Maintenance & Cleaning for Natural Stone

Natural stone makes for a beautiful and useful surface, but it’s not quite as indestructible as it may seem. Some types of stone (like limestone) are actually pretty fragile. Even the hardest stones (like granite) can be ruined in a single minor accident. Stone will usually last longer than wood, but there is one requirement: It has to be cared for properly.

Types Of Stone

It is not necessary to give you a geology lesson. Instead, we will focus on just one aspect of classification. Pretty much all of the stones that you are likely to use will fall into one of two categories: Calcareous or siliceous. Each basic type has different properties and must, therefore, be cleaned and maintained in different ways.

Calcareous Stone Calcareous stone is made up mostly of a substance called calcium carbonate. This is the same substance that makes up pearls, oyster shells, fingernails, and chalk. Examples of calcareous rock would include limestone, onyx, marble, travertine, and serpentine. These tend to be sensitive to acidic cleaners, so make sure that you use a gentle cleaning product with a more or less neutral ph. Avoid things like lemon juice and vinegar.

You also want to avoid using abrasive cleaners on this surface. Don’t use a stiff-wired brush when you scrub a surface made of calcareous stone, or else you will probably ruin the surface with scratches and rough spots. Basic soap and water combined with a soft-bristled cleaning brush are your best bet. Commercial cleaners are fine, but make sure they are recommended for your type of stone.

Siliceous Stone

Siliceous stones are named for their main component: Silica. Silica is found naturally in sand and many other natural substances. It is the primary component used to make glass, and it resists acid in the same way that glass does. You can get away with using much harsher cleaners with stone like this, but don’t go too far. Examples of siliceous stones would include sandstone, slate, quartzite, soapstone, and granite. Just about any commercial cleaning product that is recommended for natural stone surfaces will work here.

Rules For Stone Surfaces

When you have stone surfaces in your home, you have to set some ground rules. As we said earlier, an expensive stone surface can be ruined by one unfortunate accident. Here are a few good rules to get you started:

  • Keep plenty of coasters around, and make sure that everyone uses them
  • Never allow the surface to get extremely hot or cold
  • Use small mats to help prevent scratching
  • Any liquid spilled onto the surface must be cleaned immediately
  • No use of tools on stone surfaces
  • Never set heavy objects on a stone surface

Cleaning Solutions

If you don’t trust the various concoctions that you can buy at the store, or if you just want to save some money, you can try some of these improvised cleaning solutions. All are made from common household chemicals, and most of them are composed of one ingredient diluted with water.

When your stone surface has been stained with something oily, like grease or cooking oil, it tends to seep into the stone and cause an ugly stain. To remove it, you need something that can penetrate the stone and dissolve the residue. There are three products that are good for this purpose: Mineral spirits, common laundry detergent, and acetone. You can just dilute any of these with water and use them, or you can experiment with combining mineral spirits and detergent, but never mix the acetone with either one. Acetone reacts in dangerous ways when mixed with certain things.

When your stone surface has been stained with something organic, such as tobacco, coffee, tea, wine, or urine, you need something different. Ammonia might do the job, and won’t need to be diluted with water. If that doesn’t work mix the ammonia with an equal amount of 91% rubbing alcohol (making something similar to glass cleaner)and try again. If that also fails, you should try some 12% hydrogen peroxide. Never mix that high-strength peroxide with anything else, as peroxides are notoriously dangerous when mixed with certain things.

Any stone cleaner can be combined with a poultice for extra effectiveness. A poultice treatment takes longer and is a lot more trouble, but it is sometimes your only option for the most stubborn stains.

Sealing The Surface

If you want to get maximum longevity out of your stone surface, you should consider the use of a good sealing product. These are basically varnishes, except that they are specifically designed to seep into the pores of a natural stone surface. Once everything has hardened, you will have much fewer worries about water damage. Even if a stain occurs, you can sand off the sealant and start again.


With the right kind of care, your stone surfaces should last for years or even decades. After all, the oldest archaeological ruins that still stand are the structures that were made of stone. Even in those days, they knew that only stone had the potential to last the ages. If you have found our advice to be helpful, please hit that “follow” button on Facebook so that we can bring you more of the same.