How to Remove Stains from Granite

Granite is a naturally-formed stone, so it has pores and can therefore absorb moisture. One problem that presents, if the granite hasn’t been treated properly with a sealant, is that your countertop is susceptible to staining. One question many of our customers have asked us before purchasing a countertop is, “Does granite stain?”

Our answer is always: “Possibly yes, depending on your sealant.”

So in this article we’ll go over this subject in more detail. We’ll discuss why and how granite stains, how you can remove these stains, what products stain the worst, and how you can prevent stains by using sealants

How does granite stain?

As we mentioned in the introduction, granite has pores in it. The stone is formed when magma from a volcano cools rapidly – this can happen either if it passes by an underground air pocket, or after it’s ejected from a volcano as lava. Because the magma cooled quickly, the air bubbles in it don’t have time to get out as the liquid didn’t sit out there for a while. Interestingly, granite and pumice are both formed in a similar way! Because of these air bubbles, pumice can float and your granite countertop, unfortunately, can absorb liquids.

Now, as you go about your daily activities in the kitchen you’re likely to make spills and such – it just happens. The liquid then seeps into these tiny pores and collects in them, causing staining. While water and other colorless liquids can evaporate quickly and thus not leave a stain (even on an unsealed slab), liquids such as oil and wine are rich and colorful, and they do leave behind a stain. Oil, additionally, does not evaporate.

How to remove hard water stains from granite

Water stains are unavoidable on kitchen countertops. Even if they’re sealed, unless you’re diligent on prevention (which, let’s admit, isn’t realistic) water will flow, dry, and leave behind a crusty stain. It happens everywhere all the time. Luckily, a water stain on your granite countertop can be removed fairly easily.

For light staining and spots, just use some warm water and a discarded toothbrush dipped in detergent. Scrub gently with circular motions, and the surface will be good as new! For older stains that have had time to grow, scrape off the crust as best as you can (mind you don’t crack the stone!), and then you can either use a specially designed granite cleaner, or make a paste of baking soda and water. Brush on, let it sit for a couple minutes, and then wipe off. Repeat a couple times over a couple days, and wash thoroughly every time after wiping off.

Once you’re done cleaning the stone surface, it’s time to clean the faucet itself. Vinegar is my go-to product since it’s natural and cheap, but make sure you don’t get any of it on granite or it’ll damage the surface almost immediately. Use a mister to spray vinegar on the faucet (with tissue around the bottom to absorb any excess), and after it’s had some time to soak, gently rub the faucet. Repeat a couple times and you should end up with a shiny faucet!

Bonus tip: If you have water stains on your bathroom sink (which is usually porcelain), douse it generously with vinegar. It’ll all wipe off after a couple minutes.

How to remove oil stains from granite

While olive oil is delicious in a salad, handling its stains is a nightmare. The liquid stains quickly, darkly, and takes a while to clean. However, if the stain isn’t too bad or old, you can usually get it cleaned up yourself. Here’s how:

First, try the obvious. Give the surface a thorough wipe, and clean the stain with your regular cleaner. If the stain isn’t bad and the cleaner’s designed especially for granite, it might very well get it out. However, since you’re here reading this, that probably didn’t work. You can try three things now:

  1. Sprinkle some baking soda directly on the stains. Let it sit for a while so it can absorb the oil from the counter. After roughly half an hour, moisten a rag and use it to wipe the baking soda off. This works for light stains, but if yours needs some extra care jump to the next step.
  2. Mix baking soda and water in a 50-50 ratio, and make a paste. Now apply this paste to the surface, pressing it down to make sure it’s in contact with the stone and has no air bubbles. Cover this paste with a plastic wrap on top, and use it to apply some more gentle pressure. Let it sit overnight till it’s perfectly dry. Now, use a scraper to scrape the dried paste off, and wipe the surface clean with a damp cloth. How’s it looking?
  3. If the second step didn’t work either, give this a try – but be warned, you’ll have to reseal the surface after this. In step 3, instead of a paste of baking soda and water, make a paste of baking soda and acetone. Apply on areas that are still stained. This time, don’t rub the paste into the stone, or apply a plastic wrap. Just let the paste sit on the surface till it dries, and then scrape it off and give the counter a good rinse.

The worst offenders

Now, let’s quickly go through some substances that are especially likely to damage your countertop – either by staining it, or worse.

You’ll find some articles that advise cleaning your countertop with ammonia. While it may or may not be effective at removing a granite countertop stain, it will certainly damage your countertop. Ammonia is way too harsh for the naturally-occurring stone, and repeated use will make your countertop age awfully, and damage its appearance.

Acid damages granite almost immediately. So don’t use vinegar, lemon juice, or personal care products such as perfumes and soaps that are acidic near the countertop. While vinegar is excellent for cleaning, remember never to use it on granite or it’ll start to look awful. You might want to get a special granite cleaner, or a non-acidic, gentle detergent for scrubbing the counter.

Certain cleaning products may be unsuitable for granite, in which case they’ll give the surface a filmy, whitened look. While acid damage dulls the surface and looks like a stain, damage from a cleaner will affect a larger area and look milky. It may also wipe off with a damp cloth.

How to prevent stains from occurring

So you’ve finally got that pesky stain out. Whew! Now you need to make sure you don’t get any more stains in the future, or you’ll have to go through the same process again. If you use abrasive cleaning materials, you may damage the stone over time.

So once you’ve identified the main problem substances, take precautions while using them in the kitchen. We usually don’t recommend using your countertop for actually preparing food (it is, after all, stone – not to mention that insects probably crawl all over it). So always use a plate, pan or a chopping board for actually preparing food – whether it’s chopping, stirring, mixing, peeling, whatever.

If you need a larger surface area, lay down a plastic sheet or some tinfoil. This’ll serve both purposes – hygiene, and preventing stains.

If you make a spill, especially if it’s a material that stains quickly, make sure you mop it up immediately and wipe the area with a moist rag a couple times. Find out if any items you regularly use can harm your countertop.

And, of course, seal your countertop! With eco-friendly, allergen-free sealants being available on the market, there’s no longer any reason why you wouldn’t get granite sealed.

How often to seal granite?

Sealants are a necessity when using granite. Not only do they prevent staining, but they also increase its longevity, and make your countertop more hygienic and easier to clean. However, with websites advising applying sealant as often as every year, you may be confused.

How often you need to reseal depends on which sealant you use. Some, for example, are mild and need to be reapplied oftener, while some others are stronger and provide a lifetime warranty. We use a range of sealants depending on our customers’ needs, and would be happy to help you find the right product.

If you’re wondering whether your countertop needs re-sealing, here’s a quick test:

Dry your countertop, and then place a drop of water (from a dropper) onto the surface. Watch it for a couple minutes. If the water stays in a semi-circular shape, your countertop’s good for another couple years. If, on the other hand, the drop seems to spread out and ‘flatten’, that means your countertop needs resealing. This is because a sealed countertop won’t absorb any moisture, so in the former case the water drop will stay in the exact shape it was when it touched the surface.

So this was a quick guide on removing a stain from your countertop (including how to remove water stains from granite), so your gorgeous new countertop can stay looking beautiful for decades to come. Always try to prevent stains from occurring, but if you have one and can’t seem to get rid of it, you can of course enlist our help for its removal.

For a granite countertop that’ll look beautiful and last for decades, contact Dulles Granite.