How To Get Stains Out Of Granite Countertops

Date: April 16, 2021
Author: Jon Smith
Need A Local Countertop Professional? We have local professionals standing by to service you:
Find A Pro

Granite countertops are naturally stain-resistant. If your granite countertops have been well prepared, and then sealed with a good sealer, the surface will retain most of its stain resistance in the normal course of things.

If food, liquids, oil, grease, etc. fall on a granite surface, a quick mop up with paper towels or cloth will usually do the trick as long as the surface is not cracked and has the sealant finish intact. If, however, those materials are left on the surface for a while, stains may start to set in. The trick is to do something about it before it's too late, and the stain sets deep into the granite pores.

How you remove stains varies a bit based on what has been spilled on the surface.

In this article, we will take you through some step-by-step processes which may work in cases where the stain is not deep-seated, and also what to do when the stain has in fact set in due to a spill being unseen or ignored for a while.

How to Remove Stains from Granite?

Stains affecting granite countertops can be classified under some broad categories, some of which are outlined below:

  • Organic Stains, made from decomposable material which could include food, water, wine, coffee, tobacco, urine, tea, bark, fruit juice, or bird droppings – these create a distinctively brownish stain.
  • Oil-based stains, such as oil and grease spilled while cooking but could also include milk in the kitchen and cosmetic items such as lotions, creams, and nail polish in the bathroom – these do not cause stains of a different color but rather get absorbed into the surface, darkening the color of the stone and eventually creating a dark patch.
  • Metal Stains, such as iron, rust, copper, and bronze create either brown (iron or rust) or greenish-brown (copper and bronze stains). They need to be treated with a poultice which we will get into later.
  • Paints, which can be oil, water, or acrylic-based, among others. Some leave oily residues and create a dark patch.
  • Hard Water, which leaves residues, unlike normal water. An associated problem is limescale build-up.

There are a variety of other problems that can occur, including biological stains (e.g. fungus or mildew), fire and smoke damage, ink stains, and/or etchings or markings. We will be discussing the main causes of stains as discussed above.

There are well defined fixes, both quick and detailed, as we will go through in the next few sections. As a general rule, the following types of solutions will work:

Type of StainUseful Material for Cleaning - Examples
OrganicCompounds such as Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2), choose strength as appropriate (6% or 12%)
Oil-BasedPoultice compounds, such as (a) baking powder and acetone paste or (b) strong hydrogen peroxide, flour and water
MetalPoultice compounds, such as a baking powder and acetone paste
PaintPaint strippers made from caustic sodas or lyes
Hard WaterDry 0000 steel wool (buffing for normal hard water stain removal) or pH balanced solutions like Granite Gold Daily Cleaner (for limescale)

Before we focus on specific actions to take, based on certain popular sources of stains, let’s look at some common materials that you should strongly consider stocking for regular cleaning and maintenance, and in some cases to tackle stubborn stains.

Some Cleaning Materials to Stock

Below are some cleaning supplies to help you with your granite countertop:

  • Granite Gold Daily Cleaner Spray: This granite cleaning spray should be kept in your tool kit. In many cases, oil spills that are not too deep-seated can be cleaned with these granite cleaning solutions. More importantly, this cleaner can be used once daily to keep the surface clean and stain-free.
Sale
Granite Gold Daily Cleaner Spray and Refill Value Pack Streak-Free Cleaning for Granite, Marble, Travertine, Quartz, Natural Stone Countertops, Floors - Made in the USA, Clear
  • ULTIMATE VALUE PACK – Double up on Granite Gold supplies and save yourself some time and money.  Each order includes (1) 24-ounce spray bottle and (1) 64-ounce refill container.
  • GORGEOUS, STREAK FREE RESULT – This cleaning solution never leaves behind unsightly streaks or smudges.  Simply spray on and wipe down with a paper towel or lint-free cloth for a sparkling result.
  • VERSATILE DAILY CLEANER – You can use Granite Gold to clean and protect natural stone surfaces such as granite, marble and travertine as well as quartz surfaces and ceramic and porcelain tile surfaces.
  • Bar Keeper’s Friend Granite and Stone Cleaner: This is similar to the Granite Gold product but is advertised as a method to tackle stubborn stains. The product shown below can be sprayed on, but if found in powder form, you should mix it with water as directed.
Bar Keepers Friend Granite & Stone Cleaner & Polish (25.4 oz) Granite Cleaner for Use on Natural, Manufactured & Polished Stone, Quartz, Silestone, Soapstone, Marble - Countertop Cleaner & Polish (2)
  • ?? Bar Keepers Friend Granite & Stone Cleaner & Polish is specially formulated to remove stains, grease, and grime from natural stone and manufactured stone. Gentle enough to use daily on granite, quartz, silestone, and soapstone. BKF granite cleaner is specially formulated to clean stone without etching or marring the surface.  Just spray the cleaner on the countertop or other surface and wipe clean in a circular motion, using a soft, clean cloth or paper towel.
  • ⚪ Need a daily granite cleaner to clean and polish your countertop or other stone surfaces? Bar Keepers Friend Granite & Stone Cleaner & Polish removes food oil, coffee stains, and food debris from countertops without damaging the finish. BKF granite cleaner contains no harmful chemicals, so it's safe for use on most sealed or polished stone, such as marble or quartz vanities, fireplace surrounds, stone entryways and sealed stone lawn ornaments. (Always test cleaner on a small area first).
  • ?? Vinegar, bleach, and cleaners containing citric acid can damage natural stone. BKF's granite cleaner is pH-balanced, so it won't harm the structure of natural polished stone. Use daily to clean and shine your countertop and bathroom vanities - no heavy scrubbing required. Just spray the surface and wipe clean, for a brilliant shine. For best results, use a microfiber towel, a soft clean cloth, or a paper towel to wipe away cleaner.
  • Hairdresser’s Peroxide (6%) 20 Volume: There are a number of Hydrogen Peroxide solutions available that are stronger than what is normally available. The sample below can be used on stubborn stains, including oil and grease stains:
Schwarzkopf Igora ROYAL Oil Developer (STYLIST KIT) Hydrogen Peroxide, 33.8 oz / 1000ml (6% / 20 Volume)
  • This kit includes a Sleek Tint Applicator Brush for easy application and mixing of developer with hair color and/or bleach!
  • Schwarzkopf's new Oil Developer is a conditioning, caring peroxide that's optimised to work with new IGORA ROYAL but which can also be used with old-style IGORA if you still have some tubes to use up.
  • It comes in 4 strengths: 3% (10 vol), 6% (20 vol), 9% (30 vol) and 12% (40 vol). Use them as follows:
  • 0000 Super Fine Steel Wool: This can be used to scour surfaces and get rid of certain types of stains (e.g. hard water stains).
Sale
Homax Products #0000 Super Fine Finish Steel Wool Pad 12 Per Package TV713206 (2 Pack)
  • Finest grade for final finishing of projects
  • Use to smooth shellac, lacquer and varnish before final top coat. Buffs furniture wax, rubs on a high luster finish, creates a matte finish on gloss paint
  • Cleans precision tools, instruments etc.
  • Iron Out Powder Rust Stain Remover: This, or a similar, product will be used to remove rust stains from granite surfaces. I don't recommend using this on a surface that is used to prepare food but may be suitable for laundry or bathroom countertop.
Iron OUT Powder Rust Stain Remover, Remove and Prevent Rust Stains in Bathrooms, Kitchens, Appliances, Laundry, and Outdoors, white, 4.75 lbs.
  • Best on Rust: #1 Heavy-Duty Rust Stain Remover Brand
  • Most versatile powder, ideal for use in bathroom, kitchen, laundry, water softeners and more
  • Easily rinses away heavy-duty rust stains, eliminating the need for scrubbing
  • 3 in 1 Granquartz: These types of cleaners can be used for general cleaning granite and quartz surfaces and are especially effective in removing limescale buildup.
Sale
Rock Doctor Granite & Quartz Care Kit, 3 Piece Maintenance Stone Care Combo Kit – Cleans & Renews Marbel, Travertine, Tile and All Other Stone, Fresh, Pack of 3, 54.0 Ounce
  • COMPLETE STONE CARE SYSTEM: The granite cleaner kit comes with one can each of the #1 rated Rock Doctor Granite Cleaner, Granite Sealer and Granite Polish. Each product is specifically designed with your stone surface in mind. Protect your investment by using Rock Doctor on a regular basis and your stone will continue to look like it did the day it was installed.
  • EARTH FRIENDLY STEEL CAN: 100% Recyclable. Rock Doctor steel cans are eco-friendly and better for the environment. Unlike plastic which can take centuries to break down. Steel breaks down in 40/50 years. Rock Doctor Works on all types of stone surfaces such as granite, marble, quartz, limestone, Corian, and other natural and pre-fabricated stone. (Note: Some surfaces such as Corian and other prefabricated stone surfaces do not require a sealer)
  • GRANITE CLEANER: Rock Doctor Granite Cleaner cleans and renews your stone surface. This fabulous, streak-free formula is specifically designed to safely clean all stone countertops, vanities, and tabletops. It is non-abrasive and non-acidic and will not harm the seal that is on the stone. Our stone cleaner has a fresh scent and will leave your home, kitchen, bathrooms or office sparkling clean.

What Not to Use?

Whatever your stain problem, follow the guides below. In general, it is a bad idea to use acidic substances, such as vinegar or ammonia. A number of common household cleaners may have the same problem. pH balanced cleaners, such as the ones listed above, are much more effective and will not damage the surface.

Also, using strong detergents mixed with water will often leave a residue that seeps into the pores of the granite, deflecting light and making the surface look dull. Use mild detergents instead.

How to Remove Oil Stains from Granite

Oil stains can be among the more persistent blemishes on your granite countertops. Sometimes, they sneak up on you unnoticed, especially in the bathroom where cosmetic creams or nail polish spills may be noticed later, and cleaned up less frequently than, say, a cooking oil spill – which will often get wiped off as part of a regular cleaning after the meal.

With oily stains, the length of time it sits on the surface is directly correlated with what happens – if cleaned up quickly, the oil has probably not had the chance to sink down through the topcoat or sealer and into the pores of the granite itself. The other thing to remember is that any cleaning action should not inadvertently push the material deeper below the surface, thus compounding the problem.

First Level Fixes

The easiest fix, as always, is to notice the spill immediately. However, as mentioned, you should not be pushing the oily substance deeper down into the granite. Therefore, take care to not wipe, but rather blot, the spilled fluid with a soft sponge or a paper towel.

Once the oily residue is removed, use a granite cleaning solution, such as the ones shown above, on the countertop.

How to Tackle Deep Seated Oil Stains

If the oily residue has remained for a longer time on the countertop, it's possible that it has leaked through to the pores of the material below. To understand where you are, try the first level fixes first. If the stain still sits there, it's time to dig down a level deeper. Unfortunately, you will kill the sealant over the area, but that’s better than letting the stain persist.

Prepare a paste made of equal parts acetone and baking powder. It should assume the consistency of pancake batter as you cover the stain completely. Do not push it down onto the stain. Alternatively, the paste can be made from a baking powder only, or from a mix of strong hydrogen peroxide, flour, and water.

Let the mixture sit on top. You can cover it with plastic wrap (unless you use a commercial paste that tells you not to cover) to let it stay wet and pull more of the oil into the poultice.

Ultimately, let the mixture dry out for between 12 to 24 hours. The next day, remove the paste and wash the area down lightly with water. If the stain persists, repeat this process multiple times till the stain is gone.

Once done, you will need to reseal the area which you have exposed during this exercise.

DIY Videos on Cleaning Oil Stains off of Granite Countertops

The following demonstrates different approaches to cleaning oil stains. The first uses a mix of flour and hydrogen peroxide mixed with water, the second uses baking soda and water.

and

How to Get Grease Stains Off of Granite

Oil is usually found in liquid form, whereas grease is usually semi-solid. Both of them can arise from animal fat, but oil can also be extracted from plants – such as coconut, soybean, mustard, and a whole roster of cooking and cosmetic oils.

In terms of removing stains, however, the methods used to remove oily stains will also work with grease stains. It may be the case that untreated grease stains may tend to be more stubborn, but that simply means that you will need to use the more extensive (poultice driven) means of stain removal.

How to Get Fingernail Polish Off of Granite

Fingernail polish removal is similar to oil stain removal, with a couple of extra ways to fix the problem quickly.

  • Warm, soapy water or specialized granite cleaner like those listed before may well do the trick.
  • The water should be left on top for at least 5 minutes.
  • If using soap, make sure to wipe off any residues. The special cleaners would work better.
  • If that doesn’t work, use acetone as a cleaner, dabbing at the nail polish smears.
  • Use a razor blade to gently remove any flecks left. Use a #0000 Steel Wool pad to scour over the area.
  • In the end, be sure to wipe off the surface using granite cleaners.

How to Get Wax Stains Off of Granite

Wax residues are hardened oily substances. If lighting a candle on a granite surface, you must take care to tackle any wax drippings quickly, before too much damage occurs.

  • First, put ice cubes over hardened lumps of wax to chill them down and make them brittle. It may normally take only a minute or two but add fresh ice if needed.
  • After a while, use a scraper to move all the wax pieces off the surface of the table.
  • Clean both the surface and the floor afterward.
  • Second, inspect the areas for oily residues. If any remain, take the steps outlined under the previous section where we discussed how to clean oil stains.

How to Get Wine Stains Out of Granite

Wine stains are ones that fall under the organic category, and as such, removing them requires a gentler approach than deep-seated oil stains. Wine glasses or bottles can leave an unsightly ring on your granite surface.

  • To clean, combine two cleaners – use two parts baking soda with one cup of hydrogen peroxide and create a paste with water.
  • Apply liberally over the spot.
  • Cover with a plastic wrap and let sit for 24 hours.
  • Open and clean with water. If you use soapy water, make sure that no residues are left.

DIY Video on Cleaning Wine Stains off of Granite Countertops

How to Clean Food (and Food Coloring) Stains Off of Granite

Food stains are organic material, and typically can be removed by water, maybe with a little bit of soap or mild detergent. Regular granite cleaning supplies work very well.

A more persistent problem may arise with food coloring, which has dyes that could leave more permanent stains on the granite top.

  • For a first-level fix, water mixed in with mild detergent may work well. A great tool that can be used to daub it on top of the stain is an old toothbrush.
  • Once the stain dilutes, wash off the area with clean, warm water.

However, if stains persist, you may need to go to the next level.

How to Tackle Deep Seated Food Stains

You can use one of the following methods to address a deeper stain:

  • For lighter surfaces, dip a cotton ball in a bleach or hydrogen peroxide solution and daub the area repeatedly until clean.
  • For dark surfaces, utilize the same method but using acetone or lacquer as the cleaning solution.
  • Once the stain dissipates, wash off with warm water.

DIY Video on Cleaning Food Stains off of Granite Countertops

How to Get Rust Stains Off of Granite Surfaces

Rust stains can accumulate over time, maybe at the edges where nails or other iron fittings are embedded in the granite. When they become noticeable, these brown stains can be persistent unless tackled promptly.

The best way to tackle rust stains is to use a product like Iron Out Powder Rust Remover, as shown before.

  • Initially, wipe the area down with warm, soapy water.
  • Once dry, apply a poultice of rust remover powder, flour, and water. Mix to create the consistency of peanut butter.
  • Apply the poultice over and around the edges of the stained area – covering about ¼ of an inch beyond the visible boundaries. This will help to tackle any deep-seated rust.
  • Apply the poultice over the area, cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for 24 hours.
  • It should be ready to be scraped off by hand after that, but let it sit longer if not completely dry. Rinse the area off with warm water.
  • Reapply the poultice if the stain remains.

DIY Video on Cleaning Rust Stains off of Granite

How to Get Hard Water Stains Off of Granite Surfaces

Hard water stains build up over time, leaving mineral deposits and white, powdery residues that stand out against darker granite surfaces.

  • To start with, you should use trivets and coasters on your countertop, especially while cooking – to prevent hard water buildup.
  • Simply wash off dirty countertops with a damp cloth, then use a second cloth to wipe it dry.
  • If the stains build-up, the best way is to gently buff the area with 0000 Steel Wool, taking care to not scrub off the sealed surface finish while getting rid of the stains.

DIY Video on Cleaning Hard Water Stains off of Granite Surfaces

How to Get Lime Buildup Off of Granite Surfaces

Limescale stains are normal over time, especially in areas around showers, kitchen faucet bases, and other spots where hard water stains may also occur. To get rid of limescale, you need to utilize a combination of steps.

  • Using a razor to scrape off hard deposits is often a good first step.
  • Using 0000 Steel Wool to scrape/buff will also prepare the area.
  • Utilize a damp cloth and possibly some soapy water to rinse off the area and see where you are.

Next, you can use one, or both, of the following steps to remove any remaining lime buildup or stains from it:

  • Mix in 2 parts baking soda with one part water, create a paste, and apply over the area with a toothbrush. Allow it to dry out completely, scrape off and rinse. This mixture gets into the deep crevices and helps to clean out the gunk.
  • Use a cleaning powder like the 3 in 1 Granquartz shown before. Put it on a clean washcloth and start buffing across the area of the limescale buildup. It should get rid of any remaining hard mineral deposits.

DIY Video on Cleaning Limescale and Mineral Deposit Stains off of Granite Surfaces

FINAL THOUGHTS

A little care goes a long way towards maintaining your granite countertops, especially ones that have been properly prepared and sealed prior to use. If, however, you find yourself in the position of having to remove unwanted stains that have crept up on you and are now deep-seated, there are multiple ways to remove them and refresh your surfaces.

Just be careful to pick the right approach based on what caused the stain in the first place. Our DIY guides above will then allow you to execute the necessary steps without too much trouble.

With the right material and approach, you will be able to enjoy having your surfaces retain their gloss and look over the long haul.

Need A Countertop Professional? We have professionals standing by to service you: FIND A PRO
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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Looking For A Pro?

CountertopAdvisor.com has partnered with HomeAdvisor.com to provide you with local pros to help you with your renovations.
FIND A PRO!
Copyright © 2019-2021 CountertopAdvisor.com All Rights Reserved! All photos used are copyright to their respective owners.