Care And Maintenance Tips

Preserving the Beauty of Your Natural Stone.

The natural stone you have purchased for your home or office is an investment that will give you many years of beautiful service. Simple care and maintenance will help preserve your stone’s beauty for generations to come. These care tips have been developed for you by the Marble Institute of America (MIA) to offer routine cleaning guidelines as well as procedures for stain removal should it become necessary.

For additional information on selecting and caring for natural stone, visit MIA’s Website at

Cleaning Procedures and Recommendations

Clean stone surfaces with a few drops of neutral cleaner, stone soap, or a mild liquid dish washing detergent and warm water. Use a clean rag or mop on floors and a soft cloth for other surfaces for best results. Too much cleaner or soap may leave a film and cause streaks. Do not use products that contain lemon, vinegar or other acids on marble or other calcareous stones. Rinse the surface thoroughly after washing with the soap solution and dry with a soft cloth. Change the rinse water frequently. Do not use scouring powders or creams; these products contain abrasives that may scratch the stone.

In the bath or other wet areas, soap scum can be minimized by using a squeegee after each use. To remove soap scum, use a non-acidic soap scum remover or a solution of ammonia and water (about 1/2 cup ammonia to a gallon of water). Frequent or over-use of an ammonia solution may eventually dull the surface of the stone.

Vanity tops may need to have a penetrating sealer applied. Check with your installer for recommendations. If a sealer is applied, be sure that it is non-toxic and safe for use on food preparation surfaces. If there is a question, check with the sealer’s manufacturer.

How to tell the difference

A simple acid sensitivity test can be performed to determine whether a stone is calcareous or siliceous. You will need about 4 oz. of a 10% solution of muriatic acid and an eyedropper. Or you can use household vinegar and an eyedropper. Because this test may permanently etch the stone, select an out of the way area (a corner or closet) and several inches away from the mortar joint. Apply a few drops of the acid solution to the stone surface on an area about the size of a quarter. If the stone is calcareous, the acid drops will begin to bubble or fizz vigorously. If little or no reaction occurs, the stone can be considered siliceous. Rinse the area thoroughly with clean water and wipe dry. This test may not be effective if surface sealers or liquid polishes have been applied. If an old sealer is present, chip a small piece of stone away and apply the acid solution to the fractured surface. CAUTION: Muriatic acid is corrosive and is considered to be hazardous substance. Proper head and body protection is necessary when acid is used.

Stone Finishes

A polished finish on the stone has a glossy surface that reflects light and emphasizes the color and marking of the material. This type of finish is used on walls, furniture tops, and other items, as well as floor tiles.

A honed finish is a satin smooth surface with relatively little light reflection. Generally, a honed finish is preferred for floors, stair treads, thresholds and other locations where heavy traffic will wear off the polished finish. A honed finish may also be used on furniture tops and other surfaces.

A flamed finish is a rough textured surface used frequently on granite floor tiles.

Spills and Stains

Blot the spill with a paper towel immediately. Don’t wipe the area, it will spread the spill. Flush the area with plain water and mild soap and rinse several times. Dry the area thoroughly with a soft cloth. Repeat as necessary. If the stain remains, refer to the section below on stain removal.

Stain Removal

Identifying the type of stain on the stone surface is key to removing it. If you don’t know what caused the stain, play detective. Where is the stain located? Is it near a plant, food service area, an area where cosmetics are used? What color is it? What is the shape or pattern? What goes on in the area around the stain?

Surface stains can often be removed by cleaning with an appropriate cleaning product or household chemical. Deep-seated or stubborn stains may require using a poultice or calling in a professional. The following sections describe the types of stains that you may have to deal with and appropriate household chemicals to use and how to prepare and apply a poultice to remove the stain.

Oil Based

(grease, tar, cooking oil, milk, cosmetics)

An oil-based stain will darken the stone and normally must be chemically dissolved so the source of the stain can be flushed or rinsed away. Clean gently with a soft, liquid cleanser with bleach OR a household detergent OR ammonia OR mineral spirits OR acetone.


(coffee, tea, fruit, tobacco, paper, food, urine, leaves, bark, bird droppings)

May cause a pinkish-brown stain and may disappear after the source of the stain has been removed. Outdoors, with the sources removed, normal sun and rain action will generally bleach out the stains. Indoors, clean with 12% hydrogen peroxide (hair bleaching strength) and a few drops of ammonia.


(iron, rust, copper, bronze)

Iron or rust stains are orange to brown in color and follow the shape of the staining object such as nails, bolts, screws, cans, flower pots, metal furniture. Copper and bronze stains appear as green or muddy-brown and result from the action of moisture on nearby or embedded bronze, copper or brass items. Metal stains must be removed with a poultice. Metal stains must be removed with a poultice. (See section on Making & using a Poultice) Deep-seated, rusty stains are extremely difficult to remove and the stone may be permanently stained.


(algae, mildew lichens, moss, fungi)

Clean with dilute (1/2 cup in a gallon of water) ammonia OR bleach OR hydrogen peroxide. DO NOT MIX BLEACH AND AMMONIA! THIS COMBINATION CREATES A TOXIC AND LETHAL GAS!


(magic marker, pen, ink)

Clean with bleach or hydrogen peroxide (light colored stone only!) or lacquer thinner or acetone (dark stones only!).


Small amounts can be removed with lacquer thinner or scraped off carefully with a razor blade. Heavy paint coverage should be removed only with a commercial “heavy liquid” paint stripper available from hardware stores and paint centers. These strippers normally contain caustic soda or lye. Do not use acids or flame tools to strip paint from stone. Paint strippers can etch the surface of the stone; re-polishing may be necessary. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for use of these products, taking care to flush the area thoroughly with clean water. Protect yourself with rubber gloves and eye protection, and work in a well ventilated area. Use only wood or plastic scrapers for removing the sludge and curdled paint. Normally, latex and acrylic paints will not cause staining. Oil-based paints, linseed oil, putty, caulks and sealant may cause oily stains. Refer to the section on oil-based stains.

Water Spots and Rings

(surface accumulation of hard water)

Buff with dry 0000 steel wool.

Fire and Smoke Damage

Older stones and smoke or fire stained fireplaces may require a thorough cleaning to restore their original appearance. Commercially available “smoke removers” may save time and effort.

Etch Marks

Etch marks are left by acids left on the surface of the stone. Some materials will etch the finish but not leave a stain. Others will both etch and stain. Once the stain has been removed, wet the surface with clear water and sprinkle on marble polishing powder available from a hardware or lapidary store, or you local stone dealer. Rub the powder onto the stone with a damp cloth or by using a buffing pad with a low-speed power drill. Continue buffing until the etch mark disappears and the marble surface shines. Contact your stone dealer or call a professional stone restorer for refinishing or re polishing etched areas that you cannot remove.


Efflorescence is a white powder that may appear on the surface of the stone. It is caused by water carrying mineral salts from below the surface of the stone raising through the stone and evaporating. When the water evaporates, it leaves the powdery substance. If the installation is new, dust mop or vacuum the powder. You may have to do this several times as the stone dries out. Do not use water to remove the powder; it will only temporarily disappear. If the problem persists, contact your installer to help identify and remove the cause of the moisture.

Scratches and Nicks

Slight surface scratches may be buffed with dry 0000 steel wool. Deeper scratches and nicks in the surface of the stone should be repaired and re polished by a professional.

Poultice Materials

Poultice materials include kaolin, fuller’s earth, whiting, diatomaceous earth, powdered chalk, white molding plaster or talc. Approximately one pound of prepared poultice material will cover one square foot. Do not use whiting or iron-type clays such as fuller’s earth with acid chemicals. The reaction will cancel the effect of the poultice. A poultice can also be prepared using white cotton balls, white paper towels or gauze pads.

Organic Stains

Poultice with one of the powdered poultice materials and 12% hydrogen peroxide solution (hair bleaching strength) OR use acetone instead of the hydrogen peroxide.

Iron Stains

Poultice with diatomaceous earth and a commercially available rust remover. Rust stains are particularly difficult to remove. You may need to call a professional.

Copper Stains

Poultice with one of the powdered poultice materials and ammonia. These stains are difficult to remove. You may need to call a professional.

Biological Stains

Poultice with dilute ammonia OR bleach OR hydrogen peroxide. DO NOT MIX AMMONIA AND BLEACH! THIS COMBINATION CREATES A TOXIC AND LETHAL GAS!

Dos and Don’t s

DO Dust mop floors frequently

DO Clean surfaces with mild detergent or stone soap

DO Thoroughly rinse and dry the surface after washing

DO Blot up spills immediately

DO Protect floor surfaces with non-slip mats or area rugs and countertop surfaces with coasters, trivets or place mats.

DON’T Use vinegar, lemon juice or other cleaners containing acids on marble, limestone, travertine or onyx surfaces.

DON’T Use cleaners that contain acid such as bathroom cleaners, grout cleaners or tub & tile cleaners

DON’T Use abrasive cleaners such as dry cleansers or soft cleansers

DON’T Mix bleach and ammonia; this combination creates a toxic and lethal gas

DON’T Ever mix chemicals together unless directions specifically instruct you to do so

Call your professional stone supplier, installer or a restoration specialist for problems that appear too difficult to treat.

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If you are interested in getting started with a project or simply have a few more questions please click below or give us a call at 503-612-8600.


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