Kitchen countertops can be made of a variety of materials. Some, such as quartz, are virtually maintenance-free, while others, such as granite, require a bit of care to keep them in stellar condition. Here are maintenance tips for some of the most popular kitchen countertop surfaces.
LAMINATE: By far the most-used countertop material, laminate has been around for years. Made from a thin plastic finish bonded to a particleboard base, it is very affordable, comes in many colors and patterns and is fairly maintenance-free. To clean, wipe with a damp, soapy cloth or sponge. Avoid bleach, which will discolor the veneer. Do not place hot pans on the laminate – it can only resist temperatures up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. And finally, always use a cutting board, as knives will damage the finish.
ENGINEERED QUARTZ: Made from crushed quartz bonded with a polymer resin, engineered stone countertops require almost no maintenance. They are naturally stain-resistant, scratch-resistant and non-porous. Simply wipe with warm, soapy water. While you can use a knife on the surface, you probably won’t want to … it will dull your knives very quickly!
STAINLESS STEEL: While your brand new stainless steel countertop is gloriously shiny and mirror-like, don’t get used to it! This surface WILL scratch over time. Scratches will not alter its durability or stain-resistance. For everyday cleaning, use water and a microfiber cloth. You may add a mild detergent for tough cleanup. If fingerprints are a problem, use glass cleaner with a microfiber cloth. Finally, you can purchase a stainless steel cleaner to renew the polished-looking finish.
SOAPSTONE: Soapstone is a durable and stain/heat/bacteria-resistant countertop surface. Normal cleaning involves wiping with warm, soapy water. Over time, you will notice that the soapstone will grow darker with age. While this is normal, it can be sanded regularly to restore the lighter color, as well as to eliminate scratches or chips.
GRANITE: Considered the gold standard of countertops, granite has great durability. For everyday cleanup, wipe with mild soap and water and dry with a soft cloth. If something spills, wipe it up immediately, as granite is porous and will stain. Avoid any cleaning products which are acidic, such as lemon-based or vinegar-based. In addition, you will need to seal your granite countertop regularly. Initially, your builder will likely have used a penetrating sealer on the surface. This sealer absorbs into the stone and protects for about one or two years. Ask your builder for specifics on the type of sealer he used. An oil repellent impregnator sealer is the best to resist all sorts of oil-based spills. In addition to the penetrating sealer, you may also use a topical sealer to renew the shine and gloss.
CERAMIC TILE: Ceramic tile countertops are both highly cost-effective and durable. Glazed tile is better than un-glazed in kitchen surfaces. Clean routinely with warm, soapy water. The grout will need special attention. When your tile was installed, your builder should have sealed the grout to make it impervious to stains. Nonetheless, you will need to periodically clean it with a tile and grout cleaner. If some stains do not come out, you may choose to use a grout stain on the grout. This will cover stains and homogenize the grout color.
WOOD: A butcher block countertop can be durable if the wood and the sealer on it are high quality. The best finish is a waterproof varnish. With a wooden countertop, always use a cutting board when using knives. Also, be sure to use hot pads or trivets to protect from heat. If you spill something, wipe it up right away, as wood is permeable. Twice per year, you will need to oil the surface with a food-safe oil, such as tung oil, mineral oil or beeswax-based oil. Spread the oil generously over the surface and let sit for 30 minutes. Wipe clean and polish with a soft cloth. Finally, if you have scratches or nicks, you may use a very fine grit sandpaper to sand them out, but you will then need to reseal and oil the surface.
CORIAN: While Corian is very durable, it does need some maintenance. First, the don’ts: Don’t put hot pans directly on the countertop – always use a hot pad or trivet. Don’t allow water to dry on the surface – it will leave a spot that looks dull. Always wipe the surface dry after you wash it clean. If your sink is Corian, do not pour boiling water into the sink. Do not cut directly on the surface. Finally, do not use harsh cleansers. Now the dos: To clean your Corian, use either warm, soapy water, an ammonia-based cleaner or a cleaner made specifically for Corian. If you get a stain or a scratch, you may sand the surface with sandpaper. Begin by sanding gently in the direction of the scratch with a rough grit sandpaper. Then switch to a 90 degree angle to your original sanding. Add water to reduce dust. Next, choose lighter and lighter grit papers and sand using the same technique, until the surface looks consistent.