Polishing granite countertops
By Tristan Hoag
Posted in: Home Repair
One way to keep your kitchen looking new is polishing granite countertops and restoring their shine
Nothing looks better in a kitchen than brand new granite countertops, combining the attractive warmth of the stone with the gloss of the polished surface. As of 2014, granite became the most popular material used in countertops, with quartz a close second.
As you use your kitchen, though, the shine of the finish fades as scratches, blemishes and spills mar the perfect surface. Luckily, polishing granite countertops isn’t a difficult task, and can restore some of the original beauty of the stone.
Polishing shouldn’t be confused with using a surface rejuvenator. A rejuvenator will fill scratches and restore some shine, but polishing is removing some of the surface and sealing it again, actually creating a new surface. You can use a rejuvenator daily, but your granite should be polished every year, or more often depending on usage, stone type, and the rate of dulling.
Dry or wet polishing
The first thing to consider when polishing granite countertops is whether to use dry or wet polishing. Some granite types will require you to use one method or the other, and this should be discussed when you have them installed. Otherwise, it will be a decision based on your personal preferences.
Dry polishing: This method uses a polishing powder and is less expensive than wet polishing. It is cleaner than wet polishing, especially when using power tools, but builds up more heat in the pads. Dry polishing pads are more expensive than wet polishing pads, and you'll need to use more of them.
Wet polishing: This refers to polishing the stone with a wet paste rather than a powder. You can purchase pre-mixed pastes, or you can add water to a dry powder to create the paste yourself. Wet polishing can be messy if you're using power tools, so you should use plastic sheeting to protect you walls, furniture, and other surfaces. The water in the paste will cool the pads while you're working, so they last longer and can be less durable, which reduces their price.
Whether you choose to go with dry or wet polishing, you will need to pay attention to the kind of polish you choose. Some are designed to be used with darker or lighter hues of stone, and choosing the wrong kind of polish can discolor the stone you have. It's important to read the instructions carefully before you buy a polish, and make sure that it is designed to work with your granite.
How to polish granite countertops
You should always start the process by thoroughly cleaning the surface to be polished. This is crucial, as dust or food particles can damage the surface as you start polishing.
When you clean your countertops, you should use a cleaner that is intended for use on granite. Cleaners with vinegar, citrus or ammonia can actually dull your finish, so they should be avoided.
How to clean granite countertops:
- Spray a thin layer of cleaner over the countertop.
- Let the cleaner stand for a few minutes.
- Use a soft cotton cloth to wipe the cleaner off.
Note: Check the instructions on the cleaner you are using, as different cleaners may require different handling to get the best results.
If you're concerned about chemicals, you can clean the countertops with warm or hot water, but you'll need to dry them quickly to avoid water staining.
How to polish granite countertops:
- Spread an even layer of polish over the granite surface.
- Leave the polish on the surface for roughly five minutes.
- Buff the granite with a soft cotton cloth. You're trying to get a shiny surface without any streaks. This will take a while to achieve by hand, so many people use power tools such as a hand-held sander or grinder with polishing pads to speed up the process.
Note: As with cleaners, the polish you use may require special handling to get the best results. You should follow those instructions if they contradict the instructions provided here.
When you're finished with your polishing, granite countertops should have their shine back, and will be looking great - but the job may not be finished yet!
Sealing the countertop
Any time you're polishing granite countertops, you're removing a bit of the surface. This can compromise the sealant that is used to protect the stone, so you may need to seal the surface again to make sure your counters are ready for use.
The kind of granite used to make your countertops can have a big impact on how often they need to be sealed. Darker granite is typically harder and therefore more resistant to liquids. Lighter granites are more vulnerable, and any stains or discoloration will be easier to see.
You can test the sealant by putting a little bit of water on the surface, and watching for it to bead up. If it does, the sealant is working and you don’t need to reseal your countertop. If the water doesn’t bead up, however, it's being absorbed by the stone and you will need to add a new layer of sealant.
How to seal a granite countertop:
- Clean and dry the polished countertop before adding sealant.
- Spray the sealer evenly across a section of the countertop that you can work quickly. Don’t try to seal the entire surface at once, as the sealant may start to dry before you can work on it.
- Using a soft cotton cloth, spread the sealer evenly across the surface. This should take about five minutes, and if it's taking longer, you should work on a smaller area at one time.
- Let the sealed surface dry for half an hour before working on the next section.
Note: Different sealers can have specific instructions to achieve the best results. Always follow the instructions for the product you're using when they contradict these steps.
Depending upon the sealant you're using, and the wear on your countertops, you may need to add several coats to protect your granite. When you have sealed the entire surface, you should perform the water beading test again to see if another layer is required. When the water beads up, you know the surface is completely sealed.
Maintaining a granite countertop
Depending upon the amount of use that your granite countertops see, the frequency with which you need to polish and seal them can vary. Between polishes, though, there are measures that you can take to protect the surface and keep your marble and granite countertops looking their best.
Protecting granite countertops:
- Clean your countertops with a granite rejuvenator on a regular basis to help maintain their shine.
- Be sure that drinks are on coasters, to prevent liquid stains.
- Don’t put pans or pots directly on the surface. Place a pot holder beneath them.
- Use a cutting board when cooking to prevent scratches.
- When liquids spill on the countertop, clean them up immediately. Try to absorb the liquid before wiping to limit the area that is affected.
Taking proper care of your countertops will protect the finish, which will keep them looking better and help the surface to last longer. This will increase the amount of time that you can wait before polishing granite countertops, extending the life of the stone.
For fast and accurate answers to your home improvement questions on topics like polishing granite countertops, the Experts on JustAnswer can save you the time and expense of waiting for a contractor’s visit.
Do you have any special techniques for taking care of your granite surfaces? If so, share them in the comments below!