Granite is a siliceous stone composed primarily of silicates, such as quartz, feldspar, and mica, which account for the colorful flecks and sparkling veins that make granite a favored finish for kitchens and baths. One of the hardest stones used in interior applications, granite has antibacterial traits and is naturally resistant to heat, water, scratches, and most acids found in kitchen settings.
When it comes to safeguarding granite surfaces, Mike Loflin, Industry Research & Information Manager at the Marble Institute of America, recommends:
Think about sealing. Sealing granite surfaces with an impregnating sealer supplies a protection against stains; sealers do not make stone surfaces stain-proof, but create surfaces that are more resistant to stains. Sealers in food preparation areas must be non-toxic and safe for use with food.
Devise preventative measures. Always use coasters under glasses, particularly those containing alcohol or citrus juices, and place hot dishes on trivets. Don't store staining items--such as cooking oils and oil-based cosmetics and creams--on granite countertops.
Protect against abrasive sand, dirt, and grit. Frequently mop interior floors using a clean non-treated dry dust mop. Minimize tracked-in dirt by placing slip-resistant mats or area rugs inside and outside entrances. If using a vacuum cleaner on granite floors, make sure that attachments and wheels are in tiptop shape; worn equipment can scratch granite.
Stay on top of spills. Immediately blot (don't wipe) spills with a paper towel (wiping spreads spills). Flush the area with a mix of water and mild dishwashing soap; rinse several times. Dry the area thoroughly with a soft cloth. Repeat as necessary.
Avoid harsh cleaners. Granites may contain trace levels of minerals that are acid sensitive, so don't use cleaning products containing lemon, vinegar, or other acids. Don't use scouring powders or abrasive creams or rust removers. Steer clear of ammonia, bleach, or cleaning products with solvents or caustics that could remove sealers.
Housekeeping and organization expert Amanda Thomas, founder of Moxie Girl (www.moxie-girl.com), advises cleaning granite countertops daily with a damp rag or a damp rag and a little mild dishwashing liquid and drying surfaces with a microfiber towel. For a deeper-cleaning solution, fill a spray bottle with a 50/50 mix of rubbing alcohol and water; Thomas says the spray cleaner gives granite surfaces a nice shine.
If you want to go the easy route, use a commercially available stone cleaner. Debra Johnson, Merry Maids' Home Cleaning Expert, recommends trying Take it For Granite, a spray that safely cleans granite countertops, floors, and shower walls.
In general, granite surfaces should be cleaned with soft cotton cloths or clean rag mops along with neutral cleaners, mild liquid dishwashing detergent and water, or cleaners made specifically for granite. After washing with a soap solution, rinse surfaces with water, and dry with a soft cloth to eliminate water spots and streaking.
Though granite surfaces have some stain resistance, stains are still likely to pop up, especially in food preparation areas and at bathroom vanity stations. Common stains that mar kitchen and bathroom surfaces include oil-based and organic stains. The Marble Institute of America has a handy guide to help you identify and remove these and other types of stains.