Home Improvement Guide Caring for Natural Stone river2u.com
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Natural stone, ranging from granite and marble to slate and river rocks, was once more popular an an outdoor building material (walls, walks, etc.) than for use indoors. Any wear, cracking, or weathering that took place was generally ignored as part of the natural look of the stone. But the stone's natural durability and image of luxury has led to a dramatic growth of the use of natural stone indoors. Once occasionally found in hearths and entry ways, today natural stone can be found on floors, counters, tub decks, and walls throughout luxury homes.

As one can easily see from weathered stone outdoors, "hard as a rock" does not mean that natural stone is impervious to damage. Indeed, some stone, like slate, can be quite brittle and easily damaged, and almost all stone is porous to some degree, which makes it vulnerable to staining and etching. Unfortunately, modern uses of natural stone in luxury homes tend to place it in conditions most threatening to it: sink countertops and floors in baths and kitchens where they are subjected to food, water, and chemicals.

Cleaning untreated stone can be problematic. Cleaning solutions can soak into the stone and discolor or etch it. So, to protect natural stone and to provide a cleanable surface, most apply a clear, liquid-proof surface coating. But even this is not a sure-fire cure, since cleaning treated stone with common cleaning solutions tends to discolor and dissolve the protective coatings. Indeed, it is this extra burden surrounding natural stone that convinces many to seek out manmade imitations.

When buying products to care for your natural stone, here are some tips:
  • sealers - these chemicals are designed to put a barrier between the stone and harmful liquids. Make sure the sealer is intended for the type of stone you have. Understand whether the sealer interacts with the stone (and thus could chemically discolor it) or if it simply provides a surface coating, which may be less durable.
  • cleaners - using the one recommended by the sealer manufacturer is the safest way to protect your sealer coat. Usually, these cleaners will be pH balanced to minimize the harm to the coating. If you will be cleaning surfaces in a sanitary area (bathroom, kitchen, etc.), understand the cleaner's sanitary effectiveness.
  • strippers - if you have to strip off the remnants of the old sealer before applying a new one, then using a stripper designed by the maker of the old sealer may be the best way to ensure efficient removal without damaging the stone.
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