Do Your Countertops Need a Little TLC?

Caring for Kitchen Surfaces For most homeowners, the kitchen is the heart of their home, and having surfaces that will last and remain beautiful over time is a priority. Today’s countertops go beyond functionality and serve as an aesthetic focal point in many kitchens. Listed below are some tips on how to keep these surfaces in tip-top shape.

Keeping Natural Stone Beautiful

Granite, marble, limestone, travertine, and slate are all part of the natural stone family. For routine cleaning, a mixture of dish soap and water is recommended. Non-abrasive and non-acidic, this simple mixture neutralizes any acids that are left behind, plus contains a degreaser. While granite is the hardest and most durable of these surfaces, care should still be taken, as all natural stone can stain and etch. Staining can occur when oil-based substances, such as cooking oil, remain on the surface. It is possible to remove stains using a poultice, a malleable combination of a solvent and a porous material designed to pull the stain out.  Acidic substances including citrus fruits, tomatoes, red wine, and vinegar, can cause a cloudy appearance in the stone, known as etching.   Etched stone can be repaired by either grinding or restoring the surface, but it is recommended this is done by a skilled professional. Avoid using chemical products to try and remove etching, as they can further damage the stone. Natural stone should be periodically resealed. In the last decade, the industry has moved to silicone-based, impregnating sealers, allowing for less frequent resealing. The amount of time varies by the type of stone, and even from slab to slab, but here’s a way to test: Put a few drops of water on the stone on a high use area, such as near the cooktop or sink. Let the water stand on the stone for 15 minutes. If the water doesn’t bead up, and absorbs into the stone, it’s time to reseal.

Other Types of Surfaces

  • Quartz: Natural quartz countertops, such as Caesarstone and Silestone, are non-porous and therefore don’t require resealing.   Quartz is a heat, stain, and scratch resistant material, but care should still exercised. It can tolerate moderately hot temperatures for a short period of time, but excessive or prolonged heat can cause permanent damage. Avoid placing hot pots and pans directly on the surface, or hairline cracks can appear. Also, a hot pad or trivet is recommended when using cooking units such as a crockpot or electric skillet. For daily cleaning, dish soap and water is suggested. A common, non-abrasive household cleaner can be used if necessary, and a non-scratch scouring pad can be used for stubborn spills and stains. Avoid any contact with aggressive cleaning agents including oven and grill cleaner, paint thinners or strippers, and dishwasher agents with high alkaline or pH levels.
  • Wood and Butcher Blocks: Applying a coat of mineral oil every few weeks to these wood surfaces will help them remain beautiful. For regular cleaning, use a mild detergent and then thoroughly wipe the surface with a dry towel or absorbent cloth. It’s important to not allow moisture to remain on the surface, as this can cause the block to expand and the wood to soften. Wood absorbs food odors more readily than other surfaces, so periodically deodorize with lemon juice, letting the juice sit for 15 minutes and then wiping dry. Use a steel scraper or spatula to keep the surface clean and remove food particles. Never cut on the same spot on a butcher’s block to ensure even wear, and blocks should be turned over periodically to allow for even usage of both surfaces.   Should your butcher block or countertop acquire a nick or a dent, simply sand and re-oil if you have an oiled surface, or sand and refinish with lacquer for a lacquered wood surface.
  • Stainless Steel: Water and a mild detergent are suggested for routine cleaning. One drawback of stainless steel is fingerprints that are left behind on the surface can easily show. A glass cleaner, olive oil, and white or cider vinegar can help keep your steel smudge-free. Vinegar can also bring back the luster of stainless steel should it start to look dull. Cooktops and other appliances may occasionally get heat stains, but club soda with a damp cloth can be used to rub out most of these stains. Steer clear of steel wool and scouring pads, as well as harsh scouring powders, as these can scratch the surface. While it is virtually impossible to keep stainless steel from scratching over time, the good news is that a natural patina will develop, giving the steel a uniform matte appearance, and you won’t need to worry about every little scratch.

If you are unsure about which type of products to use on your surface, or if you have other maintenance or repair questions, it’s best to consult your fabricator or an industry professional to avoid damaging, or further damaging the surface. Proper care and cleaning methods will help to ensure your kitchen surfaces look their best for years to come. If you’re considering a kitchen renovation, a design build expert can help you choose which type of countertop best fits your needs and lifestyle.