Do’s & Don’ts of Cleaning Granite Countertops

The easiest way to keep your stone looking great is to avoid bad habits that may damage it. Granite, marble, travertine, limestone, soapstone, quartz and solid surface are similar in many ways, but their differences require varying degrees of maintenance. However . . .

If you utilize the granite counter top care and cleaning procedures that follow for all your countertops . . . no matter what type of stone or surface . . . you’ll eliminate most potential problems without ever having to think too hard about it or worry that you may be causing damage.

Do: Blot up spills immediately.
Acidic substances like wine, coffee, fruit juices, tomato sauce, and sodas will not etch granite like they do marble, but they could potentially stain the surface. Cooking oils may also leave a stain if not wiped up.

Do: Clean surfaces using a sponge or soft cloth.
Using a specially formulated natural stone and granite cleaner like this Granite & Marble Cleaning Spray is recommended to keep your tops in the best condition and protect the sealer, but hot water will do for quick clean-ups.

Dish soap won’t permanently damage your granite, butrepeated use of soap will cause build-up (yes, even if you rinse) and dull your countertop’s shine. So, using dish soap for regular granite counter top care is notrecommended.

Do: Use coasters under all glasses, bottles, and cans.
Again, granite won’t etch and using coasters on dense and/or properly sealed granite is not an absolute necessity like with marble, but using coasters is just a good practice to protect all bath and kitchen countertop surfaces.

Do: Use trivets and hot pads under pots & pans.
Yes, you can take a hot pot off the stove and put it right on granite countertops without any problems. It is possible for granite (or any stone or quartz) to suffer “thermal shock” and crack, but rare. You don’t really want to put hot pans on any other surface save soapstone.

But you must consider other issues as well…

Grit that gets trapped between the pot and the countertop surface may scratch the surface–even granite countertops. Granite is very hard and can take tons of abuse without any significant damage, but it can develop light surface scratches or pitting in high-use areas around the sink and cooktop.

It is not common, but it is possible. And ALL other surfaces are softer than granite. Better safe than sorry.

If it does happen, don’t fret too much. Most chips and scratches can be repaired, but it’s best to avoid them by following the granite counter top care tips.

Also, once you remove the hot pan from the countertop the surface will be very hot and may burn.

Do: Use cutting boards.
Again, avoid the possibility of scratching the surface and protect your knives. Cutting on stone will dull and damage your knives’ edges quickly.

Do: Dust mop your natural stone floors regularly.
Use a clean, dry, non-treated dust mop. Some people choose to use a vacuum cleaner. But be real careful. Worn parts or grit jammed by the wheels may scratch the surface.

Do: Use door mats inside and out along with runners and area rugs.
Grit, dirt, and sand carried in by our shoes are abrasive and will wear down and scratch the surface. Clean the rugs regularly.

Don’t: use generic cleaning products such as bleach, glass cleaners, de-greasers or other common household cleaners.
These products that you buy at your local store contain acids, alkalis and other chemicals that will degrade the granite sealer (and will etch marble) leaving the stone more vulnerable to staining.

Trying to save money by using these chemicals only ensures that you’ll spend a lot more time and money on granite countertop care in the long-run.

Don’t: use vinegar, ammonia, lemon or orange as cleaners. Again, most common and name-brand household products are not good for cleaning granite countertops (and definitely cannot be used for marble, travertine or most other stones)

Don’t: use bathroom, tub & tile or grout cleaners.
The powders and even the “soft” creams contain abrasives that will scratch and dull surfaces.

Don’t: sit or stand on your countertops.
Unlike laminate countertops, granite, marble and quartz countertops are very hard, but not flexible and they DO NOT have a plywood backing so too much weight in one spot could cause a crack.

Don’t: store liquids or toiletry products directly on your countertop surface.
Cooking oils, hair products, perfumes, colognes, nail products, creams, lotions, and potions have a tendency to spill or leak and go overlooked.

Even when sealed, a substance that remains on the surface for an extended period may stain granite (and etch marble and other stones). Practice proactive granite countertop care by storing these products on a shelf or decorative tray like they do in fancy hotels!

Granite Countertop Maintenance Routine

Daily:

Hot water and a dish rag or sponge are all you need to clean spills and wipe away crumbs to keep your kitchen countertops clean and tidy throughout the day.

At the end of the day, a quick spray and wipe of the main areas of use with a good granite cleaner like this Granite & Marble Spray Cleaner is sufficient to clean, disinfect and protect your countertops, and provide a streak-free shine.

Weekly:

Remove (or move aside) all items on the counter and use the granite cleaner over the entire surface and edges to remove all dust and debris that collects around appliances, containers, etc. This also serves to condition the stone and maintain its overall luster.

Monthly:

A temporary granite polish like the Topical Conditioning Stone Polish can be used periodically (weekly to monthly as you like) to enhance the shine for the ultimate in natural stone and granite care.

Such topical dressings are not for maintenance or repair. And such products are notwhat make the countertop shiny.

This type of product “enhances” the shine (like waxing a car), improves cleaning, helps eliminate fingerprints, and provides a slight bit of protection.

Various stone care products call themselves “polishes”, but will have completely different purposes.

A topical polish may improve the look a bit, but will not correct the problem. And since it’s not meant to be permanent, it will wear off with use and cleaning.

Yearly: 

Testing for sealing granite countertops (the Lemon Juice & Water Drop tests) annually is a good idea to determine when you need to reapply a granite sealer. However, that does NOT mean you should be resealing granite every year.

You’ll read and hear that you should be sealing granite every year or every 3 years, but the proper frequency for applying a granite sealer is not set in stone (ohh!) and really depends on a number of variables. Testing will tell you when it’s time.

You will likely know anyway that resealing is needed to when you start to notice that water around the sink darkens the stone… meaning that it is absorbing.

Insider Tip: When shopping for any natural stone you should perform the Lemon Juice Test prior to purchase on a sample of the exact slab to determine the suitability of the stone for its intended use.

For kitchen countertops especially you don’t want a stone that is too absorbent (there are some) or a stone that will etch like marble.

Of course, you should also perform the water test upon installation (if you didn’t do it while shopping) to determine if your natural stone even needs sealing (many do not and cannot be sealed).

Polishing Granite Countertops

The first thing you should understand is that the shine or “polish” on granite countertops or any other stone is not the result of a chemical application, sealing, or cleaning.

The surface “finish” is created at the factory or quarry where granite slabs are cut and processed. Huge machines utilize intense grinding and friction to smooth the surface so much that it becomes reflective and shiny.

This shiny finish is called a “polished” finish because it has been “polished” to a shine not because a “granite polish” (product) has been applied.

Thus, the shine is actually part of the granite itself like the glass of a mirror. Using a glass cleaner does not make a mirror reflective. It’s the same with granite. Applying a product does not make it reflective and shiny.

As noted above a Topical Polish product can enhance that shine to look its best (like waxing your car enhances the paint color and shine), but will not put the shine on the granite or repair a dull granite finish.

Dull granite countertops are most often the result of some film (like soap film) on the surface. Granite is so hard that even years of normal use will not wear away the finish. The finish does not just go dull. It must either be chemically or physically damaged or covered up by a film.

However, repeated use of harsh cleaning products (common household cleaners) or regular exposure to acidic foods and drinks (say spills around a coffee maker) can potentially dull the finish. But this generally takes several years.

If your granite countertops have become dull for some reason, you will most likely need to consult a granite restoration professional. No easy DIY chemical or product will restore damage to a granite surface (marble and travertine are a different story. In most cases, simple DIY methods exist for these countertop materials).

Granite Repair Issues & Solutions

Granite Stains

Granite is porous and susceptible to staining. Stains are always dark spots in the granite. However, this issue is easily controlled or prevented in most cases by applying a granite sealer. And most stains are relatively easy to remove with a granite poultice.

The common method for cleaning granite (spray and wipe with a granite cleaner) will not work since stains are inside the stone beneath the surface.

The granite color can give you a general idea of how likely it is that a specific slab of granite will stain.

  • Darker granite colors (brown, blue, black) will be less porous and staining is less likely. Some granite colors (like most black granite countertops) are so dense that they are nearly impossible to stain and do not need sealing.
  • Lighter colors and in particular white granite countertops will be the most porous and the easiest to stain.

The trick to removing a granite stain is first knowing what substance caused the stain and then matching that to the correct chemical ingredient for removing that type of stain when making your poultice.

Many poultice recipes exist online. Some are completely bogus and others are good for only a certain type of stain.

Granite Chip Repair

Pits and chips in granite countertops can occur when small bits of minerals come loose or are knocked out via an impact. Most often this happens around the sink.

Some granites never get pits and others may chip or pit easily. So you may never see a pit in your granite countertop or you may have many over the years.

Granite chip repair is often done by filling the hole with a color-matched epoxy. This works but is often noticeable.

Conclusion

There you have it! The most effective granite countertop care method is simply to avoid damage, which will be simple now that you know all the Do’s and Don’ts of cleaning granite. But also it’s good to know that if any damage does occur, like a stain, chip, or crack, it can usually be removed or repaired.

And if you follow the daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly routine for granite countertop care and cleaning, you’ll rarely run into problems and can maintain your counters in brilliant and beautiful condition with ease.