Kitchen countertops are heavy traffic areas and often serve a variety of purposes beyond meal prep and cooking. They can be homework stations and family gathering spots, where you eat meals, store appliances, and even pile the mail.
They are also an investment—an investment you want to keep performing well and looking great. To do so, it takes regular care and maintenance. Knowing what kind of countertops you have and the proper way to care for them will help you maximize their lifespan and performance.
Here are some common types of countertops and what you need to know in order to properly care for them.
How to care for marble countertops
Marble is a naturally occurring material and the result of limestone being subjected to intense heat and pressure. It’s usually white or light in color and may or may not have subtle or bold veining, giving it a luxe and timeless look.
A popular stone for home design, marble is considered a “soft stone,” which makes it prone to scratches. It’s also porous, meaning special attention must be made to spills as staining will occur.
After installation: Your professional installer will properly seal the entire surface. It’s recommended that you wait at least 24 hours before using your new countertops, allowing them to properly dry.
For everyday cleaning: Be sure to clean up any spills or messes right away, particularly any spills that contain wine, vinegar, lemon juice or other acidic liquids that could break down the sealant barrier. Use a paper towel or a clean, dry cloth to wipe up spills. A non-abrasive, pH-neutral cleaner is acceptable, but finding a cleaner made specifically for your marble countertops may be best.
Maintaining your marble countertops: At least once a year you will need to seal the entire surface. You can ask your installer which type of sealant they used, or you can visit your local hardware store for options.
Depending on the type of marble and amount of use, you may need to seal your countertops more frequently than once a year. Some may recommend re-sealing as often as once per month.
PRO TIP: If you notice that water or liquids no longer “bead up” on the surface, it’s time to seal your marble countertops.
NOTE: Try to blot spills rather than wipe away to keep the spill contained to a smaller area. Never use Windex, bleach, or acidic cleaners.
How to care for granite countertops
Granite is an igneous rock, meaning that it was formed from molten lava deep under the earth’s crust. Historically, granite has been used for building materials such as roads, buildings, bridges, and monuments. It’s incredibly tough and is considered the most durable natural stone. It’s also resistant to heat and stains making it a perfect choice for kitchen counters.
Granite has a variety of colors with the most common being white, gray, black and brown. It has large crystals of minerals that give granite its signature coarse-grained texture. Depending on the granite it could have small or large veining, tiny flecks of mineral or large crystals, or a combination of these characteristics.
After installation: A sealer should have been applied before installation. Check with your installer and if so, wait at least 24 hours before cleaning. If you aren’t sure, clean the surface and apply your preferred sealant and allow to dry for 24 hours.
For everyday cleaning: Avoid harsh cleaners and abrasive tools. Use warm water, a few drops of mild detergent, and a clean cloth for gentle scrubbing. Use another clean, dry cloth to wipe up the soapy mixture.
Maintaining your granite countertops: Seal the entire surface at least once a year. It’s not required to seal granite surfaces since they are not prone to stains or scratches, but applying a sealant gives you an extra layer of protection.
PRO TIP: To bring back the shine of your granite, use a small amount of cooking or mineral oil and wipe gently over the surface, buffing it gently. This will bring back the shine and offers another layer of stain protection.
NOTE: Bleach is effective for disinfecting surfaces but can dull the surface over time. Use a milder disinfectant or everyday cleaner on your granite.
How to care for quartzite countertops
Quartzite is a naturally occurring metamorphic rock and the result of sandstone being subjected to intense heat and pressure. This pressure forces the grains in the rock to recrystallize and form an extremely hard rock similar in durability to granite. Because of this durability, quartzite is resistant to intense heat and scratches.
Quartzite is a mined material that looks much like marble. It’s usually white or pale gray, but can also be found in pink, red, yellow, blue, green, and orange tones. Quartzite has low porosity which contributes to its antibacterial and easy-to-clean features.
After installation: Your new quartzite countertops will have been sealed directly after install and they need to properly dry. Wait at least 24 hours before using.
For everyday cleaning: Use a solution of mild dish soap and water with a clean cloth. Quartzite is safe for everyday cleaning but avoid abrasive cleaners (citric and/or vinegar-based) and abrasive cleaning tools as it could scratch, remove, or break down the sealant. Also avoid using Clorox wipes or other disinfecting wipes as these contain citric acid which break down sealants. The sealant protects your quartzite surfaces from possible stains, discoloration, chips, etches and scratches.
How to maintain your quartzite countertops: Seal the entire surface at least once a year. There are topical sealants made with natural wax, acrylics, and polyurethanes that are easy to use but wear off rather quickly. Penetrating sealants soak into the surface and are made from siliconates and other materials. They repel liquids and generally last longer than topical sealants.
Depending on personal use, your quartzite countertops may need to be sealed more frequently. Clean your countertops regularly and keep an eye out for when you may need to reseal the surface.
PRO TIP: A simple test to know if your quartzite needs to be sealed is to check around your sink. If the stone has darkened, the sealant is either not as effective or needs to be reapplied.
NOTE: Always properly clean your entire quartzite surfaces before applying any coats of sealant.
Caring for quartz countertops
Quartz is not naturally occurring, but rather engineered from crushed natural stone and recycled industrial materials such as silica and glass. It’s held together with a polymeric or cement-based binder or acrylic resins. Quartz is extremely durable, non-porous and stain and crack resistant. However, it’s not heat tolerant like its granite counterpart.
Quartz can be manufactured in many colors and appearances. Unlike the unique, one-of-a-kind natural stone slabs, quartz can be created to be uniform in appearance. This is a bonus for projects requiring a large surface area.
After installation: Avoid using for at least 24 hours. Clean up any dust or debris with a clean, dry towel or cloth. Quartz doesn’t need to be sealed and should be ready to use one day after installation.
For everyday cleaning: Clean up spills and messes right away using everyday cleaners or a solution of water and dish detergent.
Much like natural stone surfaces, it’s recommended to avoid using bleach and other harsh chemicals or abrasive tools.
Maintaining your quartz countertops: Protect your quartz countertops by using cutting boards and potholders for heat and scratch protection. Be sure to clean up spills and messes right away. Sealants are not necessary for quartz.
PRO TIP: To remove tough stains from quartz countertops, use a wet rag with a few drops of isopropyl alcohol. Rub the stain until clean and then wipe the surface again with warm water and then a dry cloth.
NOTE: Although a durable surface, it’s still possible to chip, crack or scratch quartz materials.
How to care for soapstone countertops
Soapstone is made of steatite, the mineral talc in a consolidated form, along with other minerals. It gets its name from the silky, soapy feel and softness that comes primarily from the magnesium rich mineral talc in its composition.
Soapstone is often gray, with a brownish or bluish hue. A low maintenance, nonporous and nonabsorbent natural stone surface, it is naturally stain resistant and doesn’t need to be sealed like other natural stone options.
After installation: Wait at least 24 hours for the dust to settle. Then, take a dry cloth and wipe away any debris. Evenly coat the surface with mineral oil and wipe clean with the dry cloth.
For everyday cleaning: You can use most household cleaners, or a solution made out of a combination of dish soap and warm water. For tougher food residue, use an abrasive cleaner like Ajax or baking soda.
How to maintain your soapstone countertops: Reapply mineral oil—or a wax such as beeswax or a combination of both wax and mineral oil—once a week for the first few months. After that the frequency depends on your personal usage.
If a scratch occurs, use fine grit sandpaper and a little water to create a slurry. Wipe clean with a soft cloth and apply mineral oil. Wipe clean.
PRO TIP: A good test to know if your soapstone needs to be oiled is to splash some water on the soapstone. If the water beads up, then you can skip the oiling for now, if it doesn’t bead up, it’s time to reapply.
NOTE: There’s no “special” type of mineral oil that you need to use. You can find it at your local hardware stores, pharmacies or at online retailers.
No matter which material you decide for your new countertops, regular cleaning and maintenance will keep them looking pristine, in good shape, and able to be enjoyed for years to come.