Unless you've been fastidious about caring for your marble countertop in the kitchen, it likely has a few stains and perhaps a dingy look. In an afternoon, you can bring back the luxurious glow to the marble. Roll up your sleeves, get a bucket and some rags, and restore the elegance of that marble countertop that once enchanted you into buying it.

The Challenge of Marble

Marble is a very porous stone, so materials left on it can seep into the pores and under any surface finish. Acidic foods such as wine and tomato sauce can leave a stain on marble countertops and actually etch into the stone surface. Water left on the surface can leave dark spots. Once you've cleaned your countertop, consider some of the ways mentioned later that prevent these blemishes from happening.

Polished or Honed?

If you chose the polished countertop, you'll have a higher risk of stains and blemishes. The honed countertop has a matte finish because the final polishing step is skipped. You'll still get stains on a matte surface, but cuts and scratches are less noticeable.

General Cleaning

For this you'll need:

  • soft scrub brush
  • soft rags
  • a sponge
  • a bucket
  • baking soda
  • corn starch
  • mild dishwashing liquid

Remove everything from the surface you're going to clean. Use the soft-bristled brush to gently brush away any dirt on the counter. Wipe the counter off with a soft damp rag or sponge. Wipe with a clean, dry cloth to remove any moisture left on the counter.

Mix dishwashing liquid in your bucket with warm water until slightly sudsy. Using this mixture with a soft cloth, scrub a portion of the countertop gently. Then go over the surface with a damp cloth with no soap on it followed by a dry cloth to pick up any moisture. Don't leave soap on the counter as that will dry out the marble and cause cracks. Don't leave water on the counter, as it can cause water stains.

Getting Out Stains

Many commercial cleaners that remove stains from marble will also etch the surface. Try these home remedies first and see if you like the results before using the commercial products.

  • New stains - Make a paste with baking soda and a little water. Apply over the stain and allow the mixture to dry. Wipe up with a damp cloth followed by a dry cloth. The baking soda interacts with the acid in the stain and pulls it out of the pores in the marble.
  • Old stains - Spread dry cornstarch on the stain and let sit overnight. The cornstarch will pull up any oily stains and lighten them up, but it may not remove them entirely.

If you have to resort to a commercial product to remove the stains and you end up with an etched counter, you'll have to have a marble specialist come in and sand the surface down. The etched areas will be gone, but you'll have a thinner countertop.

Preventative Maintenance

Once you have the countertop as clean as it can be, here are some tips to keep it from being damaged and stained again:

  • Use a commercial stone sealer to protect the countertop from dirt and oils. Reapply every year.
  • Wipe up spills on the counter immediately. First wipe off the spill, then wipe with a damp cloth, then use a dry cloth to pick up any moisture.
  • Do not let wet dishes or pots and pans sit on the countertop. You'll end up with a water stain that looks like the bottom of the dish or pan.
  • Always use a trivet for hot items placed on the surface.
  • Always use a cutting board.

Once you've cleaned and sealed your marble countertop, be mindful of all the ways that spills can happen, and clean them up quickly. You'll keep your countertop looking beautiful and won't have to spend future afternoons getting out stains.

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