Though granite countertops are considered to be a premium surface, the material is still subject to its own unique challenges and cleaning issues. Specifically, if left unsealed, granite countertops can become stained, and the sealant itself can become scratched, especially if the wrong cleaning supplies are used during the process. Here's an in-depth look at how to clean your granite countertops while preserving the sealant layer that protects it from potential problems in your kitchen.
How do Granite Countertops Work?
Granite has been used for countertops for many decades, but as a natural stone material, it has a somewhat porous surface. This can be an issue, as the granite can be stained by a wide range of foods and materials, such as berries, beets, artificial food dyes and a number of other compounds. With this being an issue, why then are granite countertops so popular and how do you work around this issue?
Granite's hard surface protects it from issues that can cause problems in other materials. It's naturally protected from marks and damage by scorching and heat because of this property, making it desirable in the kitchen. Due to its staining issues, granite countertops are typically sealed with a compound that prevents staining liquids from reaching the surface, but do not compromise its heat-resistant capabilities.
However, this sealant can be damaged. Sharp blows, hard edges and scouring can remove it, leaving your granite countertop open to potential staining damage. For this reason, it's very important that you use the proper materials to clean your granite countertops, ensuring that they don't become compromised or damaged in a way that requires them to be resealed or risk becoming stained.
How to Clean Granite Countertops
To start, you'll need to check the sealant that was used on your countertops. This should be your first and foremost area of concern when looking at how you should clean your granite countertops. When the sealant is in good condition, water splashed onto the surface will bead up rather than spreading out. If the water spreads out, you'll need to reseal the surface to ensure that it remains protected from damage. Generally speaking, most sealants require reapplication every year or two to protect the granite surface.
Best Options for Cleaning Granite Countertops
Once you know that you have a solid sealant to work on, the process of cleaning is much simpler. Though there are a wide range of chemical cleaners available on the market that are guaranteed to keep your countertops sparkling, they're often not needed for well-maintained granite countertops. Instead, simple warm water, a mild liquid dish detergent, a dishcloth and a microfiber cloth are really all that you really need to get the job done right. Avoid using bleach, ammonia or other harsh cleaners on your countertop, as they can cause serious problems with your granite finish.
Fill a sink with warm water and a little liquid dish detergent, then wet and wring out a dishcloth to wipe down the counters, especially any spills or food particles. At this point, should you need to disinfect your countertops, a solution of half isopropyl alcohol and half water can be sprayed on and allowed to remain in place for three to five minutes. Never use isopropyl alcohol at full strength on your countertops, as it is too strong and can damage your counters. Once the alcohol has sat long enough, wipe the counters down with warm, soapy water again, and then polish them with the microfiber cloth.
Taking Care of Stains on Granite Counters
The best way to prevent your granite countertops from becoming stained in the first place is to quickly wipe up any spills and take care in how you do it. Avoid using abrasive cleaners or scratchy scrubbers that will cause significant damage to the sealed surface. At an absolute minimum, you should clean your countertops daily to prevent any material that has spilled onto them from everyday use. Simply wiping down your countertops with a dishcloth dampened in soapy water and then following up with a microfiber cloth will keep them looking nice by removing any spots or streaks that may appear on the granite surface.
But what if you already have stains on your granite countertops? There's a way you can get them off of your counters in many situations, but you may need to reseal that portion of your countertop after you've finished cleaning it. For oil stains, you'll want to start with a paste made of one part water and three parts baking soda. For stains from organic matter, such as juice, milk or berries, mix one part hydrogen peroxide with three parts baking soda to create a paste. In either situation, follow the next steps carefully.
Take the paste that you've created and apply it to the counter. Using a soft cloth, buff the surface of the counter, scrubbing where the stain is worst. Rinse the countertop thoroughly, then repeat the process if the stain has not been removed completely. Once you've finished removing the stain, apply water to the surface of the counter. If it doesn't bead up, the sealant has been damaged and must be reapplied to continue protecting your countertops.
Natural Alternatives to Chemical Granite Cleaners
If you're concerned about chemical use in your home, especially on surfaces that are exposed to food, you'll be happy to know that you have alternatives. Any mild soap will work well for daily use, such as a few drops of a natural dish soap or Castile cleaning soap. In place of the alcohol used in the sanitizing or disinfecting steps mentioned above, you can substitute a few drops of your favorite essential oil in deionized water.
However, to get the best clean, it's recommended that you use grapefruit seed extract, lemon, orange or other citrus that will kill germs on surfaces. You may want to leave this solution on the surface of your countertops for a longer period of time, in order to ensure that any germs are killed. Take care to avoid scratching the surface, which will require reapplying the sealant to the surface of the granite countertop.
The Bottom Line
Granite countertops are beautiful and sturdy, but can develop issues if not cleaned properly. If you're concerned that you may not be taking the right approach to cleaning your granite countertops and would like professional apartment cleaners to see to the task, the experienced cleaners at Cleaning Exec can help. Please feel free to contact us today with any questions, for more information or to get a free estimate for all of your cleaning needs.