Marble’s Worst Enemies – A Guide to Eco-Friendly Cleaning
Marble is a natural material and as such, it lives; and like any living thing it changes shape and appearance. This can enhance the natural beauty of the stone, giving it character and a gorgeous earthy feel. But over time, any natural stone can experience negative reactions if it’s exposed to the wrong things.
When it comes to cleaning your marble countertops or furniture, there are thousands of products on the market. The problem is many conventional products pollute our homes and environments and can be damaging to natural surfaces.
Many people believe these traditional cleaners are their only options; that “powerful” is synonymous with “harsh”. But the fact is stone responds best to natural cleaners. The first rule, however, is prevention!
Beware of the potential for damage hiding in common household items! Marble reacts violently with acids. Vinegar, lemon juice, citric acid, Coca Cola and many other items can potentially scar a natural marble surface.
Because this damage is so common, there are alkaline products on the market that attempt to counteract the acidity of the spots, restoring the PH balance of the marble. Many are rich in surfactants; elements that bind to the spot and remove it through osmosis. However, these surfactants pollute the groundwater, and are overly aggressive with the delicate marble.
The safest bet is always an eco-friendly, natural cleanser.
To clean slimy oil spots, wet the stain with a small amount of water. Pour an eco-friendly detergent powder (not liquid) on the wet spot, creating a mound
Cover with aluminum foil or an upside-down glass so as not to dry the detergent too quickly. Leave overnight, and if the spot is particularly difficult, leave on the following day.
The detergent powder binds with the oil molecules in the marble. As the wet detergent dries, the oil molecules with it will stick with it; easily swept away.
After one or two days, remove the detergent. The stain will have disappeared.
As mentioned above, many household items contain ingredients that are damaging to marble. Lemon juice, vinegar, tomato juice and acidic detergents are bitter enemies of marble! If left untreated the acids will dissolve the surface of the stone, leaving it stained or rough.
If one of these acidic substances touches your marble, dry immediately and wash the area with soap and baking soda or washing soda and soap. Do NOT use scouring powder or caustic soda.
For lasting spots, apply potato starch directly to the stain. Let it sit for several hours. Wash with water and mild soap.
If the discoloration persists, gently massage with a pumice stone. Take a damp sponge, cake with baking soda and rub the stained area a second time. Rinse with a damp cloth.
Grease and stubborn dirt can also be treated with “Spanish White” powdered chalk. Cover the stain, moisten with water to create a creamy consistency and apply over the entire area. Leave on for 30 minutes. Wet the marble to remove excess chalk, wash with soap and rinse thoroughly.
If these tips don’t completely remove the discoloration, it may be time to call in a professional. You can also check out this guide from the Marble Institute of America for additional information and techniques.