How to Remove and Fix Countertop Burn Marks

Date: January 30, 2020
Author: Jon Smith
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We’ve all done it, maybe the doorbell rang, or an important call came in while we were cooking, and we set a hot pan on the countertop “just for a few seconds.” Upon our return, we find that the pan has left a circular burn mark on the countertop surface that we assumed was heat resistant enough to prevent this sort of thing from happening. We were wrong.

How to remove and fix countertop burn marks? The process for removing burn marks from a countertop varies widely depending on the type of countertop you have. Generally, it involves using an abrasive to remove the mark and then refinishing the countertop.

Choosing the best method for repairing a burn mark will depend on the particular type of countertop. Although there are currently hundreds upon hundreds of different countertop materials available for today’s kitchens, they do fall into several general categories. We begin by reviewing the different types of countertops and how their unique attributes determine the right strategy for repairing burn marks.

The Different Types of Countertops

Countertops can be grouped into several major categories including (1) man-made (synthetic) countertops, (2) stone countertops, (3) ceramic tile, (4) concrete, (5) stainless steel and (6) wood (also known as butcher, or cutting block).

Aside from their aesthetic qualities and cost, countertops also vary in their resistance to staining, cracking and burning from a high-temperature source like a very hot pan. Before you get started trying to remove a burn mark, make sure you know what kind of countertop you're dealing with.

Man-Made

Synthetic countertops are generally more affordable than other countertop materials such as stone and offer tremendous options to choose from such as color and pattern, and can be fabricated to very precise dimensions for a perfect, customized fit. These surfaces are generally not as durable as other materials and typically have low to moderate heat resistance.

  • Solid Surface Countertops (Brands including Corian, Avonite, Swanstone) – made of synthetic materials including acrylics and resins; very practical with a huge variety to choose from; moderately priced; these countertops have fairly low heat resistance.
  • Laminate Countertops (Brands including Formica, Nevamar, Wilsonart) – fabricated by bonding sheets of plastic-coated synthetic materials to particleboard bases or cores; very affordable with thousands of options; laminates, in general, have low scratch resistance and low heat resistance.

Stone

Stone countertops can be naturally occurring, or “engineered” (man-made). Naturally sourced stone is quarried and then form cut to size, while engineered countertops contain natural stone which is first pulverized, then combined with resins and formed into the shape of a slab.

Engineered countertops are available in a wider range of colors and patterns and typically have a more uniform appearance but lack the uniqueness of natural stone countertops. They do, however, have enhanced heat-resistance characteristics compared to their naturally occurring counterparts.

These are the most common types of stone countertops:

  • Granite – very elegant and enhances a kitchen’s appearance; cost-prohibitive for many homeowners and requires periodic sealing because of its porous nature; naturally heat resistant but can discolor or crack if subjected to repeated or prolonged exposure to a heat source.
  • Marble – adds a unique element to a kitchen (no two slabs are alike); naturally, heat and water-resistant but scratches fairly easily and is very difficult to repair; certain foods and liquids can stain this surface.
  • Quartz (natural and engineered) – nearly all countertops of this type are engineered because large slabs cannot be quarried; great variety of colors and patterns; highly heat-resistant and stain-resistant, very heavy and can be nearly as expensive as granite or marble.
  • Soapstone – lends a rustic look and feel to a kitchen and ages beautifully; requires periodic treatment to maintain its finish and typically darkens with age and use; highly heat resistant.

Other Common Countertop Materials

Aside from stone and synthetic countertops, other various materials are becoming increasingly popular, particularly with homeowners seeking a more unique aesthetic to their kitchen space. While some of these materials have high heat resistance, others are susceptible to burn marks or scorching. The use of a cutting board or trivet is recommended

  • Ceramic Tile – another affordable option that is ideal for do-it-yourselfers; tiles themselves are easily cleaned, but grout and sealant between the tiles can discolor and stain over time; most ceramic tiles are highly heat resistant.
  • Concrete – highly polished slabs with a very glossy, mirror-like finish; due to their weight, concrete countertops are often formed and cured in the kitchen itself; moderate to high heat resistance.
  • Stainless Steel – creates a modern or industrial look; the surface is easy to clean but can be scratched; one of the more expensive options and can damage knives if used as a cutting surface; practically heatproof.
  • Wood (Butcher Block) – creates an attractive, rustic look; usually made from hardwoods such as maple or oak; nicks and stains can be sanded out, and the entire surface can be re-sealed; without proper cleaning, bacteria can form in crevices or on surfaces; depending on the type of wood and the sealant used, wood countertops are moderately heat resistant.

Removing and Repairing Burn Marks on Your Countertop

Since the techniques for removing and repairing countertop burn marks will vary with the countertop material, we will begin with the surfaces that are typically the most susceptible to heat damage.

Solid Surface Countertops

Methods of repairing burn marks on solid surface countertops will depend on the depth of the damage. Like stone, concrete, and wood countertops, solid surface countertops consist of solid material throughout and therefore their color, pattern and appearance are consistent from the surface to beneath the surface. As we are about to see, this allows for more aggressive techniques for deep burns.

Step One:

Wash the affected area with a soapy solution of hot water and a mild detergent and dry completely.

Step Two:

For small or minor burn marks, apply a small amount of a mildly abrasive cleaning liquid to a damp cloth or sponge and rub over the affected area in a circular motion. Rinse with clean water and wipe the surface with a dry towel. If the mark persists, try repeating this process using greater force when pressing down while making the circular cleaning motions.

Step Three:

It is possible to sand away burn marks on the surface of solid surface countertops. Be sure to use micro grit sandpaper with a “very fine” type grit (for example, 240). Gently rub the affected area with the sandpaper using an even, circular motion. As you work the burn mark periodically wipe away the residue so that you can observe your progress.

Depending on the depth of the burn mark, it may be necessary to repeat this step several times to achieve satisfactory results. It is important to note that the deeper the burn mark, the more sanding that is required and the more countertop material that is sanded away. A slight dimple may form in the affected area.

Step Four:

Once the burn mark has been successfully removed, it is important to once again wash the area with soapy warm water and dry thoroughly. Depending on the particular type of finish of your countertop, some techniques will restore a matte or semi-gloss finish. If your solid surface countertop has a high gloss finish, it is strongly recommended that you seek the services of a professional restorer.

  • To restore a matte finish – buff the area by gently rubbing with a general-purpose abrasive pad (Scotch Brite 7447 - Maroon is very popular for this purpose) in an even, circular motion.
  • To restore a semi-gloss finish on a light-colored surface – sand the affected area further using an “extra fine” grit (360 or 400) sandpaper. Wipe away residue and wash with warm soapy water and dry completely. Then buff the area by gently rubbing with an ultra-fine scuffing pad (such as Scotch Brite 7448 – Gray) using an even, circular motion.
  • To restore a semi-gloss finish on a dark-colored surface – similar process as restoring a light-colored surface but after sanding with the 400 grit sandpaper, wash and dry the area and sand again with 600 grit sandpaper followed by another round of washing and drying. Use an ultra-fine scuffing pad to buff the area.

Alternate Step:

Another method for removing minor burn marks is to wet an abrasive pad with water and rub the affected area with a circular motion. Use a general-purpose pad for a matte finish solid surface countertop and an ultra-fine scuffing pad for a semi-gloss surface.

Laminate Countertops

Since laminate countertops consist of a sheet of synthetic material (the surface) bonded to a particleboard base, the effectiveness of surface repairs will depend on the depth of the burn mark. In most cases, the laminate sheet itself is no more than one-sixteenth to one-eighth of an inch thick.

If the affected area is at or near the surface of the laminate, then a few household items and some elbow grease may resolve the problem; if the burn mark has gone completely through the laminate to the substrate, then more drastic measures are required.

Minor Burn Marks

To remove minor burn marks on the surface of the laminate, you will need plain white toothpaste, a soft-bristled brush (e.g., a toothbrush), a mild detergent, and a few pieces of cloth.

  • Use a cloth to wipe the affected area with warm, soapy water and then dry completely.
  • Smear the toothpaste onto the burn mark and rub over the affected area; let sit for five minutes.
  • Gently scrub the burn mark with the toothbrush using circular motions.
  • Rinse, wipe, and dry the area; repeat these steps if you see any lightening of the mark.

If the toothpaste is ineffective in removing the burn mark, it may be necessary to use a mildly abrasive cleaning liquid (with bleach) in the place of toothpaste. Repeat the above steps, switching to a brush with firmer bristles if necessary. An alternative to using the cleaning liquid is to prepare a paste of equal parts baking soda and water and rub in the same manner on the burn mark.

Major Burn Marks

If the burn mark has gone completely through the laminate sheeting to the substrate, then the focus should be on removing the section of damaged laminate and replacing it with a laminate patch or disguising or even repurposing the area with a different material.

For burn marks that are smaller in size, patching with laminate may be an option. Ideally, the patch should be the same color and design as the damaged area, so look for hidden or unexposed laminate on your countertop that can be harvested for these repairs.

For example, if you have a laminate countertop that abuts a refrigerator or a range/cooktop, then you may have an edge of the countertop with laminate sheeting that is hidden from view (i.e., the portion of the countertop that runs along the side of these appliances). These sections of laminate may very well measure 1 to 1 ½ inches (thickness of the countertop) by 24 inches (depth of the countertop).

The idea would be to use this “spare” laminate sheeting to patch the burned area. Depending on how your countertop and appliances align, it may be necessary to leave some of the laminate closest to the front in place so that no substrate is visible to passersby.

Patching Laminate Burn Marks

Laminate sheeting is bonded to the substrate by an adhesive which can be activated, or loosened, by applying heat directly to the surface. A very effective method for removing and installing laminate is to use a clothes iron set to medium-high (no steam).

Step One: Measure the burn area and determine the amount of laminate needed to patch the entire affected area. Remember that your repair area will be limited to the amount of spare laminate that you can harvest from other areas of your countertop.

Step Two: Once you have calculated the amount of laminate required, you will need to mark the length of the laminate edge that will need to be removed. Using a utility knife, carefully make an incision at the desired length of laminate (be sure to cut through to the substrate).

Step Three: Slowly move the iron back and forth over the laminate and periodically check to see if the laminate can be peeled away from the substrate. Once it has been sufficiently loosened, carefully pry away from the substrate and set the piece aside adhesive side up and allow it to cool.

Step Four: To ensure a proper fit, we will use the laminate patch as the template for cutting away the damaged laminate. Since our patching piece is a long strip (1 to 1 ½ inches wide) of laminate sheeting, ideally, the repair area can be patched by cutting our longer piece into smaller strips.

For example, if you determine that the repair area is three inches by four inches and the patching strip is one inch wide by 20 inches long, then you will need to cut it into three smaller pieces, each measuring four inches long. These strips will then be laid one above the other to form a three-inch by four-inch patch.

Step Five: Cut your patching laminate strip into the exact sizes that you will need to repair the burn mark area. Then use these pieces laid on top of the affected area and trace the outline of the patch strips on the laminate surface. These will be your cutting lines and should ensure a proper, tight fit once the patch is in place.

Step Six: Carefully cut along the guidelines making sure to go all the way through the laminate sheeting to the substrate. Slowly move the iron over the affected area to loosen the adhesive and remove the damaged section of laminate sheeting.

Step Seven: Position the patch pieces into place and heat them one at a time with the iron to re-activate the adhesive and bond the laminate patches into place. Repeat this process for all pieces until the patchwork is completely bonded. If any of the pieces need to be re-positioned, use the iron to loosen the adhesive enough for you to manipulate it into place.

Re-Purposing the Laminate Burn Mark Area

If the burn mark area is simply too large to be patched with spare laminate sheeting, then you may want to consider re-purposing or disguising the damaged area. With a little creativity, you can remove an unsightly burn mark while enhancing the appearance or functionality of your laminate countertop.

  • Ceramic Tile Inlaid Trivet – since the original damage was caused by a very hot pan or pot, perhaps installing a permanent trivet in the very same spot will make the best of the situation. Ceramic tiles are impervious to heat and can be coordinated to your particular laminate. Place them over the burn area or inlay them flush with the laminate surface by routing the appropriate depth into the countertop.
  • Integrated Cutting Board – one option for re-purposing the damaged laminate area is to install a permanent cutting board into the countertop by routing roughly ½ inch depth into the countertop with length and width of the routed area corresponding to the cutting board size.

Stone Countertops

Nearly all stone countertops, both naturally occurring and engineered, are highly heat resistant. Granite, for example, is an igneous rock that is formed as the result of high pressure combined with high temperature. Virtually all quartz countertops are engineered and are extremely durable. Even soapstone is nearly impervious to heat as this material is also used for hearths and fireplaces.

Nevertheless, repeated or prolonged exposure to an extreme heat source like a cast-iron skillet, for example, can cause discoloration or staining. While most surface stains can be removed with warm soapy water and a little scrubbing, deeper stains will require a little special attention.

The most effective method for removing discoloration or staining caused by a hot pan on a porous stone surface is to apply a poultice.

Step One:

In a bowl, prepare a mixture of all-purpose flour and hydrogen peroxide. Add the flour first, then stir in and mix enough hydrogen peroxide until you achieve the consistency of creamy peanut butter.

Step Two:

Spread the poultice on the affected area, generously applying the paste in an even layer (extending slightly beyond the mark or stain area).

Step Three:

Cut a piece of plastic wrap large enough to cover an area slightly larger than the spread paste. Poke holes into the wrap for ventilation and cover the poultice. Tape down all the edges of the plastic wrap with masking or painter’s tape.

Step Four:

Allow the poultice to dry (this usually takes about 24 hours).

Step Five:

Carefully scrape off the paste with a plastic putty knife or scraper. Wipe the area clean with a damp cloth and warm, soapy water. Dry completely.

Because most stone countertops are porous, it is important to properly seal the surfaces regularly. This will protect its finish and increase its resistance to staining and cracking.

Wood (Butcher Block) Countertops

Much like solid surface countertops, wood and butcher block countertops are uniform and consistent throughout, meaning that if need be, repairs can be performed by removing the surface. Minor blemishes, however, can be removed by manual treatment and cleaning.

Minor Burn Marks

If the blemish or damage is small and at the surface of the wood, then chances are it can be treated with a series of mixtures and simply scrubbed away.

  • Sprinkle salt on the burned area and rub with lemon wedges; allow this mixture to sit for six to eight hours.
  • Using a soft-bristled brush (like an old toothbrush) gently stroke the burn mark along the grain if possible.
  • Dampen a clean cloth with hydrogen peroxide and gently rub the affected area and assess whether the burn mark has lightened or disappeared.
  • An alternative method is to apply lemon oil to the affected area and use super fine steel wool (grade #0000) to gently rub the burn mark away.

Major Burn Marks

For serious heat damage that cannot be removed via treatment and rubbing methods, sanding away the burn mark is the only alternative. It is important to note that wood and butcher block countertops are sealed to prevent moisture damage and staining, as well as inhibiting bacteria growth. Any portion of the countertop that is sanded will need to be re-treated and re-sealed once the burn mark has been repaired.

Before sanding, make sure that the countertop surface is clean and dry. If the burn mark created any scorching or carbonized areas, carefully scrape or chisel off that portion of damaged wood. As with sanding solid surface material, it is always advisable to be mindful of the sandpaper grit that you are using, as too coarse of grit will remove more material than desired or necessary.

Step One: If the burn mark size is small (e.g., smaller than an AA battery), then sanding by hand should suffice. However, for larger areas (e.g., the size of the base of a pot or pan), it would be advisable to use an electric sander to ensure the evenness of the sanding.

Step Two: Begin with coarse-grit sandpaper (80 grit or similar) to lighten the burn mark, using even strokes to remove the damaged area while maintaining even sanding of the countertop. We want to avoid sanding channels, grooves, or dimples into the wood countertop surface.

Step Three: Once the burn mark has been removed, switch to finer grit sandpaper (180 to 220 grit) and sand the entire area surrounding the burn mark to smooth and even out the surface.

Step Four: It is important to thoroughly wipe away all dust and clean the sanded surface with warm soapy water. Allow the countertop surface to dry completely.

Step Five: The next step entails re-treating the wood to seal it and make it impervious to water and other liquids. A common sealant for wood countertops is food-grade mineral oil.

Step Six: It is likely that the sanding process has removed stain or finish in the affected area as well. Re-apply stain or finish to match the rest of your wood countertop.

Other Countertop Materials

If your countertops are composed of stainless steel or concrete, or if your countertop surface is comprised of ceramic tiles, then chances are you will not need to worry about burn marks because these materials are considered highly resistant to heat. Ceramic tile and stainless steel are generally impervious to heat damage.

It is still prudent, regardless of the heat resistance of your countertop, to utilize trivets and potholders whenever possible. Burn marks notwithstanding, virtually all countertop surfaces, regardless of the material, are susceptible to some degree of scratching, and the bottoms of pots and pans are fully capable of creating blemishes on anything from stainless steel to laminate.

Fortunately, with a little know-how and willingness to roll up your sleeves, even serious burn marks can be removed or repaired on most countertop surfaces. Even in the case of laminates, a little ingenuity can transform an unsightly char mark into a like-new countertop.

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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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