Beginners Guide To Cleaning Marble Countertops

Maybe you’ve just finished installing marble countertops in your home or are new to maintaining them. How can you clean them so they’ll last indefinitely? There are basics involved and there are details in cleaning and caring for marble countertops.

Marble Countertop Cleaning

Though marble is fairly easy to clean, you can preserve its beauty by simply wiping it clean daily with a pH-balanced soap you mix with water. When you clean marble countertops after every meal, there should be little cleaning and staining issues; however if stains on marble come from oil-based, organic, and other sources there are methods to follow for cleaning and maintaining them. Here is a beginner’s guide to cleaning marble countertops.

Nicks and Scratches

You can buff out surface scratches with dry fine-grade steel wool (0000). Deeper scratches and nicks require repair and re-polishing through a professional.

Oil-Based Stains

Oil-based stains include stains from cooking oil, grease, cosmetics, and milk. Stains from these products will darken marble, Countertop stains from any of these sources will require gentle cleansing with either a nonabrasive detergent, rubbing alcohol, mineral spirits, acetone, corn starch, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, or liquid soap and flour. You want to gently cleanse the area so you can chemically dissolve and rinse away the sources.

Organic Based Stains

Organic stains from food, coffee, tea, fruit, and even leaves, bark, urine, and bird feces may bring a stain (pinkish brown) that will discolor your countertops. If you have outdoor areas with marble the sun and rain will usually bleach out the stains but with interior stains, you want to clean with hydrogen peroxide at 12 percent and just a few drops of ammonia. You can also use a powdered poultice material available in hardware and home stores along with hydrogen peroxide or acetone in place of hydrogen peroxide.

Water and Rings

Water spots and rings caused by hard water accumulation require buffing and drying with steel wool of 0000 grit.

Metal-Based Stains

Rust stains from cans, pots, nails, screws and other metal items can leave a nasty green, orange or brown stains. The stains develop because of moisture’s interaction with various metal items. The stains are difficult to get rid of and may leave a permanent mark, but using a poultice can be helpful in lifting the stain. Try mixing hydrogen peroxide and baby powder until it has a thick consistency. Apply the mixture to the stained area and cover it with plastic wrap. The paste should remain on the countertop for at least 24 hours. Remove the plastic with a putty knife, rinse the area with water and dry it with a paper towel.

With copper stains, use a poultice material and ammonia. They are difficult stains to remove and you may need to consult with a countertop professional to remove them. Dealing with rust stains from iron can be just as difficult. You can make a poultice with a rust remover but you may still need to call in a professional. If it does not remove the stain with the initial treatment, repeat the action. It may take a series of applications to remove the stain.

Ink Stains

Whether the ink color comes from a sharpie, magic marker, or actual ink, clean the area with either bleach or hydrogen peroxide for light-colored marble. Use acetone or lacquer thinner for dark marble.


You can remove smaller amounts of paint from marble by using lacquer thinner and scraping it off slowly and carefully with a razor blade. For larger amounts of paint, use a liquid stripper that is free of soda or lye. Follow all directions and use clean water and a plastic or wood scraper to remove the paint and stripper. Be sure to use gloves and protective eyewear and work in a ventilated area.

For oil-based paints or similar products that leave an oily film on marble such as caulk, linseed oil, putty, and other sealants, you can remove these stains with a poultice made with acetone and mineral spirits. You may need to repeat the process to get rid of the stain.


Etching occurs on marble countertops because of acids that are spilled there. Marble consists of calcium carbonate which reacts to acidic substances like coffee, lemon juice, vinegar, wine, and other acidic materials. The acids react chemically with the marble and can leave a fixed mark or stain.

To remove etch marks, wet the countertop surface and sprinkle a polishing powder designed for marble. Use a damp cloth to rub the powder into the etch mark. You can also use a pad for buffing with a power drill that’s geared at a lower speed. Buff the area until the etch mark no longer remains and the countertop shines. If this action doesn’t work, contact a professional marble expert or other granite companies nearby. You want someone who is familiar with restoring and refinishing countertop areas.

Efflorescent Material

Sometimes a white powder may develop on the surface of a marble countertop. The cause is due to water infiltration that transports mineral salts that are beneath the surface of the countertop. When evaporation occurs with the water, a residue of white powder remains. In order to clean it off, you can either dust it with a mop or vacuum it away. Doing this a few times should dry out the countertop. Cleaning it away with water won’t solve the problem as the powder will only disappear for a short time. If dusting and vacuuming don’t work, call a professional installer to investigate the cause and get rid of the excess moisture.

If you’re not sure about how you should clean marble countertops or just have general questions concerning marble, contact Marble Concepts at 215-396-7393. You’ll be glad you did as they are one authority on marble to be trusted.