Beginners Guide to Marble Care
Are you new to cleaning and maintaining marble? Are you confused with all the terms like Marble Etch Marks, Marble Sealer, Marble Poultice, and more. It can be a bit overwhelming to try and clean and maintain your marble when all these terms keep getting thrown around and you don't really know what they mean. Do not worry, your not alone, and whats better, this article will tell you all the basics you need to know to tackle any marble care problem. You will be an expert in no Time!
What is Marble?
Marble is metamorphic rock that forms under intense temperature and pressure from rocks like limestone after the materials recrystallize. During recrystallization materials present inside the limestone contribute to marble’s unique veins that show themselves once the limestone becomes marble. The neat thing about marble is that these vein structures are truly unique and no two marble stones are the same.
Marble is dug out of quarries all over the world. However, China, India, Italy, and Spain contribute to most of the world's marble supply. Just like every marble stone is unique, every quarry produces a uniquely beautiful type of stone.
Why is Marble Care thought to be difficult?
Contrary to popular belief marble does not stain very easily. As the Marble Institute of America says:
If a homeowner cleans their countertops after each meal, they will rarely, if ever, have staining or cleanability issues.
However, with that said, marble does etch very easily. This is where a lot of confusion occurs when marble owners sometimes erroneously interpret an etch mark as a marble stain.
Since marble is made up of Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3), marble is very reactive to acidic substances like lemon juice or coffee. When acidic materials are spilled on marble, the acid chemically reacts with marble causing part of the marble to be etched leaving a permanent mark and sometimes a stain.
What is a Marble Stain?
Marble is a porous material and stains occur when foreign substances enter and settle into these pours and become difficult to be removed.
Once a liquid like coffee penetrates into the pours of marble and drys it can be difficult to remove with traditional marble cleaner. A more robust method is typically required. This is why it is very important to wipe up marble spills as quickly as possible. See our article on 4 Easy Steps to Clean Marble Countertops.
The density of pours on the marble surface determines the time it takes for stains to set in, therefore the surface finish on the marble greatly affects how quickly stains occur.
For most consumer applications there are two main types of marble surface finishes:
Polished marble is a very popular surface finish that possesses that beautiful glossy surface that does a great job of reflecting light, and therefore shows the true colors of the marble. This finish is very common on countertops in bathrooms or kitchens and also in showers.
Polished Marble is not recommended for marble floors because its smooth surface is harder to maintain under heavy traffic and will wear quicker than other surface finishes.
Another draw back is that etch marks tend to be much more visible on polished marble because the etch mark creates a dull spot that really stands out against the vibrant shine of polished marble.
However, the polished surface gets it characteristic shine from being very smooth, this means that a lot of pours are removed from the surface and is therefore resistant to stains. The reduction in pours also means you have a little extra time to wipe up spills before they become stains because it takes longer for the liquids to penetrate the marble.
Honed Marble is a marble surface finish that creates a surface that is smooth but does not reflect light very well so it doesn’t appear as shiny as polished marble.
Honed Marble is best for marble floors because it is a tough surface finish and can handle heavy traffic. Honed marble also works well as kitchen countertops because the honed marble will not show etch marks like polished marble.
However, since honed marble's surface in more porous than polished marble, liquids can penetrate the surface much easier. This can lead to stains very quickly, so care must be taken when spills do occur on honed marble. However this effect can be reduced by sealing the surface.
Sealed Honed Marble is a great combination of the beautiful glossy look, but also the protection from spills and reduction in the effects of etch marks. It is a great option for kitchen countertops if you are interested in marble kitchen countertops.
What is a Marble Sealer?
Marble sealer is a surface treatment that helps protect the marble from stains. The Marble Institute of America says:
The bottom line: Sealing resin treated countertops may increase the resistance of the already resistant nature of stone.
When applied, marble sealer helps prevent foreign materials from entering the pours in the marble and thus helping prevent stains.
Marble sealers work by penetrating the marble's surface thus blocking stains and keeping them on the surface. As discussed above, marble is a porous stone, and when the sealer is applied to the surface the marble soaks up the sealer.
It is important to note that not all marble needs to be sealed, and to determine this you will need to run the water test. It is important to run this test because if you attempt to seal marble that is already sealed, or that does not need a sealer, then the sealer will not absorb into the marble and will dry on the surface giving it a hazy look.
Marble Sealers are very effective and do a great job at preventing staining on marble. However, it is very important to remember that no sealer is perfect and if spills are given enough time they will penetrate the stone and create stains. Like polished marble, the sealer will just buy you more time to clean the stain from the surface.
Even though marble sealer will help prevent stains it will not prevent etching. Etching will occur independent of surface finish or marble sealer so its very important to try and avoid spilling acidic agents onto the marble surface.
What the Heck is Marble Etching?
Marble etching is when an acidic substance encounters your marble, and the acidic agent dissolves parts of the marble surface resulting in small dull marks on your stone surface.
You can identify an etch mark by examining the reflectivity or shininess of the stone. Since the etch mark will expose new unpolished marble below the affected area, the spot will stick out next to it's shiny surroundings.
Etch marks result from acidic substances like fruit juices, wine, coffee, household cleaners, or salad dressings. This is why its very important to be careful with these substances around your marble, and why people give marble such a hard time for being hard to maintain.
Luckily marble etching can be easily removed from polished marble, check out our how to guide.
For more information on marble etching, check out our informational guide to etching on marble.
Basic Marble Care Tips
Since we have gone through most of the common terms of marble care, lets go through a couple of basic marble care tips!
Clean Up Spills Immediately
Clean up spills on marble immediately after they occur. If they are not cleaned up quickly then stains and etching can occur. Even if it is water, be sure to wipe it off your countertop or floor after use!
Use Approved Marble Cleaners
Use approved marble cleaners that are designed specifically for marble cleaning. Ordinary household cleaners can contain acids and can etch the marble surface.
We recommend using the Marblelife's Marble and Travertine Cleaner, however, if you are unsure check out our comprehensive review of marble cleaners.
We did 21 hours of research, and spent 9 hours testing 6 different marble cleaners and determined the Marblelife cleaner to have the best performance.
Protect Your Marble
Use coasters on marble countertops, use rugs, mats, and runners on marble floors. Also, use nice platters or trays on your bathroom countertops to hold things like soap or toothpaste to prevent marble stains.
For more marble care tips check out our 9 Easy Tips to Marble Care.
This should get you started on your everyday care of your household marble. If you have any other questions or comments please leave a comment below. We check and respond to every single one!
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