How To Clean Smoke-Stained Historic Marble Fireplace
QUESTION: We have a historic house in Baltimore city with a white marble fireplace mantel and surround stained by smoke.
What is the best way to clean and make it WHITE again?
ANSWER: Restoring your marble fireplace could be a delicate job and given it's historic value, you may want to call in a marble repair professional particularly if you want a polished shiny finish after cleaning.
But, you can give it a DIY try first with sandpaper and elbow grease and see if you get satisfactory results.
1. Buy a couple soft bristle brushes. One for larger areas and a small one to get in the grooves.
Also, pick up some metal sandpaper... get a few sizes (80, 120, 180, 240 & 400 grit) and some 0000 grade steel wool for finishing a smooth surface.
2. Use the brushes to dry scrub the entire surface, but especially the smoke stained areas to remove surface particulates.
3. Use the sandpaper. Start with the finer paper until you are comfortable with how much it removes, then use the coarse if you think necessary and prudent.
On a flat area, test whether or not it removes some of the stain. If so, we are on the right track. Stick to just one small test area at first and sand evenly so you don't get depressions.
Pick an area (maybe right in the middle there) where you can work in the middle of a stain, but not the whole stain. This way you will readily notice a change in the color and density of the stain.
Also, I'm assuming that the marble fireplace has a flat or matte finish. If it has a shiny polish, then you should hold off on the sandpaper routine. You would need to re-polish (and you may need/want to anyway, but that is a job for a professional)
4. Once you've gone over the entire surface with the brushes and a small test area with the sandpaper, mix up a spray bottle of one part bleach (sodium hypochlorite) with 4 parts water.
NOTE: Bleach is not good to use on marble as a regular cleaner. I recommend it in this case ONLY because you will need many more steps after cleaning to bring the marble back to good condition. So, it is a "special" case.
Bleach will etch the marble, which you don't want if in normal good condition, but not a worry in the early phase of restoration.
5.Spray the test area and scrub the solution into the marble with the brushes. Let the mild bleach solution sit on the surface for 15-20 minutes.
6. Use another spray bottle with plain water to rinse the area and wipe dry with a clean cloth.
Hopefully you'll notice a change. If so, then repeat with the bleach a couple times in the same test area to know what to expect with when cleaning the rest of the marble fireplace.
Continue with the sanding too, but you'll have to judge how much to do and which grit to use.
After getting as clean as you think possible continue to sand using the higher-grit (finer) sand-papers to smooth the finish ending with the 0000 grade steel wool.
I think you'll see some positive results from this, but it will be an extensive project.
If DIY efforts don't quite cut it, then have a professional come look at it. The damaged marble can always be ground away to fresh marble.
Secondly; I have just moved into a Georgian era house with marble fire surrounds in several rooms, all of which are quite yellowed in placed; especially on the insides, towards the fire and on the top of the mantelpiece.
Can you provide any tips for whitening them up again?
I don't know much about marble but given the age of the house I'd assume it's genuine and not the re-constituted stuff. Photo attached may shed some light... Many thanks.
Thanks for the compliment! The photo is very helpful and that is real marble.
The methods you might use cleaning marble fireplaces this stained/dirty vary depending on if the marble is polished/shiny or honed (non-reflective, matte finish).
It looks to me like it is polished, which is more difficult to deal with IF you want to maintain the polish. You can't be as aggressive when trying to protect or maintain the polished finish, thus may not get the stains out.
So, you may need to hire a pro if ultimately you want a shiny polished finish. But if not, give this a go...
First, use a soft bristle brush to clean off all debris.
Spray with bleach solution... Now, bleach will etch (dull) the marble unless heavily diluted... and it is hard to get the mix right, so generally not recommended to use bleach at all except in special cases such as this.
Better to use a strong, but marble safe product like this MOLD & MILDEW Remover, which is also great for cutting through and removing tough grime.
If stains are old and deep then even repeated scrubbing with bleach solution (or the mold/mildew remover)may not get it all clean.
You may need to sand the marble with 120, 240, 400 grit metal sand paper to remove the stained marble and then smooth out again.
Of course, sanding will remove the polished layer. But as noted... probably unavoidable in this case.
However, honed or non-polished marble would still look very nice... you may even prefer it.
Again... a pro is needed to restore a polished marble finish.
But that's expensive and long-term it will be easier to keep these clean if not polished so you can bleach/sand soot, etc.
You'll find a more complete discussion of this very issue along with everything else you need to know about protecting, cleaning, problem solving and general marble maintenance in Cleaning Marble Secrets Guide.
I have a marble fireplace and a hot ember landed on the marble and burned the surface.
What can I used to restore the marble. It is a light green color. Many thanks!
The marble repair solution for burns depends on what type of finish you have on the marble... polished or honed.
If it's a "polished" (shiny) finish, I would really recommend hiring a marble restoration pro if you want the best results.
You can try some DIY options, but it will likely leave a blemish. Probably not as obvious as the burn, but unless the burn is very light it will be difficult to restore it to its previous condition.
If the marble is honed (matte finish), then it is easier to handle on your own likely with satisfactory results.
First, whether honed or polished you'll need to clean the burnt area as best you can using Bathroom MOLD & MILDEW Remover... yes a mildew remover, but it works well for this purpose and won't further damage your marble like most other products will.
Spray on, let sit 5-10 minutes, scrub with soft-bristle brush.
For polished: use 0000 grade steel wool on the burn mark and see if you can get more off. Use the above cleaner some more, steel wool, cleaner, scrub, etc.
If this doesn't get it all, then you should call a pro if you want the to truly restore the area.
If you are willing to gamble a bit, you can get more aggressive and follow the procedure....
For honed marble... and sand the area with 120, 240 or 400 grit metal sandpaper until you remove all the burnt marble. Wet the area to be sanded.
Start with the 400 and go to the more coarse grits if you need to go deeper.
Sanding will remove the burn (unless really deep). Finish the restorations using fine-grain sandpaper (400 to 800 grit), and then 0000 steel wool until it blends with the surrounding marble finish.
NOTE: The above marble repair procedure for a honed finish will ruin a polished finish leaving a dull spot and slight depression.
My white marble fireplace back has a charred mark, what can I do to remove it?
Well, it depends on what type of finish.... polished or honed?
A polished marble finish will be more tricky to deal with, since chemicals like bleach which could help clean the area will also etch (dull) the area.
You'll need to use a marble safe cleaner like this MOLD & MILDEW Remover, which works well for smoke damage too.
If a honed finish you can sand it out using 240 or 400 grit metal sand paper. Sanding a honed marble finish is not a problem, but this will definitely destroy the polish. It won't be nearly as noticeable as a char stain, but it will have a dull spot.
Your only other option is to all in a marble maintenance professional to remove the char stain and re-polish the marble so no blemish remains.
We have a new marble countertop in a newly renovated kitchen.
The same marble is on the wall in back of the new range.
We used the Wolf range broiler feature for the first time this weekend and at the backsplash, where the oven has some vents, a whole line of little charred marks matching the vent openings appeared across the marble.
Can you advise on why this might occur and how we can prevent this from recurring, and/or clean it? Thank you.
Well, marble can take a lot of heat, but yes it can be charred and/or damaged by excessive heat or flames.
This happens most commonly with marble fireplace surrounds.
The first thing you need to do is to clean off anything on the surface. Now, I imagine you may have done this.
If not, I'd recommend using TILE & GROUT Cleaner, which is an intensive cleaner... the most powerful stone cleaner still safe for marble.
Most common brand-name cleaners will etch (dull and discolor) marble.
And while on this little tangent about cleaning marble, be prepared to regularly get etch marks from acidic foods and drinks. Etch marks are dull, discolored spots that look like ghost stains. People often call them "glass-rings" or "water spots".
I hate to tell you now (your fabricator and/or designer should have told you) that marble is not the recommended stone for a kitchen countertop precisely because it easily etches. And there is nothing you can do to prevent it except avoid contact with acids, which is impossible in a kitchen.
Sealing has nothing to do with etching... it only prevents staining.
Luckily, you can rather easily remove etch marks and restore the shine on polished marble using Etch Remover / Marble polishing paste (see links this page) made just for this purpose... and for removing light scratches.
So, etching is manageable... it's just a constant battle.
Back to the charring...
So, if after cleaning marble you still see discoloration, the marble finish has been damaged (basically the same result as etching).
You may be able to repair it with the Etch Remover product, but depending on the severity you may need to hire a marble maintenance professional to re-surface the area if the marble has a polished (shiny) finish.
That shine is not the result of some chemical. It it created on big machines using intense friction and abrasion. So, you'll need a pro to grind away the damaged marble and then re-polish the area.
Now, if the marble is honed or tumbled you have some DIY options as explained step-by-step in the Removing Marble Stains Manual (links above & below on this page).
This marble maintenance manual also covers DIY solutions for burned polished marble, but it won't yield as good of results as a pro.
To prevent burning in the future I'd say you'll have to install some type of barrier between the vents and the marble.... or just learn to live with it.
I am not sure what caused the stained. It looks like something was spilled on it.
Once I noticed the spill, I cleaned it off, but it seems to have eaten away at the glossy finish and is now dull.
What if anything can I do to repair this? Thanks, Susan
The "stain" is not actually a stain. Like you surmised... the marble has been corroded and the shiny polished layer destroyed.
This is called "etching" and occurs upon contact with acidic foods and drinks (soda, coffee, wine, juice) and harsh cleaning products. Most common household cleaners cannot be used on marble because the same thing will happen.
This is a known marble maintenance issue.
A too acidic or too alkaline substance will etch the marble leaving a dull and often lighter colored spot that creates a lot of confusion and frustration for homeowners when cleaning marble.
Fortunately etching can be fixed the using Etch Remover - Marble Polishing paste (linked elsewhere on this page), which is made specifically for this purpose and will restore the color and shine on polished marble.
Honed marble requires a different procedure, but your is polished, so use the paste and use coasters from now on to avoid contact with acids.
Help we have a marble fireplace top that our Grandchildren put their pumpkin on.
We did not notice that the bottom of the pumpkin had rotted and taken off the finish, leaving a cloudy stain, that is rough.
Is there anything we can do to get the shine back and remove the cloudy stain?
Our marble is black with gold streaks, do not know the mane as it came with the house.
Based on your description you actually have corrosive damage called "etching" from the rotting pumpkin and not a stain.
Marble is reactive with certain types of substances. Anything too acidic or alkaline will chemically react with the marble eating into and destroying the smooth and/or shiny marble surface until the more dull and rough raw marble is exposed.
Many foods and drinks are acidic enough to cause this damage and decaying organic matter will likely do so too.
Now, most etching is mild to moderate leaving dull, lighter-colored and sometimes "cloudy" spots that are still smooth.
However, marble etching is a matter of degree. The longer the exposure to a damaging substance the deeper and more severe the etching will be.
The Etch Remover product is excellent for mild to moderate etching, but severe etching that is rough to the touch typically requires more vigorous and specialized treatment that can only be done by a marble cleaning and restoration professional.
Basically, at a certain point the marble surface will need to be ground down and refinished. This is not a DIY job and there aren't any DIY products that can be used to repair severe etching.
Unfortunately, there is no way to tell for certain when the etching damage can only be repaired by a professional.
Unless, the surface is very rough and you can feel the spot is depressed/unlevel it is often worth it to give the Etch Remover a shot since hiring a marble cleaning / restoration pro is expensive. It can sometimes fully restore somewhat severe etching, but it may take several applications.
QUESTION: A friend of mine had a cup of coke spilled on her marble fire surround and is not sure what to use to clean it. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks, Karen
ANSWER: Coloring dyes used in soft drinks will certainly stain marble and the acidity of the drink will also "etch" or dull a polished marble surface.
To remove the stain, you'll need to apply a poultice.
A poultice is a paste made of a particular chemical and an absorbent powder like baby powder, talc, baking soda or even paper towels can be used.
The type of substance that stained the marble determines which chemical to make the paste with, but the same powder can be used for any type stain.
See the Removing Granite & Marble Stains e-book (links above) for how-to details on specific stains.
How To Make A Poultice
In a stainless bowl mix the chemical with the powder into a paste the consistency of peanut butter.
Using a wood or plastic spatula, apply the poultice to the stain so its 1/2 inch thick with a 1 inch border around the stain.
Cover the poultice with clear plastic wrap from your kitchen and seal it all around with masking tape.
Let it sit 24-48 hours, then remove the plastic, but don't disturb the poultice. The required chemical attacks the dye and as the poultice dries, it sucks up the stain.
So, let it dry for another day or so and scrape the poultice off the marble with your wooden/plastic spatula. If you are lucky, the stain will be completely gone! Otherwise just repeat the process until the stain is removed.
If you notice a dull spot where the stain was... a slight discoloration... the cola has etched the marble. You'll need to buy the Etch Remover Polishing Paste (link above) to bring back the shine. If its really bad you'll need to hire a professional to re-polish the area.
It sounds like the marble fire surround was just recently stained, so you have an excellent chance of completely removing the stain. The longer is sits though, the harder it is to get it all out. So get to it!
Our honed Calacutta White Marble fireplace hearth has a burn mark.
We tried to re-hone the area, yet it appears the stain is in deep. Any poultice or other advise you can offer?
Do you mean you had a marble maintenance professional re-honed it? If so, why didn't the pro go deep enough to remove the burn or stain?
Now, there may be a good reason, but the only remedy to remove burned marble is to remove the marble that is damaged. And having that done by a professional is the last resort, but should take care of the issue.
Actually a marble repair professional will yield the best results, however, it's the most expensive and there are usually DIY methods that can be tried first. You can always hire a pro later.
Burns are not stains. Yes, there is a spot like a stain, but a stain occurs when a substance absorbs. Burns are physical damage to the stone, so you can't poultice them out.
The only advice I can offer is to sand the area with metal sand paper until you remove the mark. You may end up with a depression or divot though.