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Marble countertops are the picture of elegance and luxury in a well-loved kitchen. The thought of maintenance for such an investment can seem intimidating at first, but never fear– caring for a new marble countertop is easier than many would expect. Surfaces of natural stone require special methods; here are 3 steps to take to keep counters staying shining and beautiful.

Seal It
Natural stone countertops are generally sold without being sealed; this gives the consumer the option of choosing just the right finish for the level of shine desired and the level of use the surface will see. Without sealant, the porous surface of the stone will absorb stains from food and liquids, maring it permanently. Available finishes include matte, glossed, and high-gloss varieties, and will penetrate the stone for a good strong hold that won’t easily scrape off.

These sealants are available at typical home improvement stores, and are easy to apply. Just use a soft rag to spread and then wipe on the chosen finish by hand, buffing softly (and making certain the counter is dry and clean before beginning the process). Apply the finish on a yearly basis.

Clean It
The countertop should be cleaned on a regular basis– especially after spills– with warm water, a soft cloth, and mild soap. Even acidic foods such as citrus or vinegar can quickly etch into your beautiful new counters. Never place food or chop food directly on the counter; always use a mat, cutting board, coaster or other barrier between the surface and the meals or drinks being prepared.

Strip It
Deep stains that have seeped through the finish and accidental etching from scrapes or acidic foods require a bit more elbow grease to repair. Use a special, softly abrasive cleanser like Ajax With Bleach or Soft Scrub to strip the entire counter of its sealer, starting with the aforementioned problem spots. These problem areas can also be carefully sanded down with sandpaper.

Once the counter is stripped, wash the cleanser off and allow the counter to dry (this may take hours or a couple of days). When the counter is ready, re-apply the sealant just like the first time. When all else fails, a professional stone refinisher should be called to assess and repair any damage.