Natural stone countertops such as marble and granite are porous by nature. This means that if left unfinished and unsealed, they easily absorb liquids and are susceptible to scratches.
To help prevent damage to natural stone countertops there are three common types of finishes, each altering the look and performance of the countertop:
Honed: This finish is created by sanding the stone so that is has a satin/matte look, often muting the original color, and helps reduce the appearance of scratches. However, this option tends to open the pores of the stone and makes it more susceptible to staining.
Polished: This finish is created by grinding and buffing the stone to produce a glossy surface, often emphasizing the stone’s color. This option is most sensitive to acidic household cleaners.
Leathered: This finish is mostly used for dark stones and is created by adding a leather-like semi-gloss texture to it. This finish is most effective in preventing fingerprints and other imperfections. Note that the amount of texture created in the process varies from stone to stone.
After the stone has been finished, it is also highly recommended to also add a sealant to it to help maintain the stone’s integrity. Even with a sealant, natural stones can still become stained over time, but the majority of stains can be wiped away with water. There are two kinds of sealants available:
Topical: This sealant coats the surface of the stone, possibly altering its look, and provides some protection against acid etching. This type of sealant can become less effective with scratches, tends to wear away with time and can scorch with high heat.
Penetrating: This highly recommended sealant seeps into the stone’s pores and helps prevent stains by keeping liquids from soaking into the stone. This sealant is not waterproof but is water and stain resistant, meaning liquids can potentially stain your marble if not cleaned up in time. This sealant is also not resistant to acidic liquids because they tend to wear down the sealant and can seep into the stone’s pores.
All sealants will eventually wear away with time. So, how do you know when it’s time to for a reapplication? Most professionals suggest about once a year. However, a good way to tell is by throwing some water on your countertop. If the water beads, then the sealant is still good. If the water soaks in, it’s time for another application. Be sure the sealant you choose is nontoxic, food-safe and the best type of sealant for your specific countertop.
To help keep your natural stone countertop clean it’s recommended not to use any strong or harmful chemicals as they will wear away the sealant and possibly damage the stone. Spills should be cleaned up immediately to avoid penetration. Mild liquid detergent and soaps mixed with warm water on a non-abrasive towel is the best way to clean natural stone. For tougher clean-ups, we recommend using a neutral stone cleaner. Use protective coverings like placemats, cutting boards and coasters when possible.