Follow these tips to keep your countertops free of stains.
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granite sink countertop
Credit: Kate Sears

Since natural stone is porous, moisture that pools on it for more than a few minutes—a bit of olive oil under the bottle, an errant coffee spill—can seep in. A sealant will prevent this, but it wears down over time.

"If you notice that short-term contact with water darkens your stone, that's the best indicator that you need to reseal," says Mark Meriaux, technical manager at the Natural Stone Institute, in Oberlin, Ohio. To keep your surface in the best shape until resealing is possible, continue reading—here are strategies for removing even deep-set discolorations in the meantime.

Types of Stains

Oil Stains

When treating your granite countertop for grease marks, steer clear of homemade solutions with lemon juice or vinegar since they are acidic and could damage natural stone, says Mary Gagliardi, aka "Dr. Laundry," Clorox's in-house scientist and cleaning expert. Simply applying a grease-lifting dishwashing soap to the oil stain can remove it. As another option, Gagliardi suggests having a multi-purpose cleaner in your arsenal, the Clorox Multi-Purpose Refillable Cleaner Starter Kit ($5, shop.clorox.com) being her favorite.

  1. Spray the multi-purpose cleaner on the stain.
  2. Let the solution sit on the stand for a few minutes.
  3. Wipe the area with a paper towel or microfiber cloth.
  4. If you are cleaning a food contact surface, make sure to rinse the area with water before drying.

If you notice tougher stains, consider an overnight treatment.

  1. Mix a poultice paste of baking soda and water (for oil-based stains), or baking soda and peroxide (for others), until it's as thick as peanut butter.
  2. Spread the mixture over the spot, cover it with plastic wrap that you've poked a few holes in, and secure it with masking tape.
  3. Let the poultice paste stand for 24 hours.
  4. Pull off the plastic, and clear the white residue with a wooden or plastic scraper.
  5. Then rinse the surface with distilled water and polish the stone with a cloth.

Food or Drink Stains

A mix between bleach and water can help remove tough stains, such as food and drink stains, including coffee and wine on sealed granite countertops. "When used as directed, the active ingredient in regular household bleach, sodium hypochlorite, is safe for use on sealed granite as well as a wide variety of hard, non-porous surfaces in the kitchen," says Gagliardi. "Bleach should never be used full strength on any surface or fabric, it should always be diluted with water first."

  1. Mix the bleach and water solution: 1/3 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water.
  2. Sponge the bleach and water solution onto the countertop.
  3. Let it stand for six minutes.
  4. Rinse with clean water.
  5. Let it air-dry.

Other Dark Stains

For any other types of dark stains, grab a hydrogen-peroxide-based cleaning spray, like Lysol with Hydrogen Peroxide: Oxygen Splash ($3.23, walmart.com). Though gentler "safe-for-stone" options are ideal for regular cleaning, this works best on dark marks—so use this tougher approach as needed.

When to Seek Professional Care

"Because granite is a natural porous material, some stains or surface damage may be so severe that restoration by a stone care professional may be necessary," says Gagliardi. She says that if your granite surfaces have stains that have soaked into the stone, you may need to apply a poultice to get them out with the help of a stone care professional.

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