How To Care For Natural Stone
A podcast and blog by Becca Cranfield of Athena Stonecare
I don’t own a Ferrari. I own a Kia. I bought it because it was the most practical option for me. It is spacious so my husband can fit his golf clubs in, and it is much more reliable than my 15-year-old Peugeot 107. It looks alright, but I didn’t buy it for its aesthetic value, I was just sick of breaking down. So, when I need my Kia cleaning, I take it down to Sainsbury’s, park it up and ask the gentleman to give it the full works. When I return 2 hours later, I give him £15 for a marginally cleaner car.
If I’d bought a Ferrari, I’d be investing in a luxury car. When it needed cleaning, I’d be taking it to a specialist and ensuring that it was spotless before I drove away. The main point is this – just like when choosing a car, choosing to use natural stone is like choosing a luxury car, you’ve got to be prepared for the ongoing investment.
Is stone right for my client?
Although we don’t get involved in the laying of stone, we do spend a lot of time on the end of phone calls that start with: I’ve got a stone floor. You know, generic stone.
This is the sound of someone who didn’t choose stone, but has bought a house and now needs that stone cleaning or restoring. So, I’d urge you to really talk with your clients before they go ahead with any natural stone surface in their home and these are just a few of our key considerations.
- What is my design priority?
We work with clients every day who love their natural stone and wouldn’t do anything differently if they redesigned their home. For them, the luxury that the natural stone look provides is an important part of the design of their home. Having invested in the stone with eyes wide open, they were prepared to keep up the maintenance. We have a client in Iver who has limestone floors throughout her home and marble worktops. Each year before Christmas, we go round for 2 full days to re-polish the worktop, and provide a light restoration for the limestone floors.
For others however, the priority when designing their home is about functionality and practicality. A client a few years ago had white marble worktops and two small children. We visited over three times in two months to polish out etch marks that were left by tomato ketchup, before sourcing a thin sheet of glass to go over the top to protect it.
The lesson here is not to be scared to use natural stone. Our client will still have her dream marble worktops in 5 years-time when the children are old enough and the glass can be removed. If you have a client building a dream home who wants to use natural stone then there can be ways to ensure that this is still possible.
- Where is it being used?
There’s such a range of materials that you could choose to work with throughout your home. Choosing the right natural stone is just as important as choosing whether to use stone or not. If a client’s heart is set on using natural stone then there’s some great options for every room as well as some that should be avoided. This is a topic that stone suppliers should really be spending time talking to you about, so I won’t dwell hugely upon it.
Worktops: Granite, would always be our worktop of choice in a kitchen rather than marble. The main reason being that granite is not acid sensitive, so won’t be marked by everyday spillages.
Bathrooms: In a bathroom, I would tend to avoid using black marbles if you live in a hard water area. We see lots of bathrooms in London with unsightly white marks along the walls where the constant hard water has eventually etched the surface of the marble.
Floors: Limestone is easily my favourite stone and I think it looks stunning honed on a floor. If looked after properly, it can remain in great condition for a long time.
- Who else uses that room?
It is a really important consideration when using natural stone to think about how the room is used.
Thinking back to our client in Iver, with her stunning limestone floor throughout her home. When the floor was laid, it was a highly polished limestone and this I’m sure looked stunning. However, she has a large family who love spending time in the kitchen as well as 2 gorgeous dogs. The floor was dulling quickly but only in certain places making traffic lines really visible. When we first restored the floor, we advised a more honed look. In between our visits, the floor now requires a similar level of upkeep to a limestone imitation ceramic or porcelain tile and looks much more uniform.
How can I make sure that I get the best from my stone?
One of the questions we get asked most after we clean or restore someone’s natural stone is how best to continue caring for it. It is striking to realise that many of our clients had had no guidance on this before our visit.
Here’s our 5 top tips that I truly believe could help to transform the lives of your clients with natural stone:
1. Use stone-safe cleaners only
This might sound like the most obvious advice, but it is surprising the number of weird and wonderful things that we have found clients cleaning their floors with over the years. A few of the things to highlight to clients is to think about ‘stone-safe’ all the time. For example, it’s easy to use an everyday cleaner but then when limescale builds up, we’ve found clients can’t resist reaching for the Viakal. For marble, this will etch the surface and it can only be restored professionally. It is also worth thinking about the other surfaces around the stone. Mirror and glass cleaners are often acidic and this runs the risk of dripping onto a stone surface.
2. Flat mop system
One of the biggest mistakes that we find clients making is that they will use a steam mop to clean their stone floor. Natural stone is porous – particularly if you have a limestone or travertine floor. This means that the less water that you can use on a floor the better. If stone is uneven or more textured and a flat mop won’t get into all of nooks and crannies, then we recommend using a towel to ensure that as much moisture is mopped up afterwards as possible.
3. Wipe up sitting water
Marble bathrooms can always look stunning, but can take just a little extra thought. If water is left to sit on a marble sink, then it will eventually leave etch marks. The best advice we give our clients is just to ensure that they don’t let water build up on the surface of the stone. 5 minutes a day, could save a costly restoration in the future.
4. Use coasters for marble
In a similar vein, I’d advise using all sorts of different coasters. Coasters are natural stone’s best friend. This might start with the bottom of chairs or table to stop scratching on a highly polished floor, but should stop there. The best way to protect your marble against acid etching is to stop anything acidic coming into contact with it. In a kitchen this includes vinegars, wine, citrus juice and in a bathroom this will include soaps, perfumes and cosmetics.
5. Frequent vacuuming
The easiest and most simple natural stone care tip that I can give is to ensure that you vacuum the floor frequently. This will pick up any dirt and particles that might sneak in before they can start to scratch the floor.
Any questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact me at Athena Stonecare.