Food Safe Sealing Granite Countertops

by Karen Honaker
(San Jose, CA)

QUESTION:

I just bought some granite countertops, installed by someone who didn't know how to clean them or seal them so they are food safe. It's green granite, don't know the particular name. Help, please!

ANSWER:

Often sealing granite countertops isn't necessary. Some granite is too dense and just doesn't need it... won't stain, especially blues, blacks and greens.

So first, you should water test the granite countertops to determine if a granite sealer is even needed.

If testing shows sealing the granite would be beneficial, then I recommend using one of these impregnating marble & granite sealers.

Once these sealers cure after application they are safe and inert (chemically un-reactive) and will not affect your food or even contact your food for that matter since they absorb into the stone to work just below the surface.

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Food-Safe Sealer for Slate Countertops

by Brian
(Kempton, PA)

QUESTION:

what food-safe sealer can i use for a slate countertop? it is machine honed (like a smooth new chalkboard) dark gray in color. it is quarried in Slatington, PA

ANSWER:

All impregnating slate, marble, stone, granite sealers are "food safe". All such sealers are made for application to stone and granite countertops, which are designed for food prep.

If the stone - slate - granite sealers were not food safe, they would not be approved for use on such surfaces and could not be marketed as such.

Now, of course the sealer itself is not safe to consume, but after it has been applied all the chemicals evaporate and the remaining "cured" sealer is inert... meaning it is not chemically reactive and therefore not a contaminate and safe for food prep areas.

We recommend using one of these marble & granite sealers, which we've found are the most durable and effective.

Works equally well on slate tile or countertops and on any natural stone or porous surface, which is the case of most impregnating sealers.

And SENGUARD is by far the most advanced currently available. It forms permanent bonds, so it gives you the biggest bang for your buck long-term.

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Sealing Food Prep Areas on Marble Countertops

by Heather
(Alameda, CA)

QUESTION:

I'm just starting out making chocolates and need to work with the melted chocolate directly on a marble countertop (or slab) to temper it.

I'm concerned about the chemicals in the sealants getting into the chocolate. I don't really care about the look of the marble.

Can I just leave it unsealed and disinfect it in some way to inhibit bacteria growth?

ANSWER:

Impregnating stone sealers do not contaminate food prep surfaces and will not "get into" the chocolate.

For one when a sealer is applied it absorbs into the stone below the surface with all excess and residue wiped clean off the surface itself.

Second once the sealer dries and cures it becomes inert and has no chemical reaction... meaning it does not/cannot interact or contaminate food.

Furthermore, the FDA and other agencies would not allow stone sealers to be marketed or sold for sealing food prep surfaces if there was risk of contamination.

But if you don't care what the marble countertop looks like, then there is no reason to apply a sealer.

The only reason you apply a sealer is to help prevent staining.

Even though most stains can be rather easily removed from stone, it becomes a pain if you have to do it over and over like you would on a kitchen countertop.

So, no need to seal the marble countertop if you don't care about stains.

Marble doesn't harbor bacteria or promote the growth of bacteria, so regular cleaning with a good Granite Countertop & Marble Cleaning spray will keep your countertop as clean and safe as possible.

Or you could use a marble-safe MOLD & MILDEW Remover, which acts more specifically like a disinfectant.

Good Luck,
Ryan

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Sealing Granite Naturally

by Cheryl
(Dallas, TX)

QUESTION:

I need to seal dark granite countertops, but I'd like to apply a more natural sealer without harsh chemicals (more earth-friendly and not as damaging to people).

The kind I found at Lowe's suggests you leave the windows open for 2 days after applying the sealer. Is there a product that does this more naturally? All I can find is natural cleaners, but not natural sealers.

ANSWER:

Cheryl, I completely understand what you mean. Many sealers are solvent-based and very noxious and toxic. Recently water-based sealers have been developed to try and minimize the impact on humans and the environment.

Now I wouldn't necessarily call these green sealers, but much better.

I recommend using these recommended marble & granite sealers. The SCP: Impregnating sealer is in my opinion the best water-based sealer on the market with a long-life.

Now, you say you 'need' to seal dark granite. Have you performed the water test on the granite countertop (and/or oil test on a sample) to be sure that it really does need sealing... or did someone just tell you to do it?

Some granite varieties don't need sealing... mainly a few darker varieties. If you test the granite and the results demonstrate that it doesn't need sealing then you should NOT do it "just to be safe."

The sealer must get below the surface into the pores of the stone. If the stone is really dense, the sealer will just sit on top and the residue will leave a streaky mess even after you wipe off the excess. You'll then have to strip off the sealer, and believe me, you do not want to do that job.

If the granite shows signs of even a little porosity/absorbency, then go ahead and seal it.

Good luck with your project!

Regards,
Ryan

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Non-Toxic Natural Granite Sealer

by Jerry
(New York)

QUESTION:

I purchase a light colored granite countertop and I would like to use a non-toxic natural sealer. What is available?

ANSWER:

As for natural sealers you could use linseed oil. It was one of the original types of sealers, but it won't last long and will turn yellow with age.

For non-toxic sealers these recommended marble & granite sealers are as good as your are going to get.

They are approved for application of food-prep areas.

If you are worried about exposure to food... it's not an issue. The reaction that occurs when applying a sealer and after it dries leaves behind molecules that are inert.

Most light colored granites need sealing to guard against stains, but you can simply water test it to find out for sure if you need to seal.

Sometimes you don't have to. If you do... use the recommended marble / granite sealers.

Good Luck,
Ryan

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What non-teflon based sealers are available for safe and effective use on granite?

QUESTION:

Travertine floor and granite countertop and back splash. I am looking for an environmentally safe non-teflon (fluoropolymer) sealer. Do they exist and what are their names. Thanks, Dr. Smith

ANSWER:

Flouoro-carbon sealers are pretty standard these days, however, water-based granite sealers like Stone Sentry Sealer (the water-based sealer we recommend) are less toxic (lower concentration of volatile organic compounds) than solvent-based sealers.

You can find some sealers that are marketed as "non-toxic" or "no VOCs", but EPA rules actually target certain VOCs over others, thus a company can claim a product is "zero" VOC and still contain up to 5%.

Or you may see some labeled as "Green", but typically this does not mean that the chemical is completely non-toxic, non-harmful.... just better than the others.

Not being a chemist, I can't definitively answer this question beyond the above explanation. The granite sealer game is won on durability, so the effort is to engineer sealers that last as long as possible.

So far, this entails using chemical compounds that have some toxicity.

However, it is important to clarify and understand that a granite sealer prior to application is toxic, but after applied and cured the VOCs evaporate and the remaining compound is inert, non-toxic and safe for food prep, etc.

So when talking about "safety" of granite sealers we are not deciding which is safe to use on a countertop. They are all designed to be used on food prep areas.

The issue is that some are less environmentally toxic upon application, so the less-toxic sealers will release fewer VOCs into your home. And this occurs over a short time frame of only a few days to a couple weeks.

Of course, your home is already made with all kinds of materials that emit toxic fumes, which people have developed sensitivities to (sometimes severe).

You could go back in time and use the orginal sealer... linseed oil, but that would require constant re-application and it tends to yellow.

Also, consider that you do not "have to" seal all stone. By performing the water test for sealing granite countertops you can determine if your stone even warrants application of a granite sealer.

Many stones are naturally very dense, stain-resistant and should not be sealed.

Also, it's helpful to remember or learn that most stains in stone can be easily removed. It's just that if you have a porous stone for a kitchen countertop, then removing stains can become a nuisance, so sealing makes sense.

But for installations that have a low risk of staining, sealing is very optional and in many cases just unnecessary. This includes some floors, showers, lightly-used bathrooms or even kitchen backsplashes which get surface splatters, but rarely stains.

Good Luck,
Ryan

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mineral oil
by: Anonymous

You can also use mineral oil which, does not yellow. This is the same "Food Safe" oil used for wood butcher blocks.

==== Countertop Specialty comment: True... mineral oil "could" be used although oil of any type will stain or darken the color of the stone, which is usually not desired except on honed surfaces. Mineral oil has been commonly used to darken soapstone countertops, but it must be re-applied very frequently to maintain the color.

Relatively speaking mineral oil is a rather ineffective stone or granite "sealer" providing some protection against stains from water-based substances, but really no protection against staining from oil-based foods.

Oil also tends to attract more dirt and grime. Honestly, if my choice was to seal with mineral oil or leave the stone un-sealed.... I'd leave it un-sealed.

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Granite Sealer Chemical Odor Sensitivity

QUESTION:

I am hypersensitive to chemical odours and I would dearly love to have a granite countertop. What are the sealers made of? Do they off -gas and for how long?

ANSWER:

Nearly all chemicals have an odor and some are going to bother people more than others.

Granite sealers are made using either a water base or a solvent base. Solvents are volatile and will off-gas until evaporated at least.

Water-based sealers still have some odor, but not typically as strong as solvent-based sealers.

Usually you will notice an odor only for a couple days or less. However, I'm not a chemist and it is possible that off-gassing occurs with all types of granite sealers or other chemicals longer than your average human would/could actually smell.

So, someone with odor sensitivity may notice it far longer than typical.

The impregnating sealers we recommend represent both water and solvent-based sealers.

SenGuard is the very best granite sealer available, but it is a solvent-based sealer. The Stone Sentry granite sealer is water-based. Enhancer sealers are solvent-base.

There are arguments for both types although many (and in the future possibly all) are going to a water-base since solvent chemicals are more damaging to the environment.

But you don't have to worry about it!

There are plenty of granite colors that don't need a granite sealer because they are dense with low absorption rates.

Such granites are naturally stain resistant and do not need sealing.... in fact couldn't be sealed even if you tried... the granite sealer simply won't absorb and nothing else will either.

These are the most bullet-proof surfaces you can install... highly recommended.

I know you've read that "all" granite "must" be sealed, but that's just marketing mumbo jumbo from quartz countertop and granite sealer manufacturers (trying to sell their product) and from poorly informed stone salepeoples, etc.

It's simply not true... many granites and many stone types never need sealing.

That's why you should always perform the water test for sealing granite countertops on a sample taken from the granite slab you are considering purchasing... or when trying to determine if an existing installation needs sealing / re-sealing.

This test will tell you how absorbent a stone is and whether or not it needs sealing or if it even can be sealed.

You should also perform the "Lemon Juice Test" to weed out the rare granite that reacts to acids. Some black granites are appearing in the marketplace now that will etch, so you have to be on the lookout... don't want those.

Most of the granite colors that don't need sealing are on the darker side, but you still have lots to choose from. This is the way to go if you want to avoid applying a granite sealer.

Good Luck,
Ryan

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Green Granite Sealer: How yellow does linseed oil go?
by: Sally

Hi
I am thinking of sealing my sandy-coloured granite benchtops with linseed oil. North-east facing windows run right around my kitchen so it's very light and the benches are in full sunlight.

How yellow does linseed oil go. And how often do you have to reapply it (are we talking every few months or every few years?)

I'm worried it might go more and more yellow with reapplication, but I'm looking for a natural green granite sealer.

Thank you

===Admin Comment: Well, first consider that your granite countertops may not need a sealer at all. It's a bogus myth that "all" granite benchtops "must" be sealed.

Many do benefit from sealing to help prevent staining, but many granite varieties are very dense with super-low absorbency and never need sealing (... in fact, cannot be sealed).

So, first you should perform the water test for sealing granite countertops to determine if application of a granite sealer is even necessary.

Regarding linseed oil as a green sealer.... It's really impossible to estimate the "degree" of yellowing that could occur. In general oils will turn more yellow over time.

And they will likely turn yellow more quickly in the areas that receive the most sunlight, so you'll end up with some areas more yellow than others.

Also, linseed oil is only effective against water-based liquid absorption. It won't stop oils from absorbing.

It would need to be re-applied every 6 months to one year.

Typically linseed oil is mixed with solvents (which are not "green") to speed drying time... otherwise it takes a long time for straight linseed oil to dry.

I certainly respect your desire to use natural "green" products. I guess the question you need to answer for yourself is what are you willing to trade off to use a green stone sealant.

To accomplish your "green" goals you'll have to use straight linseed oil (without mixing with solvents) as the granite sealer. This will require a much more difficult application and longer drying time.

Also, you'll need to re-apply the oil frequently. It will likely turn yellow and only protects against water absorption.

So, much more work, trouble and far less effective. You may find that a better compromise is to use a permanent bonding sealer like SenGuard .

It isn't a green granite sealer, but it is much more green that standard sealants.

Why... well, it requires very little (by volume), only needs one application vs. repeated applications like all other sealers, and provides excellent protection against all liquids (oil & water).

This may be the best compromise for sealing granite countertops. Since you only need to apply one time it is far more "green" than sealers that need repeated re-application.



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