Granite Countertop Maintenance: A Guide and A Checklist

Date: January 26, 2020
Author: Jon Smith
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Many homeowners dream of having granite countertops because they are beautiful, durable, and can increase the value of a home.  Taking care of your investment is important, so you need a guide to help you keep this statement piece in its current condition. Since granite is very sensitive and can be a pain to clean, you will need to understand what your granite can withstand and what it cannot.

How do I take care of a granite countertop?  First, make sure your countertop is sealed.  Use gentle cleaners or baking soda to clean the granite.  If the countertop is damaged, you should have it resealed.

Our granite countertop maintenance guide will cover the following topics:

  • Granite Maintenance and Overall Steps
  • The Do’s and Don’ts for Cleaning Granite
  • How to Protect Your Granite
  • Baking Soda Paste on Granite Stains
  • Special Granite Countertop Cleaners
  • Creating Your Own Granite Cleaner
  • Indications That Your Granite is Damaged
  • How to Reseal Your Granite Countertops If Damaged
  • Positives of Granite Countertops
  • Negatives of Granite Countertops
  • Checklist Takeaways for Granite Countertops
  • Final Tips for Owning Granite

Although granite is quite resilient, it’s also extremely sensitive to things like all-purpose cleaners, which people assume can be used anywhere. We don’t want you to damage your new home investment as granite truly raises your property value. Use this guide as your one-stop-shop for all things granite, caring for your kitchen, and maintaining your countertops for years to come!

Granite Countertop Maintenance: A Guide and A Checklist

There is a lot of debate about what should be used on your granite countertops, and many people end up ruining their new kitchen purchase straight out of the gate.

Your countertops will ways need to be sealed for proper cleaning and usability. If they have not been sealed yet, avoid using any product until they are. We will later cover unsealed granite. In case you are unsure if your countertops are sealed, the test will be as follows:

  1. Leave water on the countertop
  2. Come back in 10 minutes
  3. If the water is absorbed into the countertop – your granite is not sealed, or the sealant may have aged, meaning it’s time to update the sealed protective layer.

We will go into sealed granite later, but it will be more about understanding that your granite is a living breathing stone. Well, not living, but it does breathe and take on the chemicals that are left on it for prolonged periods of time.

Your granite needs sealant updates frequently, or you will notice your granite warp, mildew, or alter in coloration. With proper care, your granite will last much longer and require fewer sealant replacements.

To give you an overview of where your mental framework should be aligned for your beautiful stone countertops, here are the dos and don’ts!

The Do’s and Don’ts for Cleaning Granite

Here are the absolute yes’s and absolute no-no’s to avoid when cleaning this porous stone.

Products you can use on granite:

  • Warm water
  • Dish soap
  • Gentle cleaning agents
  • Non-harsh chemicals
  • Baking Soda
  • Sprays made specifically for granite (for which we will offer recommendations for later)
  • Soft dishcloths and nothing scratchy that will leave marks

Products you should not use on granite:

  • Windex
  • Vinegar
  • Citric Acid
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Ammonia
  • Bleach
  • Formula 409
  • Lysol spray or wipes
  • Rough sponges or sand-paper like cleaning fabrics that will scratch the granite
  • Nothing abrasive in texture or chemical properties

Your rule of thumb should be – if it seems too harsh for sensitive granite – it probably is.

Things like vinegar may seem like a suitable cleaning agent for its disinfectant properties and seemingly appearing non-toxic and gentle. Vinegar is highly acidic and can easily damage your granite countertops, along with other acidic pH values such as those found in lemons, limes, and citric acid.

You won’t notice any immediate effects of using things like bleach and ammonia on your granite countertops. It may take time, and multiple layers left to dry, but over time, your countertops will weaken prematurely and require a new sealant layer.

If you care for your granite countertops properly, you will not need to update the sealant finishing for years to come. Without proper care, your granite will start absorbing all of these liquids and bleaches like a thirsty beach-dweller, and you’ll end up with distorted, moldy, and discolored granite that cannot be re-salvaged.

How to Protect Your Granite

Some procedures you can place into action for future clean-up-steps are:

  • Always clean up any drink, liquid, or spill immediately. Don’t let it sit on the countertop long enough to be absorbed by porous granite or stain it. Remember, prevention is always the best treatment plan.
  • You may think soap and water together is too weak of a combination, but, in all actuality, it is the perfect disinfectant for your granite countertops. Most other cleaning agents will be too harsh, unforgiving, toxic, or acidic for granite to tolerate.
  • Always use soft dishcloths and microfiber fabrics. Think of your granite as a baby’s bottom. You wouldn’t use your scratchiest sponge or sandpaper to remove a stain from a baby bum, so don’t use it on your granite! It may look stone, strong, and resilient but looks are deceiving. Your granite can easily scratch leaving permanent crevices in the sealant that have to be refinished to be smooth again. Those scratches leave more space for liquids and mildew to seep in, so don’t allow this in the first place. Soft rags only!
  • Do not use all-purpose cleaners, bleach, or products with ammonia. This will lead to breaking down the sealant and scratching it inadvertently.

The steps you should take to clean your granite countertops after a stain are very simple and go as follows:

  1. Clean the countertop by dropping 1-5 drops of dish soap on a warm wet microfiber cloth.
  2. Wipe the countertop
  3. Wring it out frequently to avoid simply moving the stain around and spreading grease/oil.
  4. Once you’ve cleaned with soap, go back over it with 100% warm water to remove the soapy residue, which will leave its own stain/blemish.
  5. Be sure the counters are 100% dry once you are done wiping up the mess, and all soap/water has been wiped up.

Voila! You have properly cleaned your granite without the use of toxic or harsh chemicals!

Baking Soda Paste on Granite

Another great option which we’ve listed as a safe cleaning-agent for granite is baking soda! This product can be used for countless tasks around the home, including cleaning, stain removal, and even making a natural DIY toothpaste.

In the case of your granite countertops, the baking soda paste will be a way to leave a cleaning agent on top of a hard-to-remove stain. You will allow the baking soda paste to sit on top of the stain for 5-10 minutes, and then wipe it up using the steps just covered in the last section.

The steps to use are as follows:

  1. The paste will be incredibly simple – only requiring baking soda mixed with water. Combine them together until you’ve got a thick paste or frosting-like consistency to spread over the stain.
  2. Generously apply the paste to the spot.
  3. Leave on the stain for 5-10 minutes, depending on the severity of the stain.
  4. Wipe up using the steps covered above in the last section. Use a soft dishtowel, warm water, and always be sure the entirety of the water and baking soda is picked up. Always leave the granite dry and without water stains, which could be absorbed over time and ruin your finish.

This solution will be wonderful for tough stains like oil and grease-based stains. If your stain is actually water-based, it is recommended to use hydrogen peroxide to replace the water in the baking soda paste solution.

If this paste is still not helping the stain to budge, cover it with plastic wrap or a protective cover to remove the oxygen. Allow it to rest overnight and try again in the morning. Repeat as needed as this is a sensitive product that will not harm your granite.

Purchase Special Granite Countertop Cleaners

There are actually granite-specific products created precisely for this purpose. If you are uncertain about the other products listed above, stick to the product made specifically for your countertops. That is a safe bet, but you should still always wipe the countertop down to being 100% dry after cleaning.

  • Method Daily Granite Cleaner Orchard – slightly expensive, but it’s a top-rated product. Method is also a reputable cleaning brand for plant-based, non-toxic, and gentle cleaning products.
  • Weiman Granite Cleaner Polish Countertop – a more affordable product that users generally think works as well as Method. This product works on marble, limestone, laminate, and granite, priding itself on being useful for all stone varieties to clean, polish, and shine.
  • TriNova Granite Cleaner Polish Daily – won’t cause dulling to your granite as other cleaning agents might. This product is created for daily use to polish and clean, claiming to offer you a, ‘mirror-like’ finish on your countertops.
  • Granite Gold Daily Cleaner with Refill – an incredibly affordable product considering it’s the cheapest so far while offering you a value pack backup refill container. This is two for the price of one. If you’re looking for value and affordability, this is your best bet.
  • Stone Care International Granite Cleaner – this product is functional for almost any stone countertop around the house, including limestone, granite, travertine, tile, and slate. It will remove grease and streaks while balancing the pH of your countertop to protect it from deteriorating.

These sprays will likely be the best option for cleaning your granite. A lemon or vinegar rub won’t damage your granite immediately. However, over time, your finish will thin, and you will see the effects of using acidic products. These granite-specific sprays will avoid the guessing work of knowing what products are right in the short or long-term.

Creating Your Own Granite Cleaner

If you want to save money by whipping up your own granite-cleaning-concoction, it is fairly straight forward.

We mentioned earlier that the use of rubbing alcohol is not ideal for cleaning your countertops. This is true; however, you can use alcohol so long as you highly-dilute the product with plenty of water. Also, you must be sure to wipe up 100% of the alcohol and leave none behind.

The reason we don’t recommend using an alcohol-based cleaner is that repeated use of it will wear away at the sealant, leading to eventual damage to your granite countertop.

However, if you don’t have any of the earlier mentioned cleaners but plenty of rubbing alcohol around, you can use this DIY at-home granite recipe if you dilute it according to the recipe and afterward make sure you wash your countertop with some soapy water to ensure you have no residual alcohol remaining.

This recipe you can use is as follows:

  • 50%-70% water
  • 50-30% alcohol
  • 10-20 drops of your favorite essential oil for fragrance, such as lemon, lavender, or fresh orange.

The steps you will take are:

  1. Wipe the stain/countertop down with your granite cleaning solution
  2. Wipe it down with a water/soap solution afterward to dilute the alcohol even further
  3. Wipe that down with a soft cloth
  4. Dry thoroughly and smell the surface. If it seems too strong in alcohol-scent or you get the impression that a residual layer is going to dry on the counter and seep into its pores – wipe with water again, dilute it again, and dry again. Do this process until you are certain there is no alcohol left behind.

Soap and water alone will usually be the best option, so don’t feel as if you have to try this solution. It will be a much safer alternative to stick with the tried-and-true staple of soap and water.

Indications That Your Granite is Damaged

If your top protective sealant layer is widdled down to nothing, it’s because you’ve used harsh chemicals that ruined the finish of the countertop and ate away at the granite stone itself overtime. You will notice qualities such as:

  • Less shine or luster than it used to have
  • A less polished-looking finish
  • Liquids absorbing within minutes
  • Water droplets aren’t beading up anymore
  • You can blatantly see a spot where the elevation is lower/no finish
  • Spills magically cleaning themselves up
  • If you leave a cleaning agent on the counter to soak for 5 minutes, then the counter absorbs it

All of these are signs that your countertop is not getting what it needs to thrive. Your sealant will need to be replaced every two to three years in all likelihood, but if you’re replacing it more frequently than this, it is because something needs to change.

You don’t want to ruin your home investment, shorten its lifespan, cost yourself more, or damage a good thing. You’re here learning because you want to do better by your granite countertops, so never fear! We are here to teach you the way.

If your sealant needs replacing – this is what needs to be taken care of first. With proper care, you can make your sealant last for up to 4 years! Without proper care, you may be doing this on an annual basis and end up sending your granite slab to an early grave.

How to Reseal Your Granite Countertops If Damaged

If you do accidentally damage your granite by using chemicals that are too rough or sponges that are too rough – never fear! We are here to help you whether this is caused by any one incident or it’s just been a few years since your last reseal.

You can do this yourself, but we always recommend you hire a professional for the best possible results from an expert. It will cost around $0.50 to $2.00 per square foot, and the size of a kitchen countertop can sometimes be done under $500.

The steps to reseal your granite are as follows:

  1. Clean your counter thoroughly using the steps above and drying the counter completely.
  2. Be sure the windows are open, and you have an air mask for preventing dangerous chemicals from being inhaled. Always read the directions on your sealant brand and follow them accordingly.
  3. Usually, your sealant will be in the form of a spray can. Spray evenly from side to side, using refracted light against the shine to catch any chunky spots, thinner spots, and notice the flatness of the sheen. Light is your friend when spray painting so be conscious about moving slowly and fluidly, angling your body to catch reflections in the countertop’s shine as your guide.
  4. It will usually take around half an hour for the sealant to dry.
  5. Apply multiple coats until you discover the desired effect, usually resting somewhere between the third and fifth coat, depending on your application technique.
  6. Don’t place objects like coffee machines, blenders, toasters, etc. on the counter for at least 36-48 hours after application. Always read your brand’s manufacturer instructions for specifications.

Your sealant layer may need rebuffing periodically from daily wear-and-tear or scratches. Be careful to read reviews on sealant products as some are cheap and will alter the color of your granite or add a yellowish tint.

If your water can be left on the granite and remain beaded up in droplets (instead of absorbing into the countertop), you probably aren’t due for a resealing. If the water absorbs, you are due for a resealing.

Positives of Granite Countertops

  • Overall, they are quite durable – it is a rock-solid stone that should last you for years or even decades with proper maintenance and care. It is difficult to permanently damage or break your granite, especially with a protective sealant coat that is regularly updated.
  • Increases property value – granite or any stone countertops is a sign of high-status. Granite is quite timeless, and homeowners love it across the board. Granite Gold says, “Granite is the most popular countertop material among homebuyers, and it can boost your home's value while helping you recover some of the installation cost. Installing countertops made of granite or another type of natural stone can potentially increase your home's value by up to 25 percent of its retail value.” The ROI is undeniable.
  • Beautiful aesthetic – granite slabs are each unique and different. Having a stone in your home adds a natural and organic feel of luxury. You will never find two exactly alike, which is part of the granite-appeal. You can find crystals and swirling patterns as with a stone-like marble, with granite being much stronger, cheaper, and less porous than marble.
  • Truly minimal maintenance – don’t let this guide fool you into thinking that granite is a high-maintenance stone. It’s not demanding compared to other countertop materials and will prove to have noteworthy longevity.

Negatives of Granite Countertops

A few negatives about granite to keep in mind if you are selecting the perfect countertop material for your home are that:

  • It’s porous – if you have poorly sealed granite, you will notice stains take ahold almost immediately, and you don’t want an impossible stain when it’s something like red wine or grape juice on your $10,000 granite countertops. This can also lead to your countertops is a playground for bacteria, salmonella gets trapped in the pores, and the entire situation can be nasty quickly.
  • It’s expensive – paying around $2,000 to $4,500 is not uncommon for quality granite depending on the size of your kitchen and countertop size needs. Many assume they will spend between $5,000 to $10,000, and it is very dependent on the quality you’re seeking, the real estate value in the state, and the manufacturer you are purchasing from. Don’t forget maintenance and a fresh sealant every two to four years. It can add up fast.
  • It has seams – if you’ve got a giant kitchen island, it will be harder or significantly more expensive to get that all in one consecutive granite slab to keep the pattern consistent. It will most likely take two or three slabs, which will have a seam down the middle and not perfectly align in a pattern. The contractors are professional at blending slabs as seamlessly as possible and you can work around this by spending a bit more.

Checklist Takeaways for Granite Countertops

The major checklist for you to keep in your annual cycle of home renovation, spring cleanings, and maintenance for granite are:

  • Clean up a stain right when you see it
  • Avoid vinegar, Windex, bleach, all-purpose cleaners, alcohol or lemon juice on granite.
  • Use gentle soaps, warm water, small ratios of hydrogen peroxide and cloths
  • Avoid any chemicals that are not specifically made for granite or stone
  • You can use baking soda mixed with water as a paste to combat harsh stains
  • Always dry your counters after applying any of the above to it, this will make the sealant remain strong, reduce pores from being developed, and make your granite the most resilient.
  • Your sealant could last for up to 10 years without needing a resealing, or you could be doing it on an annual basis. It’s up to you as the owner how well you want to care for your countertops and how much work you will make for yourself.
  • If you are unsure if your granite countertops are due for a resealing, use the drop test of seeing how consistent water remains on your countertop. If it remained beaded up, your countertops are still strong. If the water is absorbed, your sealant has thinned and is too porous.

Final Tips for Owning Granite

I hope this guide has been useful for getting you acquainted with this powerful countertop material and luxurious stone. Some parting words of wisdom as a bonus for you are:

  • Always utilize potholders and heat-pads to protect the granite from hot pans or fresh-out-of-the-oven dishes.
  • Use mats to protect from scratching
  • Use coasters to protect from residual water being absorbed or dried watermarks
  • Although we are recommending that you protect your granite from heat and water, granite is ultimately known for being very heat and scratch-resistant. This is a huge part of the appeal and why it is the most popular countertop material in America.
  • Granite is nearly impossible to break or chip, so you have an investment that will be expensive upfront, but often pays for itself in property value or longevity.

Granite will always look more ideal when installed and finished by a professional. If you are overwhelmed by any of the maintenance, there is always a granite or stone expert that can assist you with any questions you may have. Don’t attempt to reseal on your own if you are not comfortable working with such an expensive material as a novice.

It’s hard to go wrong with the most popular kitchen product on the market. The people have spoken, and they love granite. If you plan to install them into your home, at least you can take comfort that you have a beautiful product that is also a safe investment!

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About Jon - Website Owner

Jon Smith

Hi, my name is Jonathan Smith. I have been in the granite business for many years and have worked my way up from an installer helper to an installer and then a countertop business owner. 

I started my countertop company with very little and grew extremely fast because of my knowledge and helpfulness. I started this countertop resource for 1 main reason. That reason is that there are no countertop websites with all the correct information and none of them are from an industry expert like myself. 

I am still in the trade every single day installing countertops, educating people on the type of material they are using for their homes, and making people's dream kitchens a reality.
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