How to Care for Marble Countertops

Dreaming of the elegance that marble countertops can bring to your kitchen? Marble has been a coveted decorating material since the time of the Greek Empire. While you don't need to be a member of the nobility to own it today, you do need to think this choice through carefully, because marble countertops, while beautiful, aren't quite as durable as you may believe.

While marble is strong, it is also sensitive to many substances, including cleaning chemicals, juices that contain citric acid and oils. These substances can erode marble over time or make its appearance cloudy. To keep your countertop looking in tip-top shape for years, you'll to take steps to care for it.

Polished Marble or Honed Marble?
If you actually want to use your marble countertop and not just look at it, the best advice is to choose honed marble. This material has a matte finish because the final polishing step is skipped. Polished marble has that lovely shiny look, but every drop of alchol, tomato juice or lemon juice will leave spots on the finish, and you'll be spending all your time trying to get them to sparkle again.

While there are ways to minimize the risks to a polished marble countertop, such as using cutting boards and trivets and promptly cleaning up any spills, you may find that this interferes with your enjoyment of your kitchen. Also be aware that marble is much more vulnerable to scratches and cuts than granite countertops. These defects won't show as readily on a honed marble countertop as they will on a polished one.

Marble Countertop Cleaning Supplies

  • Specialized stone soap or other neutral cleaner
  • Soft bristle brush
  • Soft washcloth or sponge
  • Bucket
  • Warm water
  • Stone sealer

Preparing the Countertop
Before you use any type of cleaning agent on your countertop, you should use a soft bristle brush to loosen dirt. Brush away this loose dirt with a soft washcloth or sponge. This will make the cleaning agents work more effectively.

Cleaning Agents Matter
You'll need to select a cleaning solution that is made specifically for cleaning marble. Most regular household cleaners contain acid, which can damage the finish. Cleaners with citric acid must be avoided. Neutral cleaners, such as phosphate-free soultions or dishwashing liquids, will work in a pinch. The trick to using any cleaning agent on your countertop is to rinse the soap off immediately with warm water to avoid drying out the marble.

If your marble countertop is stained, you may need to choose between living with the stain and living with an etched surface, as most cleaners that can do the job will also do some damage to the finish. For stains from oils in foods, spread dry corn starch over the stain and let it sit for 24 hours. This should absorb most of the oil from the stain.

Rust stains can only be removed with a rust-removal product that is guaranteed to etch polished surfaces. As a last resort for dealing with etched marble, you can send the material out to be repolished. You'll get the luster back, but you'll also have a slightly thinner countertop.

Once the surface is clean, you'll want to seal your marble countertop to keep oils and dirt from causing damage. Do not use wax. This will yellow white marble. Use a stone sealer specifically designed for marble that will help it resist dirt and oil.

Daily Marble Care
Marble is a calcium-rich stone, porous and susceptible to expansion. When spills are left on a marble countertop, they seep into the pores. Over time, this leads to cracks. It's important to wipe up any spills immediately, then wipe the area with a little water and dry immediately.

Never allow wet dishes, glasses or water to stand on a marble countertop for any length of time. Water will seep into the stone and leave a permanent ring to remind you where the water was. This is caused by a permanent change in the marble's composition and can only be removed by professional polishing.

Let it go. Europeans frequently use honed marble countertops in kitchens and consider the scratches, scrapes and stains part of the territory. Over time, these can create a wonderful patina that shows a kitchen has been lived in and used.

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