Protecting and Caring for Natural Stone Tiles and Countertops
The first thing that we need to understand is that all stone materials are porous. They need to be sealed and maintained properly in order for the beauty to last. Contrary to popular belief; even Granite is porous and will stain.
The splendor of Natural Stones is brought out by polishing the surface. The more polish and shine to the surface, the more resilient the finish. The duller the surface, the more porous it will be. Whether you are installing new or have simply acquired the finished product, understanding the characteristic and limitation of the product is imperative.
How do you know if your counter or tile has already been sealed?
Place a few drops of water onto the surface and leave it there for a few minutes. If it leaves a dark spot after wiping it, the moisture is perpetrating the surface and you need to seal and protect it.
Some installers prefer to seal delicate tiles before they are installed and after they are grouted. Sealing tiles before they are grouted prevents staining of the tile during installation and grouting and allows for easy cleanup after. There are two typical types of products you can use to seal the surface: an Impregnator Sealer or a Sealer/Enhancer. Both of these products will protect the surface of the stone in the same manner. They penetrate below the surface and provide an invisible coat of armor. The Impregnator leaves the stone looking the same after it is sealed as it did before. The Sealer/Enhancer amplifies the natural colours and beauty of the stone.
How do you apply the sealer and how many times?
The best method for applying sealer to tile surfaces and counters is using a soft rag. For larger surfaces, a sponge roller is ideal. Sealers must be layered on; for this reason, try to avoid applying an excessive amount each time. When sealing a very dense stone, one coat is usually sufficient. Most stones and grout will require two coats. A few of the more absorbent stones may need additional coats in order to be properly sealed. The wait time during applications will vary depending on the product; anywhere from ½ hour to 1 hour. Always follow the instructions on the label and be patient. A little extra time will produce excellent results on any project.
Sealing a tile floor after grouting will give that final level of protection for the tile as well as the grout. Before applying sealer or enhancer to a tiled and grouted surface, ensure all grout residue has been removed and cleaned from the surface. Use a grout residue remover and wash the entire surface. Once dry, wipe the entire surface with a dry rag or towel and vacuum the remaining debris. Now you can apply the sealer to the finished surface.
What’s the best way to clean a stone countertop?
Natural stone surfaces, including countertops, require specially formulated products. Popular household cleaning supplies contain acids and alkalines that will damage and etch the surface of the stone. Powder cleaners and scouring pads will leave fine scratches. Even disinfecting wipes that are not formulated for stone will damage the surface. The best way to regularly clean a stone surface is with neutral, pH-balanced cleaners available at your stone retailer. These cleaners will remove the dirt, grime and mold without harming the protective performance of the sealer.
A sealed stone surface will hold up quite well under normal use. Always make sure you clean spills right away. You may however find that some products may still leave a stain or a mark on the surface. Organic and oily stains can be removed using a Poultice powder. Mix the powder with distilled water and create a thick paste. Apply the paste to the stain and overlap at least ¼” past the stain area. Leave this mixture to dry and then remove and clean it from the surface. This usually does the job. Stubborn stains will require two or more applications. You will find that liquid poultice is ideal for general cleaning of stone surfaces indoors and out. Use spray cleaners and disinfecting wipes that have been formulated for natural stone surfaces.
How often do I have to seal my tiles or counters?
Most surfaces require re-application of sealer every two to three years. Use and maintenance greatly affect this interval. If the surface is exposed to excessive wear or if the integrity of the sealer has been compromised by exposure to chemicals, the sealer will have to be re-applied more often. Make sure that you clean the surface adequately using the appropriate cleaner prior to re-applying sealer. Always follow the directions of the care system you are using.
Stone is a beautiful surface with eternally unique characteristics. Some stones are more impenetrable and harder than others and some are very delicate. Select the stone for your application very carefully; understanding the strengths and weaknesses that it may have. Recognize these characteristics and care for it with the appropriate products and its magnificence will be long lasting.