Proper care and maintenance can reduce etching as well as discoloration that occurs from everyday wear-and-tear.

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Natural stone such as marble, onyx, travertine, and slate can add a touch of elegance to your home’s entrance hallway, kitchen counters, bathroom vanity and fireplace mantel. But many people shy away from these porous stones because they are prone to etching – dull marks and tiny cracks – caused by acid-based foods and cleaners. The good news is that proper care and maintenance can reduce etching as well as discoloration that occurs from everyday wear-and-tear.

Types of natural stone

You may recall from your high school geology class that natural stone falls into one of three basic geological classifications: metamorphic, sedimentary and igneous. When it comes to cleaning, you also need to be aware of whether your stone countertop or bathroom tile is calcareous or siliceous.

Calcareous stone, composed primarily of the chemical compound calcium carbonate, is particularly sensitive to acid. A pH-balanced, non-acidic gentle soap is recommended for these stones, which include limestone, travertine, onyx, marble and serpentine.

“Siliceous stone is a better choice for your kitchen as it stands up to acid found in founds as well as acidic cleansers,” says Al Vallellanes, general manager of Seal Team One. Vallellanes has 27 years of experience in stone fabrication and restoration. Siliceous stones include granite, slate, quartzite, soapstone, and sandstone.

Seven do’s and don’t for cleaning natural stone surfaces

Tips for quick-and-easy everyday cleaning of all natural stone include:

  1. Start with a damp, soft cloth or sponge and a dab of pH-neutral soap (most dishwasher soap is fine).
  2. Using an abrasive cleanser or even the rough side of a sponge may strip away the sealant as well as damage the stone over time.
  3. For crusted-on food or soap scum, use a brush with soft bristles and clean in circular motions to avoid scratching the surface.
  4. Always dry surfaces with a soft towel or blow-dryer immediately after cleaning to avoid spotting.
  5. Avoid cleaning products that aren’t specifically formulated for natural stone. Make sure if you’re using glass cleaner to wipe smudges on a mirror over a marble vanity top that none gets on the stone.
  6. Shake out door mats and rugs on a regular basis to minimize tracking outside dirt that may potentially scratch stone floors.
  7. Damp mop stone floors to wipe away abrasive particles, and be sure not to drag items – including vacuum attachments – across the floor

The right sealant makes the difference

Natural stones are riddled with spongelike capillaries, or veins, that absorb liquids. The biggest mistake people make is putting too much trust in sealant, which can protect the surface from stains but doesn’t prevent discoloration or etching. “Most sealants are topical and can repel a spilled glass of wine or soap scum, slowing down damage over time,” says Vallellanes. “We use a new sealant that penetrates the surface and actually changes the molecular make-up of the stone, protecting it from within – without changing the appearance. Even acidic stains can be steamed out of the stone and, many times, completely removed.”

While sealant does make cleaning up easier, it doesn’t remove the need for daily maintenance to keep your stone surfaces gleaming. Quick daily wipe-downs can go a long way in avoiding build-up that requires potentially damaging scrubbing to remove or professional restoration.

The beauty of marble and other natural stones is that they never go out of style. Proper care and maintenance ensures years of enjoyment, and you’re certain to get a high return on your investment.

If you need stone cleaning and sealing, tile or grout services, or surface restoration, Seal Team One is here to offer you quality service. We are a small company, so you can trust that you will receive personal service. We offer our customers free estimates, without obligation.