If you’re a homeowner or a designer, you likely know that natural stone countertops are an excellent investment in your home’s value and aesthetics. However, you may have also heard of a phenomenon called acid etching, which can occur on some types of natural stone. In this blog post, we will delve into the topic of natural stone acid etching and explore some ways to prevent it from damaging your beautiful custom countertops. So, let’s get started!
What is acid etching?
Acid etching is a chemical reaction that occurs when acidic substances, such as lemon juice, vinegar, and wine, come into contact with natural stone countertops. The reaction causes the calcium carbonate in the stone to erode and results in dull spots or white stains on the surface, known as etches. Etching is not a stain but rather a physical change in the stone itself. Common household acids that can cause acid etching on natural stone countertops include citrus juices, tomato sauce, wine, coffee, vinegar, cleaning products, and condensation rings from glasses or cans.
What are the signs of acid etching on natural stone countertops?
1. Dark Marks
2. Change in Texture
3. Lack of Gloss
4. Mineral Deposits
5. Stain Resistance
7. Chemical Reactions
10. Vulnerability to Stains
How to avoid acid etching on natural stone countertops
1. Avoid acidic liquids and chemicals
To avoid etching on natural stone countertops, it’s important to prevent contact with acidic liquids and chemicals. Clean spills immediately with a damp cloth and avoid wiping as it can spread the acid over a larger area. Instead, blot the stain with a paper towel to absorb as much as possible. Use chopping boards while working in the kitchen to avoid any acidic food drips on the marble surface. Choose pH neutral cleaners to maintain your countertop and avoid damaging it over time. Be mindful of the products you use and always clean up spills quickly to minimize the risk of etching.
2. Use a stone sealer
Using a stone sealer is highly recommended for all natural stone countertops, especially newly installed ones such as marble, granite, and limestone. This will provide maximum stain protection and prevent acid etching, which can occur from common household beverages and acidic liquids. Penetrating sealers are the most common type used and are designed to permeate the stone’s cavities to form a barrier against liquids that may seep into the pores. It is important to select a high-quality sealer and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper application. While sealers lose their effectiveness over time, reapplication every couple of years will ensure the stone continues to look its best. Conducting an at-home water test or consulting a stone expert can help determine when it is time to reseal.
3. Avoid using harsh cleaners
It is important to avoid using harsh cleaners or acidic substances on natural stone countertops as they can cause acid etching and damage the surface of the stone. This includes products like bleach, vinegar, and lemon juice. Instead, use cleaners specifically made for natural stones like granite or a mild dish soap with neutral acidity and pH levels.
To prevent acid etching on natural stone countertops, it is crucial to use a neutral cleaner specifically designed for stone. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use a neutral cleaner to clean spills on natural stone countertops:
- Mix the pH neutral cleaner and water according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Apply the solution to the affected area using a sponge or spray bottle.
- Allow the solution to sit for the recommended amount of time to penetrate the stone.
- Agitate the solution with a sponge or soft bristle brush.
- Remove the dirty solution with a clean sponge and buff dry.
- For textured stones, additional procedures may be required.
Remember, acidic substances can cause etching on natural stone countertops.
6. Avoid boiling liquids
Boiling liquids, especially acidic ones, can cause acid etching on natural stone countertops. This is because natural stones like marble, limestone, travertine, and onyx are highly reactive to acids due to their composition of calcium carbonate. When acidic liquids are in contact with the surface of these stones for a long enough time, a chemical reaction occurs, and the acid begins to eat away at the surface, leaving behind an etch mark.
8. Invest in a stone care kit
Investing in a stone care kit is an essential step in maintaining the beauty and longevity of your natural stone countertops. A stone care kit typically includes a heavy-duty stone cleaner and degreaser, a pH-neutral stone-specific cleaner, and a sealer to protect against stains and etching. By regularly using a stone care kit, you can effectively remove dirt, grime, and grease without damaging the stone surface. Additionally, the sealer helps prevent acid etching and other damage caused by liquids and acidic substances. While a stone care kit may require an initial investment, it is a cost-effective solution compared to the potential cost of repairing or replacing damaged countertops. Protect your investment by investing in a stone care kit and following proper care and maintenance guidelines.
How do I know if my countertops are being damaged by acid etching?
To determine if your natural stone countertops are being damaged by acid etching, look out for the following signs:
- Dull spots or marks on the surface of the countertop
- Discoloration that looks like stains but cannot be removed with regular cleaning
- Rings or spots that are visible when viewed at an angle
- Rough or textured areas that cannot be smoothed out with polishing
If you notice any of these signs, it is possible that your countertop is being damaged by acidic substances. It is important to take immediate action to clean up spills and avoid contact with damaging substances and cleaners to protect your countertops from further etching. Remember that prevention is key, and while it may be impossible to completely avoid acidic materials in your kitchen, taking practical measures can go a long way in protecting your natural stone countertops.
What type of sealer should I use to protect my countertops from acid etching?
The most common sealers used to protect countertops from acid etching are penetrating sealers. These sealers are designed to permeate the stone’s cavities to form a barrier against liquids that may seep into the pores. However, sealers lose their effectiveness over time and can be worn down by acidic liquids and caustic household cleaning products. While sealers cannot completely prevent etching, they can help minimize its appearance and protect against staining.
What type of maintenance do I need to do to protect my countertops from acid etching?
To protect natural stone countertops from acid etching, regular maintenance is required. Here are some practical tips to prevent or minimize etching:
- Apply a protective seal to your countertops to act as a barrier against etching.
- Be mindful of household cleaners that could wear down the sealant and switch to a gentle cleaner instead.
- Use a cutting board as a buffer when working with acidic foods like tomatoes and lemons.
- Clean up spills immediately to prevent etching from occurring.
- Consider getting your countertops resealed every few years to ensure maximum protection against etching.
- If etching has already occurred, contact a professional like Stone Restoration Works to refinish your countertops and apply a protective coating for future prevention.
By following these steps, you can help keep your natural stone countertops looking beautiful and free from etching.
What can I do if my countertops already have acid etching?
If your countertops already have acid etching, the best solution is to seek professional help from a stone restoration company. Stone Restoration Works, for example, can refinish your natural stone countertops to remove the etching and restore them to their original state. They can also apply a coat of sealer to protect your natural stone against caustic chemicals and staining agents even more. However, if you prefer a DIY approach, you can use a marble polishing powder to remove the etching yourself. First, clean the surface thoroughly with warm water and a gentle pH-neutral cleaner. Then, apply the marble polishing powder to the etched area and buff it in with a soft cloth. Finally, rinse the area with water and dry it thoroughly. Remember to always test the product on a small, inconspicuous area first and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
What type of countertop is most prone to acid etching?
Marble, limestone, travertine, and onyx are the types of natural stone countertops that are most prone to acid etching. This is because they are composed mostly of calcite, which is highly reactive to acids. Acid etching occurs when an acid reacts with the naturally occurring calcium that makes up the majority of these stones, resulting in dull spots or rings on the countertop. While it is impossible to prevent acid etching on these types of countertops, immediate action to clean up spills can help protect them.