Stains on Natural Stone, Care and Maintenance

When it comes to stains on natural stone, you can find a variety of information discussing the topic. Some information will state that granite is stain resistant. Other resources will say that all stone requires sealing in order to be protected form staining. Why the variations? What is the reality about natural stone’s ability to resist staining? What is the proper approach to take when caring for natural stone?
Stains on Natural Stone

Discolorations & Natural Stone

Natural stone is a material that can seem puzzling when discussing certain topics on the subject. For example, people wonder if natural stone stains. You can peruse the Internet, for discussions on variations of this subject and may end up wondering what the actual answer to that question is. Yet, it is imperative that specifics are mentioned when researching this topic. Let’s discuss some reasons why that is so.

Knowing the details can help to clarify why some people get confused when they find information about natural stone and stains. For example, take a brief look at the following pages:

If you look at the first answer at the first link, you will see that many people tout granite as being durable. Therefore, some come to the conclusion that granite does not stain or chip and that it is virtually indestructible. In fact, you can browse the other comments in that discussion thread and see that many encourage that line of thought with comments like the following:

“going on 12 years with our granite kitchen, as we bought it. no idea if it was sealed or not. It’s dark green and gray with flecks of white. we haven’t sealed, we just sponge it down. every once in a while I add a bit of bleach since I use it for kneading bread and rolling pastry. never had a problem with any kind of stain or any kind of hot pot on it. no chips.”

Comments like this one can result in readers concluding that their stone does not need or require any special attention. This is not necessarily the case. Yet, it is clear from looking at the search results in the second link above, that some people are looking for what they refer to as “stains on granite”. So, understanding natural stone and how stains occur can be very beneficial to anyone that owns natural stone.

Identify Specifics

The confusion regarding stains or discolorations on natural stone comes from a couple of specific trends. First off, in the stone industry, you will find that some professionals refer to various kinds of stone as “granite”. This can become a problem because it can cause the owner of the stone to care for it improperly. There are many materials that have an appearance similar to granite’s and yet they are not true granite. Additionally, not all granite has the same composition and/or density. These are factors that have an impact on how the stone absorbs other substances and how susceptible to staining it is.

Because of this, it is important to verify that the stone under discussion is actual granite and that it is not some other material being “classified” as granite.

The confusion caused by mislabeling does not only appear when choosing granite. Some home owners have purchased material that was labeled “quartzite” but contained minerals that are not found in quartzite. And since the composition of the stone determines what type of care is required, it can affect the stone’s durability. For example, if a stone labeled “quartzite” contains the mineral calcite, then two things are true:

  1. The stone is not quartzite.
  2. The material is susceptible to “etching”.

As you can see, if the buyer (or reader) is not clear on specifics or if the information about the stone is faulty, then the results can be detrimental. So, what is the best approach to take when determining how to maintain your natural stone surface?

Determining Your Stone’s Ability to Stain

The best way to approach caring for your stone is to get the accurate details regarding your material. If you have the ability to ask the builder or fabricator what kind of stone it is, that is a good place to start. Additionally, there are tests that can be done on a material can reveal what type of stone it is. For example, a scratch test can determine the stone’s hardness and an acid test can help to uncover the presence of calcite, and absorption tests can help measure the density.
Once you have identified your stone accurately, you can then begin to research what types of stains can affect that specific stone.

After determining the material, it is important that you identify what kind of stain you have. This is because different kinds of stains are treated differently. For example, treating an etch on marble will be different from treating a rust stain on granite. So, knowing the type of discoloration is important to know.

Finally, just because some natural stones may not require sealing to protect against stains, treating your natural stone with an impregnating sealer can help protect it. Remember though, there is no substitute for understanding the material and how it reacts with other substances.

In summary, the reason why you can find a variety of information about stains and natural stone is because there is a variety of people referring to a variety of materials with a variety of terms that have been discolored by a variety of substances. The best way to get a clear answer to a specific question is to remove the variation so that the answer can be applied to a specific stone with a specific type of stain.

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