How to Deep Clean Granite Using Natural Products
By guest blogger Scott Jenkins
As parents of two young children, my wife and I make a conscious effort to avoid using harsh man-made chemicals to clean our home. One of the most important areas of the home are the kitchen counter tops.
Every day the food we eat comes in contact with the counters so we don’t want them coated with chemicals like 2-hexoxyathanol, an ingredient in Windex that has been linked to central nervous system depression; or alkyl C12-16 dimethylbenzyl ammonium chloride, found in Formula 409’s all purpose cleanser, which has been shown to adversely effect the liver when repeatedly ingested.
The internet is filled with recipes for natural, homemade cleansers that are safe to use on many of the areas in your home, such as glass, porcelain, or even wood.
Unfortunately, stone is a little bit different than most of these other materials. It reacts poorly with many substances – including many naturally occurring ones such as lemon juice, citric acid, and vinegar.
So, when the time comes to clean your granite, you need to make sure that you use only cleansers that are PH neutral – or perfectly balanced between acids and alkalines. To do otherwise may end up harming your stone, rather than cleaning it.
Etching the Stone
You may not notice the damage that you’re doing to your granite at first when you use a highly acidic or alkaline cleanser, such as vinegar on your stone. But what’s happening is that the acidic of alkaline substance is actually removing not only the dirt, but also the weaker particles of the stone from its surface. The result is a condition called etching, which will eventually dull the surface of your stone. This is why it’s so important to only use a PH neutral cleanser, even when using all-natural cleansing products.
If you’re looking to avoid man-made cleansers when you clean your granite, consider sticking to plain water and a microfiber towel for your basic, daily cleans. Water and a microfiber towel will remove most if not all of the surface dirt and substances from the surface of your granite, and they will not scratch or etch the surface of the stone.
Make sure that you only use microfiber towels, which are soft, yet effective at removing surface dirt and debris from natural stone. Avoid using towels embedded with silver threads or towels that have been “treated” to make them more effective at cleaning. Anything added to the towel, or any kind of abrasive pad could potentially dull or scratch the surface of your stone.
Deep Cleaning and Disinfecting
If you find that your granite needs a deeper clean than what water and a microfiber towel can give it, or if you want to disinfect your stone after having used it to hold raw chicken or another bacteria-containing substance, you can still use natural products to get the job done.
Isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol, is what’s known as a secondary alcohol – all the carbohydrates have been removed and the proteins have been denatured. Isopropyl alcohol is PH neutral and therefore safe to use on your granite counter tops. It makes a great disinfectant, and can wipe up spills, grease, and other substances that you may not want to handle with water alone.
Because the alcohol smell can be very strong, you may want to add a few drops of an essential oil to the mixture to help cut the smell.
For a more every day cleaner that is stronger than water, but not as strong as the straight alcohol and water mixture, you can also use a few drops of Castile soap on your granite. Made from olive oil, this natural soap is PH neutral and effective at helping to remove stubborn surface debris from your granite. You can add a tablespoon of the soap to the alcohol and water mixture above to create an all-purpose granite cleaner that also disinfects.
Tea Tree Oil
If you really don’t love the smell of isopropyl alcohol, but want to add some disinfecting properties to your soap, consider mixing Castile soap with water and a few drops of tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is a natural disinfectant that also has anti-fungal properties. It has a strong, distinctive smell, but many people find it more pleasant than straight isopropyl alcohol. It’s also PH neutral when diluted like this and safe to use on granite.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, a stain can set into your granite. When this happens, you need a poultice to pull the stain back up to the surface where it can be cleaned away. Many poultices use chemicals to do the job, then require you to have your granite refinished to fix any etching that was done. This isn’t necessary however, as there are natural poultices that work just as well. One of the most common and the safest is diatomaceous earth.
Mix the diatomaceous earth with water until you get a substance the consistency of peanut butter. Spread it on the stain and cover it with plastic wrap. Seal down the edges of the plastic, then poke some holes in the top of the wrap. Let the poultice sit undisturbed for up to 48 hours or until the poultice is dry. Wipe it away and clean the area. Repeat if necessary; it can take up to five applications to completely remove the stain. Other poultices that may work include:
Make sure you use pure products without added acids or chemicals to avoid etching the stone.
Take Care of Your Granite
Natural materials like granite often do very well when cleaned with natural cleansers. Just make sure to use only PH neutral materials and soft cloths on your granite to avoid etching, and deep clean your granite naturally every day.