You’ve probably seen on TV that cleaning and maintaining granite countertops is hard and time consuming. But the truth is that cleaning them is easy and won’t take any more of your time than if you had quartz, plastic laminate, or Corian.
While your granite counter may be porous and does require proper care, remember that it’s igneous rock, and can handle quite a lot of abuse. You don’t need to treat it with kid gloves, or be afraid to have it in a busy kitchen. In fact, for most of your day to day needs, having granite will be like having any other surface; you’ll wipe up spills and crumbs as you see them, and help protect your stone from foods that stain and heavy pots that could chip them.
What Can Be Used To Clean Granite Countertops?
The most important advice I can give you is to always wash your granite with a PH neutral cleanser or soap and water; using a cleanser that is highly acidic or alkaline can damage the surface the stone, leading to etching or a dull finish. This is the one that we are currently using and it works great!
Best Granite Cleaner
You can purchase cleansers made just for granite, and many major manufacturers such as Method and Granite Gold sell ones made specifically for natural stone. While they are great for a deeper cleaning you don’t have to use them every time. You can simply clean up spills or do general cleaning using a wet cloth and dish soap like Ivory or Dawn. Just be aware that liquid soap does leave a residue that becomes visible over time, especially on darker stone.
Never use an abrasive pad on any natural stone; if necessary soak sticky or dry food stains with water or a PH neutral cleanser first, then wipe away with a soft cloth. Plastic scrapers work great for removing dried on food as well.
Can You Use Vinegar And Water To Clean Granite?
You cannot use vinegar to clean granite countertops. Even though it’s a mild all natural cleanser it’s too acidic to use on natural stone. Pay attention to the labels on cleaning products and avoid anything that contains:
- Citric acid
You should also never use these common household cleaners:
- Formula 409
- Lysol or Lysol Wipes
- Formula 409
- Soft Scrub
Any of the above will slowly erode your countertops finish and eat away at the stone, remove its’ luster, cause it to change color, and make it more likely to absorb stains.
How To Shine Granite Countertops
If you want to get maximum shine when you’re done cleaning quickly buff them with a dry microfiber towel.
They work much better than paper towels or cotton rags because they grab onto dust and debri instead of just moving it around.
How To Enhance The Color Of Granite And Give It A ‘Wet’ Look
Color enhancers are a type of topical sealer that darken and deepen the color of your stone and give it a ‘wet’ look. Most pros use and recommend this product from Tenax.
Normally, polishing your granite is enough to bring out the color. But some people, myslef included, prefer the counters to have as much ‘pop’ as possible. Also, if your stone has severe etching or if you opted for a honed or leathered finish, its color may be lighter or not as intense as you would like. In this case, applying a color enhancer will give it deeper color and a richer appearance.
Always apply color enhancers to a test area or a sample of the stone first to make sure you like the effect before you apply it to the entire counter, keeping in mind that color enhancers can permanently change the color of your countertops. They can also double as a sealer, but I do recommend that you still apply a fresh coat of sealer about once a year.
Check out this demonstration video to get a better idea of how it will transform your stone.
How to Maintain Granite Countertops
Once you’ve invested in a beautiful new granite countertop for your kitchen or bathroom, it’s important to keep it looking its best so that you can enjoy it for decades. While it is a strong, durable material able to withstand a lot of every day use, it can still etch, scratch, or occasionally stain if it isn’t properly cared for.
Granite countertop maintenance isn’t difficult or even very time consuming. But it needs to be done about once a year to keep your countertop in its’ best possible condition.
Do You Need To Seal Granite?
Sealing keeps stains and bacteria on the surface of the stone, where they are easier to wipe away, instead of allowing them to nestle into the microscopic pores. This prevents staining by giving you time to notice a spill and wipe it up.
Let’s say you host a party, and a guest didn’t care that they dropped some salsa on the counter and you don’t see it for at least a couple hours. An unsealed stone will be much more likely to stain, while a sealed one will probably wipe right up.
Think of the sealer as a coat of wax for your car. It’s sits on the surface and creates a thin invisible barrier between the surface of the counter and whatever you place on it. Just like with your cars paint job, a little maintenance goes along way to keeping it looking new.
The Best Granite Sealer
I always recommend you buy the same brands that granite installers use. Most often I see them using either Tenax Hydrex or Stonetech Bulletproof. You’ll have to order the Tenax online but you can usually find Stonetech at local home improvement stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot.
You can also stop in your local granite shop and they will usually have sealer on hand that they will be willing to sell to you.
How to Seal Granite Countertops
Sealing your stone is simple, and takes about 20 minutes to complete from start to finish. Begin by washing your counter with a PH neutral cleanser, buffing with a microfiber cloth and allowing it to dry completely.
It’s best to follow the instructions on the bottle instead of taking general advice, but in most cases you’re simply going to apply the sealer, let it sit, and then wipe up the excess with a dry cloth.
Let the sealer sit on the stone for up to 10 minutes, then buff away the excess with a soft, lint-free cloth. Use a circular motion to rub the excess sealer from the stone. If you allow the sealer to sit for too long, and it hardens on the stone, simply apply more sealer, wait a few minutes for it to emulsify the old sealer, then buff it off all together.
How Often Do You Need To Seal Granite?
Ideally, you should seal your stone immediately after it’s installation to help protect it right away. After that, it should be sealed about once a year.
Sealants are designed to keep liquids on top of the stone, so any moisture will bead up on the surface. When you notice that water is no longer beading, it’s time to re-seal the stone. Guidelines like, seal yearly or twice yearly, can be helpful, but some types of cleansers or food products can break down sealers at different rates, so your stone may need more frequent sealing – or less frequent sealing – depending on what comes it in contact with it each day.
So, while putting it on your calendar to re-seal your stone on the anniversary of its installation isn’t a bad idea, you should also keep an eye on how it’s performing, so you can seal it sooner if needed.
Topical versus Impregnating Sealers
There are two types of sealer that can be used on stone. Topical sealers sit on the surface of the stone and impregnating sealers penetrate the surface to fill up the many pores that are a normal feature of natural stone.
Topical sealers do tend to break down more quickly than impregnating ones, and will need to be applied more regularly. Some manufacturers of impregnating sealers like Dry-Treat warranty their product for 5+ years if it’s applied by one of their certified contractors.
How to Disinfect Granite
Many people think that in order to truly clean their granite, they need to disinfect it, too. While soap and water will remove most surface stains and keep your worktop clean, if you wish to disinfect it, too, you can use a mixture of isopropyl alcohol with water and dish soap.
Use one-part alcohol to three parts water, and add a few drops of dish soap. Shake and spray, let it sit for 10 minutes, and then wipe up the excess to kill some of those bacteria and other pathogens that may be on your kitchen work surface. Here you’ll find our guide to naturally cleaning and disinfecting granite.
How to Remove Stains
Sometimes, despite your best efforts at sealing and wiping up spill, a deep stain may set in to your granite. On darker colored stones, this may not be very noticeable, but some very light stones can show deeper stains if acidic or greasy foods were left on the surface for too long.
When this happens, simply cleaning the surface of the stone isn’t enough; you need to draw the stain out of the stone. This is typically done using a poultice or chemicals.
Poultices can be made of many materials, and their sole job is to help lift a stain out of the pores of your granite without harming the stone. Some poultices can be bought at the store, others may be made at home. The type of poultice you use, and how long you need to apply it for is directly tied to the type of stain.
For example, food stains like blueberries or soy sauce will probably come up with the talcum powder and hydrogen peroxide mix but an oil stain from a greasy pizza will require a specialized cleaner like this one by Stonetech.
Follow the instructions on the label to find the most effective poultice for your type of stain. Most poultices are formed in a paste, which is spread on the stone. Cover the poultice with plastic wrap and wait an hour before wiping it away. Sometimes you’ll have to repeat the process more than once but in most cases stains can be removed.
If you’re afraid to experiment with your stone, which is completely understandable, you always have the option of calling up the local granite shop and letting them use their years of experience to treat your stain. They’ve seen countless stains and will have the supplies on hand to get them out. You may have to pay more for their expertise but it is the safest option to returning your countertop to its’ former glory.
You Can Test Granite To See How Hard It Is To Stain Or Etch
The different colors of granite countertops require different amounts of maintenance to keep them looking new. This is because while true granite is always made from a mixture of silica, mica, feldspar, and quartz, not all slabs sold as granite are actually the same type of igneous rock.
Some stones labeled and sold as granite are actually dolomites – a type of metamorphic stone that contains the same minerals as true granite, but which stains more easily. Other stones may be conglomerates, breccias, or gabbros. They may contain minerals that react differently with things like water, such as serpentine – the mineral that gives green granite its color.
In most cases stone yards will be happy to give you a sample of each stone you’re considering for your kitchen. Take the samples home and test them with an acid to see how they will hold up to abuse.
The Lemon and Water Test
The most common way to determine the level of maintenance that your stone is going to require is with the lemon and water test. Sometimes oil is also used, but typically, lemon and water alone are enough to give you a general idea of how porous or sensitive your granite is.
Take your test piece of stone and seal approximately half of it with a sealer. Once half the test piece is sealed, place a small puddle of water and a small puddle of lemon juice onto each of the two sections. One puddle of each liquid on the sealed section, and one puddle of each liquid on the unsealed section. Allow the two liquids to sit undisturbed on the surface of the granite for about an hour.
At the end of the hour, wipe away the liquids from both sections of the stone and take a look at it. Take it to look at it under different lighting conditions to see exactly how the two liquids affected the different areas. If you have a magnifying glass that would be helpful too. Even an inexpensive 10x powered magnifying glass would be enough to reveal a lot of detail.
Look for a change in the stone where the liquids sat. Where the water was present, you’re looking for a darkening of the stone. This means that the stone is porous, and that it can absorb liquids – and stains. Ideally, the sealant should have protected your stone from the water. If it did not, this means your granite is very highly porous, and you need a sealant in the future made for very porous stones.
If you saw no change at all in the area where the water sat, this means that your granite is non-porous, and that it will be less likely to stain in the future. Gabbros such as Absolute Black, for example, are unlikely to absorb liquids and stain.
Where the lemon juice was present, you’re looking for a change in the surface texture of the stone. This may appear like a dull spot if the granite was polished. This is called etching, and it occurs when the stone is susceptible to acids. Some stones etch very easily, while others do not etch at all. If your stone etches, it means that things like lemon juice, tomatoes, and red wine can leave both stains and dull places if they aren’t cleaned up quickly. Ideally, if your stone does etch, the sealed area should show less etching than the unsealed area.
Once you’ve completed this test, you should have a good idea of how susceptible your granite is to things like staining and etching, which will help you protect it better going forward.