How To Clean Marble Countertops
Marble is a superb material for countertops in both the kitchen and bath. A favorite among home designers because it’s such a beautiful stone with an elegant quality not found in other building materials. Because it’s such a versatile product that goes with just about anything, Marble is considered a safe choice for almost any situation. However, for all it’s fantastic qualities, marble is a soft, porous stone, making it easily stained, etched, scratched and dulled, so it’s important to know how to clean marble countertops if you want them to last for a long time.
Keeping marble clean is easier said than done. While it’s easy enough to wipe and wash marble clean if you catch a spill right away, because of it’s soft, porous nature, stains set in very fast. Marble is also prone to damage from acidic spills which is a nightmare in the kitchen. By acidic we mean common household substances like milk, wine, tomato juice, soda, lemon juice, etc. One splash can stain the marble, leaving a permanent, dull scar called an etch.
Marble is also easily stained by oil and grease which quickly seep into it’s pours leaving a spot.
Prevention is key with marble countertops. Mop up spills as soon as they happen so they don’t have time to stain the surface. You can keep your marble blemish free if you care for it properly.
Now there’s day-to-day marble cleaning and then there’s the kind of things you’ll have to do if one of the kids spills a can of coke all over your beautiful, white marble island and doesn’t tell you for an hour.
Read on to learn basic day to day maintenance, long term care and stain removal, as well as tips for keeping your marble looking polished.
What Causes Marble Etching On A Countertop?
Marble is a natural, soft stone in the carbonate family. Being a carbonate means it’s prone to getting etch marks because of its calcium carbonate makeup, which reacts with any acid it comes into contact with. Acid literally eats away a very small bit of the surface layer, creating dull spots, also known as etches. This means that even a simple splash of lemon juice left uncleaned for a short period of time is going to leave a subtle mark.
Being such a delicate stone is why it’s so crucial to protect your investment by caring for marble correctly. This guide will take you through how to clean marble countertops, address stains, and seal the surface regularly.
With regular care, marble can be kept looking pristine and beautiful for many years, you just have to learn how to clean marble countertops the right way first.
Prevention Is The Key
Prevention is the key to maintaining a beautiful marble countertop long term. When it comes to marble countertops, sealing at least once every month is what we recommend. It’s a quick, easy, affordable and really does help a lot so why not do it on a regular basis? You’re still going to have to wipe up spills immediately to avoid damage, but the sealant will give you a little more time to clean before the staining starts.
Most countertop installers will come out and seal your countertops for you if you don’t want to do it yourself.
According to the Marble Institute, sealants don’t make the stone stain-proof but they do make it stain resistant. This resistance buys you a bit more time to clean up spills that would otherwise stain.
Sealing marble countertops is fairly simple to perform. The time and cost involved are really inconsequential when compared to how fabulous marble counter tops look in your home, not to mention the added value they add when compared with other countertops.
Pro Tip: Check with whoever supplied your marble for their recommendations on the right sealing products to use based on the type of marble your using (and remember to make sure it’s food safe since you’re using it in the kitchen).
FYI: Some types of marbles don’t need sealing. In such cases, it’s best not to try and apply a sealer since it won’t absorb correctly. Check with your builder or marble supplier before applying sealant.
We’re not going to cover the step by step directions for applying sealer to a marble countertop because they may vary. Read the directions and follow the manufacturers instructions to a tee or hire a professional. Don’t look online for step by step sealant installation instructions because information you read may be inaccurate or out dated for your type of sealer or marble.
Use caution: When installing a sealant to a marble countertop.
Use caution: When cleaning marble with anything other than soap and water or a cleaner specific to your type of marble.
Always Use Coaster, Trivets And Cutting Boards With Marble Countertops
Marble as a kitchen countertop is troublesome because it’s near impossible to completely prevent etching, scratches or stains. Using cutting boards will protect against scratching and direct contact with food juices that may etch or stain.
Use trivets under hot pans to avoid scratches, stains or possible scorching.
Bottles, cans, and glasses that contain acidic drinks may etch the polish or damage the surface. Even some moisture at the bottom of a can or glass can be more than enough.
Always use coasters under all glasses, bottle, and cans… no matter what.
Make marble cleaning easy by treating your marble tops like fine wood furniture. Baby your marble countertops and they’ll look fabulous for generations.
General Marble Countertop Cleaning
General day to day cleaning is very simple. Marble is just like other natural stones: durable and really easy to clean. Just be sure to avoid products containing acid, including lemon juice and vinegar. Though you can buy non-abrasive stone cleaner specifically tailored to marble, make sure to read labels carefully to avoid damaging your surface. Alternatively, you can save money and use a mild, non-abrasive, pH neutral (non-acidic) soap mixed with water, which is all you really need to clean marble countertops.
Simple, mild soaps and soft sponges or towels tend to work best. Treat cleaning marble as if you were scrubbing a babies skin and you’ll be fine.
Don’t ever use vinegar, Windex, acids or bleach on marble. A single use of these acidic substances will eat into a marble countertop’s surface and dull the stone. Don’t use abrasive cleaners or pads, because marble can be easily scratched.
Pro Tip: A secret in knowing how to clean marble countertops: you don’t need specialty cleaners or anything fancy. Mild soap and hot water will do just fine. Wipe sudsy water on the counter with a soft cloth or sponge. Simple cleaning techniques will do fine the majority of the time. Always clean spills immediately before they can stain the marble. Make sure to rinse well, sop up any standing water, and thoroughly dry the surface.
What You Need
- Warm water
- Gentle, non-abrasive dish soap
- Spray bottle
- Soft dish cloth or cleaning rag
- Soft, absorbent towel
Step by step
- Mix warm water and gentle dish soap: Fill a spray bottle with warm water and add about a tablespoon of gentle, non-abrasive dish soap. Don’t use anything with acid or lemon juice. Shake gently to mix the soap and water.
- Spray the counter with the dish soap solution: Spray the countertop lightly with the warm dish soap solution.
- Wipe with a hot, wet dish cloth: Wipe the soapy water off the counter with a hot, wet dish cloth.
- Dry with an absorbent towel: Rub the countertop dry and buff with a soft, absorbent towel.
Marble Countertop Cleaning Dont’s
Don’t Use Generic Household Cleaners of ANY Kind on Marble
Cleaning marble with products bought at your local store that contain acids, alkalis, and other chemicals can etch or damage the countertop surface or degrade the sealant leaving marble worse than it was before you cleaned it. Unfortunately, most common and popular household cleaners fall into this category including well known name brand cleaners. Common countertop cleaners are too harsh for use on marble and will cause damage.
If your going to use store bought marble cleaners make sure to use only cleaners specifically marked for use on your type of marble countertop.
Trying to save money by using a cheap, generic surface cleaner only ensures that you’ll spend a lot more time and money on your marble maintenance in the long-run performing expensive repairs or marble restoration.
Don’t Use Vinegar, Ammonia, Lemon or Orange Cleaners
These are all great for certain cleaning projects around the house, however, they are all acidic and will etch marble thereby dulling the surface.
As noted above, a sponge with soapy hot water is all you need on a daily basis and an occasional marble cleaner as needed.
Don’t Sit or Stand on Your Marble Countertops
While not really a cleaning issue it’s worth noting that marble countertops are not flexible and they DO NOT typically have a plywood backing. Too much weight in one spot could cause a crack.
How To Remove Stains From Marble Countertops
Removing stains from a marble countertop can be trickier than a routine cleaning. The key is correctly identifying the type of the stain and then applying the appropriate chemical or poultice (a paste like cleaning agent). For the sake of this article we’ll be assuming you have a common type of stain common to a kitchen, caused by something like food, soda, wine, coffee or some other common item.
A baking flour poultice is a safe, super easy to make solution (DIY) and it’s what we use on all of our marble countertops for removing common kitchen stains. This simple, home made solution may seem to good to be true but it’s not. We use it to get out just about any common kitchen stain from marble.
It’s so easy to make in fact, even a child could do it. To make it, follow the simple step by step instructions shown below and watch the step by step video.
To test the baking flour poultice before you try it on your marble countertop buy a piece of marble from Home Depot or Lower for around $10. Make sure you get the same type of marble used in your kitchen.
Next, apply your stains. We used ketchup, goobers, coke and some coffee. We let them all sit for around 3-4 hours before cleaning the marble.
We wiped the marble clean and washed it with a warm soap and water solution. The staining from the ketchup, goobers, coke and coffee was terrible. Normal cleaning methods will never get these stains out.
Mix some mild, non-abrasive, pH neutral (non-acidic) soap with warm water. We like to use regular dish soap.
Spoon baking flour into the warm soapy water and start mixing.
Keep mixing and spooning in baking flour as needed until it’s thick like a paste. Similar to thick pancake batter.
Spread paste all over the stained marble. Be generous and cover everything. Cover the entire area with plastic wrap. Tape off the edges. Make sure to use a tape that won’t leave any residue on the marble.
Gently remove the poultice with some damp paper towels and clean the marble with soap and water. The stains are completely removed.
The baking flour poultice works by drawing out stains that made their way into the marble countertop’s porous surface. While it doesn’t work on everything, it’s more than enough for common kitchen stains caused by food and drink. Try this first before resorting to stronger chemical solutions or store bought cleaners.
How To Remove More Serious Marble Stains
So how do you clean marble countertops stained with something a poultice can’t get out? The Marble Institute recommends cleaning with a solution of 12% hydrogen peroxide and a few drops of ammonia. Do not put more than a few drops of ammonia because it’s a weak acid and can damage you counter. You want just want enough to dissolve the stain.
Caution: Never mix cleaning agents or chemicals, as the result can be toxic, even lethal if drunk. Before cleaning, always test the cleaning agent on an inconspicuous location to determine its suitability and make certain it does not damage the surface.
We recommend buying a sample piece of marble to test on first before working on your marble countertop. It’ll only cost about $10 bucks. Stain the marble with whatever stained your countertop and test out the cleaning solution. Wear appropriate clothing such as gloves and protective eye wear, and work in a well-ventilated area. It’s much better to do something wrong and damage a sample than your expensive marble countertop. Make sure the marble your testing on is the same as your marble countertop.
Wipe over the stain with a clean cloth. Rinse with a wet cloth and cleaning solution. Dry with a soft chamois.
How To Remove Etching From A Marble Countertop
To remove etching, use a marble polishing powder. Wet the counter surface, sprinkle on the powder and rub with a soft, damp cloth, or use a buffer pad on a low-speed drill. Buff until the etch goes away and the shine returns.
You can also try buffing your marble with dry #0000 steel wool. Anything deeper than surface level scratches or slight etching will require a professional’s help.
Reseal the countertop when all your polishing is complete.
How To Remove Serious Stains From A Marble Countertop
How to clean marble countertops when the poultice doesn’t work. The hydrogen peroxide doesn’t get it done. And store bought cleaners don’t help. Hire a professional. Call your builder or marble dealer and ask for help. They’re got equipment and solutions for resurfacing marble that a homeowner won’t have access to. Some stains are just too deep to get out with any conventional method which means the marble needs some serious help. Call a pro and get it done right.
How To Clean Marble Countertops Breakdown
Here’s a small marble cleaning breakdown of everything we went over above.
- Remember the key to keeping marble clean is prevention. Seal marble countertops every month.
- Wipe stains up immediately.
- Use coasters, cutting boards and trivets.
- Baby your marble.
- Regular cleanings with warm water, soap and a soft towel or sponge.
- Use a baking flour poultice as soon as you see any small stain.
- Hydrogen peroxide solutions and store bought cleansers are for more serious stains.
- Use a marble polishing powder to remove small etching and scratches.
Well that’s pretty much it. Prevent stains, baby your marble and keep it clean. Marble is a fantastic kitchen countertop stone with an elegant appearance that goes with just about anything. But it’s soft and easily damaged so take special care of it and you’ll enjoy your marble for decades.
If you have any questions or comments e-mail us any time. We’d love to hear from you.