While easy is fine for less visible or less frequently used spots in your home, your countertops are neither of these things. You see and touch them every time you prepare a meal or even pour a cup of coffee, and when they look good, you feel good about your home.
But, isn’t a countertop just a countertop? How complicated can it be? Not all countertops are created equal. Some require protective sealants, while others are developed in laboratories to be easy to clean.
In this guide, we will explain in detail to clean kitchen countertops of various kinds. You will learn how to use store-bought cleaners and how to make your own so that you have options that suit your lifestyle.
Cleaning Different Countertop Materials
Not all countertops are created equal, so you will want to choose the cleaning product and method that reacts best with the type that you have. A homeowner or renter who wants to clean granite countertops, for example, will not use the same techniques as will someone who has stainless steel or glass.
In the following paragraphs, you will find instructions on cleaning these types of counters as well as those made of concrete, Corian, laminate, quartz, tile, travertine, and wood. We will also explain how to seal countertops of different kinds so that you can protect them against future stains. Let’s explore each one in detail.
Many kitchen countertops come from naturally porous materials. These become easily stained and dirty, and so they require plenty of attention as well as a protective sealant. Choose a penetrating sealer that is food-safe as well as resistant to heat and scratches. Application of the sealant will depend on the brand and type you choose, so follow all instructions carefully.
The sealant you buy will include specific instructions. For now, take a look at this introductory video.
Remember, though, that sealing does not replace cleaning. Read on to find out how to care for your porous countertops on a daily basis.
Concrete and Granite
Even when sealed, concrete and granite countertops react best to pH-neutral and non-abrasive cleansing products. Warm soapy water is fine, as it is for granite countertops. Dip a cloth into a solution and wipe it across the counter, then rinse. For stains:
- Create a paste of water and bake soda
- Dilute bleach, ammonia, or hydrogen peroxide and mix it with the baking soda solution
- Dip a soft brush in the resultant paste and scrub the stain.
- Repeat as necessary.
Like concrete and granite, marble requires particularly attentive care. Here are some strategies for success.
- Begin by sealing with a marble-specific sealant.
- Wipe regularly with a soft damp cloth. Microfiber is particularly useful.
- Always wipe your marble countertops dry. Air drying creates water spots.
- Deep clean with a pH-neutral dish liquid in warm water. Be sure to rinse and dry thoroughly.
- Immediately blot away any spilled orange juice, wine, and other acidic beverages.
- Call a professional with marble experience for any set-in stains.
Travertine is a compacted limestone known for its textured look. It is porous by nature and thus requires sealing to avoid absorption of dirt and stains. Check the manufacturer’s guides for the type and brand that will work best with the travertine that you have. Even sealed, however, travertine requires careful cleaning.
- Dry wipe the counter to remove everyday dirt.
- Wash with a cleanser that is pH neutral, mildly abrasive, and soap-free. Mild dishwashing liquid or stone soap is ideal.
- Avoid all acidic and chemical cleaners.
- Mix the cleanser with warm water and apply with a cloth. Wipe from one side to the other consistently.
- Change the water regularly and rinse thoroughly to finish.
- Use coasters and cutting boards when preparing food.
Like stone, wood is prone to soaking up dirt and stains. Use an oil coating to provide protection, avoid drying out, and add a shine.
- Using a cloth, wipe the countertop down with mineral oil.
- Let the oil to seep into the wood.
- Wipe off any excess oil, which can otherwise create a stickiness that attracts dirt.
Even with a wood coating, you will need to wash your wood countertop regularly.
- For everyday wipe-downs, use mild dish liquid and water. Dry with a soft cloth.
- Blot away any fresh stains.
- Sprinkle any light stains with salt. Slice a lemon and rub it with the salt. If necessary, let it stand overnight and then rinse with water to remove remaining stain.
- For dark stains, soak a cotton swab in 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution and blot.
- If the stain is severe or stubborn, sand and refinish the wood.
Other countertops are either naturally smooth or developed in a laboratory to resist staining. These do not require staining but should still receive daily attention to keep them looking their best.
Homeowners often choose glass countertops in their kitchen because they are exceptionally easy to clean.
Simply spray glass or kitchen cleaner onto a sponge or soft cloth. Do not spray the cleaner onto the surface or use an abrasive scrubbing tool. If any stuck-on dirt remains, mix dishwashing detergent and hot water and scrub with the same soft tool.
Laminate countertops respond best to non-abrasive cleansers and tools. Simply soak a rag or sponge in warm, soapy water and rinse. Use a toothbrush on any seams or edging that need a scrub.
If the laminate becomes greasy, a vinegar and water solution should remove the buildup. Stains respond best if you mix a baking soda paste and spread it on the stain, then wipe it off and rinse.
- Wipe crumbs and other dry spills with a microfiber rag.
- To wash, dampen a soft cloth with a solution of mild dishwashing detergent and water. Rinse with water and dry with a towel.
- Remove smudges using a cleaning product developed specifically for stainless steel.
- Stain-resistant and nonporous, quartz is also easy to clean. Follow these basic guidelines.
- If possible, wipe up liquid spills before they dry.
- Clean new messes by wiping with a soft cloth and a drop of mild dishwashing detergent.
- For dried spills or stains, scrub with a non-abrasive sponge and surface cleaner. If a sponge is safe for a non-stick pan, it is safe for a quartz countertop.
- Use a putty knife to remove hardened dried messes.
- Routinely deep clean by spraying non-abrasive surface cleaner on the countertop. Let it rest there for 10 minutes, then wipe it off with a non-abrasive sponge.
Combination and Laboratory Materials
Ceramic tiles themselves are stain-resistant and relatively easy to clean. The trick is to avoid the buildup that soap can create on these surfaces. Commercial tile cleaners tend to be safe, or you can make your own using the following recipe.
- One cup baking soda
- Half a cup liquid dish soap
- Half a cup water
- Two to 3 tablespoons of white vinegar
A daily wipe-down with such a cleanser should help you to keep your tiles clean. The grout between them, however, can be more difficult. They stain easily, so here are some tips to help you when that happens.
- Spray the stained area with a mild bleach solution or commercial grout cleaner. If the stain is deeply set in, let the sprayed cleaner stand for 10 minutes.
- Use a small brush, such as a toothbrush, to scrub away the stains. Avoid scrubbing at the ceramic tiles.
- Let it air dry.
- Apply a special grout sealant to avoid future stains.
Corian is a laboratory-made material with a solid surface and a smooth finish. It can be challenging to clean because any water buildup can lead to a blotchy appearance.
- Wipe any spills right away and clean regularly.
- To clean, dip a sponge or soft cloth in warm soapy water, then wring it out before wiping down the counter. You may also choose an ammonia-based or Corian-specific cleanser.
- If you have been cooking with raw meat, disinfect by wiping the counter with a diluted solution of five tablespoons of bleach per water gallon.
If blotchiness does occur:
- Dampen a cloth and add a bit of gentle commercial scrubber.
- Rub the blotch in a circular clockwise motion, then repeat in a counterclockwise direction.
- Rinse and dry thoroughly.
- If the counter is still blotchy, repeat this process with more manual pressure.
If you prefer not to use store-bought cleaners, either for economic or environmental reasons, you can make your own from natural ingredients. Here is how.
- Fill a 16-ounce glass spray bottle with a cup of distilled white vinegar and a cup of water.
- Drop three drops of tea tree oil and 3 drops of grapefruit essential oil.
- Shake the bottle well to distribute the ingredients.
- Spray onto the surface that you wish to clean, then wipe thoroughly.
One caveat: Before using this natural cleaner, be sure that your countertop type will not react to its ingredients!
Working With, Not Against, Your Countertops
By matching your cleaning technique to the material of your countertop, you can keep it looking fresh and new for a longer time. Referring back to each of these mini-guides can serve as a resource, whether you have your current countertop for the long haul or gain a new one of a different type.
We hope that you found these instructions clear, actionable, and helpful. Did you find what you needed here? Do you have a friend or family member who needs similar help caring for their countertops? If so, please share this article on social media and help to spread the word about proper kitchen care.
If you would like to know more about cleaning different countertop types, here are a few resources:
For more information about specific building materials, consult the following links: