Different Countertop Materials and How to Keep Them Squeaky Clean

If you’ve recently had a kitchen remodel (or have been looking into one), you known that there are about a million styles and materials for kitchen countertops.  We’re here to tell you that there are just as many ways to clean them. Your countertops are the workbench of your kitchen, so they need to stay clean for food safety as well as aesthetic purposes.

Countertop materials

(Pixabay / mgattorna)

The problem is that all of the different types of countertops seem to require different cleaning regiments. What will clean one material will destroy another, so you have to be sure you know what you’re doing before you start scrubbing. We’ve put together a list of common countertop materials and a guide for how to go about cleaning them effectively.

Concrete

Concrete countertops are pretty new to the kitchen world, but they are growing in popularity. You would be amazed by the colors, edge designs, and integrated elements that a skilled concrete countertop manufacturer can create. Concrete is no longer just for sidewalks!

The fabricator should have sealed the concrete when they installed it, but you’ll need to reseal every year or so. Even with regular sealings, your concrete will likely develop a patina over time, which most concrete countertop owners find charming and unique.

To clean your concrete, you just need to scrub with a soapy sponge and wipe it down with a wet rag. Once it’s dry, you can disinfect the countertop by spraying a mix of one part rubbing alcohol to eight parts warm water. Let this mixture sit for a few minutes and then wipe it up with a wet rag and dry the counter with a clean towel.  

Granite

Granite countertops are very popular because of their natural beauty and durability. Granite is a semi-porous natural stone, so you need to be careful what you use to clean it. You can use a soft, clean sponge or microfiber cloth and warm, soapy water for most everyday messes, and you can then spray a one-to-one ratio of water to isopropyl alcohol to disinfect. Stay away from harsh chemicals, acids such as vinegar or lemon juice, or bleach because they can wear away at the sealant and damage your granite. If you’re nervous about what exactly to use, you can always purchase specially-made granite cleaner from most hardware or grocery stores.

Laminate

Laminate comes in so many different colors and textures nowadays that it can be difficult to tell that it’s laminate at all. The least expensive of all countertop options, laminate is wonderfully durable and easy to keep clean. For most spills, just wipe up using warm, soapy water and a clean rag. Check the label on the back of any household cleaner before you use it, but most standard, non-abrasive, non-bleach cleaners are good to use on laminate. If an area is stained, you can rub a little bit of baking soda paste (mix three parts water to one part baking soda) on the area, let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe it away with warm, soapy water.

Marble

Marble is unbelievably beautiful, but it can be a little persnickety when it comes to cleaning. For the most part, a soft cloth with warm, soapy water will get it sparkling clean. Steer clear of any substance that has acids in it (vinegar, lemon juice, any other citrus-based cleaners), because the acid can etch into or dull the surface of your marble. Once you wipe down the counter with warm, soapy water, wipe it down with a clean, wet cloth, and then buff dry. 

Quartz

Quartz is a man-made material that is incredibly durable, as well as stain-resistant, scratch-resistant, and heat-resistant. Because of the man-made resins and binders, it is almost impervious to most things, but you still need to wipe up spills as soon as you see them. Warm, soapy water will clean up most messes, but you can also use most non-abrasive household cleaners. You can also use most bleach-free disinfecting wipes, but be sure to wipe down the counter with a wet rag after you use them.

Quartzite

A quartzite countertop may sound a lot like a quartz version, but they are quite different, and they need to be cleaned accordingly. Quartzite is a natural stone that, like marble, needs a low or neutral pH cleaner such as mild dish soap. Stay away from chemical cleaners (Windex, 409, etc.) that can wear away the sealer, but if you’d feel more comfortable with a manufactured cleaner, look for one that is specifically made for natural stone.

Soapstone

Soapstone is a gorgeous natural stone that is heat-resistant, scratch-resistant, and very durable. The neat thing about soapstone is that it is naturally non-porous, so it doesn’t need to be chemically sealed. Instead, you can wipe down the countertop using mild dish soap and warm water, and then once it’s dry, you can apply a thin coat of mineral oil or soapstone wax. The mineral oil or wax will help keep the scratches and dings at bay, while giving your countertop a deep luster. If you have really deep scratches, you can use a fine-grit sandpaper to buff them out, and when you apply the oil or wax, your countertops will look like new again!

Solid Surface

Solid surface (often called Formica or Corian) is made from different materials, resins, and dyes. Unlike other countertop options, you can use ammonia-based cleaners or all-purpose cleaners to get the job done, though using regular ol’ soap and warm water is still a great plan. The neat thing about solid surface is that, since it is the same material all the way through, if you get scratches or dings, you can use fine-grit sandpaper to buff them out. 

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is just about as easy as you can get as far as cleaning goes. It is heat-resistant, scratch-resistant, corrosion-resistant, and extremely durable. You can use glass cleaners, all-purpose cleaners, warm, soapy water, and specialty stainless steel cleaners to get those countertops sparkling.

Travertine

Travertine is becoming increasingly popular, but it’s also fairly finicky. Always wipe up spills quickly because it’s prone to staining, and steer clear of acidic cleaners. Travertine, as lovely as it is to look at, is prone to etching and can get gunked up from manufactured cleaners, so your best cleaning option is to use warm, soapy water. The stone is porous, though, so be sure to wipe up excess water and get your countertops resealed periodically.

Tile

It’s difficult to say exactly how to clean tile since there are so many different kinds on the market. In general, you should reseal your countertops and grout regularly to prevent buildup from happening. Some tile is ok with manufactured cleaners, but other tiles don’t hold up as well. If you’re unsure what kind of tile you have, consider having a tile installer look at your countertop and give you advice. Otherwise, warm, soapy water and a clean towel will keep your tile spotless.

Wood

Wood countertops are gorgeous, but they require special care compared to natural stone or man-made materials. You don’t want to saturate the wood, so only use a cloth or sponge that has been soaked in warm, soapy water to wipe things down. Then use a dry cloth to soak up the excess moisture. Finally, spritz a little bit of undiluted vinegar on the countertop to sanitize it, let it sit for a minute or two, and then wipe it dry. For stains, rub a little bit of lemon juice on the area and then clean using a mild detergent or wood cleaner. If a stain is really set-in, you can use a fine-grit sandpaper to help lift the stain, and then apply high-quality mineral oil to recondition the countertop.