It is normally easy to remove stains on granite, regardless of whether the stains arise from organic, oil residues, paint, or metal sources.
However, the overall structure of the stone, as well as the way a granite countertop is sealed and finished, make certain modes of cleaning a big no-no. Vinegar, with its acidic content, is very high on the list of materials not to use while cleaning granite countertops.
The main ingredient of vinegar, apart from trace minerals and water, is acetic acid (CH₃COOH). Typically, vinegar solutions will have between 5 to 8 percent acetic acid by volume.
Historically, vinegar has been known to be a great cleaning material, a true and trusted means of tackling especially tough stains. There are literally a dozen ways to use white distilled vinegar as part of a cleaning solution, including but not limited to:
You get the idea. The vinegar solutions used most frequently to clean and/or disinfect countertops in the kitchen and bathroom typically involve vinegar, lemon juice, and water.
Now comes the crux of the matter …
None of the DIY or professionally packaged cleaning solutions should be used on stone countertops. Even the weaker citric acid (C₆H₈O₇ - the main ingredient of lemon juice) is bad for a stone surface. Vinegar has an even stronger impact on stone and should be avoided at all costs.
Marble or limestone are particularly impacted by regular application of vinegar since the calcite in the stones reacts directly to erode the surface. This causes the surfaces to etch or dull.
Vinegar does not have calcite, but with repeated use of a vinegar cleaning agent (especially if used daily), two undesirable effects are likely to take place:
As mentioned above, if you keep using vinegar for cleaning, the sealant will not protect the granite below. As the acid gets trapped in the natural pockmarks, cloudy stains, or etchings, rise to the surface, giving the countertop a series of dull, cloudy spots which will spoil the look.
If you inadvertently spill vinegar, lemon juice, or other acidic liquids on your granite countertops, take care to clean it up fast. Otherwise, you will run the risk of the acid finding its way through the seal and inevitably creating the aforementioned etch marks. The longer and deeper the seepage, the harder it will be to remove the stain.
For daily maintenance, a number of cleaning materials can be used, starting with cleaning off with warm water. Putting soap is ok, provided no dregs are left.
Cleaning materials used on granite should ideally be pH balanced. Hydrogen Peroxide (12%) mixed with water can do the trick for minor spills or the first appearance of surface stains. For more professional cleaners, the following are good to consider:
Given the expense you have incurred to have the granite installed, having a high-grade cleaner like the two mentioned above should be an easy choice.
If tackling a minor spill, using paper towels is fine. If, however, you have larger spills or the start of a stain, you will need to spend a long time tackling the issue. Whether you use Granite Gold, Hydrogen Peroxide, or warm, soapy water, you will need to wipe off residues as thoroughly as possible.
Using soft cloth towels to apply the cleaning solutions and then wiping off the surface with warm water will help both cleaning and maintaining the shine.
The use of acidic vinegar on granite must be avoided. Ignore any advice from DIY enthusiasts raving about its cleaning and stain removing prowess. While generally true, vinegar (and other acids) is like kryptonite to hard, stain-resistant stones like granite.
Ultimately, it’ll be a lot harder to get rid of etching from vinegar use than to remove the stain from a small spill with a non-acidic cleaning solution.