Your new stone countertop will arrive in beautiful, pristine condition with the same veins, grain pattern, and color you saw in the stone yard. Unfortunately, if not properly cared for after it's installed, you could find your new counter losing some of its appeal. This is because you may not realize that while made up of natural rock, stone countertops can be affected by day to day use. Scratches, stains, fissures, and other issues can crop up over time if you aren't caring for your new counter properly.

There are many different types of natural stone that can be used as a countertop, and most of them will require some degree of care to keep them looking their best, whether you install them as your kitchen counter or as a shower surround. Granite, which is an igneous rock made up mostly of quartz, silica, feldspar, and mica is far less porous than calcite-based stones such as marble, limestone, or travertine, which means that some homeowners may believe that they don't need as much care. Unfortunately, this isn't true. Some stones sold as granite are actually dolomites, gabbros, serpentines, and even conglomerate stones that need differing amounts of care.

It's also important to remember that no two stones are ever the same, even amongst basic mineral types, so we recommend that you perform the Water and Lemon test on a sample of your stone shortly after installation to discover your stone's needs:

  • Pour a small amount of water and a small amount of lemon juice onto a sample of the stone, or in an inconspicuous area that won't be seen when you are done – the back of a closet or a corner may work well
  • Leave the two amounts of liquid to sit for about an hour, then wipe them away and examine the stone
  • If your stone is porous and needs to be sealed, it will have darkened where the water sat
  • If your stone reacts with acids and may etch, it will appear to be slightly duller where the lemon juice sat
  • If you observe no change in your stone, it may not require sealing, but may still benefit from stone-friendly cleaners or surface enhancers

Sealing Your Stone

A sealer will only slow down the natural rate at which a stone absorbs a liquid. Some stones are so dense (soapstone, many granites, some travertines, etc.) that liquids just cannot penetrate... or stain... while others will stain if a spill isn't wiped up immediately. So, a sealer does not provide an absolutely impenetrable shell (which is the common perception)... it simply gives you more time to clean up the mess before it stains and keeps the stain near the surface, so it can be more easily removed if a stain does occur.

Chemicals, particularly acids (like liquor, vinegar, coffee, sodas) can damage or essentially remove the polish on certain calcite-based stones like marble, travertine and limestone. It's a reaction between the calcium carbonate and the acid. It's called "etching" and it's the primary reason such stones are not recommended for kitchen countertops.

The "stains" that result are the clear or lighter colored "water spots" or "glass rings" that are commonly reported with such stones. But they are not "stains." Nothing is absorbed into the stone.

It is physical damage to the surface of the stone. Luckily, most cases of etching are mild to moderate and can be repaired using a special marble polishing etch remover.

Sealing has absolutely nothing to do with etching and will not prevent it at all. Etching is physical damage to the stone. Expecting a stone sealer to provide this protection is like expecting a car wax to prevent a key scratching your car's paint. Only using coasters, trivets, place mats and completely avoiding contact with the acidic and alkaline foods and products will prevent etching.

If you find that you need to seal your stone, we recommend using a silicone-based, impregnating sealer to help prevent it from absorbing liquids and staining. Silicone-based sealers don't break down in water, so they last longer than water-based application. An impregnating sealer is designed to penetrate deep into the stone, sealing up any small pores that may be in its surface. This is why we recommend the Water and Lemon test; stones that are not porous will merely let the sealer sit on its surface, while a highly porous stone may require a deeper penetrating impregnator. You may want to select a sealer made for highly porous stone if your stone darkened dramatically on contact with the water, or if you have installed a limestone or travertine. Stone needs to be resealed whenever you notice that water is no longer beading up off its surface when you wash it.

To seal your highly porous stone mainly flooring and shower walls:

  1. Pour a small amount of the sealer into a bowl or a small dish.
  2. Dip a foam paintbrush into the sealer and paint it onto your stone using slightly overlapping strokes. Be sure to cover all areas of the stone, including edges. It's fine if some sealer gets on your grout; it will seal this as well.
  3. Allow the sealer to sit for about 10 minutes to give it time to penetrate the stone.
  4. Buff away any remaining sealer using a soft, lint free cloth. If you find that the sealer has dried on your stone before you can wipe it away, you can re-emulsify it by pouring additional sealer on, and waiting just a few minutes before buffing it away.

If you have installed tumbled stone tile, and wish to enhance its color, apply a topical, color-enhancing sealer after you apply the impregnator to deepen the color of the stone. Reapply as needed to maintain the color and minimize the appearance of scratches in stones like slate.

To apply a topical sealer:

  1. Test a small area of the stone to see how it will be affected by the sealer. Most color-enhancers will darken the stone, including existing veins and other dark areas. Make sure you like the results before sealing the entire stone.
  2. Pour some sealer out into a dish or bowl.
  3. Dip a foam paintbrush into the sealer and carefully paint it onto the stone using overlapping strokes. Do not apply this sealer to grout as it can leave behind a sheen on the grout's surface. If some gets on the grout, buff it off as soon as possible with a soft, lint-free cloth.
  4. Let the sealer sit for a few minutes, then buff the stone with a soft, lint-free cloth. Reapply as necessary until your stone reaches the desired saturation.

Granite counter-tops sealing is simple:

You may read that you must seal granite to maintain its shiny polish. Not true. Sealing is for stain resistance only. Both natural and engineered stone kitchen counter tops are polished by grinding and buffing the surface into a smooth shine.

Sealing your stone countertops is a simple wipe on, wipe off procedure. It's not complicated and no special knowledge is required except the ability to follow some simple instructions. So relax, the previous sealing procedure for floors and showers its core complicated but granite counter-tops is easy.. You have nothing to worry about.

The key is to completely remove any sealer residue from the surface after it has absorbed into the pores below the surface saturating the stone, but before it dries.

Sealing granite countertops can be a ONE-TIME deal, if you use a more advanced sealer product.

Some granites do not need sealing at all! For some granites, sealing it is merely that's a marketing tool perpetuated by both sealer and quartz countertop manufacturers. There are over 2500 granite varieties. Many of the darker colors (blacks, browns, blues, greens) are incredibly dense, virtually non-absorbent and never need sealing.

Cleaning Your Stone

Always ash your stone with a PH neutral cleanser and plain water, or a cleaner specifically marketed for stone. Never wash your stone with an acidic-based cleaner, particularly if your stone reacted badly during the lemon test, as it could lose its shine over time as the weaker particles of the surface are worn away.

To prevent water spots, buff your stone dry with a soft, lint free cloth or run a squeegee down your shower walls once you're done showering in the morning.

Removing Stains

Natural stone is porous and even on the best days, with an impregnating sealer; your stone may absorb some liquid materials and stain. Always do your best to wipe up a spill as soon as you notice it; sealers help give you time to wipe things up before they stain, but if a stain should occur you may be able to remove it with a poultice.

You can purchase a stone poultice at the same place you would find a sealer or stone cleaner. Apply the poultice as a paste on top of the stain and cover it in plastic wrap for about an hour. The poultice will help lift the stain to the surface of your stone where you can wipe it away. The sooner you deal with stains, the less likely they are to be permanent, so try to keep an eye out for spills to help your stone stay looking great.

Dealing with Fissures and Stun Marks

A fissure is a naturally occurring crack that runs through your stone. Some fissures can be felt with your fingers if you run them across the surface of the stone, while others can only be seen. A fissure does not mean your stone is weak, or of a less grade of material. In very rare cases, placing a hot pan directly from the stove onto a fissure may cause it to split because of thermal shock. Therefore, you should always take care to use a trivet or hot plate, rather than placing a hot pot directly on your stone counter.

A stun mark is a small, white mark sometimes visible on marble and other softer stones. Think of it like a bruise; a stun mark occurs when something hard strikes the stone in one spot. Wearing high heels and walking across a marble floor may result in a stun mark. Some stuns can be ground out and refinished, but others run straight through the marble. Some stun marks are also naturally occurring and formed with the stone. Take care not to hit or strike your stone, and always use furniture pads and door mats to help prevent stun marks from occurring on your marble floor.

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