Marble, granite, and limestone are some of the oldest building materials known to man -- and for good reason. These natural stones are both durable and beautiful, and can last for decades while remaining in pristine condition. However, even these durable stones require some regular maintenance to keep them in top shape. Read on to learn more about the composition of these stones, as well as the dos and don'ts of caring for limestone, granite, and marble.
What are the differences between marble, limestone, and granite?
Although these stones can be very similar in color and texture, there are some important structural differences that will impact the types of cleaning materials that can be used on them.
Marble and limestone are both formed from calcium-based solids, and are classified as "calcareous" rocks. Because of their calcium base, they are sensitive to acidic substances (think about the reaction that stems from dropping an antacid tablet into a glass of soda). Acidic cleaners should never be used on calcareous rocks.
Granite, on the other hand, is a silica-based stone (like mica and slate) and is classified as "siliceous." It is more tolerant of acidic cleaners, but can still be vulnerable to acidic cleaners, so your best bet is to gravitate toward gentle cleansers regardless of whether you have marble, granite, or limestone. There are very few slabs that are "pure" granite, and the trace elements of other stones found in a granite slab could be calcium-based.
How do you clean these stones?
There's no need to purchase expensive, commercial cleaners for your counters or floors. A simple wiping down with soap and water should do the trick for most surface-level messes. If you need something a little more heavy-duty, use a diluted mixture of distilled white vinegar and water. Because vinegar's pH level is close to that of water, it should not have any negative effects on your counters or floors.
What type of maintenance do these stones need?
Because a single slab of stone large and wide enough to create a counter or floor would be extremely rare, most granite, marble, and limestone counters and floors are made of multiple slabs fused together. These slabs will need to be sealed on a regular basis to prevent staining and corrosion.
Although these stones are naturally stain- and water-resistant, they are also porous. In nature, these stones often serve as a filter for fresh drinking water. Without a protective coating, and with repeated exposure to liquids, these stones can become stained or waterlogged. Once liquid has been absorbed into the stone, it is very time-consuming and expensive to extricate, so preventative maintenance is key.
The frequency of sealing your stones depends on both the type and the color of the stone. In general, lighter-colored granite and all marble and limestone slabs should be sealed between two and four times per year, while darker granite slabs can get by with an annual sealing. If you frequently tend to spill dark or acidic liquids (like soda, coffee, or wine) on your counters, or track in lots of mud, you'll likely want to adhere to a more frequent sealing schedule than recommended.
If you're sealing your counters on the recommended schedule, you may consider contracting a professional marble or granite cleaning company to perform this service. These companies first perform a deep cleaning of your counters and floors before sealing them, ensuring that no particles of food or dirt are trapped beneath the seal.
The sealers available to these companies are also more heavy-duty than those available to the general public, so you may be able to get by with less frequent sealing. Continue here for additional info.