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Why Use a pH Neutral Cleaner for Granite Countertops

The proper way to clean granite countertops, according to Maurizio Bertoli

People are often told to clean their granite with glass cleaner or a solution of dish soap and water. No one has ever explained why this is simply bad advice better than Maurizio Bertoli, considered by so many to be the “Godfather” of natural stone and founder of MarbleCleaning.org and MB StoneCare.

Sadly, Maurizio was killed several years ago in a tragic accident, but his legacy lives on through the many articles and hundreds and hundreds of answers he generously provided to consumers of stone, and through the myriad students who became stone restoration craftsmen under his tutelage. Known as much for his no-holds barred, often abrasive approach as he was for his wealth of expertise regarding natural stone, read what Maurizio has to say about the proper way to clean granite countertops.

Quite often, proud owners of granite countertops are advised to use some glass-cleaner or a solution of water and dish soap, or other generic products, for the daily care of their stone.

Let’s start with the glass-cleaner issue. First off, how many brands of glass-cleaners are available out there? Hundreds! And if you think that they are all formulated the same way, think again! Even what’s probably the most popular one, Windex™, comes in several formulations. Who did the testing of those chemicals to find out if they are safe on any possible stone surface? … You fill in the blanks! 

Now, what’s even more important, how many different types of “granite” are available? Again, over two thousand and counting! Do you think they are all the same – besides the way they look? Once more, think again! The difference in chemical makeup between the vast array of stones sold as “granite” can be – and is – huge! 

Now, assuming that one particular type of glass-cleaner is OK for, say, true geological granite, will it be safe also, on gneiss, or gabbro, or dolerite, or porphyry, and so on? How do you know what type of “granite” you actually have, beside the name given to you by your fabricator? Do you think they know for sure? I’ve got news for you: a good 95% of them do NOT. Their stone “education” comes from the invoice of the distributor, or from various “salesmen” who call on them. They actually believe it is ALL granite!

So, how do you feel about taking a chance with a glass cleaner for your daily maintenance chores?

As a restoration contractor I did witness my good share of permanent damages (mostly pitting or dulling) to “granite” allegedly due to the use of glass cleaners! They don’t happen right away, but they eventually will, if the combination is “right”!

What’s more, if your particular “granite” is a stone that does need to be sealed, the impregnator/sealer itself has a very good chance of interacting with cleaner and get damaged by it!

And, I don’t want even begin to mention marble, travertine, onyx and all other calcite-based stones! 

How about a little dish soap and water? Could that damage “granite”?

No, it wouldn’t, but … think about this:

Try to wash your hands with water and dish soap, then put them under running water and see how long it’ll take for them to rinse completely. To have such a thorough rinsing (which is the only one acceptable) on your countertop, you should be using a garden hose! So, what happens if you decide not to use a garden hose to rinse your countertop? It’s very simple: a very thin soap film will remain on the stone surface, even if you dry it with a towel. At the beginning you won’t be able to notice it, but as you keep “cleaning” your countertop in that way, it will build-up and, within a few months, your beautiful stone won’t be as shiny as it used to be anymore! Assuming that you can figure out what caused it (don’t expect any intelligence from the “expert” who suggested that you use such a home-brewed concoction!), you will have to remove all the soap scum, that is now caked on your countertop, by using a specialized strong chemical.

Then… it starts all over again!

Is this what you want?

There are companies out there that invest considerable amount of money to formulate specialty cleaning agents that are safe on all natural stone, and offer them to the market. Why do they do that if any glass-cleaner or dish soap could do the job?

You think about it.

The idea of having to buy specialty – and somehow expensive – cleaning products for your valuable natural stone installations may be annoying to a certain extent, but is your best bet if you care about your investment. After all, we’re talking about a few pennies a day and potentially huge savings down the road if it saves you just one restoration contract.

It took Mother Nature hundreds of thousands of years to make the things of beauty you proudly have in your home now. There is not one single piece of stone out there that can exactly match any of the stones you have. You have to respect and appreciate that, and not consider your stone like just another commodity. The way I see it, you didn’t actually buy your stone. You adopted it.

You have to consider it as your duty to give it the best care possible.

Ciao and good luck

Maurizio Bertoli 

We hope you enjoyed this article. You can find more archived answers from Maurizio at www.marblecleaning.org.