This Unsuspecting Item Could Instantly Ruin Your Kitchen Countertops

published Apr 5, 2024
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Credit: Faith Durand

If you have natural stone countertops — such as those made with granite, marble, quartzite, soapstone, or limestone — cleaning pro Delah Gomasi of MaidForYou cleaning service has an important warning for you. 

Do not leave any acid — especially a lemon rind — on your stone countertops, even for a minute. “Lemon, vinegar, lactic acid, or any acid associated with any other citrus can cause white burn marks to appear,” Gomasi explains. “The surprising thing is that it takes no time for the damage to occur, and it can only be repaired by hiring a stone restoration specialist.” 

Gomasi experienced this firsthand when a client left a lemon rind on their granite countertop for only a few minutes, and it etched into the finish of the counter, costing thousands of dollars of irreparable damage. This was most surprising to Gomasi because granite is one of the more durable natural stone materials to make benchtops. “But even then, something as minuscule as leaving a lemon rind on it uncovered for a few minutes caused damage that can be only fixed through polishing, resurfacing, and resealing,” Gomasi says. “One can imagine that even more care must be taken for more sensitive natural stone surfaces like marble or limestone.”

The reason natural stone is especially susceptible to this type of staining is due to its porous nature. “Sealing of the stone seems to prevent some damage to natural stone countertops, but strong acid compounds like those present in lemons will damage natural stone surfaces even if this preventative measure has been put in place,” she explains.

Michael Witherspoon of GK Products says even though lemons can be used to make a homemade cleaning concoction with vinegar, the “neater” the lemon — i.e., the more concentrated and less diluted — and the longer it’s left in one place, “the more likely it is to cause marks and etching to porous surfaces due to the acid eating through the stone or resin.” (For example, if it were in a drink with water the acid won’t be as strong, whereas if it’s a fresh-cut lemon sitting directly on the porous surface it’s more concentrated.)

Unfortunately, prevention is easier (and far more affordable) than the cure. Witherspoon says to always use a cutting board when cutting lemons or other acidic foods and recommends laying a towel or paper roll beneath the board to catch any drips. “Another option is to prepare the acidic foods near your sink if possible and always wipe down after slicing,” he says.

And be careful if you eat or drink off your countertops. “I’ve seen instances where glasses have been placed on a stone top that have had a citrus fruit juice dribble down the outside — unintentionally, this has caused a pale ring mark due to it sitting and corroding the natural material,” Witherspoon says. “Always use coasters or place glasses and jugs on a protective surface, even when the glass is empty.”

But for extra protection to stone surfaces, Witherspoon suggests applying a water-based, virtually invisible sealer that’s designed to penetrate, seal, and protect natural stone and concrete. “These can be bought in a liquid solution and applied with a brush or roller. The sealer allows the stone to ‘breathe’ whilst protecting it from all manner of substances, such as cooking oils, grease, fat, food, ketchup, mustard, and beverages such as tea, coffee, and wine — it’s ideal for ‘added’ protection.” If you have stone countertops, add to cart ASAP — it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Buy: Granite Gold Water-Based Sealer Spray, $23.98