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.
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.
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
Wash the affected area with a soapy solution of hot water and a mild detergent and dry completely.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Spread the poultice on the affected area, generously applying the paste in an even layer (extending slightly beyond the mark or stain area).
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.
Allow the poultice to dry (this usually takes about 24 hours).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.