Granite Care and Maintenance

Granite countertops are very durable and attractive, thus making granite is a popular choice for many homeowners. If you are selecting a countertop material for newly constructed home or remodeling an older kitchen or bath and want a striking countertop surface, granite is a great choice.  Granite care can be a bit different from caring for human-made countertop materials because granite is a natural stone. Natural stone countertops are more prone to staining and damage. There are some special care and maintenance to maintain its natural beauty and keep it looking like the day it was installed.

Granite countertop care isn’t a huge deal. I am sure you have heard about all the work that is needed to maintain your granite countertops. But cleaning and maintaining granite is a simple task, once you know how to do it. I am about to explain the proper steps needed to keep your granite pristine.

Proper Granite Countertop Care

A correct understanding of how to care for your granite countertops is crucial. But adequately caring for your granite countertops isn’t tricky or sophisticated. There are just a few vital things to keep in mind when you are cleaning and using your countertops.

Most mistakes happen because of a lack of understanding of the correct techniques and products needed to clean and maintain granite countertops. There are a ton of products, tips, and tricks available on the internet. You may be a bit afraid of trying some of this advice in fear of permanently damaging your new granite countertops. But granite is a sturdy material, and it is not all that easy to do irreparable damage. After all, they are stone that has been around for millions of years.

Now is it possible to do irreparable damage to your granite? Yes, but this is a rare occurrence because almost all damage can be repaired. You don’t need any specialized training or expertise to care for your new countertops properly. All you need to do is continue reading the do’s and don’ts of granite countertop maintenance.

Now let’s dive into the proper care for your granite.

Do’s & Don’ts of Caring for Granite Countertops

The best way to keep your granite looking great is to develop good habits that will protect the countertops. Granite and other natural stone countertops will all have various levels of care and maintenance to keep them in pristine condition. While granite is one of the natural stone surfaces requiring the least care, there are still some vital things to avoid.

Do’s

Clean-up Spills Immediately

Unlike marble, granite will not etch from acidic substances like coffee and fruit juices, but if left on the surface long enough, they could cause staining. Cooking oils left on a granite surface will likely leave a stain if left on the surface too long. Sealing the counter does not make it 100% impervious to staining, although it does increase its stain resistance.

Use a Sponge or Soft Cloth to Clean Surfaces

In most cases, hot water will do an excellent job of cleaning your granite surface. But if there are oils and some food residues on the surface, you should use a specialized granite cleaner to clean the surface.

While dish detergent will not permanently damage your granite, but will eventually leave a residue that will dull the appearance of your granite surface.

Use Coasters, Trivets, and Hot Pads

Granite counter will not from hot pots and pans, nor will it get water rings from drink glasses. There is the rare chance that your granite could crack from thermal shock from a hot pot or pans when setting on the counter. Again, this is extremely rare.

What will happen is you will scratch the surface of your granite countertop. These scratches may not be noticeable immediately because they are tiny. Over time as more and more of the minute scratches accumulate, the surface will become dull.

Granite is very tough and resilient. The damage caused by these small scratches is repairable with a repolishing of the surface. But the damage should be avoided when possible. It will keep your surface looking its best and help keep repairs to a minimum.

Use a Cutting Board

You are going to want to avoid the possibility of scratching the surface of your countertops. Granite is hard, but knives can still scratch the surface. Besides, the granite will dull the knife blade in short order.

Dont’s

Don’t Use Generic or All-Purpose Cleaning Products 

Bleach, glass cleaners, degreasers, and other common household cleaners contain acids and alkaloids that will strip the sealer from your granite. As a result, your granite will be more prone to staining.

It may seem frugal to save a few bucks on cleaners. But you will quickly find the increased cost and time needed to seal your granite is not worth it.

Don’t Use Vinegar, Ammonia, Citrus Based Products as Cleaners

Many everyday household cleaning products are not compatible with cleaning granite countertops. Avoid using a cleaning product not explicitly recommended for granite. Using warm water and a soft cloth is sufficient for most cleaning jobs.

Don’t Use Abrasive Cleaners

The abrasive powders and even the “soft” creams contain abrasives. By using these products, you will scratch the surface of the granite and cause a dull surface.

Don’t Sit, Stand or Set Heavy Objects on Your Countertops

Granite and other natural stone countertops are very hard but not at all flexible. While the cabinets and wood under the counters will flex when heavyweight is applied. If this occurs, there is a good chance your countertop could crack or break.

Don’t Keep Liquids Containers on Your Countertop 

Many times items like cooking oils, hair gels, perfumes and colognes, beauty products, creams, and lotions, will spill, run or leak in insignificant amounts that will go unnoticed until removing the bottle. By the time you notice the spill, there will likely be a resulting stain in the granite.

Even when adequately sealed, prolonged exposure to some substance will cause staining. The best practice is to keep these items on a shelf or in a tray that is liquid proof.

Routine Care For Your Granite Countertops

Daily:

Hot water and a soft cloth or sponge to clean the surface of the counter. This will help keep any spills or crumbs off the surface. If further cleaning is required or to disinfect the surface, an appropriate granite cleaner should be used.

Weekly:

Any items on the counter should be removed and the entire surface cleaned with a recommended granite cleaner.

Monthly:

This is an optional step, but one that will help keep your granite looking its best. You can use a topical granite polish. A topical polish does not remove some of the granite’s surface. Instead, it conditions the surface to help with fingerprints, cleaning, and shine.

The polish is sprayed into the surface and wiped to a shine. It is a straightforward but effective step to keeping your granite counters looking their best.

Yearly: 

Testing granite countertops to see if sealing is need. Two methods are very simple, yet effective at determining is sealing is needed, water drop and citrus test. Just because testing is suggested each year that does NOT mean you will need to reseal the granite every year.

A lot of natural stone sealer manufacturers will suggest a blanket treatment schedule of once per year, but the yearly recommendation is not correct in all applications. Dark or black granite is far less porous than lighter colored granites. In the case of black granite, you may never need to seal some types. And as I mentioned in our post on selecting a granite countertop, some colors of granite are not even granite.

Most of the time, it will be apparent that sealing is need when you notice darkening around sinks or where water was allowed to sit for a short period.

Testing: It is often a good idea to test the granite material when you are choosing granite for installation to see how impervious it may be to staining. If you already have granite installed and your home and you need to test to see if it’s time to reseal. I suggest you read our article on testing granite for stain resistance and sealing requirements to determine your need for sealing.

Polishing Granite Countertops

The shine you see on new granite countertops is not from some spray-on coating or specially applied finish. It is not from a topical polish like I mentioned early. Instead, it’s from a mechanic polishing process. The natural stone is polished using various grits of polishing wheels using diamond impregnated pads or polish to achieve the shine.

The initial polishing, referred to as the factory finish, occurs during the processing of the slab at the factory.

The shiny final finish is called a polished finished because it is highly reflective or shiny. Not all finishes are highly polished and reflective. Marble and sometimes granite will come in a matte finish.

The reflectiveness of Your Granite Countertop

Think of the reflection in your granite like the reflection you see on the glass. It is the result of a clean and smooth surface that can reflect light. While glass cleaner can help keep glass clean, it is not suggested for granite and could actually dull your granite further. Topical polishes are an excellent choice to keep the granite surface looking clean. While not an actual cleaner, it works more like a car wax to prevent substances from attaching to the granite surface.

Two conditions typically cause granite to lose its polish and reflectiveness. The most common is the result of using the wrong cleaning products which buildup on the granites surface and create a film. The second condition is the result of small scratches on the surface by not using cutting boards or sliding pots and pans across the surface, causing tiny scratches in the surface of the granite. Granite is a tough surface, but it is not impervious to scratching. Over time these small scratches will accumulate and appear as dull spots in high use areas.

In most cases, when your granite counter starts to show signs of dulling, there will not be any cleaning product or spray-on solution. You will need to repolish the surface physically. You can either hire a professional or use one of the DIY solutions available to repolish the surface. If you are handy and don’t mind putting in a little bit of work you can save quite a bit repolishing your counters yourself.

Granite Repair Issues & Solutions

Granite Stains

Granite and most natural stone counters are porous, thus making them susceptible to staining. Stains will appear as dark or colored spots in the granite. The addition of a good granite sealer will dramatically reduce the effects of staining, but no sealer will make the granite 100% stain resistant. Good habits of not of quickly cleaning spills and keeping counters cleaned are your best line of defense to prevent staining. But accidents do happen and fortunately most stains can be easily removed by using a quality granite poultice

Cleaning with a granite cleaner will not work once the stain has absorbed into the granite surface.  

Specific colors of granite will offer different levels of stain resistance naturally.

  • Darker colors are less porous and increase the natural ability of the material to resist staining. When you get to the darkest color, black, they are so dense they are often totally stain-resistant and may never need sealing. Keep in mind many black or dark granites will also have white or lights patterns that will be susceptible to staining.
  • The lighter colors are more porous and more likely to stain, with white being the most likely color to stain.

To select the right poultice to remove the stain from under the surface effectively, it helps to know the substance that caused the stain. There are many poultices available inline as well as many recipes for home remedies. While some of the home remedies are effective, many are not sufficient.

On rare occasions, you will see blue or greenish stains appear on newly installed countertops. Installation staining is a result of the stone reacting to the adhesive used during the installation. If this staining occurs, you should contact your installer

Repairing Granite Chips

Nicks and chips in granite countertops are a result of small grains of the stone coming loose and falling out or impact from items dropped on the counter. The area around the sink and stove are the most prone to chipping because of the number of things set on that area’s surface.

Some types of granite are very resistant to chipping and pitting, while others are destined to pit and chip. In all probability you will have many years of use before you start to see chipping in most countertops, barring any accidents that cause hard impacts to the surface.

The typical repair solution for a chip has been using a color matching epoxy to fill the void and then polishing the surface. While this works, it is often noticeable because it is hard to match the color and pattern of the granite exactly.

The best option is filling the chip or pit with clear epoxy. The clear epoxy is applied, and the surface polished. The clear epoxy will level the surface and fill the void while allowing the natural color of the stone to show through. The repair will be unnoticeable in most cases.

Granite Crack Repair

Cracked granite is one of the most dreaded types of damage that can occur to your granite countertop. If the crack is simply a hairline crack, it can be left alone in most cases. Hairline cracks very rarely cause any issues or problems and won’t typically get any worse.

If you have a crack that is separating, it will require a professional repair. The repair will be visible if not performed correctly, and you should find an expert that has experience making these repairs.

Granite Countertops That Are Doctored

What I am referring to when I say doctored granite are countertops that have been dyed to look like a more expensive granite. Black countertops are where this issue is most prevalent. While at the factory, they will apply a black dye to make the granite darker and command a higher price. The practice is illegal but very hard to detect in most cases. Occasionally, these doctored countertops make it to market and sold to unsuspecting buyers.

The main issue with these dyed granite slabs is when an acidic substance is left on the surface. The acidic liquid will etch the dye, causing a discoloration that will appear dull or chalky.

Granite is naturally resistant to acidic household product and foods. So when this etching occurs as a result of contact with an acidic liquid, it is an indicator that you have doctored granite

Unfortunately, there is no fix for these dyed granite countertops. If you have black countertops that are doing this, the only way to fix the issue is a replacement.

The best way to detect dyed granite is to test it before installation. You can quickly check for dye by using white cloth with acetone. Take the cloth moistened with some acetone and wipe it across the surface. If it shows any sign of color coming off the surface, you can be confident you are dealing with doctored granite, and you should reject it.

Does Granite Harbor Bacteria? 

According to a bacteria study performed by HITM granite had the most significant reduction of e.coli bacteria count with what was considered “normal and reasonable” cleaning practices. Granite even outperformed stainless steel in this study.

By merely washing and rinsing granite surfaces showed a 9X better reduction in bacteria counts than stainless steel.

There was no evidence that granite collects, holds, or harbors bacteria to any unsafe degree, according to the Center for Disease Control.

The HITM also stated that granite is a safe and clean surface. 

Many times Quartz countertops are advertised as the cleanest and safest, but this study proves that granite is actually superior.

Proper cleaning and immediate cleanup of food and beverage spills will also help keep bacteria levels to a minimum as well as prevent possible staining.

Conclusion

Like the famous adage from Benjamen Franklin stated: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”. The best way to handle damage to your granite countertop is through prevention. By using safe practices and proper care, you can avoid most of the common damage that can occur to your granite surfaces. It is also comforting to know that should you experience damage to your granite there are remedies and repairs to correct the condition.

By simply following a cleaning and care regiment that was laid out earlier, you will be able to keep your granite countertops looking beautiful and pristine for many years.