Granite Tales – Myths, Urban Legends, and Fabrications (Of the Other Kind)

The following bits of commercial granite folklore have been taken directly from customer comments and questions, pieces circulating on the web, and discussions with hundreds of homeowners who graced me with the opportunity to service their commercial granite. Just for fun, I’ll give you a little background on each, where they came from, and how they got started. In case you haven’t heard some of these before, you’ll be prepared when they eventually make their way ’round to you!

Please note I use the term “commercial granite” throughout this article. This is because we are referring to stones that are sold commercially as granite, rather than the (very) narrow subset of stones that meet the scientific definition.

1.) My Contractor / Granite Salesperson / Internet Guru (Pick Your Favorite Perpetrator) Said My Granite Doesn’t Require Sealing – Those of you that have read my previous work are probably sick of me harping on this, but I (unfortunately) hear this one more often than all others. It is the most damaging of all the granite maintenance malpractices you can commit if you rely on this unsound advice.  

Interestingly, there are a couple of Internet “experts” who semi-endorse this fallacy (but will sell you their impregnator if you ABSOLUTELY, REALLY insist on having one, and theirs lasts FOREVER… Hilarious!). One even goes so far as to state that the physical properties of granite dictate it never needs to be sealed (funny, they also have a “lifetime” sealer for sale two paragraphs later). 

I was in recently in Los Angeles, visiting a property manager who had stains in approximately 1/3 of the 305 commercial granite counters they recently installed in their newly renovated luxury apartments. I wish I could have brought the naysayers with me so they could convince the distraught maintenance folks that those oil and wine stains were only figments of their imagination…

From the contractor perspective, back in the bad old days, impregnators were primarily based on silicone derivatives. While fantastic against water, they were (and are) poor performers against oil-based stains. Additionally, if they were over-applied, the impregnator residues on the surface of the stone would also absorb oil. Double whammy. Here’s the logic: If it’s a given that oil stains are the worst to remove, and if the impregnator won’t stop them anyway, why bother? That was in the late ’80s – this is 2007, and we have technology that will stop oil staining dead in its tracks. Like all misinformation, it has a little root in fact, and it dies slowly.

The Internet folks have different motivations. Either they are:

A: trying to sell you granite slabs by disavowing any faults commercial granite has, or

B: using reverse psychology sales techniques (poorly, I might add) to sell you their impregnator.

2.) My Neighbor Told Me My Granite Isn’t Safe Because it Harbors and Grows High Amounts of Bacteria – This one is still circulating even though it has been proven false numerous times by both government and industry organizations. Please allow me the opportunity to set the record straight on this one, once and for all – it is absolute rubbish. In fact, properly maintained commercial granite surfaces are some of the most sanitary you can buy. Like all other food prep surfaces, commercial granite should be properly cleaned.

It is widely held that the manufacturers of man-made counter top materials started these rumors, although no solid proof exists. In summary, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has given commercial granite a clean bill of health, as has the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

3.) Someone Told Me My Granite Emits Radon Gas and is Radioactive – A little bent science goes a long way… Minuscule amounts of radon gas are emitted by nearly any type of stone found where uranium is present, and trace amounts of uranium can be found nearly anyplace you find stone. Bottom line? There are no health or safety risks associated with the release of radon gas or radioactivity from commercial granite. 

As a matter of note, concrete, cement, and gypsum all release as much or more radon gas than commercial granite, and there is no health risk associated with them, either. It is also believed that a manufacturer of man-made counter top materials started this rumor.

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4.) I Was Told to Clean My Granite With Just Soap and Water – This one has a couple of variants floating around, including specifically using dish detergent (and a special brand, I might add) or plain water. Will doing this harm your commercial granite? No, it won’t. Will it impact the way it looks? Yes, it will. 

If you were to wash your windows with plain “soap and water” (or dish detergent,  or plain water) and a sponge, I guarantee that you will not be pleased with their appearance.

With this in mind, it is best to perform routine cleaning of your commercial granite with a product that is specifically designed for use on natural stone. Using soap, dishwashing detergent, or non stone-specific cleaners will leave your commercial granite looking dull and lifeless.

5.) Somebody Told Me the Shine Will Wear Off My Granite, and It Will Require Re-Polishing – Unless you are playing roller hockey on your commercial granite surfaces, it is highly unlikely you will need to have them re-polished. I have seen very isolated instances (all of them on very dark “granite”) where the surface actually deteriorated under normal use and required re-polishing. In reality, these stones were suspect to begin with, as it was unlikely that they met a 5.5 rating (the minimum hardness allowed) on Mohs’s Scale of Hardness. Good quality commercial granite, properly maintained, will not permanently lose its shine for a long, long, time – even under heavy (but considerate) use. 

If your granite has been waxed, then the “shiny” will wear off, and you will need to re-wax them. Waxing of commercial granite is generally NOT RECOMMENDED, so do it only if your surfaces were previously waxed to provide their final gloss.

Most shine and reflectivity loss is caused by the use of improper cleaning chemicals, improper cleaning methods, or both. As I mentioned earlier, if you need a demonstration of what soap and water do to the appearance of your commercial granite, just wash your windows with (fill in your favorite “soap” here), water and a sponge. “Soap and water” leave residues on the stone that will eventually dull the finish.

The good news is that dulling from surface residue is not permanent. It can be removed using a high alkaline content cleaner designed for natural stone. In some instances, calcification (mineral deposits from evaporated water) will dull surface areas, especially around faucets and fixtures. These deposits may also be quickly, easily, and safely removed.

I also recommend the weekly (or whenever you want to) use of “vanity” products to increase the gloss and improve the general appearance of your commercial granite. These products provide the additional benefits of reducing water spotting and fingerprints on polished surfaces. 

6.) Practices & Products

At the end of the day, it all boils down to this:

– Keep your commercial granite properly impregnated (sealed).
– Clean up spills and contamination in a timely manner.
– Do not use sharp implements on your commercial granite.
– Do not place extremely hot items on your granite. 
– Use quality products, specifically designed for commercial granite.

John Forguson is General Manager of My Stone Care, and a highly experienced stone restorationist. He has performed remedial and restoration services on over 1 million square feet of natural stone and tile surfaces, and is intimately familiar with all aspects pertaining to the maintenance and restoration of marble, travertine, granite, limestone, slate, sandstone, onyx, quartzite, and man-made surfaces.

Author: John Forguson
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