How to Care for Granite Countertops

An image showing how to care for granite countertops.

How many times has a red wine stain ruined your day? Sure, a stain on the carpet or your new pants is almost expected at some point, but on your granite or other natural stone? This can absolutely happen, but don't worry because it's easily preventable! And if the worst does happen, we've got some solutions on how to remove a stain as well.

A big part of the appeal of having a granite countertop comes from how durable of a surface it is, but that doesn't mean it's a completely maintenance-free material if you want to keep your counters looking as nice as the day they were installed. As we're all (sometimes painfully) aware, granite countertops aren't exactly cheap, but mercifully, maintaining them is easy and affordable.

So let's get into what you need to know to keep that granite looking beautiful and clean, and hopefully we can save you some headaches in the future.

Proper Granite Countertop Care

Don't Leave Standing Spills

Granite is a dense material to be sure, but it is still naturally porous when untreated, and fluids can seep into the surface. I'll get into sealing your granite countertop below (which is highly recommended), but even if your countertop is sealed, fluid can eventually seefp through if left sitting, or damage/remove the sealer depending on the acidity.

After prepping a meal it's always a good idea to wipe down the whole counter with a warm, damp cloth, and then once over with a dry microfiber doesn't hurt. Unless things get really messy, a specially formulated daily granite cleaner is usually the most you would need at this stage to clean up.

Seal Your Granite

Many of the worries presented in this article can be almost completely avoided by using a proper granite sealer and reapplying it at regular intervals (depending on the type of granite and the kind of use it sees). Like mentioned earlier, granite is still a naturally porous material and can soak in fluids and even harbor bacteria. You can think of a good natural-stone sealer like giving your car a coat of wax. It's an extra layer to keep the valuable surface below protected to maintain the beautiful surface that you invested in. It's generally recommended to seal your countertops every 6-12 months, though it should be said that as long as it's done right, there is really no such thing as over sealing your granite.

How to know when to reseal granite?

The porosity of the stone does dictate how often it needs to be sealed; so does lifestyle. Stone counters that are used more often than others will also need to be sealed more often – the same can be said for stone floors in high-traffic areas.This is where the water test comes in. Just pour a bit of water (about 3 inches in diameter is good) on various sections of your countertop -- especially in high trafficked areas. Let the water stand for 30 minutes before wiping it dry (though you may see a reaction sooner than that). If the granite has darkened in the area where the water was, then it's time to reseal the surface. We've got a guide for you here on how to do that.

How to Remove a Stain

Like mentioned earlier, stains are rare on granite, but absolutely can and do occur -- especially on lighter colored examples, as those not only show stains more readily, but also happen to be more porous than darker granite. In many cases, if you catch a mess early enough, you won't need any product at all, but it's a good idea to have some tricks up your sleeve in case anything does stain, or if your counters haven't been properly cleaned in a while and it's starting to show. The key here is to avoid any kind of cleaner that is ammonia based or acidic as its means of degrading stains, as these things can lead to etching and dulling on the surface of your granite. Another thing to avoid is using your typical dish soap, as some chemicals in these types of soap tend to leave behind a haziness or streaks on the granite. Plus, dish soap isn’t formulated to clean granite or other stone surfaces, so you’re really not cleaning the surface.

For most food/drink stains

Ah, that red wine again. The giver and taker of joy! You should be able to get these stains up by placing wet paper towels or a soaked dish cloth and let sit for 24 hours before wiping clean. Mold and mildew stains will probably need something a little more robust than water, for those cases we recommend a half laundry bleach, half water mixture and a natural-stone-safe sponge or nylon brush.

Vegetable or other cooking oil stains

These are some of the most common to contend with. If an oil stain really sets in, an easy way to lift the stain is to make a mixture of acetone and baking soda to make into a paste to the consistency of pancake batter and let the mixture sit over the affected area for 24 hours. It may take a few attempts to completely remove the stain. Once it's all clear, it's a good idea to immediately reseal the countertop. If the stain remains after three attempts, that means it has penetrated the pores very deeply and you will need the help of a professional stone restoration specialist with the proper tools and training.

What product should I use?

For an all-purpose granite cleaner, Granite Gold Daily Cleaner® is a great option that is gentle on natural stone by being completely food safe, and doesn't include harsh chemicals that can break down the protective seal you're maintaining. Plus, unlike dish soap, this cleaner leaves a streak-free finish that looks great.

What If I Want to Go the Extra Mile?

Polish your stone! Not only will a good natural stone polisher make your counters look great, but there are some practical benefits as well, like preventing soap scum from building up and helping to stave off water spots. This is especially handy for shower walls and areas around the sink where water is constantly splashed. Plus, a good polish will work in conjunction with your sealer to protect against stains and help the seal last longer. It's just not recommended to polish stone flooring yourself, as it can be a little too slippery on walking surfaces. For that, we recommend seeking a professional stone restoration specialist.

Other Things to Avoid

While granite is a tough material, there are some best practices to keep in mind in order to keep it looking its best. Here are a few little wrist-slappable offenses:
  • Vinegar is for pickles, not cleaning – You see this around on some lifehack sites about vinegar being a good cleaning product in the kitchen, but this is a bad idea for natural stone, as the high acidity can lead to etching and dulling.
  • Stop standing on your countertops, you animal – Not only is this unsanitary, but the dirt and small rocks on the bottom of your shoes can scratch and mar the polished surface of your countertops. This sounds like common sense, but you know what they say...
  • Don’t place hot pots/pans on the counter – Generally, yes, granite is a very heat resistant material (that's how it was formed after all), but it's still a good idea to use a mat or a trivet under hot pans. That much-concentrated heat can discolor the sealer, and in extreme cases lead to cracks.
  • Don’t cut food directly on the countertop - Even when sealed, your granite countertop is porous and can host bacteria that a simple wipe down of the counter might not get rid of. Plus, this is unnecessarily hard on your knives, so just use a cutting board!
Want to learn more? We have a ton of guides and how-to's all about caring for your natural stone, because these surfaces and countertops are too big of an investment to neglect and not maintain! Do yourself a favor and protect your investment the right way with Granite Gold® natural stone care products! If you spend $45 or more, we’ll cover the shipping!

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