For the past several years, people have gone nuts over granite. Only a few years prior to the only places you would see granite were industrial and commercial locations. From time to time you might have seen it in a doctor’s office or a similar place.
Not anymore. Today, you might find granite nearly everywhere. Let”s face it. People have gone ga-ga over granite. You might find it as a countertop in the kitchen, like a bathroom vanity, as steps or railing on a stairwell, or as a fireplace or literally anywhere else. You can even find it as a wall covering. There are a lot of reasons for this. Granite is great for wherever it is exposed to heat.
Or it’s also great at resisting everyday scratches. But the most important factor is that it looks great. It looks and feels rich. After all, when you left the last house you were in that had granite countertops, did you say something about it to someone? Chances are good that you did.
Just as is the case with most products, granite also has its downsides. A good example of this is how granite can show wear and tear over time, especially after it has not been properly cared for. One of the biggest problems with granite that is old and has not been maintained is that it loses its seal, which can invite stains from liquids it absorbs.
These include, most notably, wine, water, and oil. Resealing a granite countertop can be done but it is very expensive to do, although doing it once a year can greatly extend the lifetime of your countertop.
Granite comes in a satisfyingly wide range of colors and patterns. Thanks to the development of technology, it’s also surprisingly easy to cut and form for, however, you want to use it.
What is Granite?
In order to really understand what you are dealing with when you buy, use, or clean granite, it’s a good idea to know something about it.
To get that understanding, you need to go back, way back, way, way, back. We’re talking about a time before the Flintstones, before dinosaurs, a time when practically the only thing going on was a bunch of volcanoes standing around blowing their stacks and spewing not only lots of noxious, poisonous gases–not too unlike your Uncle Fred–and lots of lava and magma, which are only the hot, semifluid material that flows from below or within the earth’s crust.
Obviously, after that lava and magma leaves the volcano and reaches the surface where it meets cooler air, the material cools and hardens. You could think of it as a cheese or chocolate fondue: as soon as the heat is removed or turned off, the material cools off and it hardens. This is precisely what happens when granite forms. Whenever you see granite, whether it be lying on the ground or in the form of a countertop, you are seeing the result of millions of years of geologic activity. That’s as they say, is where the problems start.
What’s in that Countertop?
Now that you have an overgeneralized idea of where your countertop came from, let’s take a closer look to see why you should care.
When you purchased your countertop you probably got a mini-lecture and lots of written materials about how to take care of them. There’s a good reason for this.
The truth is that what you see as a piece of solid rock actually isn’t. Granite is actually what you get when you combine several minerals, most notably quartz, micas, feldspar, amphiboles. The combination of all these different materials is the reason that your granite countertops vary in color and texture from, for example, your neighbor’s.
If your countertop appears with more transparent crystals or white, the granite is made up of more quartz than anything else. By contrast, if your countertop has a lot of feldspar in it it will appear more pinkish or white.
So, What Does This Have to Do with Cleaning Granite Countertops?
Plenty. What you might see as a solid piece of rock really isn’t. In fact, granite is highly porous, which means that it is composed of countless holes throughout. It’s for this reason that when granite countertops are manufactured there is a clear sealant added to prevent not only staining and other discoloration but chipping as well. On top of the sealant is added polishes that give it its luster.
All of this treatment can only do so much. With time and wear, granite surfaces can accumulate grime and bacteria that can sully its appearance, not to mention making it unhealthful.
For all of these reasons, it is important that you keep your granite surfaces clean and protected. Unfortunately, there is a lot of debate over just how to do that. Some people swear on commercial cleansers. On the other hand, many experts say that you shouldn’t use anything with many harsh chemicals as ingredients. These same folks argue that commercial cleaners damage the seal on granite countertops, opening the surface to stains.
Doing It Yourself
Most commercial cleaners that you buy in stores are too harsh to use on granite. Even so-called granite cleaners often contain acidic chemicals that eat through the sealants used to protect granite, opening it to stains and germs that are virtually impossible to remove. It is also important to not trust granite cleaners that run from $5 to $15 a bottle. The best solution is a homemade granite cleaner which will not only save you money, but will also give you a product that will not damage your granite surfaces. What follows is a shortlist of several recipes for granite cleaners that are not only effective and easy to use, but economical to make.
Down to Brass Tacks
If you have granite surfaces to clean and you want a cleaner that is effective and gentle, this first recipe is likely to be a hit. Everything is available on Amazon or in your local grocery store.
Materials and Tools
- 16 oz spray bottle
- Liquid dish soap
- Rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol
- Essential Oil
- Multifiber cloth
How to Make
First, combine one-half a cup of rubbing alcohol, one-half a teaspoon of dish soap, and one-and-a-half cups of warm water into a spray bottle. The rubbing alcohol provides the disinfectant properties to the mixture, while the dish soap contributes to the degreasing power. This mixture combined will provide a one-two punch that will kill bacteria while wiping grime from your granite surface.
Another important point to be made about using alcohol as a cleaning ingredient, you should use plain isopropyl alcohol instead of one that has been mixed with glycerin or tinted with dyes. You should also dilute it to 70 percent of its strength since it evaporates quickly. If it evaporates too quickly, it won’t have time to disinfect.
Another substitute that is popular, especially in areas where isopropyl alcohol is expensive, you can use pure, undiluted vodka with an alcohol by volume (ABV) of 80 percent or higher.
If you want to give your cleaner a pleasant smell, add 10 to 20 drops of essential oil to the mixture. Some people use basil, lavender, cinnamon, peppermint, or even clove, but let your tastes be your guide. Just don’t use lemon juice due to its acid content. On the other hand, if you like a citrus smell, use a citrus essential oil since it’s pH-neutral and is completely safe to use on granite.
One reason many people like to use acids like lemon juice as a cleaner is because it deals effectively with pests such as ants. If that is a problem for you, instead of using lemon essential old, use peppermint essential oil. It is a natural way to get rid of ants and other kitchen pests.
Another essential oil option is citrus, specifically grapefruit since it pairs well with basil and gives granite cleaner antimicrobial benefits. In fact, according to a recent study, essential oil of grapefruit showed considerable efficacy against antibiotic-resistant strains of common hospital-acquired infections and antibiotic bacteria.
If when you are finished cleaning the surface it is still wet and won’t dry, buff it vigorously with a dry cloth. It also helps to increase the alcohol content to about 1/3 cup.
After you add the mixture to a spray bottle, mix it well, and replace the head on the bottle. Make sure it is clearly labeled and give it a good shake before each use. Store the mixture in a cool and dry place and keep it away from children and pets.
Here’s another recipe:
- 1/4 cup of rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol
- 3-5 drops liquid castile soap
- 5-10 drops essential oils
- 1 1/2 distilled water (you can use tap water too if it’s filtered for short term use)
This recipe should be used in a manner as with the recipe above. The primary difference between this recipe and the one above is the water, which most people swear by to thin the mixture, but it is also bad about leaving streaks when you are finished.
A huge mistake that many people make when cleaning their granite countertops is to add vinegar, which ranks right up there with lemon juice and other things that are high in acid content and can destroy a granite seal. Ordinarily, vinegar is a fabulous cleaning product, especially on things like getting calcium off of showerheads to getting rid of pet stains and odors, but it’s very destructive to granite countertops. If you use vinegar on a granite countertop chance are good that you will leave a dull, unattractive spot on your expensive countertop.
A Non-DIY All-Natural Alternative Granite Cleaner
If making your own granite cleaner doesn’t appeal to you at this point and you don’t like using chemical-based cleaners, check the HAUS Naturals granite cleaner. It’s biodegradable, chemical free that cleans granite very, very well.
Getting the Most From Your Homemade Granite Cleaner
One secret to getting your granite surfaces to look their best, besides using a good cleaner, is to use it correctly. With the following as your guidelines, you will get your granite countertops to look like they were just installed.
With a microfiber cloth (avoid abrasives such as steel wool or even the scrubby side of popular sponges since they can scratch). Then spray a generous amount of your homemade cleaner onto the entire countertop. Wipe the solution over the surface. If you see that you still have build-up or stains on the surface of your countertop, spray additional cleaner on the affected area and use a more vigorous circular motion in order to loosen and lift the grime out.
You won’t have to worry about the cleaner damaging your countertop, and you can’t scrub enough to damage granite, one of the benefits of having it. Once the surface is clean, wipe it up quickly with your microfiber cloth and allow it to dry. If you use the microfiber cloth to dry the surface you will leave streaks. If you are still not happy with the way your granite countertop looks, use the same method again.
More Ways to Protect Your Granite Countertop
Using a cleaner that takes the special characteristics of granite into consideration is a great way to protect your countertops, but another way is to observe some simple steps that you can practice every day. Here are just a few of them:
- Wipe up spills as quickly as possible after they occur to avoid staining.
- Use pot holders, trivets, or coasters when setting warm or cold items on your granite countertop.
- Refresh the protective coating on your granite countertops when needed. If you take care of your granite countertops, chances are good that you will never need to reseal them, but if you decide that they need a sprucing up, there are several different options that you can choose from.
If you move into a home where someone has not taken care of their granite countertops, or–God forbid–you have not done it, you have several green options:
- There are several water-based granite sealers on the market that are both good and far more economical than having a resealing done commercially. These work on other natural stone surfaces as well. Both of these are low concentrations of what are called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which should put your mind at ease when using them. The first is a product called Sealer’s Choice Gold made by Aqua Mix (www.aquamix.com). The ingredients listed on the container states that the VOCs in the product is less than 0.01 percent per liter. Another product is called Universal Stone Sealer made by a company called Brightstone (www.brightstn.com), which has its VOC concentrations listed as 50 grams per liter.
Although neither of these products is know for being specifically used on granite countertops, in years of testing and use, they have both established their reputations as safe and effective for this use. If you do use either of these products you should know that they should be used with great care since they are known to cause short term as well as long term health effects when you do not use proper safety precautions when using.
You can clean your granite flooring clean using the same general technique, but instead of a microfiber cloth, use a mop with a microfiber head. This will keep your granite floors looking good and put off a visit to your doctor for your backaches.
Granite backsplashes are a special challenge due to the grease and grit that can often accumulate on them. You can clean these with the same cleaning compound you have made, but you should do what you can to avoid spraying the mixture onto any finished wood that might surround the backsplashes. This includes things like kitchen cabinets and the like since the rubbing alcohol can take the paint or varnish off the wood’s surface.
Take the soot, fingerprints, and other marks right off of your granite fireplace with the same mixture and method as the other surfaces.
Marble and other stone surfaces
Just as is the case with granite countertops, these surfaces are more adverse to acidic solutions, but they won’t be harmed by your homemade granite cleaner thanks to the base nature of the ingredients. Use the same method described above for these surfaces.
Most small appliances have surfaces that are made up of either stainless steel or plastic, neither of which will be harmed by the homemade cleaners explained in this article. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a coffee maker, a toaster, or any number of other appliances, even if they have accumulated grime on them, the cleaners we have described in this article will help you to get them looking their best.
If you do use it on your appliances, make sure you are using isopropyl alcohol and not ethyl alcohol as the latter will corrode the plastic. To clean your appliances with your homemade cleanser, unplug your appliance and let it cool before you try to clean it, spray the appliance with your cleaner on the exterior, and wipe it down thoroughly with your microfiber cloth. Don’t use your homemade cleanser on the LCD display on any appliance you have since it will remove the clear protective coating from the surface of the display.