrete because you’ll damage the sealer coat. The only time you should scrub hard is right before you apply a new sealer. I usually do a deep cleaning about once a year with a hard scrub right before I apply my sealer.

Once you’re all done scrubbing the counters clean, I rinse them with a sponge or cloth and clean water. Make sure you get all the soap residue off the counters.

When all the washing and rinsing is done, dry the counters thoroughly. I use regular paper towels. They’re great at absorbing moisture. Don’t let water sit on the counters. Even a sealed countertop can stain from standing water.

If a stain does occur, I recommend using a poultice to draw the stain out. If that doesn’t work you can also try cleansers or a steamer. But the best way to keep concrete countertops clean is to avoid stains.

concrete countertops in a modern style kitchen

How Often Do You Have To Seal Concrete Countertops?

Most concrete and stone countertop sealers need to be applied every 1 – 3 years. However, there are natural countertop sealers that need an application every 3 – 4 months.

When it comes to applying a sealer, there’s no set time that applies to every concrete countertop. Each counter is custom made with different concrete. Some concrete is more porous than others which means it takes sealer differently.

Usage is also a big factor. If your counters are cleaned often, scrubbed or in direct sunlight, the sealer can wear off quicker.

The exact sealer you buy matters too. Some brands recommend an application every 1 – 3 years while others say every year and some are every few months. Check the label to be sure.

In general, the longer the sealer can stay on without a new application, the more chemicals it contains. Natural concrete sealers wear off much quicker.

Instead of waiting for a set time to go by before you apply the sealer, I recommend testing the counters with water. Spray some water on the counter. If it beads up or pools, the sealer is still working. However, if it doesn’t bead or absorbs into the concrete, you need more sealer.

I also do a water test right after I apply a new sealer to see how it works at full strength. Then when it’s time to test the counters again, I have something to compare to.

Can You Seal Concrete So It Doesn’t Stain?

Penetrating concrete sealers coat concrete countertops with a thin layer that resist staining from oil, moisture and grease. They lock out surface spills and tiny particles from entering into the concrete’s pores.

A good quality concrete sealer beads and pools spills on the surface so they’re easy to clean.

Some sealers can also make concrete a little harder to scratch. This can be a benefit if you work directly on the counters without a cutting board.

I prefer a concrete sealer with some UV protection built in. This helps preserve the sealer for longer. Without UV protection, the sealer coats will wear off faster when in direct sunlight.

Sealers will make your concrete counters stain, scratch and heat resistant. They’ll also help prevent bacteria and germs from settling into the concrete. But in reality, even sealed concrete can stain if you don’t clean them quickly. Especially spills like oils, red wine, juice, or coffee. Even water spots can occur if the water sits for too long.

Sealers are generally tested when first applied which means they’re at full strength. Every day the sealer sits on your counter it gets a little weaker and their protection wanes. Even the best sealers will offer less protection after a year when compared to their first day. So be careful with hard to clean substances even if the counters are sealed. Especially if it’s been a while since your last application.

Are Concrete Countertops A Good Idea?

If you’re on the fence about whether or not to choose concrete as your next countertop material, here are a few things worth considering.

Concrete is a Modern look that’s gaining in popularity every year. We used to install a rare counter here and there mostly in a bathroom, bar or outdoor cooking area. But these days we’re doing lots of full kitchens. Mostly on the high end of home values. A lot of the homes we build or remodel that have designers are going with concrete. That will eventually trickle down to less expensive real estate as those pictures end up on Sites like Pinterest and Instagram. Using concrete puts you ahead of the trend.

Concrete is a very resilient material that’s on par with stone counters like marble, quartz and granite. It’s very hard to scratch or crack. In general, concrete is harder than marble but a little softer than granite and quartz. However, it all depends on the mixture. Chemicals hardeners can be used which increase concrete’s strength.

Concrete is beautiful and unique. If you’re looking for a focal point and want something different than all the marble that’s used today. Try concrete. You’ll stand out.

In terms of price, it depends on who you hire to install them. The concrete itself is very cheap. However concrete countertops are custom and require someone to build them on site. If you DIY the counters they’re much cheaper than stone. However, if you hire a Pro they’re on par with marble or quartz which is at the top end.

Overall, I’d say concrete countertops are a good idea and definitely worth considering.

Summary: Do Concrete Counters Stain?

Concrete countertops are made from regular concrete. The concrete ratio mix used to make countertops is a little different than a footing or foundation, but the basic ingredients are the same. Concrete is made from sand, stone and cement that’s mixed with water. Reinforcements like fiber, wire mesh, rebar and chemicals can be used to increase strength and crack resistance. Concrete is very porous and absorbs moisture easily. Because of this, concrete countertops are very easy to stain. They absorb any liquid that’s spilled on them like a sponge. Things like ketchup, wine, coffee, soda, sauce, oil and juices are notorious for staining concrete. Whenever you use concrete countertops in a kitchen or bathroom it’s very important to seal them. A good sealant preserves the concrete’s color and helps prevent stains.

A sealer penetrates into the concrete’s pores and fills them with sealant. It also adds a very thin protective layer to the top of the concrete which sit between the concrete and liquid. Stains can’t get into the concrete because the sealant blocks them. They work very similar to waxing a car. The wax sits on top the paint to protect it. But eventually the wax wears off and needs to be reapplied. The same is true of a sealant.

Sealants are a liquid that you spread all over the surface of the countertops. They not only block stains but also preserve the concrete’s color. Generally, a sealer needs to be reapplied about once every 1-3 years. But natural sealers need re-application much sooner.

If you have any questions or comments about concrete, email us any time.

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