Smelly Granite Countertops?  Here’s What to Do

Date: January 2, 2020
Author: Jon Smith
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Granite countertops are so gorgeous. They add the perfect touch to any kitchen, giving it a decorator look without the added expense of a decorator.  Unfortunately, granite countertops are countertops, and countertops come in contact with food, grime, and water.  All this can cause those dream countertops to become a smelly nightmare.

What do you do if you have smelly granite countertops? Granite is a porous material, and if they were improperly sealed, food odors can linger.  Sometimes water damage, not the granite, is the source of the smell.  Fixing the problem requires using the right cleaners for the job.  In a worst-case scenario, the granite might need to be resealed.

Most household problems can be solved using three steps:  first, identify the source of the issue.  Second, determine the best way to fix the issue.  And third, actually to the fixing.

We’re here to help you learn how to do all those things, and then to teach you how to make sure you eliminate the possibility of it ever happening again. A cycle of smelly granite countertops is a cycle no person should ever have to experience.

Products used to clean countertops can actually help prevent the smell from your countertops.

How do I Prevent Countertops from Smelling, to Begin With?

Proper cleaning is critical in the fight against smelly granite countertops. However, even if you clean with all your might, the enemy of your countertops might actually be, well, you.

It’s one thing to clean the countertops. You spray them down, wipe them off, and that seems like the end of that, right? Wrong. A lot of the time, the smell in a granite countertop comes from water and bacteria buildup. If you don’t properly dry off your countertops when you’re cleaning them, you’re going to run into a smell.

Another thing you could do to prevent smelly granite countertops before you even put them to use is to make sure that they’re sealed before you begin use. Don’t seal them yourself unless you’re a professional, though; that opens a Pandora’s box of problems in and of itself.

What smell should I look for?

Smelly granite countertops take on a couple of familiar scents. Unfortunately, none of them are good, but on the flip side, they’ll be easy to identify. Most people who have experienced a smelly granite countertop will say that it smells like a wet dog, mildew, or mold, like when a dishrag has been left in a wet ball on the floor of a basement for too long.

Why Granite Countertops Smell

Granite countertops are a porous material.  If you’ve ever heard the Spongebob Squarepants theme song, then you know porous means it has tiny little holes in the material that can collect dirt, water, and bacteria.  Just like wet sponges eventually start to smell after a while, granite countertops will do the same, though it will be a longer process.  And, unlike the sponge, you can’t just throw a countertop away and get a new one.

Do they have a natural smell to them?

No. They do not. No matter what anyone says, a granite countertop is not supposed to smell like anything. If the person who sold you the countertop tells you that granite has a natural odor when you tell them it smells, they either know nothing about granite or don’t want to admit the countertop was improperly sealed.

Most granite countertops are sealed before they are installed to prevent buildup in the pores. If the countertops smell soon after they are installed, or you notice that they smell even though they are supposed to have been sealed, there are two possible reasons. One, they lied to you and did not actually seal your countertops (or they just did it incorrectly) or two, the countertops already smelled before they were sealed.


Step One: Identifying the Source

Your countertops smell. First, you need to determine the cause of the odor.  You may be able to get the countertop to smell fresh, but if you don’t correctly identify the source, the smell will return.  And so the cycle continues.   Below are three common sources for smelly granite countertops.

The sink

The sink is probably the biggest issue with your countertops, and therefore, it should be one of the things you check first. Water seeps into the pores, which breeds bacteria, which in turn causes the bad smell. Whether it’s a leaky faucet or careless dishwashing, you need to be sure to get it under control before you proceed with fixing your smelly granite countertops.

If you don’t fix the water leak, the smell will only get worse, as will the damage to the rest of the kitchen.  A smelly countertop is bad, but the smell of mold from under the sink or kitchen cabinets is a sign of a more serious problem.  Rotting cabinets, leaky faucets are both things that need to be a higher priority than a countertop that doesn’t smell fresh as a daisy.


Food is another big issue with granite countertops. Again, they are porous, which means that little bits of food and oil can collect in them and cause an unpleasant smell. This is an easy fix; just make sure you clean off your countertops and try not to let food sit. If you make a mess, clean it immediately; don’t let it sit.

Improper cleaners

The last probable cause for smelly granite countertops is cleaners that aren’t designed to work with granite or other porous materials. If it can’t penetrate into those pores and get the stuff out, then the stuff will stay in, and you’ll find yourself in a smelly situation.

Stop using Windex to clean all your surfaces. Please, it’s not good for them. Not only will using improper cleaners on granite not do anything to get rid of the smell, but it can also strip the granite of its seal, leaving it more vulnerable to bacteria. Investing in a good cleaner is the best way to prevent that.


Step Two: Identifying the Solution

Now we’re getting somewhere. You know what your problem is, presumably. Now, what do you do?

There are a few things to try here in order to reduce the smell in your countertops. Though you can pick and choose which to use to help your problem, trying all of them together isn’t the worst idea ever. Using Windex on your granite countertops is.

Changing the cleaners

This is the easiest thing to do out of all the options here. You need to find a cleaner that will work for your countertops.

There are a couple of things to look for when you choose a granite countertop cleaner. You need something deep cleansing, so choosing one that heavily advertises being disinfecting is probably the best course of action. Having something lighter for spot cleaning as well might be useful to have on hand, but do not sacrifice a good quality cleaner for a lighter one for any reason.

There are some home remedies you can try, but to be honest, it will be easier and probably cheaper, in the long run, to simply invest in a good cleaner right out of the gate. If you’re incorrect about the amount of product you’ll need for a homemade granite counter cleaner, you could end up hurting your countertops rather than helping them.

The best cleaner options

Lucky for you, we decided to take the guesswork out of choosing a granite countertop cleaner. There is something for everybody; people looking for more natural ingredients, people who don’t really care, and we’ve also included some cloth rags that are going to get the job done as far as actually drying the countertops goes.

Method makes a countertop cleaner that will work great for daily spot cleaning. The company prides itself on the natural formula--plant-based, non-toxic, and uses biodegradable ingredients. Method also sells refill containers for their bottles, so you won’t have to keep repurchasing the plastic bottle every time.

If you don’t really care about natural ingredients and just want something that will do the job well, there are options for that, too. Weiman makes a granite countertop cleaner kit that comes with the granite countertop cleaner, spot cleansing wipes, and even a microfiber cloth to wipe down your counter. For the price, that kind of kit is something that you might find yourself wanting to take advantage of.

Lastly, the best cleaner options need the best cleaning cloths to go with it. Microfiber cleaning cloths are the most effective material for making sure your granite countertops are adequately dried after you clean them. Microfiber cloths are very soft, so they won’t be abrasive on your countertops. Though that might seem like a big deal, the abrasiveness of some cloth rags could end up eroding the seal and your countertops over time.

Calling the Plumber

This is the best thing to do if you realize that your problem with water is not just a lazy and inefficient person dealing with washing the dishes is to call a plumber. If you are a true DIY type, you could try to diagnose and fix your plumbing problems yourself.  Some people prefer to let an expert deal with plumbing to ensure the water problems won’t resurface.

Also, examine the seals around the faucet—if they are not watertight, it calls for some caulking.

However, if your problem is just that some water makes its way onto your counter and you don’t get to it in time, that’s a pretty easy fix. All you really need to do is have a talk with whoever you suspect might be leaving puddles of water on the counter. If that person is you, take it upon yourself to be more careful.  Pick up a cloth and clean it up right away.


When in Doubt, Ask a Professional

This step is typically the last resort for people who are suffering from smelly granite countertops. Unfortunately, if you still have no idea what is causing the smell after trying every other fix, then it’s time to call your resident granite guy.

Though it is usually a last resort, contacting someone who knows what they’re doing right away when you notice the smell in your granite countertops might be their saving grace. They may be able to give you advice regarding why your countertops are producing that smell, which could save you a lot of time in trying to figure out what the problem is.

When you’re working with countertops, working quickly to stop the smell is essential.  You invested a fair amount of money on the countertop.  If the problem is more serious than using an improper cleaner, it’s time to reach out to a professional.


Step Three: Fixing the problem

Once you’ve found the source of the problem and determined the solution that you think would work best for you, then it’s time to get on to solving the problem. In order to prevent the smell from coming back, there are some steps you should consider taking that will take your temporary solution used in step two and turn it into a long-term step three solution.

Fair warning: if you switch to using a safer cleaner and have ensured that the source of the odor is your countertop and not a water leak, then prepare yourself for forking over some money.  Although the price varies depending on where you live, you can typically expect to pay $8 to $10 per square foot.

Sealing the countertop

Sealing a granite countertop will be what you want to do if you manage to get the smell out of it. What sealing a granite countertop does is it essentially puts a clear coat on the material, making it impenetrable to oil, water, and other general sources of grime. Most countertops are installed with a sealant on them already, which is when most people think they are out of the woods.

They are not. Most professionals will recommend that you seal or have your granite countertops sealed by your resident granite guy at least once yearly. However, if you find that your granite countertops are taking quite a beating daily, you might want to have them sealed more frequently, closer to once every six months. Keeping the seal on your granite countertops up to snuff will help prevent other unfortunate ugly accidents from happening, like scratching and staining, in addition to the smelling.

You could seal your countertops yourself if you wanted to. A lot of people do it, and for the most part, you’ll probably be okay sealing them on your own. If you don’t do it correctly, though, then you may as well not have done it at all. An improperly applied sealant will leave streaks in your countertops, and it won’t protect against your daily wear and tear as you use your kitchen.  There are many resources that explain the process of resealing.  This site might be a good beginning.  If you want to see someone in action, check out this video.

Replacing the countertop completely

This is absolutely the last thing anybody wants to do. Replacing a granite countertop will be a very pricey, time-consuming endeavor. Unlike every other option we have provided, you definitely can’t do this one on your own, unless you happen to be a granite professional.

Granite is very, very hard, so it’ll scrape up your floor and surrounding appliances. In addition, countertops and cabinets go hand in hand, so taking off the countertops could ruin your cabinets if done improperly. Suddenly, you’re spending money on cabinets as well.   Just have Granite Guy Gary come out and take care of the replacement.

The only reason you would really want to completely replace your smelly granite countertops—other than because of a professional’s advice—is if you’ve tried everything else and you still can’t rid your counters of the smell. That means that the bacteria have built up too deeply in the pores of the granite, and you won’t be able to reach it with cleaner. This extreme measure is caused by nothing other than waiting too long, whether to notice the smell or to do something about it. However, once you replace them, you’ll have a fresh start and another chance to do right by your lovely new countertops.

Bad for the Nose, Bad for the Soul

When something smells bad, you don’t want to be around it. When that something is a weird kid in middle school, it’s significantly easier to ignore than when it’s your kitchen countertops in your home. Your kitchen is the heart of your home. If it doesn’t smell good, then you won’t be able to feel good.

Not caring for your countertops can take you to the extreme. The longer you avoid taking responsibility and handling the smell, the worse the smell will get. Letting it get bad will reduce the amount of use you get out of your kitchen, and it will reduce the likelihood that you’ll get to keep your countertops and not have to replace them.

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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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