Countertop care

I have multi surface types in my home which I noticed are getting somewhat dull.  Because I’m not sure I remember how to clean each one properly, the following research came in handy for me… and it may also for you.

These cleaning tips for quartz, travertine, porcelain, engineered stone, granite, marble, and soapstone (and even butcherblock) will help keep your countertops looking spotless

You’ve invested in your kitchen, bath or whole house remodel. Now the tough part of maintaining the new and sleek appearance of your home begins. Kitchen and bath designer Kayron Brewer shares an important reminder to everyone: Take care of your investment by using the proper cleaning methods and materials from day one. If you have a cleaning person to help you, “review your cleaning products and methods with them,” she says. “Don’t assume that they know the right cleaning method or product for a particular surface.”

Natural Quartz:   Quartz is one of the hardest minerals found in nature, so it’s a fitting material for the busiest space in the home: the kitchen. Quartz countertops are made from crushed pure natural quartz combined with a small amount of pigment and resin. This combination of materials allows quartz to be a dense, nonporous stone that is both scratch and stain resistant with no sealing required.

However, says kitchen and bath designer Gary Lichlyter, “you really can’t tell the difference [in terms of surface gloss and sheen] between a sealed and nonsealed quartz countertop. [However] Sealing takes just a few minutes but can really help protect your quartz surface for long-term use, so I highly recommend it.” *

The most-simple maintenance regimen:  Wash the surface with a soft cotton cloth and warm water with a mild dish soap. According to the company website, “Cambria is durable and more resistant to surface damage than other stone. However, all stone can be damaged by force and no stone is chip-proof. Objects hitting edges particularly at sinks or dishwashers may cause chips.”

Natural stone surfaces like quartz can also be damaged by sudden and rapid changes of temperature as well as direct contact with hot pots and pans. Always use a potholder to protect the natural quartz surface.

For tough stains: Quartz countertops are meant to be stain free, as the surface does not absorb liquids.
Stay away from: Bleach and abrasive products.

See below for more information on the care of quartz.

Travertine:   The biggest issue people have with cleaning and maintaining a travertine shower is soap scum. Soap scum can damage tiles and ruin the look of a travertine shower. Also, hard water deposits can also start to accumulate in a travertine shower.

“A travertine-tiled shower is a constantly wet surface, so upon installation, I strongly urge people to apply the best sealer that money can buy to protect their travertine shower,” says Lichlyter.

For tough stains: Lichlyter recommends zero-pH cleaners, which are readily available in home improvement stores.

Stay away from: “Commercial cleaners that smell good but have petroleum in the ingredients,” says Lichlyter. “Petroleum sits on tile grout and causes residue and a dirty-looking appearance.” Also avoid acidic substances like vinegar as well as abrasive cleaners and dish soap containing citrus oil.

Porcelain Sinks:   Kitchen and bath designer Angie Keyes‘ cleaning regimen for porcelain sinks is simple: She uses a Magic Eraser or a disinfecting bathroom cleaner like Comet, which comes in a nonabrasive, bleach-free liquid solution made for porcelain and ceramic surfaces.

Lichlyter adds, “Tried and tested brands like American Standard and Kohler have porcelain surfaces that can handle all kinds of cleansers.”

For tough stains: Lichlyter recommends applying a bit of powder cleanser on the scuff marks and letting it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing the powder off with a scrub brush. Blogger Desireé swears by soft cleanser Bar Keepers Friend, which works without having to use bleach on the surface. “Apply a small amount [of Bar Keepers Friend] directly on the areas where you see stains. … You’ll see the stains disappear before your eyes.”

Stay away from: Bleach, which will eventually eat through the enamel seal on the porcelain.

Engineered Stone:   Engineered stone countertops are made of 93 percent natural stone and 7 percent polymers and are highly resistant to scratches and stains. “Engineered stone countertops are highly resilient, but high temperatures will damage the polymers and can also damage your counters,” says Lichlyter. Use a hot-pot pad when placing heated objects on engineered stone surfaces.

For countertops with a smooth and matte look, use a mild soap and water solution to clean and polish the surface.

For tough stains: Multipurpose cleaners and detergents applied to scouring pads should take care of tough stains by transferring the dirt from the surface to the pad; the rough pad will not damage your countertop surface.

Stay away from: “Avoid using harsh chemicals like bleach or ammonia,” says Whitsunday Marble & Granite. “To clean engineered stone we recommend water and a mild detergent. Engineered stone is tough, but not indestructible.”

Slate:   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, like 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.

Granite:   A surprising number of people still clean their granite countertops with a combination of vinegar and warm water. Houzz user Poorgirl said it best: “I would not recommend you use vinegar on your stone; it’s acidic and will eat your polished finish in time.” Natural stones like granite will require sealing upon installation, so it’s important to talk to your professional installer regarding their suggested sealer brands.

Designer Kayron Brewer adds, “Once the surface has been sealed, daily cleaning is as simple as mopping with straight warm water.”

For tough stains: For dirt and spills, use a stone-care cleanser that’s the correct pH with water. Don’t forget to read the cleanser label for the correct dilution ratios.

Stay away from: Bleach and acidic cleansers.

Soapstone:   For a surface that’s soft and nonporous, soapstone is durable, won’t show stains because of its dark appearance, and is beloved by people who cook because the surface is an excellent heat insulator. According to AJD Interiors, soapstone, although more expensive, makes for a beautiful surface alternative to granite due to its silky look and appearance.

Soapstone upkeep is simple: 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 that you rub the soapstone surface with mineral oil every couple of weeks to help the stone oxidize (darken) evenly; oil can be applied every two months after that for maintenance.

For tough stains: Soapstone resists water, chemicals and acids, so staining isn’t as problematic as scratches. Soapstone scratches and nicks can be removed with fine sandpaper.

Stay away from: Scouring and abrasive cleansers, because they will scratch the soapstone surface, and alkaline cleaners not specifically formulated for stone.

Marble:   One of the most popular kitchen counter materials on Houzz is marble (particularly Carrera marble), but as interior designer Anne DeCocco says, marble is not for everybody. “[Marble] is a softer stone than granite, and it scratches and stains easily because of its porous nature. … But frankly, I like materials that age and show wear. If you don’t, then you are not a candidate for marble counters.”

Marble surfaces take some 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.

For tough stains: For any marble stain, it’s important to wipe the surface as soon as the spill happens. Ask your marble installer or home improvement specialist for a recommended marble poultice.

Stay away from: Abrasive cleansers, vinegar and citrus cleansers.

Ceramic:   Before cleaning ceramic tiles, pick up 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 particles, 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.

For tough stains: 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.

Stay away from: Bleach and other acidic cleansers, which discolor or fade grout joints over time. Also avoid oil soaps and ammonia, which will yellow grout, and vinegar, which will damage it.d warm water applied to the slate surface with a soft cleaning tool, like 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.Granite

Butcher block countertops are typically made of maple or oak and come in wide plank or narrow strips in terms of style. The wide plank style is more apt to warp.

eclectic kitchen DIY Life project      Be sure to use only food-grade mineral oil to prevent the wood from warping and drying out. Avoid vegetable or olive oils for your butcherblock countertop — these oils can turn rancid.

Reapply mineral oil whenever the wood looks dry. You’ll want to use a generous amount of mineral oil — continue reapplying until you see the wood is no longer accepting any more oil.

Comments from readers:    ‘Bar Keeper’s Friend’ is surface gentle and powerful on stains, soap scum, etc. I love it. It’s a great stainless steel and glass polish as well.

How to Seal Granite Countertops

  1. Perform the paper towel test to determine whether your granite needs to be sealed. Some types of granite never need sealing and adding sealer to these types will just make a mess.  [so, ask your designer/installer]

Soak a paper towel (without printing) or a white cotton towel. Place the water-soaked towel on the counter and wait about 5 minutes.

Is the area under the paper towel dark from the water soaking into the granite? If it is discolored, your granite needs to be sealed.

2    Spray the whole surface evenly with a spray cleaner. Wipe it down with a paper towel and wait a couple of minutes. The surface should be completely dry.

3    Uniformly apply the sealer to your counter top. This should be done using a spray bottle, but a clean white rag or a brush is also acceptable.

4    Let the sealer absorb into the stone for approximately 20 to 25 minutes.

5    When the sealer is almost dry, apply a little more sealer on your granite and then rub it in with a dry, clean rag.

6    Wait at least two hours and then apply a second application. The wait time depends on your specific brand of sealer.

Watch this How-to video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=vhaF7NVISkA#!

How to Care for Quartz Countertops

Pass on sealing your quartz countertop. Because quartz is non-porous, it doesn’t need to be sealed or protected like granite or other natural stone countertops. It comes with a polished surface that acts a protective barrier.

Use hot pads or trivets when placing hot containers on a quartz countertop. While the countertops can handle moderate heat, prolonged heat can cause damage.

Clean the countertops with a non-abrasive kitchen cleaner. A vinegar and water solution or hot soapy water works best. If you’re looking for a more thorough cleaning, most cleaners sold on the shelves of supermarkets will work fine, but stay away from cleaners containing bleach. Always wipe off the countertops with a soft sponge or washcloth.

Prevent scratching the countertops by always using a cutting board when using a knife. Also, place glasses and bottles or cans of beverages on coasters. Another way to prevent scratching is to place all accessories or hairstyling equipment, bottles or lotions on a holding tray or shelf if you have quartz countertops in bathrooms.

Tips & Warnings:  Quartz countertops are not as flexible as manufactured laminate. Prevent cracking or chipping by not allowing anyone to sit or stand on the countertops.

Thanks to:  Houzz, EHow, WikiHow
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