5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Cleaning Natural Stone Surfaces
Make Your Natural Stone Last | Skip These Common Errors
Natural stone surfaces are a wonderful investment that deserve and require proper care. If you make a mistake or overlook maintenance, you could risk damaging your beautiful material.
While it’s true that natural stone is extremely durable and made to last, it is not indestructible. “There is a chemistry to natural stone, and making mistakes can harm it,” notes Tim Lesnar, owner of Classic Marble Restoration in Blaine, Minnesota.
Natural stone thrives under proper maintenance, says Brian Kornet, owner of Fabra-Cleen Stone & Tile Care in Plainview, New York. “You have to take precautions,” he says. “If you avoid cleaning mistakes, you’ll need our [restoration] services less often.”
Here are five common practices to skip to maintain and protect your natural stone surfaces.
1. Cleaning With Vinegar
Use a cutting board, especially when cutting citrus or other acidic foods. Pictured here: Madreperola quartzite. Photo courtesy of M S International. Only use cleaners that are suited for natural stone. If you use an outside cleaning service, make sure they do, too, says Lesnar.
“A lot of people aren’t familiar with the chemistry of cleaners and the chemistry of stone, and they’ll use wrong cleaner,” he says. “You have to have a cleaner that has the right pH level, which is seven (neutral). Some stones such as marble, travertine, or limestone react adversely with vinegar because it is acidic.”
“Vinegar and bleach are harsh,” adds Gregg Laviolette, owner of Stone Restoration Services in Troy, Michigan. “They will etch or burn the surface of your stone.”
While some chemicals may not noticeably damage durable stones such as granite, they can break down any sealers that have been applied to the stone. “That means you would need to have your stone resealed more frequently,” says Kornet.
2. Choosing an Abrasive Tool
Some homeowners think they can remove etches or stains with a scrubbing pad. Realistically, this often only makes the problem worse. Lesnar notes that scrubbing pads “act like abrasives on stone, especially when you put elbow grease into it.”
For daily cleaning, use a soft cloth and don’t attempt to “buff out” stains or scratches. Instead, call a professional. “The only way to fix a stone that has been etched is to have it honed and restored,” says Kornet.
Use a dust mop regularly to maintain natural stone flooring. Pictured here: Bardiglio marble. Photo courtesy of Arizona Tile.
3. Skipping the Dust Mop
Minor dust particles and sand that you might not be able to see will act like an abrasive under your feet and cause wear patterns over time, says Laviolette. “Use a dry dust mop and go over your floors daily or at least every other day,” he recommends.
Grit will scratch floors and give them an appearance of being dull, says Kornet. “A polished surface is a smooth surface, and light will reflect off of it,” he says. “Scratches refract light. Your floors might be clean, but it gives the appearance of being dull or scuffed.”
Remove dust and debris with a dust mop or vacuum, and wash your floor with a neutral cleaner each week.
4. Leaving High-Traffic Areas Unprotected
Rugs can help protect the areas of your stone floors that will get worn down due to high traffic, says Laviolette.
“Walk off matting helps keep dust and debris that can scratch your floors to a minimum,” he says. Place a mat inside and outside of doors, and use runners and rugs in areas that get a lot of use, such as mudrooms, hallways, and kitchens.
5. Not Sealing Your Stone Regularly
For many stones, sealing is part of a recommended general maintenance plan. While it is possible for homeowners to seal their own stone, experts agree that a professional will deliver the best results.
“I tell customers to expect to see me once every three to five years,” says Lesnar. “Sometimes if it’s a high profile area with a lot of windows, you’ll want to call me every year.”
If you do seal your stone yourself, make sure you use a solvent-based impregnating sealer, says Laviolette. “It’s preventative maintenance, but it’s not a be-all, end-all cure,” he says. “It’s like applying stain and water repellant to your carpet; it can help prevent your stone from etching but you still need to perform regular cleaning.”
With proper care and maintenance, natural stone surfaces will stay beautiful for years to come. Every stone is unique—and for many homeowners, little imperfections and etches in the stone’s surface become part of the stone’s story. Learn more about choosing natural stone surfaces here and here.