Marble Care and Maintenance 101

A marble kitchen counter or bathroom vanity is a big purchase for any homeowner. Here's what you need to know before the decision's set in stone.

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In a tiny bathroom, stick to just one material for a streamlined look. Here, the homeowner used Carrara marble.

Deciding that marble, with its classic good looks, is right for your home is the easy part. Figuring out the size, color, shape, and finish you need may entail a little more hand-wringing. Visit a home center and speak with a specialist, who will walk you through the selection process. For instance, if you're looking to use the natural material on a floor or in a tight space (like a backsplash), tiles may be the ideal option. Slabs, for their part, look best on large, level surfaces like shower walls and counters. But before you commit to buying the stone, "make sure you're the type who can live with patina," says Martha Stewart Living decorating director Kevin Sharkey. The material's porous nature makes it prone to etching and staining. Honed (matte) marble hides these little imperfections better than polished, a particularly important consideration for kitchen counters.

Care and Maintenance

Protecting marble against etching and staining takes effort, but thankfully not a lot. Experts share tips on how to treat it right to ensure it will look its best for many years.

Seal

Sealing repels staining agents but doesn't make marble stainproof. "Talk to your fabricator to determine which sealant is right for you," says DeeDee Gundberg, senior manager at Ann Sacks Tile. When water no longer beads, it's time to reseal.

Protect

Vinegar, citrus, and tomato will etch marble; don't let them sit on the stone. "Treat marble as you would a fine wood finish," says Charlotte Barnard, creative director at Nemo Tile Company. "Use coasters and cutting boards. Wipe up spills immediately."

Clean

Avoid using acidic or abrasive cleaners. "Vacuum or sweep up loose dirt, and use a damp mop or sponge regularly," says Barbara Sallick, cofounder and senior vice president of Waterworks. "I like Miracle Sealants tile and stone cleaner." $9 for 32 oz., homedepot.com

Spot Treat

To remove stubborn stains, use a poultice paste. Spread it onto the stain, then cover with plastic wrap sealed with painters' tape. Once it's dry (12 to 24 hours), scrape the paste off and wipe with a damp cloth. For deep-set stains, you may need to reapply paste.

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