You could ask anyone to picture their dream kitchen or bathroom, and most will imagine sparkling clean fixtures, gleaming surfaces, and an overall “brand new” appearance. Unfortunately, as enough time goes by, such a look becomes increasingly difficult to maintain. Hygiene is the number one factor to consider, of course, but many people are just as concerned with avoiding dingy and damaged countertops.
Regardless of whether you are planning to renovate, have a new home that came with countertops you’re unsure how to look after, or want to take better care of what you’re already working with – we’re here to help! In order to avoid the mistakes that many homeowners make when cleaning and protecting their countertops, we’ve put together a straightforward list of the top ten common errors.
1. Not Choosing the Right Kind of Stone
This first step is incredibly vital. Finding the ideal stone for your space will significantly lessen how much time you’ll need to commit to upkeep. It’s crucial to thoroughly research different countertop materials beforehand in order to familiarize yourself with them and their characteristics.
Some options, such as quartz and granite, are a fantastic choice for kitchens due to their durability. Others, like marble, limestone, and travertine should fare well in bathrooms and powder rooms. Obviously, the style of your home will have a large influence on the stone you ultimately settle on, but appearance is only one of the factors worth considering in this case.
2. Forgetting to Regularly Reseal Your Countertops
Quartz and soapstone are both non-porous stones, and therefore don’t need to be sealed. However, other materials like granite, quartzite, marble, travertine, onyx, and limestone have a natural texture that will collect bacteria and absorb liquids unless properly sealed. Aside from being unsanitary, this can also lead to staining and etching.
Unfortunately, regular wear and tear will eventually weaken your sealant. Every two years, it’s a good idea to test your countertops to determine whether they need resealing. Try placing a few drops of water in a frequently used area, such as near the sink, and let the water stand for 15 minutes. If it disappears, you should plan to have your counters professionally treated right away.
3. Using the Wrong Cleaning Solutions
Believe it or not, there are plenty of mistakes to be made when it comes to wiping down your countertops. Cleaning formulas designed for glass can permanently damage natural stone – and make sealant less effective – with the residues they leave behind. Soaps and detergents present the same problem, as it’s nearly impossible to completely wash them away.
Using solutions that are highly acidic or alkaline is also a very bad idea. Not only will they do harm to calcite-based stone such as granite and marble, they also break down the protective barrier formed by sealant. Lemon juice, vinegar, drain cleaners, dishwasher rinsing agents, bleach, and oven cleaners can all do significant damage to countertops. Instead, it’s best to opt for a cleanser that has been specifically formulated to maintain your stone of choice.
4. Cleaning Countertops with Abrasive Tools
If you’re someone who likes to blow off steam with a major cleaning session, you might be reluctant to trade your usual arsenal of tools for a simple cloth – but trust us! When caring for countertops, a gentle approach is by far the best one. Instead of reaching for a brush, scrubbing pad, or metal scourer, all you’ll need are a few clean, soft rags. Afterward, buff with a dry cloth for a beautiful, shiny finish.
5. Waiting Too Long to Clean Up Spills
Even if your countertops are sealed, it’s still a good rule of thumb to immediately take care of any spills. If it’s been awhile since you last had them treated, it’s possible that your sealant has broken down in some places, allowing liquids to absorb and potentially stain. As we mentioned above, substances with a high PH will begin to dissolve sealant with prolonged contact. Instead of wiping up spills, blot them with a paper towel to avoid spreading. Rinse several times with plain water and dry with a soft cloth.
6. Preparing Food Without a Cutting Board
When you consider the damage that abrasive cleaning tools can do to countertops, using knives directly on their surface should be an obvious blunder. Still, many people decide to forgo a cutting board when they’re in a rush, thinking that their stone counters can withstand the stress. Well, they may not appear damaged at first, but small nicks and scratches will begin to accumulate over time. These can eventually become an entry point for liquids and, ultimately, stains.
7. Taking Heat Resistance for Granted
Some materials – particularly quartz, granite, quartzite, and soapstone – can withstand quite a bit of heat without sustaining any damage. This is handy when you need to set a hot pan down momentarily, but it isn’t something that should be consistently depended on. Even quartz, which is one of the most heat-resistant stones available, shouldn’t be exposed to anything over 300 degrees Fahrenheit. To be safe, it’s always best to use some kind of buffer between hot objects and your countertops.
8. Exposing Countertops to Acidic Foods and Juices
Just as acidic cleaning solutions shouldn’t come into contact with natural stone, neither should acidic foods or juices. While preparing foods and serving liquids that are high in acid, such as many fruits and vegetables, as well as coffee and milk, it’s important to place a barrier between them and your countertops. Any spills that occur should be absorbed with a towel and rinsed away completely with water. Once you’re finished in the kitchen, a quick wipe-down will help remove anything you missed.
9. Storing Liquids or Toiletries on Their Surface
Even when stone has been sealed, staining and etching is still possible if a substance leaks out onto the surface and isn’t noticed soon enough. For this reason, displaying cooking oils and other liquids on top of your counters is never a good idea. In the bathroom, personal hygiene products such as shampoo, perfume, creams, lotions, and the like should all be stored on a shelf or tray. As a bonus, your countertops will be far less cluttered!
10. Sitting or Standing on Countertops
While counters made with laminate are somewhat pliable, those fashioned from stone are very solid. Such countertops aren’t usually installed with a plywood backing either, and that combined with their lack of flexibility can cause a crack if too much weight is placed on one spot. Sitting or standing on the surface causes considerable pressure, and although it may not happen at first, enough stress will eventually lead to damage that might even be irreparable.
If you manage to avoid making these ten mistakes, there’s no reason why the stone in your kitchen or bathroom can’t maintain its original condition for years to come. Oh, and don’t forget the coasters – your countertops couldn’t ask for a better friend!