Natural stones are often discussed in light of their myriad of uses, years of durability, strength, resistance to weather and simple beauty. However, one of the other reoccurring subjects when discussing natural stone is maintenance, with the belief having propagated that natural stone requires regular re-sealing or cleaning with aggressive substances. In practice, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Like any good practice for cleaning and maintenance, the first step is to ensure you know about the material properties that are likely to affect the cleaning process or results. Natural stones come in two different types: siliceous stone or calcareous stone. The former, which includes granite, slate, sandstone, quartzite, brownstone and bluestone, is fairly robust and can be cleaned with mildly acidic solutions. The latter, which accounts for marble, travertine, limestone and onyx, is more sensitive and must be cleaned with PH neutral cleaners such as methylated spirits, as acid will cause etching or staining. With no stone should you use cleaning chemicals or abrasive cleaners, as these will further damage the surface and wear away the finish.
Of course, best practice when maintaining natural stone is to exercise a degree of care at all times. For countertops and food preparation areas, consider using coasters under glasses – especially for those with citrus juices or alcohol. Ensure that any spills are also blotted up as soon as possible, in an effort to contain the area of the spill and minimise the surface’s exposure time.
For other areas such as floor surfaces, dry mopping on a regular basis is the best way to remove dirt and sand that will eventually collect and potentially cause scratches. In bathroom environments, squeegeeing natural stone surfaces after each use will prevent the accumulation of soap scum.
Depending on the surface, sealing natural stones is also an option to reduce the impact of what may otherwise be a harmful event. As natural stones are typically porous (although the degree of porosity depends on the type of stone) sealants are valuable in preventing harmful substances from seeping into the stone’s surface, causing stains or etches. Sealants are available in two different types. The first are impregnators, which penetrate below the surface of the stone and have water and oil-repelling properties, but are still breathable if any trapped moisture needs to escape. The second are topical sealers, which exist as a coating on top of the natural stone surface. Their impermeability means that they are less suitable for outdoor purposes, where moisture can be trapped within the surface from the outset of sealing.
If in doubt, natural stone suppliers are generally available to answer any questions about the upkeep and maintenance of natural stone surfaces. RMS Natural Stone and Ceramics is one such supplier, having been one of Australia’s leading importers and sellers of natural stone, marble and ceramic products since they began in 1993. Not only do they feature an extensive range of natural stone tiles and slabs – ranging from marble to travertine, limestone and more – but their website also contains extensive information on the process of natural stone products, types of stone and potential finishes.
To find out more about natural stone, visit RMS Natural Stone and Ceramic’s website here.
 A Guide To The Care & Cleaning Of Natural Stone. 2004. Cleveland: Marble Institute of America. https://www.marble-institute.com/default/assets/File/stone-professionals/commercial_care_clean.pdf.