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Granite Care Pro Professional care tips for your stone countertops

Granite Stain Removal

By Scott Watkins

How to remove stains from granite countertops

If your granite countertops weren’t properly sealed, you risk the chance of a stain in your granite.


Granite stains can have several different sources such as food, chemicals, oil, ink, water marks, rust.


If you unfortunately discover you have a stain in your stone countertops, don’t fret.


You have proven methods of removing stains from granite and other natural stones, many times with great results.



Here’s a granite stain removal guide with proven directions to restore your granite countertops to their original beauty. Included are instructions for stain removal from granite, marble, limestone, and other natural stones.


To prevent stains in the first place, you should follow some simple granite care directions.  Here’s how to clean and care for granite countertops.


If you get a stain, here's what you should do . . .  


Spills on granite and other natural stones


If you spill a staining substance on your countertops, blot immediately with a paper towel. Do not wipe the area, as this will only spread the spill.


Clean the area with mild soap and water, rinsing several times.  Then dry with a soft cloth and repeat if needed.


If you do get a stain, follow this guide.




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OIL STAIN (cooking oil, grease, cosmetics, milk)

An oil-based stain will darken your stone counter and usually needs to be chemically dissolved.


Clean gently with a soft, liquid cleanser with bleach OR household detergent OR ammonia OR acetone OR mineral spirits. (DO NOT MIX THESE AGENTS! Combining ammonia and bleach, for example, creates a lethal gas!)


I’ve had much success cleaning oil stains using Dawn brand dishwashing soap, washing and drying the area repeatedly.


Straight acetone has also removed most oil stains.  Acetone may require multiple cleanings depending on how deep the oil has penetrated.  Wear gloves and keep in mind that the acetone evaporates rapidly.



ORGANIC STAIN (leaves, fruit, coffee, food, paper, urine, tobacco)

Organic sources can cause a pinkish-brown stain that can actually disappear after you remove the source.


Clean stains with hair-bleaching strength hydrogen peroxide (12%) and a few drops of ammonia.



METAL STAIN (rust, copper, bronze)

Rust or iron stains are orange to brown in color and typically are in the shape of the stain-causing object.  Bronze and copper stains may look green or brown.  Metal stains require a poultice for removal.  See How to use a poultice for stain removal below.



BIOLOGICAL STAIN (mildew, algae, moss, mildew, fungi)

Clean with diluted ammonia OR bleach OR hydrogen peroxide. (1/2 cup cleaning agent in a gallon of water) DO NOT MIX BLEACH AND AMMONIA WHICH PRODUCES A TOXIC AND LETHAL GAS!



INK STAIN (pen, ink, Sharpie)

On light colored stones such as Madura Gold or Giallo, clean with bleach OR hydrogen peroxide.  Do not use bleach or hydrogen peroxide on darker stones for fear of bleaching out color.  On darker stones, try a solvent like lacquer thinner or acetone.



PAINT (paint)

Typically, latex or acrylic paints won’t cause a stain. Oil based paints, caulk, putty, preservative oils, and sealants may cause oil stains.


You can remove small paint stains with lacquer thinner or scrape off with a razor knife. A heavy paint spill will require commercial paint stripper.  These strippers may contain lye or caustic soda and can “etch” your stone surface.


Follow the manufacturer’s directions and be sure to flush the cleaned area thoroughly with water.  Wear rubber gloves and eye protection!  Make sure the area is well ventilated too.



WATER STAINS

Removing water stains on granite is actually removing the agent that is causing an artificial stain to appear.


Often water stains are rings appearing “in the granite sealer” (especially on black granite).  Remove the stain by removing the sealer with denatured alcohol.  Simply spray it on and rub in circles with a clean cloth, changing the area of the cloth you are using frequently.


Repeat this several times but do it quickly, as the alcohol evaporates fast.



NICKS & SCRATCHES

Surface scratches can be buffed with dry 0000 steel wool. It really depends on the hardness of the stone for steel wool to have any effect.  See Granite Repair for deeper scratches or chips.


Clean the area with mild soap and water, rinsing several times.  Then dry with a soft cloth and repeat if needed.



How to use a poultice for stain removal


Some stains require are so strong or “set in” that they require removal using a poultice. A poultice consists of a cleaning agent combined with a stain absorbing agent.  The two recommended agents are mixed to form a paste.  The paste is applied to the granite stain and allowed to dry for 24 – 48 hours.



Absorbing agents to use with a poultice


Poultice materials can be either diatomaceous earth, kaolin, talc, white molding plaster or powdered chalk. 16 oz. of prepared poultice material should cover about 1 square foot of area.  You can also try using gauze pads, white paper towels or white cotton balls.



Poultice combinations by stain type


OIL BASED STAINS


Use a poultice made with baking soda and water OR one of the absorbing agents and mineral spirits.


ORGANIC STAINS


Use a poultice made with one of the absorbing agents and 12% hydrogen peroxide OR replace the hydrogen peroxide with acetone.


IRON STAINS

Use a poultice made with diatomaceous earth and a commercially available rust remover.  Rust stains are probably the most difficult stains to remove.


COPPER STAINS


Use a poultice made with one of the absorbing agents and ammonia.


BIOLOGICAL STAINS


Use a poultice made with an absorbing agent and dilute ammonia OR bleach OR hydrogen peroxide. DO NOT MIX BLEACH AND AMMONIA! THIS COMBINATION PRODUCES A TOXIC AND LETHAL GAS!


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Apply the Poultice



To prepare the poultice, mix the cleaning agent with a powdered absorbing agent to form a thick paste the consistency of peanut butter. If using paper, soak it in the liquid cleaning agent and let drain. Wet the stained area with distilled water.


Apply the poultice to the stained area about ½ inch thick, extending the poultice material beyond the stained area by approximately one inch. Use a putty knife or wood shim to spread the poultice evenly. Cover the poultice with plastic and tape the edges to seal it. Leave the poultice covered for roughly 24 hours.


After about 24 hours, remove the plastic and allow the poultice to dry for another 24 hours.  During drying, the stain is drawn out of the stone and into the poultice material.


Lift the poultice from the stain using a wood or plastic scraper if necessary.  Rinse the area with distilled water and buff dry with a soft cloth.  Repeat the poultice application if the stain is not removed.  I have seen some really tough stains take up to 5 applications of a poultice.



Restore Granite Shine


Though not a granite stain, soap film can build up on granite counters leaving granite tops and edges dull and unclean.  If you have cleaned your granite tops with dish soap repeatedly, you probably have a soap film build up.  Good news is, you can restore the shine on granite countertops with MB-3 Soap Film Remover.  Simply dilute some MB-3 with water and wash away soap film.  This will return the shine to your granite tops.