Kitchen design is most often selected for appearance, but durability also needs to be a deciding factor. This doesn’t mean that you need to cover all your kitchen surfaces with plastic, but the materials selected should meet the level of maintenance that you are willing to perform. Various kitchen countertop surfaces require specific cleaning procedures to keep from damaging the material or changing the color.
The widely popular granite countertops require regular sealing to keep them looking their best. Granite is a very tough and durable stone, and experts say granite countertops will last for a lifetime if properly cared for without fading, cracking and disintegrating.
Granite countertops should be sealed when they are installed, and re-sealed once or twice a year to keep them looking their best. With a solvent-based sealer, the process should take about 10 to 15 minutes. Less-expensive water-based sealants can be more labor-intensive and are not as widely recommended.
To test if countertops are already sealed or if it is time to re-seal, spill a small amount of water on the surface. If it beads up, the granite is sealed. If the water begins to seep into the granite, it is time to re-seal.
For everyday cleaning, warm water and mild soap should be used. Wipe the countertops down with a soapy sponge and be sure to dry them completely to avoid streaking. If the granite is stained, a poultice mixture can be used to re-absorb the stain from the stone.
Stainless steel countertops require some special care as well. These surfaces scratch and dent easily, so homeowners who choose them should anticipate using great care. These days, stainless steel countertops are popular for their sleek look and antibacterial qualities, but unfortunately, something as simple as placing cookware on them can scratch them.
When you purchase stainless steel, ask about special maintenance powders, which, when rubbed in the direction of the grain, can help reduce the look of scratches. A trick for camouflaging scratches is to install countertops with a patterned finish. Minor scratches will blend in to these types of finishes, but unfortunately large dents and deep scratches will still show.
To avoid corroding stainless steel, use soapy warm water to clean instead of harsh household cleaning products. Also, don’t place food directly on the surface, because acidic foods will leave stains on the steel.
For lower maintenance options, many homeowners are selecting quartz surfaces, such as Cambria and Silestone. No polishing, buffing, sealing or reconditioning is required for quartz products. Warm, soapy water is all you need to wipe these surfaces clean. Spills can be soaked up with a mild cleanser, and hardened stains can be scraped off. One precaution that is necessary with quartz surfaces is to avoid exposing them to high levels of heat. Always use trivets for hot dishes to prevent cracking the countertops.
Another countertop surface that should never be exposed to high heat is wood. These countertops are rare, but nevertheless, they require specific maintenance instructions to keep them looking their best.
In addition to heat, wood countertops should not be exposed to excessive cold or moisture. These will ruin the coating on the wood and discolor the surface. To clean a wood surface, scrape off any hardened food or substances with a steel scraper. After that, the surface can be washed clean with warm soapy water. A layer of oil is often rubbed into wood countertops monthly to keep them looking their best and to protect them.
If water or food stains appear on the wood, use light sandpaper or fine steel wool to rub them out. Then apply a layer of oil to the wood to ensure that it is evenly sealed. Nicks and gouges from knives and heavy objects can be removed with a similar method.
For stains that are too large or difficult to clean, the area may have to be entirely stripped and refinished. While wood countertops may look beautiful, they can be tricky to maintain or repair.
If you are choosing new surfaces for your kitchen, make sure to do your research—you don’t want to end up with a material that looks great but requires too much maintenance for your lifestyle.