Care & Cleaning
Caring for your Natural Stone Installation
Whether it is marble, granite or limestone, natural stone is a beautiful and enduring material. It is a wonderful investment for your home or office and if properly used and maintained it will give you many years of long lasting beautiful service. If you treat table tops and countertops like the fine furniture that it is, you will have very few problems with your stone. On this page you will find many recommendations for routine care and maintenance in addition to some simple stain removing tips.
Stones vary in strength, some will scratch easier than others, marbles, travertines, and limestones are fairly soft stones and care should always be taken with these materials. Granite is a very strong stone and will withstand more use than softer materials, but it too can be scratched if abused.
- Use coasters under all glasses, particularly those containing alcohol or citrus juices. Many common foods and drinks contain acids that will etch or dull the stone surface.
- Do not place hot items directly on the stone surface. Use trivets or mats under hot dishes and place mats under china, ceramics, silver or other objects that can scratch the surface.
- Use cutting boards (for the sake of your knives as well as protecting the stone).
Care & Cleaning Products
Currently we have a number of products available for sale in our showroom. These include basic cleaners, advanced cleaners, sealers and now introducing two new products. The first new product is a "Stain Poultice Powder" available in 8oz (weight) containers. The second product is an "Etch and Watermark Remover" (for marbles, limestones, travertines, and onyx) also in a 8oz (weight) container. At this time we are working on adding them to the website and making them available for purchase online. Currently we have brochure on our products available for download. For now you can call or visit our showroom for information or to purchase any of the products that we have. Thank you for understanding.
Cleaning Procedures & Recommendations
Know Your Stone
Natural stone can be classified into two general categories according to its composition: siliceous stone or calcareous stone. Knowing the difference is critical when selecting cleaning products.
Siliceous stone is composed mainly of silica or quartz-like particles. It tends to be very durable and relatively easy to clean with mild acidic cleaning solutions. Types of siliceous stone include granite, slate, sandstone, quartzite, brownstone and bluestone.
Calcareous stone is composed mainly of calcium carbonate. It is sensitive to acidic cleaning products and frequently requires different cleaning procedures than siliceous stone. Types of calcareous stone include marble, travertine, limestone and onyx. What may work on siliceous stone may not be suitable on calcareous surfaces.
Kitchen and Vanity Countertops
Clean with a neutral based cleaner (like MarbleLife Intercare). Wipe up spills immediately to prevent stains. Do not use harsh chemicals or abrasives. Never use lime removers or acidic cleaners (including those containing citric acid, orange or lemon cleaners) on limestone, marble, onyx, and/or travertine.
Bath and Other Wet Areas
In the bath or other wet areas, soap scum can be minimized by using a squeegee after each use. To remove soap scum, use a non-acidic soap scum remover or a solution of ammonia and water (about 1/2 cup ammonia to a gallon of water). Caution: frequent or over-use of an ammonia solution may eventually dull the surface of the stone.
Dust mop interior floors frequently using a clean non-treated dry dust mop. Sand dirt and grit do the most damage to natural stone surfaces due to their abrasiveness. Mats or area rugs inside and outside an entrance will help to minimize the sand, dirt and grit that will scratch the stone floor. Be sure that the underside of the mat or rug is a non-slip surface. Normally, it will take a person about eight steps on a floor surface to remove sand or dirt from the bottom of their shoes. Do not use vacuum cleaners that are worn. The metal or plastic attachments or the wheels may scratch the surface.
Outdoor Pool & Patio Areas
In outdoor pool, patio or hot tub areas, flush with clear water and use a mild bleach solution to remove algae or moss.
Clean stone surfaces with a few drops of neutral cleaner or a mild liquid dish washing detergent and warm water. Use a clean rag mop on floors and a soft cloth for other surfaces for best results. Too much cleaner or soap may leave a film and cause streaks. Do not use products that contain lemon, vinegar or other acids on marble or limestone. Rinse the surface thoroughly after washing with the soap solution and dry with a soft cloth. Change the rinse water frequently. Do not use scouring powders or creams; these products contain abrasives that may scratch the surface.
Spills and Stains
Blot the spill with a paper towel immediately. Don't wipe the area, it will spread the spill. Flush the area with plain water and mild soap and rinse several times. Dry the area thoroughly with a soft cloth. Repeat as necessary. If the stain remains, refer to the section on stain removal.
Identifying the type of stain on the stone surface is the key to removing it. If you don't know what caused the stain, play detective. Where is the stain located? Is it near a plant, a food service area, an area where cosmetics are used? What color is it? What is the shape or pattern? What goes on in the area around the stain? Surface stains can often be removed by cleaning with an appropriate cleaning product or household chemical. Deep-seated or stubborn stains may require using a poultice or calling in a professional. The following sections describe the types of stains that you may have to deal with and appropriate household chemicals to use and how to prepare and apply a poultice to remove the stain.
Types of Stains and First Step Cleaning Actions
(grease, tar, cooking oil, milk, cosmetics)
- An oil-based stain will darken the stone and normally must be chemically dissolved so the source of the stain can be flushed or rinsed away. Clean gently with a soft, liquid cleanser with bleach or household detergent or ammonia or mineral spirits or acetone. DO NOT MIX AMMONIA AND BLEACH! THIS COMBINATION CREATES A TOXIC AND LETHAL GAS!
(coffee, tea, fruit, tobacco, paper, food, urine, leaves, bark, bird droppings)
- May cause a pinkish-brown stain and may disappear after the source of the stain has been removed. Outdoors, with the sources removed, normal sun and rain action will generally bleach out the stains. Indoors, clean with 12% hydrogen peroxide (hair bleaching strength) and a few drops of ammonia.
(iron, rust, copper, bronze)
- Iron or rust stains are orange to brown in color and follow the shape of the staining object such as nails, bolts, screws, cans, flower pots, and/or metal furniture. Copper and bronze stains appear as green or muddy-brown and result from the action of moisture on nearby or embedded bronze, copper or brass items. Metal stains must be removed with a poultice (See section on Making & Using a Poultice). Deep-seated, rusty stains are extremely difficult to remove and the stone may be permanently stained.
(algae, mildew, lichens, moss, fungi)
- Clean with diluted (1/2 cup in a gallon of water) ammonia or bleach or hydrogen peroxide. DO NOT MIX AMMONIA AND BLEACH! THIS COMBINATION CREATES A TOXIC AND LETHAL GAS!
(magic marker, pen, ink)
- Clean with bleach or hydrogen peroxide (light colored stone only!) or lacquer thinner or acetone (dark stones only!)
- Small amounts can be removed with lacquer thinner or scraped off carefully with a razor blade. Heavy paint coverage should be removed only with a commercial "heavy liquid" paint stripper available from hardware stores and paint centers. These strippers normally contain caustic soda or lye. Do not use acids or flame tools to strip paint from stone. Paint strippers can etch the surface of the stone; re-polishing may be necessary. Follow the manufacturer's directions for use of these products, taking care to flush the area thoroughly with clean water. Protect yourself with rubber gloves and eye protection, and work in a well-ventilated area. Use only wood or plastic scrapers for removing the sludge and curdled paint. Normally, latex and acrylic paints will not cause staining. Oil-based paints, linseed oil, putty, caulks and sealants may cause oily stains. Refer to the section on oil-based stains.
- WATER SPOTS AND RINGS
(surface accumulation of hard water)
- Buff with dry 0000 steel wool.
- FIRE AND SMOKE DAMAGE
- Older stones and smoke or fire stained fireplaces may require a thorough cleaning to restore their original appearance. Commercially available "smoke removers" may save time and effort.
- ETCH MARKS
- Etch marks are caused by acids left on the surface of the stone. Some materials will etch the finish but not leave a stain. Others will both etch and stain. Once the stain has been removed, wet the surface with clear water and sprinkle on marble polishing powder, available from a hardware or lapidary store, or your local stone dealer. Rub the powder onto the stone with a damp cloth or by using a buffing pad with a low-speed power drill. Continue buffing until the etch mark disappears and the marble surface shines. Contact your stone dealer or call a professional stone restorer for refinishing or re-polishing etched areas that you cannot remove.
- Efflorescence is a white powder that may appear on the surface of the stone. It is caused by water carrying mineral salts from below the surface of the stone rising through the stone and evaporating. When the water evaporates, it leaves the powdery substance. If the installation is new, dust mop or vacuum the powder. You may have to do this several times as the stone dries out. Do not use water to remove the powder; it will only temporarily disappear. If the problem persists, contact your installer to help identify and remove the cause of the moisture.
- SCRATCHES AND NICKS
- Slight surface scratches may be buffed with dry 0000 steel wool. Deeper scratches and nicks in the surface of the stone should be repaired and re-polished by a professional.
MIA Videos on Cleaning & Poultices
Care & Cleaning of Natural Stone
This video provided by the MIA and used with permission.
Care & Cleaning - Poultice
This video provided by the MIA and used with permission.
Making and Using a Poultice
A poultice is a liquid cleaner or chemical mixed with a white absorbent material to form a paste about the consistency of peanut butter. The poultice is spread over the stained area to a thickness of about 1/4 to 1/2 inch with a wood or plastic spatula, covered with plastic and left to work for 24 to 48 hours. The liquid cleaner or chemical will draw out the stain into the absorbent material. Poultice procedures may have to be repeated to thoroughly remove a stain, but some stains may never be completely removed.
Poultice materials include kaolin, fuller's earth, whiting, diatomaceous earth, powdered chalk, athletic field marker, flour, white moulding plaster or talc. Approximately one pound of prepared poultice material will cover one square foot. Do not use whiting or iron-type clays such as fuller's earth with acid chemicals. The reaction will cancel the effect of the poultice. A poultice can also be prepared using white cotton balls, white paper towels or gauze pads.
Cleaning Agents or Chemicals
- OIL-BASED STAINS
- Poultice with baking soda and water or one of the powdered poultice materials and mineral spirits.
- ORGANIC STAINS
- Poultice with one of the powdered poultice materials and 12% hydrogen peroxide solution (hair bleaching strength) or use acetone instead of the hydrogen peroxide.
- IRON STAINS
- Poultice with diatomaceous earth and a commercially available rust remover. Rust stains are particularly difficult to remove. You may need to call a professional.
- COPPER STAINS
- Poultice with one of the powdered poultice materials and ammonia. These stains are difficult to remove. You may need to call a professional.
- BIOLOGICAL STAINS
- Poultice with dilute ammonia or bleach or hydrogen peroxide. DO NOT MIX AMMONIA AND BLEACH! THIS COMBINATION CREATES A TOXIC AND LETHAL GAS!
Applying the Poultice
You may view our slide show of applying a poultice. Or you may click on any of the links below to jump to that step. Creating the stain The stain from oil on the bottom of the bottle
- Gather the appropriate poultice components as required (refer to section above to determine appropriate components).
- Prepare the poultice.
- Slightly wet the stained area with the cleaning agent being used.
- Apply the poultice to the stained area about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick and extend the poultice beyond the stained area by about one inch. Use a wood or plastic scraper to spread the poultice evenly.
- Cover the poultice with plastic and tape the edges to seal it.
- Allow the poultice to dry thoroughly, usually about 24 to 48 hours. The drying process is what pulls the stain out of the stone and into the poultice material. After about 24 hours, remove the plastic and allow the poultice to dry.
- Remove the poultice from the stone. Rinse with distilled water and buff dry with a soft cloth. Use a wood or plastic scraper if necessary.
- Repeat the poultice application if the stain is not removed. It may take up to five applications for difficult stains.
- If the surface is etched by the chemical, apply polishing powder and buff with burlap or felt buffing pad to restore the surface.
Please call us for problems that appear too difficult to treat.
The Marble Institute of America offers a brochure as well as the videos above that includes information on treating spills and stains on natural stone surfaces. We do provide one MIA brochure and/or video CD for each of our customers at completion of install. Please note that most of the information above is directly from the MIA brochure (© 2005 MIA) and used with permission.
Additionally, we carry a full line of cleaning products for your natural stone needs. Our stock of cleaning products includes products from manufactures such as MarbleLife and MB and covers the range of needs from basic daily cleaning to specialized products including (but not limited to) soap scum remover and mold & mildew remover.