How to Get Stains Out of (supposedly bulletproof) Granite Counters

Here I am again, posing as an “expert”.  I’ll tell y’all this upfront: this topic annoys me. Why? Every time I read about granite counters, it’s the same thing: blah, blah blah, indestructible, hard as nails, they’ll survive a nuclear holocaust, blah, blah blah. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

I’m here to break the ugly truth to you: it isn’t always so.  Granite slabs, like so many things in life, are not all created equal.  But more about that later.

I think it was the second time that we looked at Our Pile of Bricks, I thought I saw a weird shadow on part of the kitchen counter top.  The third time (when we made the offer) it was still there- and I thought maybe it was a variation in the stone.  After we’d closed on the house, I started to think that maybe it was something else.   You can see it here, left hand side of the kitchen, just above and to the right of the phone book. That dark splotch that looks like a shadow, but isn’t.

It wasn’t immediately obvious when you were in the kitchen, but it was one of those things that once you saw it it was ALL you could see. I knew it had to go or it was going to make me NUTS (moreso than normal).

Sure enough, when Granite Guy came over the first time, they confirmed it was, in fact, a stain.

Huh? I didn’t know that granite could stain. What happened to bulletproof?  They told me to try some Oxyclean, or they could take it and work on it back at the $hop (the dollar signs were adding up quickly in my mind at this point) – so I said I’d like to give it a try first, on my own, to see what I could do.  So I did what anyone in need of help does nowadays: Google. How did we ever live before Google?

What I found astounded me – loads of people with all sorts of stains on their counters.  I read about a thousand different potential remedies, tried Granite Guy’s Oxyclean (no dice) and then I found a page that made sense, written by someone who seemed to know what he was talking about.  Basically, you need to make a poultice with something liquid in it that will break up the stain, and then something absorbent to pull the stain out.

Since these counters came with the house, we didn’t know the origin of the stain. Assuming it to be oil-based, we followed the directions for an oil stain.  If we couldn’t get the stain out, we’d have to replace that part of the counter. $igh. We figured we didn’t have much to lose, so we dove in.  First, you’ll need to make the poultice. We chose to use baby powder for the poultice base. The best baby power is the cheapest, least scented kind  you can find.  This stuff came from Big Lots.

Then, since we were following the directions for an oil-based stain, we used acetone.  Found in the paint aisle at Home Depot. Exciting!

Next, mix a little of each of the two in a glass or metal container. For the love of Bob, do NOT use plastic. Ask Russ what happened to my favorite plastic measuring cup.

I don’t have exact measurements, but you don’t need them.  You’re looking for a consistency somewhere around peanut butter.  Not too thin that it will run off the counter, but not so thick you can’t spread it.

Spread/smoosh it out and the cover it with cling wrap and tape down the edges.  You want it to stay wet for 24 hours so the acetone can go down into the granite and break up the oil.

After 24 hours, you can remove the cling wrap (carefully). Wait!  You have to let that stuff dry for 12 hours so the baby power can absorb the moisture (and the stain) back out of the stone.  Oh, and if it hasn’t already, at this point, the house will start to smell like a cheap nail salon that landed in the middle of a day care center. It really stinks. Go out for dinner.

Once it is all dry, you can scrape it off into a trash bag.  Viola!

The stain should be gone, or at least diminished.  You may have to repeat the process (we did in one spot).  Here’s a pretty good before/after:

You can see the dark stain at the bottom and all along the right edge. The left side has been cleaned.  This was one of our test patches to see if this would even work. It did! We were just gobsmacked and so was Granite Guy when he came back!

So stain gone – fantastic, right?  Well, yeah, except it sort of started a chain reaction where once this part was clean (much lighter) we realized the whole rest of the kitchen counters were similarly stained.  So 11 containers of baby powder, more than a gallon of acetone, and about a week later, we got all the counters cleaned.   The kitchen still smells vaguely like baby powder – a scent I used to like but now makes me feel like I just inhaled a bottle of finger nail polish remover. Go figure.

I can’t complain about the cost of this project – about $35 bucks for supplies vs. hundreds to thousands replacing the granite. Good stuff.

So back to my original gripe about granite not being so “bulletproof” – as it turns out, granite varies WIDELY in its porosity.  Why this is never brought up in any article extolling granite’s virtues, I’ll never know.  The fabricators know about it!  Apparently, we have an extremely porous stone that needs to be sealed regularly – it hadn’t been sealed since it was installed here in 2006.  No sealing=no protection=staining.  Granite Guy advised us to seal it repeatedly (24 hours between applications) until water pooled on the surface and didn’t leave a dark spot…3 rounds of sealing did the trick (for now- we’ll repeat in 6 months – or less, if we notice dark spots again).

Again, not all granite is like this. My Mama’s granite – black pearl, I think, has never needed sealing and does not show any stains.  So if you are in the market for granite counter tops, do some research about the particular variety you’re looking at.  Who wants to baby (powder) their counters?

As an aside, Granite Guy mentioned he had just finished building a house. I asked him what he used for his kitchen counters – Silestone.  Not granite.  Hmmmmm.

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11 Responses to How to Get Stains Out of (supposedly bulletproof) Granite Counters

  1. Dena says:

    Becky you really are a great writer. And although I am not currently doing any DIY projects I thoroughly enjoy your blog!

    • Dena says:

      Ooops, forgot to tell you I started my Works for Me Wednesday and I am definitely gonna use your electric drill/mixer (if you give me permission and let me use your pic) – and of course you will get all the credit. You guys are great.

    • ourpile says:

      Thank you Dena! And even though I don’t have a 3-year old, I love reading yours, too!

  2. Lisa says:

    I found your blog doing a Google search for Ivorie vs Believable Buff paint colors (what did you ever decide on? I threw both colors completely out of my possibilities list, LOL).

    We put granite in the bathrooms at our old house and I’ll never ever use it again! I also thought it was practically indestructible, but they had constant water spots, even after sealing, and I was so paranoid about anything staining them, it wasn’t even worth how nice they looked. Funny what the Granite guy said he put in his house. ;) I’m with him.

    • ourpile says:

      Lisa- we went with the Believable Buff – I like it. I was trying to avoid a “peachy” beige and this worked out. What did you decide on?

      I’m really not sure I’d choose to have granite in our next house, given what I’ve learned from this! At a minimum, I’d be very choosy about the particular variety. In our last house, we put the new textured Formica in the kitchens and baths, and it was fantastic. So easy to keep clean & it looked great. I know granite is an “upgrade” but so far I’m more annoyed than impressed.

      Thanks for much for following along!

      • Lisa says:

        Thanks for the reply, love your blog. :)

        Do you have pictures of your BB paint yet? A friend used that and it looked fantastic. Unfortunately, it turned out muddy-looking on our walls for some reason, as did Biltmore Buff (I thought that color was going to be “The One” for sure). We had trouble with the SW Ivorie looking peachy, too. I have it narrowed down to two Kilz colors from – wait for it- Wal-Mart, LOL. I’m not buying the paint there, but am going to have SW color match for me. One is called “Golden Meadow” and the other is “Bellissima.” Very similar, one is a bit more muted. Both are definitely yellow, it was the only way I could get away from the peachy or the muddy brown look.

        Again, so glad to hear I’m not the only one that was annoyed rather than swooning over my granite. ;)

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  5. Amber Hyde says:

    I just had granite installed 3 weeks ago. I accidentiy pluged in one of thoes wallflower (scented oils ) from bath works upside down. I was out all day. I came home and to my horror had a big black oil stain. I went to goole and found your blog. I went the next day and bought baby powder and acitone and followed your instructions. Yeah the stain was gone. Thanks for the help. I will seal my stone often.
    Amber

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