How to remove water stains from marble or granite

cleaning marble countertops carefully Let's paint a picture: You've spent months and thousands of dollars remodeling and renovating your home, and you finally have it all to yourself (and family!) to enjoy. The crew has cleaned up and left, the new kitchen is ready for a dinner party. The freshly painted walls pop with new color, and you can't wait to show off your new tiled backsplash and custom-designed cabinets. All thanks to J. Francis, Company, LLC of course.

But after a while, you start to notice some stains on those expensive new countertops. What and how did that get there? 

Don't worry - you're not alone. This is a common occurrence, and while frustrating, many homeowners struggle to maintain clean marble countertops. Over the years, even the most careful homeowners can start to notice hard water rings or stains around the faucet and soap dispenser at your kitchen and bathroom sinks. 

While, nothing is worse than spending time and money to remodel your home, and then see stains on your expensive new marble or granite countertops, there are preventative tips you can take to avoid (or at least delay) these stains from taking over your marble counters. It happens, especially in a highly-used room like your kitchen and bathrooms that have marble surfaces or marble floors. 

So how can you easily and quickly remove them and/or prevent stains from happening in the first place? First, let's learn what can damage a porous surface, and discuss some home remedies that can help.

Where do hard water stains come from?

Let's start right with the source. Where do hard water stains come from? Hard water. 

And does Pennsylvania, specifically Pittsburgh, have what is considered hard water? 

Yes! Pennsylvania water is considered to be hard. Currently, the average water hardness for residents is around 151 PPM (parts per million) with Pittsburgh averaging a little higher, hovering around 194 PPM. 

This means that if you are considering (or already have) high-end marble or granite countertops in your home, the chances of getting stains on them is highly probable.  *If you want to learn more about water hardness levels in your Pittsburgh community and zip code, you can learn more on the USGS website.

So what actually makes water hard? 

Hard water is water that has a high mineral content. Or as the USGS states, "in scientific terms, water hardness is generally the amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium in water. But in layman's terms, you may notice water hardness when your hands still feel slimy after washing with soap and water, or when your drinking glasses at home become less than crystal clear."

So yes, those of us living in Western PA are susceptible to hard water stains.

The most common minerals in hard water include magnesium and calcium which, if left as a pool on your countertop, these mineral deposits overtime turn into a white, dull or crusty stain. This usually happens mostly around faucets (like a white, crusty ring). These hard water stains are harder to clean than regular water stains. 

How to clean water stains from marble or granite

First, let's talk about regular water stains, since they are easier. Usually you only need a soft bristle brush and a mild detergent. Just rub in a circular motion and the water spots should disappear quickly. Sometimes these little stains are just soap scum and can even be removed with a damp cloth.

More stubborn hard water stains and water rings however require a little more elbow grease. You will need to make a baking soda poultice (mix a small amount of water with the baking soda until it forms a paste) and a soft bristle brush to do the job. Apply the baking soda paste to the stained areas then scrub it away.

Good-to-know fact: Although marble is a durable natural stone, it is not as durable as granite or quartz, meaning you will need to take extra time and care when dealing with hard water stains. In doing so, you will prevent damage to your beautiful stone. Also, hard water stains may be more or less visible depending on the color and finish of your marble. 

Note that some of the more difficult hard water stains, like those around your faucets may need something stronger than a scrub brush like a razor blade or plastic scraper. These are fine to use as long as you are careful - watch not to puncture any sealants or even gouge or scrape the stone.
Another trick we see many homeowners use is a steam cleaner. By pointing hot steam at the stains, it helps to loosen them up and make them easier to remove. Hot or warm water directly on the stain can also help to loosen it up (just make sure to thoroughly dry off the countertop when you're done).
It is also very important that you always dry off your marble or granite when finished. 

Step by step how to clean your water stains:

1. First try to remove any build up from the affected area with a razor or putty scraper. 
- Another option is to use steam to loosen the stains. If you have a smaller, hand-held steamer, you can help by softening and loosening the stains before you try to scrape them off.

2. Once you have most of the buildup removed, create your baking soda paste and apply it to the stain.

3. Scrub the stubborn stains with a soft bristle brush or sponge. Remember, do not use any abrasive or hard chemicals to help loosen the stain. 

4. Wipe and wash away any remains with fresh water.

5. Make sure you thoroughly dry the area once it is clean!

Why drying your marble surfaces is so important

Marble stains are the most common, as marble is the easiest stone to stain. It is the extended contact of water with a marble surface that causes the build up of hard water deposits and limescale. 

Even while you are taking measures in how to remove hard water stains from marble, it is prudent to make preventative steps too. Regularly wash, dry and polish the whole surface to ensure a flawless sheen to your worktop. 

What cleaners should I NOT use?

Remember, your marble and granite are porous - and you paid a lot of money have it custom cut to fit your home. So, you will want to avoid any acidic cleaners that could damage the stone. Never use an abrasive cleaning product in an attempt to scrape off hard water stains, because that could lead to scratching and etching. 

Also, many common liquid cleaners can contain ingredients that are not safe for marble or granite. Acidic ingredients, such as lemon juice and white vinegar will wear down the protective seal on your marble or granite. The high-gloss finishes in any stone can be dulled by acidic or strong cleaning solutions because they can create micro-abrasions on the surface. 

Even if you feel you cannot see any damage, a dull patch can appear. So keep in mind that different varieties of stone require different cleaners to remove the hard water stains (and it's always best to ask a professional first if you aren't sure!). This will ensure that the product works to remove hard water stains without doing any permanent damage to your stone.

Keep these items away from your marble and granite:

- lemon juice
- white vinegar
- hydrogen peroxide 
- bleach
- Windex 

So, how can I prevent these hard water stains in the first place?

There are some very simple steps to avoid stains. One of the best ways to prevent unsightly stains on your beautiful marble countertops is to apply a seal. High-quality sealants are available from a trusted contractor or stone fabricator, such as J. Francis Company, LLC, but you can also find some at your local home improvement store. 

Just note that sealants do not offer complete protection from damages, but they do a great job at preventing staining. 

You have invested in quality pieces for your home, so you need to take care of them and give them some routine TLC. 

Pristine stone means a longer lifespan. 

Some other everyday steps you can do to prevent future hard water stains on your marble or granite are:

- clean up standing water as soon as you notice it.
- always get in the habit of drying any wet spots you see immediately
- do not wait until the hard water stain gets to the point that it can’t be ignored
- use coasters on the surface of the marble under glasses and bottle to avoid direct contact with marble.
- you can use distill water or a water softener if hard water is an ongoing issue in your area.
- if you see water marks starting, use some mild dish soap to remove the stain before it becomes a hard water stain.

When our vendor is finished installing your countertops, they will leave instructions on the care and maintenance of your natural stone.