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Care + Maintenance
General Guidelines

General guidelines for stone care and maintenance based on tips from The Marble Institute of America (MIA).

These recommendations for stone care and maintenance are based on those from The Marble Institute of America. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the information outlined below, please contact your Stone Source Sales Consultant for more information. For additional information about natural stone and other materials, please refer to the Stone Source Usage Guide.  For specific product recommendations, see Care + Maintenance: Suggested Products.


Natural stone can be classified into two general categories according to its composition: siliceous stone or calcareous stone. Knowing the difference is critical when selecting cleaning products. Siliceous stone is composed mainly of silica or quartz-like particles. It tends to be very durable and relatively easy to clean with mild acidic cleaning solutions. Types of siliceous stone include granite, slate, sandstone and quartzite. Calcareous stone is composed mainly of calcium carbonate and will react to acidic foods such as lemons or tomatoes. This reaction will result in a dulling in surface sheen and change in texture, otherwise referred to as “acid etching”. Cleaning products that work on siliceous stone may damage the surface of calcareous surfaces. Types of calcareous stone include marble, travertine, limestone and onyx.

As a general rule of thumb, whenever a spill occurs, immediately blot the spill with a paper towel. Don’t wipe the area; it will spread the spill. Flush the area with plain water and a mild liquid dishwashing detergent. Rinse several times. Dry the area thoroughly with a soft cloth. Do not use products that contain lemon, vinegar or other acids on marble or limestone. Do not use scouring powders or creams; these products contain abrasives that may scratch the surface.

Helpful Tips For Natural Stone

DO blot up spills immediately. DON'T wipe the area, it will spread the spill.
DO use coasters under all glasses, particularly those containing alcohol or citric juices

DO use placemats under china, ceramics, silver or other objects that might scratch the surface

DO dust mop floors frequently

DO clean surfaces with mild detergent or stone soap

DO thoroughly rinse and dry the surface after washing

DO protect floor surfaces with non-slip mats or area rugs and countertop surfaces with coasters, trivets or placemats
DON'T place hot items directly on the stone surface

DON'T use vinegar, lemon juice or other cleaners containing acids on marble, limestone, travertine or onyx surfaces

DON'T use cleaners that contain acid such as bathroom cleaners, grout cleaners or tub and tile cleaners

DON'T use abrasive cleaners such as dry cleansers or soft cleansers

DON'T mix bleach and ammonia; this combination creates a toxic and lethal gas

DON'T ever mix chemicals together unless directions specifically instruct you to do so

For application-specific cleaning instructions, see below:

Dust interior floors frequently using a clean, dry dust mop. Sand, dirt and grit do the most damage to natural stone surfaces due to their abrasiveness. Mats or area rugs inside and outside an entrance will help to minimize the sand, dirt and grit that will scratch the stone floor. Be sure that the underside of the mat or rug is a non-slip surface. Do not use vacuum cleaners that are worn -- the metal or plastic attachments or the wheels may scratch the surface.

In the bath basin or other wet areas, soap scum can be minimized by using a squeegee after each use. To remove soap scum, use a non-acidic soap scum remover or a solution of ammonia and water (about 1/2 cup ammonia to a gallon of water). Frequent or over-use of an ammonia solution may eventually dull the surface of the stone.

Vanity tops may need to have a penetrating sealer applied. Check with your installer for recommendations. A good quality marble wax or non-yellowing automobile paste wax can be applied to minimize water spotting.

All natural stone used for kitchen countertop applications must be regularly maintained and resealed to prevent staining. Always use a neutral detergent to clean marble countertops.

In outdoor pool, patio or hot tub areas, flush with clean water and use a mild bleach solution to remove algae or moss.

For more detailed instructions on addressing stubborn stains, see below:


Staining refers to the residual effect of a spill that cannot be removed with dishwashing detergent. Identifying the source of the stain is the key to removing it. If you don’t know what caused the stain, ask the following questions to help identify the source: Where is the stain located? Is it near a plant, a food service area, an area where cosmetics are used? What color is it? What is the shape or pattern? What goes on in the area around the stain? Surface stains can often be removed by cleaning with an appropriate cleaning product or household chemical. Deep-seated or stubborn stains may require using a poultice or consulting with a professional.

The following sections describe the types of stains you may encounter and how to appropriately treat them without damaging the surface of the stone.

(grease, tar, cooking oil, milk, cosmetics)
An oil-based stain will darken the stone. Generally oil must be chemically dissolved so the source of the stain can be flushed or rinsed away. Clean gently with a soft, liquid cleanser with bleach OR household detergent OR ammonia OR mineral spirits OR acetone.

(coffee, tea, fruit, tobacco, paper, food, urine, leaves, bark, bird droppings)
May cause a pinkish-brown stain and may disappear after the source of the stain has been removed. Outdoors, with the sources removed, normal sun and rain action will generally bleach out the stains. Indoors, clean with 12% hydrogen peroxide (hair bleaching strength) and a few drops of ammonia.

(iron, rust, copper, bronze)
Iron or rust stains are orange to brown in color and follow the shape of the staining object such as nails, bolts, screws, cans, flower pots, metal furniture. Copper and bronze stains appear as green or muddy-brown and result from the action of moisture on nearby or embedded bronze, copper or brass items. Metal stains must be removed with a poultice. Deep-seated, rusty stains are extremely difficult to remove and the stone may be permanently stained.

(algae, mildew, lichens, moss, fungi)
Clean with diluted (1/2 cup in a gallon of water) ammonia OR bleach OR hydrogen peroxide. DO NOT MIX AMMONIA AND BLEACH! THIS COMBINATION CREATES A TOXIC AND LETHAL GAS!

(magic marker, pen, ink)
Clean with bleach or hydrogen peroxide (light colored stone only!) or lacquer thinner or acetone (dark stones only!)

Small amounts can be removed with lacquer thinner or scraped off carefully with a razor blade. Heavy paint coverage should be removed only with a commercial “heavy liquid” paint stripper available from hardware stores and paint centers. These strippers normally contain caustic soda or lye. Do not use acids or flame tools to strip paint from stone. Paint strippers can etch the surface of the stone; re-polishing may be necessary.

Follow the manufacturer’s directions for use of these products, taking care to flush the area thoroughly with clean water. Protect yourself with rubber gloves and eye protection, and work in a well-ventilated area. Use only wood or plastic scrapers for removing the sludge and curdled paint. Normally, latex and acrylic paints will not cause staining. Oil-based paints, linseed oil, putty, caulks and sealants may cause oily stains. Refer to the section on oil-based stains.

(surface accumulation of hard water)
Buff with dry (0000 grit) steel wool.

Older stones and smoke or fire stained fireplaces may require a thorough cleaning to restore their original appearance. Commercially available "smoke removers" may save time and effort.

Etch marks are caused by acids left on the surface of the stone. Some materials will etch the finish but not leave a stain. Others will both etch and stain. Once the stain has been removed, wet the surface with clear water and sprinkle on marble polishing powder, available from a hardware or lapidary store, or your local stone dealer. Rub the powder onto the stone with a damp cloth or by using a buffing pad with a low-speed power drill. Continue buffing until the etch mark disappears and the marble surface shines. Contact a professional stone restorer for refinishing or re-polishing etched areas that you cannot remove.


If a stain cannot be removed using a surface clearer, a poultice may be required. A poultice is a liquid cleaner or chemical mixed with an absorbent material to form a paste about the consistency of peanut butter. The poultice is spread over the stained area to a thickness of about 1/4" to 1/2" with a wood or plastic spatula, covered with plastic and left to work for 24 to 48 hours. The liquid cleaner or chemical will draw out the stain into the absorbent material. Poultice procedures may need to be repeated to thoroughly remove a stain. With regards to liquid chemicals DO NOT MIX AMMONIA AND BLEACH! THIS COMBINATION CREATES A TOXIC AND LETHAL GAS!

Poultice materials include talc, kaolin, fuller’s earth, whiting, powdered chalk, diatomaceous earth or white molding plaster. Approximately one pound of prepared poultice material will cover one square foot. Do not use whiting or iron-type clays such as fuller’s earth with acid chemicals. The reaction will cancel the effect of the poultice. A poultice can also be prepared using white cotton balls, white paper towels or gauze pads.

Poultice with baking soda and water OR one of the powdered poultice materials and mineral spirits.

Poultice with one of the powdered poultice materials and 12% hydrogen peroxide solution (hair bleaching strength) OR use acetone.

Poultice with diatomaceous earth and a commercially rated rust remover. Note that rust stains are particularly difficult to remove. You may need to call a professional.

Poultice with one of the powdered poultice materials and ammonia. Note that copper stains are particularly difficult to remove. You may need to call a professional.

Poultice with dilute ammonia OR bleach OR hydrogen peroxide.


1. Prepare the poultice. If using powder, mix the cleaning agent or chemical to a thick paste the consistency of peanut butter. If using paper, soak in the chemical and let drain. Don't let the liquid drip.
2. Wet the stained area with distilled water.

3. Apply the poultice to the stained area about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick and extend the poultice beyond the stained area by about one inch. Use a wood or plastic scraper to spread the poultice evenly.
4. Cover the poultice with plastic and tape the edges to seal it.
5. Allow the poultice to dry thoroughly, usually about 24 to 48 hours. The drying process is what pulls the stain out of the stone and into the poultice material. After about 24 hours, remove the plastic and allow the poultice to dry.
6. Remove the poultice from the stain. Rinse with distilled water and buff dry with a soft cloth. Use the wood or plastic scraper if necessary.
7. Repeat the poultice application if the stain is not removed. It may take up to five applications for difficult stains.
8. If the surface is etched by the chemical, apply polishing powder and buff with burlap or felt buffing pad to restore the surface.

ACID ETCHING (surface erosion of natural stone)

Acid etching refers to the surface erosion of natural stone. Marble, travertine, limestone and onyx will react to acidic foods (i.e. lemons or tomatoes) and acidic liquids (i.e. some cleaners or acid rain). This reaction will result in a dulling in surface sheen and change in texture, otherwise referred to as “acid etching”. Some highly-pigmented liquids, such as wine, will etch the finish and stain the stone. Remove the stain (see MAKING AND USING A POULTICE) before attempting to address acid etching.

To remove an acid etch from a polished surface, use Fila Marble Restorer. To remove an acid etch from a honed surface use a mild neutral or alkali detergent and buff with dry (0000 grit) steel wool. Contact a professional stone restorer for refinishing or re-polishing etched areas that you cannot remove.

EFFLORESCENCE (film on surface of the material)

Materials that are exposed to moisture may, over time, develop a white or dark film on the surface. Efflorescence in natural stone is caused by water carrying mineral salts from below the surface of the stone rising to the exposed face. In porcelain tile efflorescence appears on the surface of grout joints or unglazed tiles and is caused by moisture reacting with impurities in the mortar.

For natural stone, if the installation is new, dust mop or vacuum the powder. You may have to do this several times. Do not use water to remove the powder; it will only temporarily disappear. If the problem persists, contact your installer to help identify and remove the cause of the moisture. For porcelain tile and natural stones with a minimal acid sensitivity rating, use Fila Deterdeck to clean the tiles.

SCRATCHING (scratch marks and abrasions appear on the surface)

Light scratching occurs over time with exposure to sand and other abrasives. The finish will patina or dull over time as a result of this scratching.

If a material with a low abrasion resistance is used, use walk-off mats at entrances and expect the material to patina rapidly. Always use a cutting board for countertop applications. Slight surface scratches may be buffed with dry lowest grit (0000 grit) steel wool. Deeper scratches and nicks in the surface of the stone should be repaired and re-polished by a professional.


Recommendations for the use of cleaning and maintenance products are included on this website as a convenience to the reader. The suggestions regarding product application are a guide in the use of the products and are not a guarantee of their performance. This website and the information provided herein, including any reference to products, is provided “as is”, without any warranty or implied term of any kind. Stone Source specifically disclaims any responsibility or liability relating to the use of the suggested products and shall under no circumstances whatsoever, be liable for damages of any nature resulting from the use of or reliance upon information from this website or the products to which the information refers.

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