Granite and quartz are beautiful and durable materials that have become a popular choice for countertops, flooring, and other surfaces in homes and commercial spaces. It is important to thoroughly clean and maintain granite to ensure it retains its beauty and longevity. In this blog post, we will explore the science behind cleaning granite and provide some tips on how to properly care for this natural stone.
The Science of Granite
Granite is a type of igneous rock that is formed from the slow cooling of magma beneath the Earth’s surface. It is composed of quartz, feldspar, and mica, and can vary in color and texture depending on the specific minerals present in the rock. Granite is exceptionally durable and resistant to scratches, heat, and stains, making it an ideal material for use in kitchens and other high-traffic areas.
However, granite is also porous, which means that it can absorb liquids and stains if not properly sealed and maintained. When liquids such as water or oils come into contact with granite, they can seep into the pores of the stone and cause discoloration or staining. This is why it is essential to clean up spills as soon as possible and avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials on granite surfaces. Granite is nature’s filtration system for underground water supply.
The Science of Quartz
Quartz starts out as an extremely hard mineral called the same. It is clear in color and mined from several worldwide deposits where it is then crushed and put into a mold, much like a giant cookie sheet, or slab. It is mixed with pigments for color and pattern, then polymers are added to hold it all together when baked. This process is important since the polymers render the countertop ‘non-absorbent’, facilitating easier sanitization than granite, all else equal.
Cleaning Granite & Quartz
To thoroughly clean granite, it is important to use a pH-neutral cleaner designed for use on natural stone. pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a substance, and cleaners that are too acidic or too alkaline can damage the surface of granite, or at a minimum, prematurely strip your counter of the sealers designed to protect it in the first place.
When choosing a cleaner for granite, look for products that have a pH between 7 and 10.5, which is the ideal range for cleaning natural stone, yet has mild alkalinity to help dissolve oils and greases. Avoid using vinegar, lemon juice, or other acidic cleaners, as these can etch the surface of granite over time and do nothing for emulsifying and removing oils. If you are not familiar with the differences between marble and granite, certainly avoid even a mild acid as the reaction with carbonates in marble will etch the finish. For those that may be wondering, acid etching is a mechanism that some use to create a honed finish from polish in marble by solubilizing a micro top layer of stone.
Quartz is less subject to mild acids, but more subject to degradation due to highly alkaline cleaning products. As previously stated, the alkalinity helps solubilize fats/oils/greases…. but quartz contains polymers which are a large molecule hydrocarbon chain derived from oil.
To clean granite & quartz, start by wiping down the surface with a soft cloth or sponge that has been dampened with warm water. This will remove any loose dirt or debris from the surface of the stone. Next, apply a small amount of pH-neutral cleaner to the surface and use a clean cloth or sponge to gently scrub the surface. Rinse the surface thoroughly with warm water and dry it with a soft towel to prevent water spots or streaks.
For tough grime, glue, whatever…. You can use a razor blade to scrape the counters. Maintained at an angle when scraping, you will not damage granite or quartz. Pretend you are removing paint from the glass on your windows. Be overly cautious on marble. For difficult staining, use a granite-specific cleaner that contains a mild abrasive. These cleaners can help to remove tough stains and grime without damaging the surface of the stone. (I use Soft Scrub), however, it is important to follow the instructions on the cleaner carefully and avoid using too much pressure or scrubbing too vigorously. Avoid Magic Erasers, as the opportunity to do irreparable damage may occur.
In addition to regular cleaning, it is important to properly maintain granite to ensure its longevity and beauty. This includes:
- Sealing: Granite should be sealed every 1-3 years to prevent staining and etching. Sealing helps to fill in the pores of the stone and creates a barrier against liquids and stains.
- Avoiding heat: Granite is heat-resistant, but it can still be damaged by extreme heat or sudden temperature changes. The damage occurs from ‘thermal shock.’ Avoid placing hot pots or pans directly on granite surfaces and use trivets or hot pads to protect the stone. Temperatures over 315 degrees on quartz cause yellow discoloration and/or deformation of the surface that is permanent.
- Using cutting boards: Granite is scratch-resistant, but it can still be scratched by sharp objects. Use cutting boards to protect the surface of granite from scratches and dings. It also makes your knives last longer between sharpening.
- Using maintenance polishers: Both surfaces are enhanced when using silicon-based cleaning products that enhance the shine, smooth feel, and just happen to add to the water-repellant nature of stone sealers. See your professional for these low-cost maintenance products…ours is called “Da Good Stuff”
In conclusion, cleaning and maintaining granite requires a delicate balance of science and care. By using pH-neutral cleaners, avoiding harsh chemicals, and properly maintaining the surface of the stone, you can ensure that your granite surfaces remain beautiful and durable for years to come.