Let’s preface this by saying we hate to say "buyer beware" but one must thoroughly ask questions and research a stone or tile product before purchasing. Stone is a natural material and looks great -- but it is not indestructible. Some can be a maintenance nightmare.
Before purchasing, stone or tile sealing should be considered regarding what happens after installation. This is something often overlooked and not mentioned by many installers or builders.
Sealing can help prevent staining but may also alter the color of the product so be sure to do a test spot first. Keep in mind there are stone-restoration companies out there that can repair these surfaces if the problem is more than you can handle on your own.
Let’s take a look at some tips to help assure your countertops, tile and stone look amazing for many years to come:
- For natural stone like slate, it's advisable to apply a penetrating sealer to countertops and slate floors every two years to prevent deep stains.
- Clean slate tiles with a few drops of dishwashing liquid and warm water applied to the slate surface with a soft cleaning tool such as a mop, sponge, or soft cloth.
- For tough stains, clean soap scum with a half-cup of ammonia per 1 gallon of water.
- Stay away from abrasive cleaners, vinegar, and citrus cleaners.
- Too many homeowners still clean granite countertops with vinegar and warm water. Don’t! This is acidic and will eat your polished finish away over time. Natural stones will require sealing upon installation, so it's important to talk to your professional installer regarding their suggested sealer brands for granite. Then daily cleaning is as simple as cleaning with warm water.
- For dirt and spills, use a stone-care cleanser that's the correct pH with water; make sure to consult the cleanser label for the correct dilution ratios.
- Steer clear of all bleach and acidic cleansers.
- The maintenance of soapstone, which although more expensive, is a wonderful surface alternative to granite due to a silky appearance is quite easy. Just wipe the surface with a soft sponge or cloth and a few drops of dishwashing liquid or all-purpose cleanser and warm water.
- During the first year of installation, it's recommended you rub the soapstone surface with mineral oil every couple of weeks to keep the stone oxidization (darkness) even; oil can be applied every two months thereafter for maintenance.
- Soapstone resists water, chemicals and acids, so staining isn't as problematic as scratches. Soapstone scratches and nicks can be removed with fine sandpaper.
- Do not scour or apply abrasive cleansers that will scratch the soapstone surface; another no-no are alkaline cleaners not specifically formulated for stone.
- Quartz -- most often used in the kitchen due to its durability -- needs to be sealed for long-term protection.
- To maintain, wash the surface with a soft cotton cloth and warm water with a mild dish soap. Note: all stone can be damaged by force and no stone is chip-proof. Objects hitting edges particularly at sinks or dishwashers may cause chips.
- Always use a potholder to protect the surface from damage caused by sudden and rapid changes of temperature as well as direct contact with hot pots and pans.
- Quartz countertops are meant to be stain free, as the surface does not absorb liquids.
- Refrain from using bleach and abrasive products.
- Soap scum is the biggest culprit that causes damage to these tiles so apply the best sealer possible to protect a travertine shower.
- For stains, use zero-pH cleaners (available in home-improvement stores).
- Do not use commercial cleaners that smell good but have petroleum in the ingredients. Also avoid acidic substances like vinegar as well as abrasive cleaners and dish soap containing citrus oil.
- Marble surfaces require proper care and sealing, making them a challenge in homes with kids; acidic stains from breakfast staples like coffee and orange juice will be difficult to clean if not blotted up as soon as the spill occurs. Blot the spill or stain with a soft cloth or sponge and use water to rinse away any remaining spilled liquid. Rinse the soft cloth or sponge with hot water and wring it out thoroughly to remove most of the excess water, which can also seep through the porous marble and cause a permanent stain. Wipe the surface dry with a chamois; don't allow it to air dry.
- To prevent marble stains, wipe the surface ASAP when there is a spill of any kind. Ask your marble installer or home improvement specialist for a recommended marble poultice.
- Do not use abrasive cleansers, vinegar, and citrus cleansers.
- Purchase a Magic Eraser or a disinfecting cleaner like Comet, which comes in a nonabrasive, bleach-free, liquid solution made for porcelain and ceramic surfaces.
- To remove stains, use some powder cleanser on the scuff marks and allow it to sit a few minutes before scrubbing the powder off with a scrub brush. One highly recommended soft cleanser is Bar Keepers Friend, which works without having to use bleach on the surface.
- Never resort to bleach, which will eventually eat through the enamel seal on the porcelain.
- Engineered stone countertops – formulated with 93 percent natural stone and 7 percent polymers -- while highly resistant to scratches and stains, are not indestructible so make sure to use a potholder when placing heated objects on engineered stone surfaces.
- Use a mild soap and water solution to clean and polish the surface of countertops with a smooth, matte look.
- Multipurpose cleaners and detergents applied to scouring pads – which will not damage these countertops -- should take care of tough stains by transferring the dirt from the surface to the pad.
- Avoid using harsh chemicals like bleach or ammonia.
- First, wipe up any loose dirt particles by sweeping or vacuuming prior to mopping. Use a soft bristle brush or vacuum floor attachment without a beater bar so the floor surface isn't scratched by the wrong attachment. After you remove the loose odds and ends, the floor can be mopped with warm water. For tougher dirt and spills, mop with a neutral-pH cleaning solution. Many grout and sealant manufacturers have neutral-pH cleaning solutions made specifically for ceramic tile cleaning. Rinse the surface with warm water after cleaning.
- Use a scraper to remove stubborn debris. A nylon scrubbing pad dampened with dishwashing liquid can be used to remove grout stains; apply grout sealer twice a year to prevent stains.
- Do not use bleach and other acidic cleansers; they will discolor or fade grout joints over time. Also avoid oil soaps and ammonia, which will yellow grout, and vinegar, which will damage it.
Here is a helpful guide to file away to get and keep you on the right track. Maintenance done right can keep your investment gorgeous forever: http://www.buildingstoneinstitute.org/images/pdfs/commercial_care_clean.pdf