10 Countertop Cleaning Tips

Different countertops require different cleaning methods.
Different countertops require different cleaning methods.

There's no single, one-size-fits-all tip for cleaning countertops. Regardless if your countertops are made from granite, acrylic, laminate or any other material, they should be able to withstand all spills -- no matter how big or small they may be.

Always inquire about a countertop's level of maintenance before you put on the rubber gloves to clean up a spill. Every surface is different, and some materials can withstand kitchen mishaps better than others. Even if you're a world-class chef, your countertops are bound to take a little abuse, but do you know how to return each surface back to its original splendor? These cleaning tips will ensure that your countertops will sparkle and shine for many years to come.


Granite is an igneous rock, and its natural properties and wide range of colors make it a stylish choice for today's countertops. Granite can be used to make many household objects, including floor tiles and paving stones, but countertops are one of the most popular ways to use the material.

Acidic cleaning products and anything vinegar-based can damage granite, so only use warm water, a conservative amount of soap and a wet sponge or soft cloth to clean the surface. Granite can be porous if it isn't sealed properly, so it should be cleaned thoroughly and sealed before it's installed. Some companies sell special cleaning kits that contain a sealant-specific solution to protect the surface, so contact your granite provider or the company that installed your countertops to inquire about specialized products.


Wood is easily damaged, so try to wipe up all spills quickly to prevent stains and keep countertops as dry as possible. About once a month or so, rub linseed or mineral oil into the wood to protect it from moisture. Here are some additional cleaning tips:

  • Remove stains with a solution of 1/4 cup chlorine bleach in 1 quart warm water. Rinse, dry and coat with oil.
  • To get rid of odors that are absorbed by wooden countertops, rub the surface with a slice of lemon.
  • To clean wooden countertops, mix 1/2 cup baking soda in 1 quart warm water. Rub the paste into the wood using a synthetic scouring pad. Rinse well and blot up excess moisture. When dry, restore the finish by using boiled linseed oil rubbed in with a fine steel wool pad. Treat the countertop with two coats of oil, applied 24 hours apart, blotting up excess moisture after each application.
Stainless Steel
Stainless steel countertops are modern and sleek, but they require a lot of work to keep up.
Stainless steel countertops are modern and sleek, but they require a lot of work to keep up.

Stainless steel's clean lines and modern appearance make it a popular choice for countertops, but it takes a dedicated effort to keep these high-maintenance surfaces shiny and clean. Stainless steel is very sensitive to the atmosphere, and when it's exposed to harsh chemicals or materials, it can become permanently damaged. Similarly, leaving wet materials on a surface will lead to discoloration, so your countertops should be kept dry at all times.

To keep stainless steel clean, regularly wash the surface with warm water and a small amount of baking soda. Always thoroughly dry your countertops after cleaning to prevent water spots. Watch out for mineral deposits, which can be extremely tough to clean on this material. To remove these deposits, use a small amount of vinegar and rinse with water. Never use abrasive materials like steel wool. Rough cloths or pads will scratch the surface and ruin stainless steel's reflective finish.


Formica is inexpensive, requires little maintenance and can last a long time if it's properly taken care of. It comes in many different colors and patterns and can be installed over existing laminate, which can reduce expenses when the time comes to replace countertops.

To clean Formica counters, avoid abrasive cleaners -- including ammonia or bleach -- and use mild soap, a soft cloth and warm water. Be sure to wipe up spills immediately to prevent staining. Formica is easy to maintain if spills are cleaned up right away, but if a stain sets in, it'll be practically impossible to remove. Formica also has a tendency to show streaks, but a household glass cleaner can return the surface back to its original appearance.


Silestone is made of quartz -- a very tough, natural material. Your silestone countertop should be finished with a protective polish that's scratch-, stain- and scorch-resistant, so it'll be protected no matter what it comes in contact with. Silestone can withstand coffee, lemon juice, wine, vinegar, olive oil and makeup spills. Clean the surface using mild household cleaners. Make it a point to avoid harsh cleansers, and always use a nonabrasive cleaning sponge or pad to remove any stubborn stains. You should also avoid using excessive pressure or force. If a stain sets on the surface, soak the area for a short time to loosen stubborn particles, and then use a soft cloth to lift and remove the stain.


Concrete is a versatile countertop option with a range of styles and colors, and the surface is eco-friendly, too. Concrete's two main ingredients (sand and water) are abundant, and recycled materials like glass can be included in the mixture as well.

When concrete is used in homes, it's often cured and sealed for protection and longevity. To clean concrete surfaces, use a mixture of vinegar and water, and always avoid abrasive soaps and cleaning solutions containing harsh chemicals. Abrasive pads and sponges can damage the surface as well.

Ceramic Tile
Ceramic tiles come in a variety of colors and styles, and they're one of the most popular countertop materials on the market today.
Ceramic tiles come in a variety of colors and styles, and they're one of the most popular countertop materials on the market today.

Glazed and unglazed ceramic tiles are used for kitchen countertops. Unlike most other surfaces, ceramic tile counters can take the heat from hot pots and pans. Ceramic tiles are extremely durable, but the grout between them is soft, porous and prone to cracks. Use these tips to keep your countertops clean:

  • Use a toothbrush or nail brush to scrub grout. To remove mildew, dip the brush in household bleach.
  • When you clean grout, don't use harsh abrasive cleaners, which might scratch the glaze on ceramic tile.
  • Many foam and spray tile and grout cleaners are available. Follow the manufacturer's instructions, and rinse with water to finish the job. Be sure to wear rubber gloves, and don't inhale the mist from spray cleaners.
Acrylic countertops are relatively easy to clean.
Acrylic countertops are relatively easy to clean.

You have to go out of your way to harm an acrylic countertop. A very hot pan will leave a permanent burn on the surface, but scouring powder or steel wool will remove stains and scratches.

For routine cleaning:

  • Use a mild abrasive cleanser applied directly to the wet countertop.
  • Rinse well.
  • Buff dry with a soft cloth.

Marble countertops are porous and susceptible to stains, but they aren't affected by heat.

Treat marble with a special stone sealer to reduce its porosity, and wipe up wine, fruit juice and other acidic food spills immediately to prevent permanent surface etching. Abrasive cleaners will mar the surface of marble, and oil polish and soft waxes may discolor it.

While many commercial cleaners are available, borax rubbed into the surface with a moistened cloth will also clean marble. Rinse with warm water, and buff dry with a soft cloth.

Plastic Laminate
Many people choose plastic laminate when looking to replace their old countertops.
Many people choose plastic laminate when looking to replace their old countertops.

Most kitchens have plastic laminate countertops. They're practically seamless, giving cooks a smooth, waterproof work surface that's easy to clean. Unfortunately, plastic laminate burns, scratches and stains fairly easily, so you'll have to be considerate of your counters to keep them looking good. Follow these tips to do just that:

  • Regular applications of appliance wax or light furniture wax will help laminate surfaces resist stains and scratching.
  • Never use abrasive cleansers or steel wool on laminate countertops.
  • For general cleaning, a two-sided scrubbing pad with fiber on one side and a sponge on the other works particularly well. Moistened slightly with water, the fiber side is just abrasive enough to loosen greasy buildup and scorched food spills.


10 Things You Should Never Throw Away

10 Things You Should Never Throw Away

There are items we consciously recycle and items we toss without a second thought. Here are 10 things you should never throw away at HowStuffWorks.

Related Articles


  • Bounds, Gwendolyn. "The Eco-Kitchen Challenge." The Wall Street Journal. May 17, 2008. (Dec. 23, 2011) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121098065909200055.html?mod=at_leisure_main_reviews_days_only
  • C and C. "Silestone FAQ's." (Dec. 23, 2011)http://www.silestoneusa.com/docs/frequently-asked-questions.cfm
  • Concrete Network. "Timeline of Concrete & Cement History." (Dec. 23, 2011) http://www.concretenetwork.com/concrete-history/
  • Cowell, Alan. "Michelangelo's David Is Damaged." The New York Times. Sept. 15, 1991. (Dec. 23, 2011) http://www.nytimes.com/1991/09/15/world/michelangelo-s-david-is-damaged.html
  • Do It Yourself. "How To Care For Formica Countertops." (Dec. 22, 2011) http://www.doityourself.com/stry/how-to-care-for-formica-countertops#b
  • Fisette, Paul. "Wood Myths: Facts and Fictions About Wood." University of Massachusetts Amherst. 2005. (Dec. 23, 2011) http://bct.eco.umass.edu/publications/by-title/wood-myths-facts-and-fictions-about-wood/
  • Formica Corporation. "Our Legacy." (Dec. 23, 2011) http://www.formica.com/en/home/ContentPage.aspx?code=PAG_OURLEGACY_EARLYYEARS&redir=1
  • Geology. "Granite." (Dec. 23, 2011) http://geology.com/rocks/granite.shtml
  • Georgia Granite Association. "Granite Countertop Care and Cleaning." (Dec. 23, 2011) http://georgiagraniteassociation.com/html/granite_care.html
  • Silva, Tom. "Caring for Granite." This Old House Magazine. (Dec. 26, 2011) http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/asktoh/question/0,,1025712,00.html
  • The Concrete Network. "Concrete Countertops." (Dec. 22, 2011) http://www.concretenetwork.com/countertop.pdf
  • United Granite. "Stainless Steel Sink Care & Maintenance." (Dec. 26, 2011) http://www.unitedgranite.us/sink-care.php