Cleaning Granite Countertops

By Sven Hylten-Cavallius

Homeowners who are seeking to increase value to their homes enjoy the durability and easy maintenance when upgrading to granite countertops. Granite is the most durable of all stones, second only to diamonds. Granite, being created from molten rock, can withstand the heat from a hot pot without a trivet. The hardness of the surface is excellent for handling dough and confectionery. While durable and low maintenance, however, they are not impervious to damage.

Properly installed granite countertops should last a lifetime, one justification for the higher costs associated with the material and installation. The granite suppler should provide personalized instructions for care with each slab, since all granite is made up of many different minerals. Even if two different stone slabs come from the same part of the world, there will be variances in the granite that require different kinds of attention.

Proper care ensures the longevity and beauty expected from this premium product. In addition to the polished finish, it’s possible to get a “honed” or flat finish. Although a honed finish can be very attractive, it is not recommended for kitchen use. Over time, everyday use will tend to lend a polish to some areas, and the additional necessary sealers will distract from the beauty of the surface. A polished finish is easiest to maintain with regular care that includes proper cleaning and the use of sealers to prevent staining.

Care for a polished finish begins with daily attention to what is placed on the surface. Granite countertops are hard and can withstand a falling can of soup, but the polished surface is a bit more delicate. Never use the granite as a cutting surface, always use a cutting board. Avoid allowing acidic foods such as lemon juice, vinegar and soft drinks to be left on the surface for any amount of time, as they can etch the surface. Another thing that removes the polished shine are harsh cleaning products or abrasive cleansers (liquid or powder). To clean the surface without leaving streaks, use only a small amount of warm water with a ph balanced dishwashing liquid.

Although granite is extremely hard, some of the minerals in it may be very soft. The existence of different minerals is what makes the granite easy to scratch, be chipped or break along the grain. In order to protect the surface, it is recommended to avoid dragging pots, pans or appliances across the stone. Scooting something across the countertop that has even a grain of sugar under it will scratch the polished surface. Scratches allow stains to mar an otherwise beautiful surface.

Once a year, a penetrating sealant should be applied. Regular polishing will keep the finish gleaming. Use a penetrating sealant recommended by the supplier or the home builder. Avoid using a stone sealer that will not penetrate the stone, as it will create a cloudy surface that will have to be removed by stripping the entire countertop, using harsh solvents. Remember, the glossy shine isn’t caused by a coating on the surface, but by expert polishing using diamond polishing tools.

If there is minor damage to a granite countertop, it can be resolved by the homeowner. If a pot or pan leaves a grey or black mark on the surface, it can be polished out using fine steel wool. If a glue-like substance is stuck on the countertop, it is possible to scrape it off with a credit card or single sided razor blade. Small marks made during the removal can be polished out with a fine steel wool. If the granite is chipped or cracked, a professional should be called in to perform invisible repairs.

In addition to its strength, granite is a very beautiful stone that adds color and warmth to any kitchen. With just a little care to protect their beauty and utility, granite countertops will last a lifetime.

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