How to Remove Stains from Natural Stone: A Comprehensive Guide

We receive a lot of calls from people who have stains in their marble and granite countertops. While natural stone surfaces exude elegance and charm, they are not immune to stains. Whether it’s an accidental spill or a stubborn mark that’s been lingering for ages, knowing how to effectively remove stains from natural stone is essential. Here’s your comprehensive guide to tackling stains and restoring the beauty of your stone surfaces. Once the stain has been removed it is recommended that you contact your local stone professional to have your natural stone professionally sealed to help resist future staining. 

Clean the Area:

When a spill occurs, prompt action is crucial. Follow these steps:

    • Blot, Don’t Wipe: Use a paper towel to blot up the spill. Avoid wiping, as this can spread the stain. 
    • Rinse with Water: Rinse the area with water or water mixed with a light detergent such as a neutral cleaner until the stain disappears or stops improving

Identify the Stain:

Understanding the type of stain you’re dealing with is essential for effective removal. Consider the stain’s color, location, and the substances the stone is exposed to. This information will guide your choice of cleaning agents and poultice materials.

What is a Poultice and How to Use It?

A poultice is a mixture of a “cleaner” and an absorption medium. Here’s how to use it:

Step 1. Clean and Wet the Area

Clean the area with water or a neutral cleaner. Then wet the area with distilled water.

 Step 2. Mix the Poultice and Apply

 Choose Your Materials: The most common absorption mediums used by homeowners and many times professionals include diatomaceous earth and baking soda. Some other absorption mediums include paper towels (good for vertical applications), talc and gauze pads. 

      • Mix the Poultice: Combine your chosen cleaner (reference the suggested cleaners based on the type of stain below) with the absorption medium until it reaches the consistency of peanut butter.
      • Apply the Poultice: Wet the area with distilled water. Then spread the poultice evenly over the stained area about ¼ to ½ inch thick, extending it about 1 inch beyond the stain’s edges.

Step 3. Cover and Tape:

Cover the poultice with plastic wrap (saran wrap) then lightly press all the air out from under the plastic. Tape the edges of the plastic to the stone to help force the cleaner into the stone. You can poke one or two holes in the plastic to allow the poultice to breath if you would like. 

 Step 4. Let it Work

Allow the poultice to sit for 24 hours before removing the plastic wrap. 

 Step 5. Let it Dry 

Once the plastic is removed WAIT ANOTHER 48 hours UNTIL THE POULTICE IS COMPLETELY DRY. When the poultice is drying, this is when the stain is being lifted from the stone to the absorption medium, so do not rush the process. 

 Step 6. Remove and Rinse 

After the poultice is completely dry, remove the poultice, rinse the area with distilled water, and buff dry with a soft cloth.

 If the stain has improved repeat the entire process again. Stains may take multiple applications to fully be removed. If the stain did not improve at all make a poultice with a different cleaner and reapply it to the area. If the stain still does not improve it may be permanent. 

Recommended Poultices for Different Stains:

      • Oil-Based Stains: Acetone is effective for oil-based stains. Alternatively, try mineral spirits, ammonia, diluted household detergent (avoid those with coloring), or bleach (avoid mixing bleach and ammonia).
      • Organic Stains: For stains like coffee, fruit, urine, leaves, bird dropping, etc. Hydrogen peroxide (hair bleaching strength) poultices are recommended. If that doesn’t work you can try an Acetone poultice.
      • Metal-Based Stains: Use hydrogen peroxide (hair bleaching strength) poultices for iron, rust, copper, or bronze stains.
      • Biological Stains: For deeper stains, opt for a hydrogen peroxide (hair bleaching strength) poultice. Diluted ammonia or bleach could be used on surface level stains. 
      • Ink Stains: Bleach or hydrogen peroxide (hair bleaching strength) can be used for light-colored stones, while lacquer thinner or acetone is suitable for dark stones.
      • Paint: Small amounts can be scraped off carefully with a razorblade or addressed with lacquer thinner. Heavy paint stains should be addressed with heavy duty paint strippers found at hardware stores or paint stores. These strippers may etch the stone; professional re-polishing may be necessary. Follow the manufactures directions on these products as many require personal protective equipment such as gloves and safety glasses and respirators. Only use wood and plastic scrapers to remove any paint and sludge. Latex and acrylic paints usually do not cause staining. For oil-based paints, caulks, putty, and sealants refer back to the oil-based stains section. 

Recommendations for Other Stains and Damage:

        • Smoke and Air Pollution: It is recommended to thoroughly clean the area then apply a commercial “fireplace poultice”.
        • Etch Marks: Etch marks are not truly stains, however they are often referred to as a stain by homeowners. If the etch mark is light and you cannot feel it, use marble polishing powder with a little water and a soft towel to buff it out. If you can feel the etch then you will need to contact a stone professional to refinish the stone and bring it back to the desired finish. 

With the right approach and patience, you can increase your chances for successfully removing stains from natural stone surfaces and restore their beauty. Whether it’s an oil-based, organic, or metal stain, understanding the type of stain and using the appropriate poultice is key. By following these steps and recommendations, you can bring your stained natural stone back to life. Of course, once you remove the stain it is recommended to have your natural stone professionally sealed. Stain prevention is much easier than stain removal! If you are in the Houston area, contact Beyond Clean Tile to have your natural stone professionally sealed.