Granite Sealer Guide

Sealing Granite Countertops, Marble & Travertine

Order SenGuard Marble & Granite Sealer for Permanent Stain Protection

The topic of granite sealers and sealing natural stone is full of controversy and confusion. One of the main reasons for this is the fact that most people (including many fabricators and installers) do not understand...

How impregnating sealers work or when to appropriately apply the product even though a very simple test for sealing granite countertops that you can easily perform will tell you what to do.

Now, to be fair, many recommendations are knowingly made based on client expectations and peace of mind rather than a real need for sealing granite countertops or other natural stone.

On this page, I will do my best to lay out the whole picture, reasons for or against sealing granite and marble and why, so you can make an informed decision for yourself.

Granite Sealer Myth #1:

Marble and granite sealers "prevent" stains....

Well, sort of, but not exactly. Let me explain...

A sealer will only slow down the natural rate at which a stone absorbs a liquid.

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Some stones are so dense (soapstone, many granites, some travertines, etc.) that liquids just cannot penetrate... or stain... while others will stain if a spill isn't wiped up immediately.

So, a sealer does not provide an absolutely impenetrable shell (which is the common perception)... it simply gives you more time to clean up the mess before it stains and keeps the stain near the surface, so it can be more easily removed if a stain does occur.

Senguard Granite Sealer bottle

Now next-generation sealers like SenGuard Permanent Bond Sealer represent a big jump forward with chemical properties that form permanent bonds with the stone and actually repel liquids to make stains nearly impossible.

Theoretically, if say a leaky bottle of oil is left on the surface for days it could still absorb enough to stain since sealers work by dramatically reducing absorption and not by forming impenetrable shells.

However, under "normal" circumstances most liquids and oils will evaporate before staining when a top sealer has been properly applied.

Interesting: Polishing stone also helps to decrease the absorbency rate, but this is not the main reason to do it.

Polishing brings out the color in a stone. However, a polish can wear off, so it's not recommended for floors unless you don't mind the extra work and expense to keep it looking good like you see in hotels and corporate office lobbies.

Myth #2:

A granite sealer is what makes the surface shiny....

Completely and totally false. The shine or "polish" on the surface of any stone is created by intense friction using diamond abrasives. It's a mechanical process and not a chemical one.

Chemicals however, particularly acids (like liquor, vinegar, coffee, sodas) can damage or essentially remove the polish on certain calcite-based stones like marble, travertine and limestone.

It's a reaction between the calcium carbonate and the acid. It's called "etching" and it's the primary reason such stones are not recommended for kitchen countertops.

When choosing a stone you should always perform the Lemon Juice Test on a sample of the exact stone prior to purchase and/or installation to see if it etches.

The "stains" that result are the clear or lighter colored "water spots" or "glass rings" that are commonly reported with such stones.

But they are not "stains." Nothing is absorbed into the stone.

It is physical damage to the surface of the stone. Luckily, most cases of etching are mild to moderate and can be repaired using a special marble polishing etch remover.

However, if severe enough your only option is to call in a professional to re-polish the surface. And that's the answer to....

Myth #3:

Sealers protect against glass rings, water stains and etch marks....

Not true.

Sealing has absolutely nothing to do with etching and will not prevent it at all. Etching is physical damage to the stone. Expecting a stone sealer to provide this protection is like expecting a car wax to prevent a key scratching your car's paint. 

Only using coasters, trivets, place mats and completely avoiding contact with the acidic and alkaline foods and products will prevent etching.

What Should You Do?

As a general rule, granite sealer should be applied to all natural stones. However, this does not mean that "every granite and stone must be sealed"... not true... but when necessary...

I recommend SenGuard Sealer (and a couple other sealers) available at the Stone Care Center.

Many dark-colored denser granites (browns, blues, blacks) do not require sealing... often travertine, limestone and many marbles don't need sealing especially when polished and neither does soapstone (although sealing and/or oiling is recommended mainly for cosmetic reasons).

Again, this is not a hard and fast rule. It depends on several factors (more below). That's why you need to test to determine when applying a granite countertop sealer is appropriate.

And Not Do...

You should not apply a granite sealer to a stone that does not need it "just to be safe".

It doesn't work that way.

Testing will also help you avoid applying a sealer to a stone that cannot absorb it.

Applying a granite sealer to dense granites or polished travertine or marble when testing shows you should not only creates a problem you definitely don't want.

If applied to such stones, the sealer does not absorb, just sits on the surface, dries and creates a hazy, streaky mess. It can be stripped off, but what a pain. Best to test!

How Often To Re-Seal

Frequency of granite sealer re-application really depends on four variables:

  • The absorption rate of your stone (porous or dense)
  • The type and quality of granite sealer used
  • How well the initial sealer was applied
  • Products used for cleaning granite countertops (common household cleaners are too harsh and will degrade the sealer)

Light colored granites and un-polished (honed, tumbled) softer stones such as marble, some travertine and limestone and onyx may need sealing every 1-3 years.

Dark colored granites as noted in the greens, browns, blues and blacks can be sealed less frequently: every 3-5+ years or . . . not at all. But remember, it depends on your particular stone and sealant, so be sure test a sample.

All sealers are not equal and a few are able to protect your countertops for 10 to 15 years when properly maintained.

Again, it also depends on the porosity of the stone and how well the sealant is applied. Impregnating sealers do break down and degrade over time (except the permanent bonding SenGuard Sealer which does not degrade requiring only one effective application) and it's certainly much easier and far less expensive to re-seal your stone pro-actively rather than paying for the hassle of removing stains or marble restoration.

But you don't have to guess, worry or consider any of the above factors. Again, all you have to do is water test the surface. This simple sealer test sums it all up and tells you if you should apply a granite sealer or not either initially or for re-application.

Sealing Is Simple

In reality, sealing your stone countertops is a simple "wipe on, wipe off" procedure. It's not complicated and no special knowledge is required except the ability to follow some simple instructions. So relax. You have nothing to worry about.

The key is to completely remove any sealer residue from the surface after it has absorbed into the pores below the surface saturating the stone, but before it dries.

Helpful Tip: Consistently using a specially formulated natural stone cleaner, as I recommend, will reduce the frequency of re-sealing required.

This type of product can be used weekly or for end of day cleaning to keep your countertops shiny and streak-free.

Quartz vs. Granite

First of all, the makers of quartz countertops have made a much bigger issue out of applying granite sealer than it really is.

Quartz countertops are excellent (we highly recommend them as essentially equal to granite) and you can't blame them for trying to effectively market their product, but the issue of sealing and granite counter top care is really a minor advantage of quartz when compared with the advantages granite has in natural beauty, uniqueness, the quality and quantity of colors and patterns available and the ability to make repairs if needed, which is not possible with quartz.

All other qualities and characteristics of each product are the same. After all, engineered stone is 93% quartz which comes from granite.

Even though Silestone, Zodiac, Cambria and other makers of quartz counter tops try to convince you that applying granite sealer is a complicated hassle--it just isn't true. It's only a marketing story. True it's one less task and expense, however.....

Applying granite sealer is a simple procedure and you should not let it be a factor when deciding whether to install granite or quartz counter tops. And truth be told... it is possible to stain quartz and the resin in quartz is more susceptible to heat damage than granite.

Bottom line is that the differences between granite and quartz are so insignificant that you should simply install the color and pattern you like best whether granite or quartz.

Read Other Sealing Granite and Marble Questions & Answers

Learn even more! Click on the links below to see questions submitted by other visitors with complete answers and great info....

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