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Kitchen Backsplash Cleaning and Care

Stone and tile kitchen backsplashes improve the value of your home and help protect your walls, but they are subject to cooking or liquid spatters from coffee, spaghetti sauce, grease, and other substances. Recommended methods for cleaning and care of kitchen backsplashes vary, depending on what type of backsplash you have.

Glazed Porcelain, Ceramic, and Glass Tiles

Glazed porcelain, ceramic, and glass tiles are practically impervious to stains, and keeping them clean is a cinch. Mix a mild detergent or vinegar with water and wipe clean with a cloth or sponge. For stubborn, stuck-on spots, spray with an all-purpose cleaner, and allow the cleaner to dwell until the substance softens. For extra greasy messes, spray using a degreasing cleaner.

Unglazed Porcelain, Clay, and Natural Stone Tiles

Unglazed porcelain, clay, and natural stone tiles are more susceptible to stains than other types of tile, and keeping them clean can be a challenge. Do not use soap, windex, or vinegar! These substances can damage the finish of your tile.

Spray with a stone-safe, pH-neutral cleaner and allow ample dwell time. Wipe clean with a non-abrasive cloth or sponge. (For grease and other stains, you may need to apply a poultice. See our Stain App for more information.) Rinse with warm water. Water spots will not hurt your stone, but if you want to prevent them, dry the tiles with a white cloth or paper towels.

Stacked Stone

Stacked stone backsplashes have a rough, porous texture and plenty of crevices that trap food or liquid spatters. They are difficult, but not impossible to clean. Use a stone-safe, pH neutral cleaner and a brush with bristles stiff enough to reach the nooks and crannies but soft enough to be non-abrasive. Follow with a warm water rinse.

Professional Cleaning, Restoration, and Care

An experienced stone and tile restoration contractor can deep clean your backsplash, achieving dramatic results, as well as repair chips and cracks. Honed or polished natural stone can be refinished to like new, virtually erasing signs of wear, such as scratches and etch marks.

Because backsplashes are continuously exposed to substances that can potentially stain, it is best to have natural stone and absorbent tile backsplashes sealed to inhibit staining. Sealers make porous surfaces less absorbent, which means you will have more time to wipe up spots and spatters before they can turn into stains.

Glass and stone mosaic tiles make beautiful backsplashes, but have a lot of grout lines. Since grout is porous, it is susceptible to staining. Your contractor can apply a high quality clear grout sealer or grout color sealer to fill in all the tiny holes in the grout, making cleaning easier. Grout color sealer is impervious to staining and highly recommended. In addition, grout color sealer has a constant-acting mildewcide so your backsplashes will stay more sanitary than backsplashes with clear sealed or unsealed grout lines.

Maintain the beauty of your backsplash to ensure your kitchen is always a clean and inviting place for family and friends to congregate and refuel.

This is one of a series of articles written and published  on behalf of surpHaces Partners.

About Porcelain and Ceramic Tiles

What You Should Know About Porcelain and Ceramic Tiles

Porcelain and ceramic are similar, in that they are both made from clay and kiln fired, making them very different from other categories of tiles, such as glass or natural stone. Although the words porcelain and ceramic are often used interchangeably, differences between the two types of tile can make a difference in the cost, appearance, and longevity of your installation.

What’s the difference between porcelain and ceramic?

Ultimately, a ceramic tile is categorized as porcelain if its moisture absorption rate is .5% or lower. Ceramic tile is cheaper, easier to install, and offers more color selections than porcelain. The ingredients of porcelain tiles are more refined, and it is fired at a greater pressure and higher temperature than ceramic, making it much harder and denser, and consequently, more expensive and more difficult to install than ceramic. But cost is only one consideration among many.

About Glazed and Through-Body Porcelain

A glazed porcelain tile has a coating that fills in any microscopic holes on the surface of the clay, making it easier to keep clean than unglazed tiles. However, unglazed tiles are better for slip resistance and less likely to show signs of wear, since the color on the surface is the same color that runs through the entire tile.

Tile Care and Maintenance

Tile floors should be swept and damp mopped regularly and professionally cleaned as needed. Porous grout lines can be sealed to inhibit staining and to make regular cleaning more productive. When grout color sealer is applied to grout lines, they become impervious to stains. With all the benefits of clear sealer, grout color sealer offers numerous additional benefits, including constant-acting mildewcides and fungicides. Unglazed porcelain tile, although less porous than natural stone, can be subject to discolorations and staining with traffic and use. These surfaces should be professionally sealed once per year or more. Glazed ceramic or porcelain tiles do not require sealing, but may need slip resistance treatments, depending on the way the space is used.

Consider all the factors, and not just price, when you make your purchase decision for new floors and surfaces. For existing floors, proper care and maintenance can make a world of difference. Don’t replace your tile without consulting with an experienced tile restoration contractor, who may be able to achieve dramatic results that postpone or eliminate the need for replacement.

This is one of a series of articles written and published  on behalf of surpHaces Partners.

How To Remove A Terrazzo Stain

Stains on terrazzo can be unsightly and may lead you to decide you have no choice but to have tile or carpet installed over it, but often stains on terrazzo can be effectively removed. You can attempt to remove the stain yourself or contact a professional stone restoration contractor. Here is what will need to be done.

Are your terrazzo floors waxed or coated?

It is not uncommon for a terrazzo floors to be coated or waxed with a topical finish. The only way to know whether the stain is in the topical finish or in the terrazzo itself is to remove any old finish. If you are certain that your terrazzo has a natural, honed or polished finish then you can skip the stripping process described below and move on to the poultice application.

Also note that most modern terrazzo is made with a resin matrix that will soften if stripped. If you are sure that your terrazzo has an older cementitious matrix, you can safely proceed with stripping. If you have any doubts or know that you have a newer, resin matrix terrazzo floor, do not apply a stripper to your terrazzo. Please contact your stone restoration contractor for guidance.

Stripping Waxes and Coatings

It is very important to note that floor stripper is very caustic and can cause injury or damage. You must wear heavy latex gloves and eye protection and use masking tape and plastic to protect the floor surrounding your work area.

Mix one part water-based floor stripper (the same kind used for vinyl tile or polymer finishes) with six parts water and apply to the stained area. Allow five minutes dwell time. Agitate the solution with a green scrubbing pad. Use an absorbent white cloth or paper towels to soak up the solution. Then, repeat this entire process.

At this point, if the coating was stained and not the terrazzo itself, it is possible that the stain may be gone. If so, use a pH-neutral, stone-safe cleaner to remove any remaining stripper and clean the area. If the stain is still there, that means it is in the terrazzo, and you can try to remove it using a poultice application.

The Poulticing Method of Stain Removal

A poultice is a combination of a dry, absorbent medium and a liquid chemical or cleaning agent. The ingredients for your poultice will depend on what type of stain you are trying to remove. Please visit our Stain Removal Application for the specific ingredients and directions for mixing and applying a poultice.

Restoring Your Terrazzo Finish

Please note: If your terrazzo has a natural, honed or polished finish, there is no need to strip or reapply coatings.

If you stripped the stained area, you removed the topical finish. That means you now have a small area that looks dull compared to the surrounding floor. To resolve this problem, use a paint brush to reapply a water-based finish. It may take up to eight coats to give the work area a nice, even sheen that blends with the surrounding area.

Professional Terrazzo Stain Removal and Refinishing

An experienced natural stone restoration contractor can use a floor machine with an aggressive pad to strip your entire floor, if needed. Depending on the severity of the stain, the technician can either apply a poultice or grind the affected area, removing a very thin upper layer and virtually erasing the stain. Then, the floor can be deep scrubbed and recoated to rejuvenate the existing finish or honed and polished for a beautiful, natural finish that eliminates the need for any future stripping or recoating.

This is one of a series of articles written and published  on behalf of surpHaces Partners.

Practical Suggestions For Stone Care and Maintenance

Stone restoration contractors often get calls to remediate accidental damage done by homeowners, cleaning services, janitorial services, and building service contractors who mishandle the care and maintenance of natural stone surfaces.

As an example, one of the most frequent mistake we see residential customers make is to use vinegar to clean a calcium-based stone like marble or travertine. Vinegar is an acidic substance that chemically reacts with the calcium in natural stone, transforming once-beautiful and elegant stone finishes into dull, rough-looking surfaces.

Commercial customers have their fair share of missteps with stone care, too. For example, a commercial client sought professional services shortly after a maintenance employee (who did not have the knowledge, experience, or credentials to provide care or maintenance on engineered stone) applied a clear coating to three thousand square feet of flooring. The high traffic concentration at this facility caused dullness, damage, and wear patterns in walkways while the edges near the walls were still shiny. Every time the housekeeping department wet-mopped the floors, pieces of the brittle finish came loose.

The calls we get usually start the same way, with the customer hoping that what was done to their stone didn’t ruin the finish and that they might be able to avoid having the stone replaced. Although we are always ready and willing to provide restoration services, we would like to offer some practical suggestions for avoiding natural stone damage during care and maintenance procedures.

Practical Suggestions for Care and Maintenance

  • Dust mop floors daily to remove any excess grit that could scratch the surface.
  • Use a neutral stone cleaner for mopping. For commercial clients who do auto scrubbing, use a very soft pad and keep the squeegee clean and free of soil.
  • Do not allow the floor to be sealed with any film-forming finish, such as conventional floor finishes or over-the-counter products that “add shine.”
  • Do not use any penetrating petroleum distillate products that seem to darken and shine by clogging the pours of the stone with an oily finish. Not only is this difficult to remedy, but it can also increase the risk of slip and fall accidents.
  • Do not allow acidic products to be used near marble or other calcium based natural stone. Although stone care professionals may use acidic polishing compounds, these chemicals can cause serious damage in the hands of those without the proper training and experience. Especially make note of toilet bowl cleaners. If they are used near natural stone, they should not be acidic.
  • On showers and counter tops, do not allow any abrasive cleaners, even abrasive products considered “soft.” Many marbles can scratch and dull very easily when abrasives are used on them.
  • Don’t use products for hard water removal unless they clearly state they are safe for natural stone as most of them contain some sort of acid.

Sealers Are Important

A stone impregnating sealer will repel spills, giving you enough time to clean up before they are absorbed by the porous stone and become stains. A professional stone restoration contractor can select the appropriate sealer for your stone and ensure it is properly applied. However, keep in mind that although impregnating sealers inhibit stains, they don’t protect the surface of the stone from etching. Although most granites are not susceptible to etch marks, something acidic like lemon juice, vinegar, or some cleaning chemicals can still create etch marks on marble or other calcium based stones, even if they are properly sealed.

Following these suggestions will help you to avoid accidental damage. If you use a cleaning service, janitorial service, or employ building service contractors, be sure they are aware of these basic care and maintenance instructions for natural stone surfaces.

This is one of a series of articles written and published  on behalf of surpHaces Partners.

What To Do About Cement Stains on Sandstone

We recently were asked how to remove 3 year-old cement stains from sandstone walls without changing the color of the sandstone. Although this is not a question we get frequently, we thought it was a good one.

Projects involving cement (DIY or otherwise) can be messy. If spillage or splatters are not addressed immediately, they can be difficult to remove, particularly once they have dried. In areas where sandstone is commonly used as a building material, removal of cement stains can become even more challenging.

First things first. Is the cement chunky?

If the cement was splattered (rather than smeared, for example) and looks as though it is sitting on top of the stone, you will want to carefully chip off as much of the chunky bits as possible first. Remember to use safety equipment, such as safety glasses, during this process. No one wants cement in their eyes.

Cleaning with muriatic acid

Muriatic acid (also called hydrochloride acid), diluted with water could be used to remove the cement, but since sandstone is often held together with calcite or dolomitic cement, which are broken down by acids, muriatic acid may do more harm than good. Before using any kind of acidic cleaner, it is important to test how your sandstone will react.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Muriatic acid is just that – an acid! It can be harmful to pets, children and adults (plants don’t like it much either) so be sure to follow ALL safety instructions and precautions on the container and keep the children and pets away.

To test how your stone will react

Dilute one part muriatic acid with six parts water and place a drop in an inconspicuous location. If the drop of diluted acid fizzes, that means the acid is breaking down calcium carbonate within the stone. Do not use an acidic cleaner.

If the drop of diluted acid does not fizz, don’t assume you are in the clear yet. Dilute one part muriatic acid with four parts water and test the stone again. If the less diluted acid still does not fizz when in contact with the stone, things are looking good. You will still want to be vigilant as you clean.

Be sure to clean the stone using a pH neutral cleaner once the cement is removed.

Working with a professional

Cleaning with acid can be daunting, and we highly recommend you leave this tricky cleanup job to an experienced, trained stone restoration professional rather than doing it yourself or hiring a handyman who doesn’t understand the properties and characteristics of natural stone. We are always happy to answer your questions or provide an estimate.

This is one of a series of articles written and published  on behalf of surpHaces Partners.

How to Clean and Protect Limestone Floors

Limestone floors are relatively easy to maintain and can bring a timeless elegance to any kitchen, bath, or living area. However, limestone can become dull and dirty with time and use. Here are some tips to keep your floors looking their best.

Dealing with Dull Spots and Etching

First and foremost, it's important to use a pH-balanced cleanser that is formulated specifically for marble and limestone floors. Chemical abrasives and acidic cleansers can cause etching, a phenomenon that occurs when a calcium-based stone like limestone, travertine, or marble comes in contact with anything acidic and creates what looks like a cloudy white watermark. Spills from acidic liquids like vinegar, soda, tomato sauce, and lemon juice can also cause etching. Limestone polishing compounds or etch removers for getting rid of light etching are available for DIY use on polished (not honed) limestone. Ask us about specific product recommendations. For more information, view How to Polish Out Etch Marks. Heavier etch marks, that is, any etching that has a texture, as well as etching that covers larger areas, should be removed by an experienced stone care professional.

Getting Rid of Stains

Stains that leave dark spots on natural stone can usually be removed with a poultice. A poultice safely absorbs stains from the surface without discoloring the stone. You can buy a ready-to-use poultice or make one yourself. For more information, visit our Stain Removal Application.

The Problem with DIY Finishes

Over-the-counter finishes and lacquers can create that desired "wet look" and a temporary guarantee to protect your floors, but in reality, they may actually cause more harm than good. These finishes eventually flake away, leaving your floor vulnerable to damage from foot traffic. They can also block the pores of limestone and cause premature degradation and dullness over time.

If you already have such a finish, it's best not to remove it yourself because the process can be very difficult and may cause permanent damage to the stone if done incorrectly. An experienced stone restoration professional will be able to remove the finish with the appropriate equipment and stripping agents, and then hone and polish your floor to a low sheen or even a high-gloss, depending on your preference.

Sealing Your Limestone Floors

Limestone floors may need to be sealed periodically, to inhibit staining. Keep in mind that sealers will wear away over time, so it's best to have sealed limestone floors cleaned and resealed by a professional restoration contractor every two years or so.

Restoring Worn Floors to Like-New

If your limestone floor is worn, scratched, or damaged, don't replace it. One of the most wonderful features of natural stone is that your floor can be professionally refinished to look brand new again.

Keeping Them Looking New

With the right care and maintenance your limestone floors can always look like the day they were installed and give you a lifetime of beautiful service.

This is one of a series of articles written and published  on behalf of surpHaces Partners.

Taking the Mystery Out of Terrazzo

Many of us remember terrazzo floors from childhood schools we attended or hospital corridors that we may have visited. Although many terrazzo floors have muted colors, terrazzo actually can be made in limitless color choices. With its environmental friendliness and versatility, it is a smart flooring choice for both residential and commercial properties. Understanding terrazzo, it’s history, and care will help direct design and maintenance choices wherever it may be found, from historic to modern spaces.

A Little Bit of History

Terrazzo is one of the oldest forms of installed flooring with examples that date back 9,000 years to the ancient cities of Jericho. Invented out of necessity, terrazzo was an easy way to use leftover chips of stone and was often mixed with clay, compacted, and coated with goat’s milk. At that time, it was an inexpensive and durable floor; so durable, in fact, that some of these floors are still in existence today.

As the centuries passed, cementitious materials took the place of the clay matrix and a more sophisticated sorting of the colors and size of the marble chips gave a more custom look. Terrazzo was used extensively by the Venetian’s in the 16th century and eventually migrated into the rest of Europe, from sacred spaces and large buildings to private homes. In the late 1800’s and the first half of the twentieth century, the use of terrazzo exploded in the United States with commercial, healthcare, and civic application. In 1959, designer and builder Frank Lloyd Wright, chose terrazzo for the floors of the famous Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

Modern Terrazzo

Twentieth century terrazzo was almost always sealed with film forming finishes to prevent staining. In the 1970’s, with the onset of more complex polymer technologies emerging, a new generation of terrazzo using those polymers and then epoxy matrix completely changed the game. This new mixture allowed the terrazzo to be applied at depths of 1/4″ to 3/8″ rather than the standard 1-2″ in the old style floors.

Terrazzo has come a long way. Aggregates in new terrazzo are not limited to stone chips and can include mother of pearl, abalone, post consumer glass, porcelain, and mirrors chips. Custom designs can be achieved with the use of separators installed on the substrate that allow many different mixes of color in the same floor. These strips can be made of zinc, brass, and even colored plastic.

Caring For Terrazzo

Property owners and managers should be aware of terrazzo strengths, weaknesses, and best maintenance practices. Both cementitious and epoxy terrazzo can be maintained with a natural shine achieved using the same polishing processes used on marble and other natural stone. Glossy waxes and shiny finishes on terrazzo look good at first, but eventually become scratched, trap dirt, and turn yellow. Natural polishing methods not only can achieve a beautiful shine, but eliminate the need for stripping and waxing. In very high traffic situations, or in facilities such as schools or hospitals where nonslip and antimicrobial floors are important, a high performance coating may be beneficial.

This is one of a series of articles written and published  on behalf of surpHaces Partners.

Is Natural Stone Hard as a Rock?

People have been hearing the old idiom “hard as a rock…” since they were young, and over the years, it has contributed to the formation of imprecise opinions about stone surfaces.

You can’t imagine how many times we’ve been asked “is it normal that my floor has become dull and lost a lot of its beauty?” It seems that not all installation companies do a very good job of explaining what their customers should expect from a natural stone floor or what to do to maintain the luster over the years. So here are some basics and guidelines that may help.

Mohs Scale of Hardness

All architectural stone is graded to fall somewhere on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, with talc on the very soft end and diamond on the very hard end. All other stones fall somewhere in the middle. Marble is about a four or five on the Mohs Scale, whereas granite is about an eight.

The bad news is that softer stones will be scuffed and abraded much easier than harder stones, like granite or quartz. On the bright side, softer stones will also respond to repolishing very easily.

Planning a Refinishing Schedule

If you have polished marble floors, countertops, or other surfaces (or other calcium-based stone like travertine), it is reasonable to expect and plan for repolishing within an eighteen month to three year time frame, depending on traffic and use, for example, if you have a large family with dogs or like to throw frequent parties, or if your business sees a lot of foot traffic. Quality floor matting at the entries may help extend the amount of time between regularly scheduled services.

In bathroom areas, on counters or in showers, marble might need professional attention even sooner, depending upon the chemical composition of the water and whether a squeegee is used after showering. In really heavily used locations like busy hotel lobbies with lots of guests and luggage wheels, professional attention will likely be needed at intervals of eighteen months or less.

Beautiful, Renewable Natural Stone

Hard stone surfaces like granite or quartz take much longer to become dull (assuming stone-safe cleaners are used and they aren’t exposed to acidic substances). However, restoration of harder stones is more expensive because it requires a more difficult and time-consuming restoration process.

We explain to customers who have second thoughts about purchasing natural stone that although there is some maintenance involved, natural stone is one of the most beautiful, renewable building materials available. A stone restoration craftsman can make a 100 year old floor look almost new again.

This is one of a series of articles written and published  on behalf of surpHaces Partners.

Environmentally-Friendly Natural Stone

Is Natural Stone An Environmentally-Friendly Choice?

Granite, marble, travertine, and other natural stone materials can create a warmer and more inviting atmosphere in a home or office space and serve as an excellent choice of décor, especially for nature lovers. However, environmentally conscious people may wonder whether it leaves a significant carbon footprint. We asked Fred Hueston, Chief Technical Director for surpHaces and Founder of Stone Forensics to weigh in on whether natural stone is an environmentally friendly choice. Here’s what he had to say.

Stone Is Not a Limited Natural Resource

Stone can be found in almost every country in great abundance. For example, marble has been quarried in Carrera, Italy for centuries, and there is still an abundant supply. In the United States, there are quarries within 500 miles of nearly every major metropolitan area. Quarry techniques have also improved worldwide, and most of the time, explosives are no longer required. “It’s a pretty clean industry with zero waste,” said Hueston.

Natural Stone is Minimally Processed

There is very little environmental impact in stone fabrication, because fabricators use specially designed wet blades to greatly reduce the amount of silica, or stone dust, that is released into the air. Unlike stone, composite materials like wood, brick, ceramic, glass, and concrete require natural resources and energy to create.

Many recycled composite materials contain polyester binders, which are basically plastic, and can emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds), because they are solvent based. The lifespan of composite materials is also limited, unlike natural stone, which virtually lasts forever. Polyester resins in engineering materials will break down over time and are sensitive to heat and sunlight, which is why natural stone is the preferred choice for outdoor décor.

What About Cleaners and Sealers?

Environmentally friendly, pH neutral cleaners are recommended over harsh cleaners for natural stone. And according to Hueston, nearly all sealers used on natural stone are water-based and FDA approved.

High Durability Means Little or No Waste

Have you ever visited to an old church or historical building where the original granite or marble floors, walls, and other surfaces were still in use and looking untouched by time? Natural stone not only can withstand centuries of traffic and use, but with proper care and regularly scheduled maintenance, it can continually look brand new.

When natural stone is damaged, in most cases, it can be completely restored, and if for some reason it is damaged beyond repair, it does not have to end up in a landfill. It can be used for other building materials, like gravel, for example.

According to Hueston, calcium-based residual material from marble quarries is used for vitamins, medicines, and antacids. There is even a North Carolina quarry that uses their waste for local chicken feed.

The great thing about stone is that it came from the earth, and whatever is not recycled can be simply returned back to the earth.

This is one of a series of articles written and published  on behalf of surpHaces Partners.

The Unexpected Stone Stain Remover

Once upon a time a woman was preparing to dye her hair and accidentally spilled some 40 volume creme developer on her marble vanity top, which happened to have a severe stain. As she cleaned up the developer, she was pleasantly surprised to discover the stain had disappeared, as well!

Okay… we totally made up that story. But whether this stain removal method was the result of a happy accident or otherwise, it is, in fact, very effective for removing some stubborn stains that are unresponsive to traditional stain removal methods, such as poulticing.

Instructions

  • Head down to your local beauty supply store and get some 40 volume creme developer (a concentrated form of hydrogen peroxide).
  • Wet the stained area with water.
  • Before applying creme developer to the stain, test a small area in a less-visible spot and leave it on for about an hour to determine whether it will discolor or etch your stone. If the area looks good, then you can apply the creme developer to your stain with a rubber spatula.
  • Let the application sit for 4-8 hours uncovered, checking periodically to gauge whether the stain is removed.
  • Once the stain is completely gone, use paper towels and a pH-neutral, stone-safe cleaner to remove the developer and clean the area.

Precautions

  • Keep children and pets away from the developer, as it is caustic to skin and can cause blindness.
  • Use caution to avoid the developer coming into contact with eyes and limit its exposure to skin.
  • This technique is not recommended for rust or oil-based stains.

This is one of a series of articles written and published  on behalf of Stone and Tile PRO Partners.