Staining Tests On Granite & Marble

You are busy preparing a meal for a dinner party you are hosting. Plates and prep materials are everywhere, food, spices, olive oil, salad fixings, you name it, it’s on your counter. You have just enough time to get everything on the table and put the dirty prep dishes in the sink or dishwasher before your guests arrive. Just as you sit down to enjoy the meal you’ve prepared and your company, you realize that you didn’t have a chance to do a thorough wipe down of your countertop. The last thing you want to worry about during your dinner party is if your countertop is going to have a stain from anything you’ve spilled during your prep.

We all want to be able to live in our homes, enjoy friends and family, cook meals and enjoy them in community. We want to be able to enjoy that dinner party and clean up the kitchen after the guests have gone home and we’ve enjoyed a nice evening. We don’t want a kitchen or a countertop that doesn’t fit into our lifestyle, we want it to be functional and look nice. We want our children to be able to fix themselves a snack without panicking if they are going to leave spots and stains on the countertops.

So how do you select a material that fits your design style and your lifestyle?

In this article, we will explore the durability of countertop stone as it relates specifically to food stains. We will focus primarily on granite, with one marble surface included in our experiment for comparison.

As a general rule, as long as you clean up after your meals and food prep you will not have an issue with staining. This holds true of most granite and quartz countertop materials, as they are both stain resistant surfaces.

Marble can be a different story, and we will explore that in our experiment.

The Experiment

In our experiment, we selected 3 granite surfaces Absolute Black, Colonial White, and New Venetian Gold. We included one marble surface in our experiment, White Carrara Marble. All of the samples were sealed with a 15 year commercial grade sealer. During our experiment, we applied olive oil to our samples of granite and marble and let it sit for 10 minutes, 2 hours, and 24 hours. After the allotted time, we used just soap and water to clean the surface. We snapped photos before, during, and after each time slot in our experiment, and we will review the findings below.

The Results

New Venetian Gold Granite

First, we will explore New Venetian Gold Granite. This stone, although light in color, has a strong pattern which can help to mask the appearance of a stain. There is no visible stain as the olive is removed after 10 minutes. After 2 hours, there is still no sign of a stain. At the 24 hour mark, you may see a slight discoloration, but it is disguised with the high pattern of the granite.

New Venetian Gold Granite Stain Test

Colonial White Granite

Second, we will explore Colonial White Granite. Stones that are lighter in color do tend to show stains more quickly, as we can see in the pictures here. After 10 minutes, the oil was able to be wiped up without leaving a stain. After 2 hours though, you can see a stain where the olive oil was. The stain is even more pronounced and larger in size after 24 hours.

Colonial White Granite Stain Test

Absolute Black Granite

Next, we will explore Absolute Black Granite. This stone is dark in color and the stone is not very porous. As you can see in the photos, the oil that sat on the absolute granite for 10 minutes was wiped up without leaving behind a stain. After 2 hours, the stone still looks good. At the 24 hour mark, this can be described more as a discoloration or “masking” appearance on the granite.

Absolute Black Granite Stain Test

White Carrara Marble

Lastly, we did include White Carrara Marble in our experiment. By nature, marble is a more porous stone than granite, and we witnessed that in our experiment as well. Even after 10 minutes, we can see the residual stain from the olive oil. The stain gets more pronounced as time goes on, increasing in size and darkening in color. Due to the oils and acidity in the olive oil, the marble is actually etched, meaning the sheen from the marble is pulled out of the stone. This can be restored by your marble contractor.

White Carrara Marble Stain Test

The Findings

What should I use for everyday cleaning of my granite?

Rather than purchasing the expensive granite cleaner or polish, you can use everyday household items to clean your stone on a routine basis. The best thing to clean with is clean water on a sponge, or windex with a paper towel.

If I do have a stain, can it be removed?

Yes, in many cases you are able to pull out a stain with a poultice solution. A poultice is a combination of ingredients, custom prepared for each staining situation. At Great Lakes Granite and Marble, we will prepare the correct poultice for the individual stain that is being addressed.

For more information on how this works, review this informative video.

What types of foods, liquids, or materials are most likely to stain your counter?

The number one enemy of natural stone are oil based products, oils of all kinds, fats, and butter. The second highest offender would be moisture migration, meaning anytime you have moisture on the surface for any length of time, you run the risk of the moisture seeping into the stone. Higher acidity liquids such as coffee, tea, soda, citrus juice, wine, some salad dressings can affect marble. The acid actually reacts with calcium carbonate in the marble, causing an etching in the stone. This would require bringing in a professional to remove the stain and restore the polish on the marble. Again, this is an issue that is specific to marble. We would compare marble to selecting a fine wood top for a coffee table, dining table or piece of fine furniture. It looks beautiful, but will require care and upkeep to maintain it’s pristine look.

In some occasions, with select lighter granite, quartz, and marble you can even see water stains, which are more like shadows that will dry out in a few hours. The stone isn’t necessarily stained by the water, the water was just absorbed into the stone and it needs to “dry out”.

Will sealing my stone totally protect it from stone?

Natural stone sealer was introduced in the market in 1995. Prior to it’s introduction, natural stone was still mostly impervious to staining. Sealer has actually made granite slightly more resistant to staining, for example from 95% to 97%. In our experiment, the samples were sealed with a 15 year commercial grade sealer.

How often should I seal my stone?

The two primary degradants to stone are UV rays and freeze/thaw cycling. Since granite and quartz used in an interior application are not subjected to these two issues, sealer really only needs to be applied to a granite countertop once every 10-15 years. The active ingredient in sealer that makes the granite resistant to staining is a molecule smaller and finer than the carrying agent. Since the molecule of the sealing agent is so small, if you apply sealer with an absorbent cloth such as cotton or a sponge, all of the sealing agent will be absorbed into the cloth or sponge. Therefore, sealer should be applied directly onto the surface with just a rubber glove. After the recommended time, the countertop should be wiped with a clean, dry rag.

Making the right choice for your project

In conclusion, as predicted, depending on the type and color of the stone, some show stains sooner than others. If you are routinely wiping your countertops down with a household cleaner such as soap and water or even Windex after use, you should not encounter an issue with staining. Understanding your intended use of the space is key to selecting the right material for your project. Our project managers at Great Lakes Granite and Marble can help guide you through the selection process to choose the right material and color for you. If you have a busy kitchen with kids, a love to cook and prep food, you may lean toward a higher pattern or darker color for your granite. If you are looking for high design in your powder room or butler area that is low traffic, you may opt for a lighter stone or even marble.

Again, understanding your lifestyle and how you will use your space is key in determining the right surface and the right color for your project.