Those of us who love watching home renovation shows often fantasize about the dream kitchen. The giant, cutting-edge fridge. The sleek Viking oven. The kitchen island -- and above it, copper pots and pans hung from the ceiling like a culinary chandelier. The oversized sink with stylish faucet. And miles and miles of countertops. If you do any cooking or entertaining, you know that you can't have enough countertop space.
But what sort of countertop should you have installed? Countertop material comes down to about six different types. Here's a brief description of each:
- Solid surfaces are made of acrylic, polyester or a combination of both. They're resistant to stains and scratches and easy to repair.
- Plastic laminate might be more familiar to you by the name Formica. It's a durable material available in many colors, textures and patterns.
- Ceramic tile isn't used as often as it was in the past because most people prefer a seamless countertop.
- Wood has also fallen out of popularity, due to the mistaken perception that it harbors bacteria. These countertops also require a lot of maintenance.
- Concrete countertops resemble slabs of natural stone, and can be precast and cured at the manufacturer.
- Natural stone is currently the most popular trend among homeowners. It includes granite, soapstone and slate.
Once upon a time, granite was only found in very high-end kitchens. It's still not cheap, but not as expensive as it used to be, due to its popularity and availability. People love granite because no two pieces are alike. It comes in all different mottled colors, both bright and deep, with variegated streaks and stripes.
Are you thinking about having granite countertops installed in your kitchen? Or are you hesitant because you've heard granite countertops are high maintenance?
Well, they're not, really. Just follow these steps to keep your granite countertops clean, and you'll be admiring your investment for years to come.
What to Use to Care for Granite Countertops
Another reason people like granite countertops is that they're bacteria resistant (as long as you keep them clean). Before we get into how to care for your granite countertops, we need to stress one thing: Always test your cleaning product on an inconspicuous area first. Let it sit overnight to see whether a stain or discoloration develops.
Granite is a very hard, semi-porous stone. When used as a countertop, the granite needs to be properly sealed. An unsealed granite countertop may absorb water, grease or other liquids, leaving a permanent stain. A sealant will drastically slow down the rate at which your countertop absorbs a liquid.
So what do you use to seal your countertop? The company that installed your countertops probably already sealed them. But experts recommend you reseal the countertop every six months to a year. You can find granite sealer at any home improvement store -- just make sure you choose one that's water and oil resistant. Follow the directions on the product label. If you're wary of chemical sealants, you can also seal your countertop with an eco-friendly wax. Talk to your home improvement store to find out how to make your own and how to apply it.
Between sealings, you should also clean your granite countertop with care. Never use anything abrasive because it can leave scratches. And remember, those "magic sponges" do contain mild abrasives.
Day-to-day countertop cleaning is easily accomplished with a simple soft cloth or sponge and some gentle dish detergent and water. You really don't need anything unique, although you can certainly find specialty products designed specifically for granite countertops.
Keep reading to find out how to safely clean your granite countertops.
How to Safely Clean Granite Countertops
The secret to keeping your countertop clean is to blot up a spill before it becomes a stain. Of course, this may not be so simple if you have a chaotic family or are throwing a party. But wiping something up with simple soap and water is much easier than having to deal with a stain later.
Here are a few things that will hurt your granite countertops:
- Coffee or soda can dull the surface of the granite.
- Although granite can withstand the heat of a pot or other cookware, use a trivet or coaster to avoid sliding the pan, which can cause scratching.
- Don't use any vinegar, ammonia or citrus-based cleaners, because they're too acidic and can dull the surface.
- Don't sit or stand on your countertops. They're hard, but not flexible, and could crack if too much weight is applied in one spot.
Like we said before, daily maintenance of your granite countertops requires only a cloth and some warm water. Dry the counter thoroughly to avoid water stains. If something does spill, make sure you clean it up immediately. Blot and wipe -- the blotting helps the spill to stay in one place.
What if you miss a spill and it becomes a stain? Try this gentle baking soda solution. If your stain is water-based, add a little hydrogen peroxide to the baking soda. If your stain is oil-based, add water instead. Make your baking soda/liquid mixture into a paste. Spread it over the stain and let it sit overnight -- or even a day or two for stubborn stains. Then, rinse off and dry the counter. This homemade paste is called a poultice. You can buy it premade at any home improvement store.
For more on cleaning and other home-related stuff, check out the links on the next page.
- Bjerk, Laura. "How to Clean Granite." How to Clean Things. 2010. (Nov. 20, 2010) http://www.howtocleanthings.com/how-to-clean-granite.htm
- "Granite Counter Top Care: Do's & Don'ts." Countertop Specialty. 2010. (Nov. 20, 2010) http://www.countertopspecialty.com/granite-counter-top-care.html
- Nick, Jean. "The Nickel Pincher: Cleaning Countertops 101." Rodale. Sept. 29, 2010. (Nov. 20, 2010) http://www.rodale.com/cleaning-granite-countertops
- Truini, Joseph. "6 Great Countertops: How to Choose the Best Material." Popular Mechanics. Oct. 1, 2009. (Nov. 20, 2010) http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/4285796
- Winter, Richard. "How Granite Countertops Work." HowStuffWorks.com. Jan. 9, 2009. (Nov. 20, 2010) https://home.howstuffworks.com/home-improvement/construction/materials/granite-countertops3.htm