The topic of granite sealers and sealing granite countertops is full of controversy and confusion. The reason is that most people including many fabricators and installers do not understand how sealers work or when a granite countertop actually needs sealing.
This is true even though a simple test for sealing granite will give you the answer.
You'll learn everything you need to know about sealing and sealers right here.
Read on for the unbiased real story about sealing natural stone.
By the end you'll be as smart about sealing as any stone pro and have total confidence in what to do, when, why, and how.
In this sealing granite guide you’ll learn...
Does my granite need sealing? That's a common question with an easy way to find the answer.
Performing a simple test for sealing granite with water and a clock or timer will determine if it is necessary to seal your granite.
It will be helpful if you also learn about how sealers work.
Most (but not all) granite countertops will need to be sealed. Many varieties (colors of granite) do not need sealing.
Although there are general rules about which colors do or do not need sealing (i.e. darker colors like black, blue, brown, green), you must test your specific granite countertop to know if and/or when it must be sealed.
Basically, if it darkens in 10 minutes or less you need to apply a granite sealer. However, the exact time it takes (1, 3, 8, 15 minutes) will tell you more specific and helpful information about your granite.
See the sealing test page for detailed info on performing this granite water test, specific time to absorption, and interpreting the results.
Sealing granite countertops is simple. The basics are to clean the countertop, apply the sealer, allow to absorb, wipe completely clean and dry. But a couple key steps will determine whether or not you properly seal the granite and/or avoid any troublesome problems.
Additional Tips for Applying a Granite Sealer:
Granite must absorb enough sealer to be effective. Otherwise, it will still stain. Thus, pouring on and spreading around is far more effective than wiping on or spraying on.
If a haze appears, pour a little sealer on that area, rub with a cloth, and wipe completely dry. The hazy spots can be easily removed immediately after application. Removing haze will become more difficult the longer you wait or if the sealer residue is allowed to completely dry and cure.
A second or third coat of sealer may be necessary on lighter granite colors and especially white granite countertops.
Performing the granite water test before and after applying the sealer and after each coat is how you know if your granite countertop is sealed properly.
Most standard impregnating granite sealers currently available will protect against water and oil stains to some degree. And most use very similar technology and formulas so choosing which granite sealer to use can be confusing and frustrating.
What is the best sealer for granite?
First, you want an impregnating stone sealer and not a topical coating. Coatings will change the look and finish of your granite and are used rarely or only in special circumstances.
Note that standard impregnating sealers do not form permanent bonds with the stone, will degrade, and will need re-application every 1-3 years or sometimes 5 years depending on the porosity of the stone and the quality of the sealer.
Common sealers that need reapplication include brands like: Dupont / StoneTech, Marble Life, Miracle 511, Granite Gold, SCI, Rock Doctor, Weiman, Aqua Mix and just about all others.
For permanent sealing you have fewer options. They are all permanent but have pros and cons compared to each other as follows:
For the above reasons, we recommend the Permanent Stain-Proof Granite Sealer.
Get a discount on your sealer and other granite & marble cleaning products with a Countertop Specialty coupon code.
How often to seal granite or reseal granite (or any natural stone) depends on four variables:
Light colored and white 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 and polished marble and travertine can be sealed less frequently: every 3-5+ years or . . . not at all in some cases. But remember, it depends on your particular stone and sealant, so be sure to perform the water test first.
So, it depends on the porosity of the stone and how well the sealant is applied (i.e. is it lightly sprayed on or just wiped on, or was the stone saturated and allowed to absorb as much as possible? Were multiple coats applied if needed?)
Standard impregnating sealers break down and degrade over time which is why they need periodic reapplication.
Permanent-bonding sealers do not degrade and require only one effective application (which may mean 2 or 3 coats).
How do you know when to reseal? Perform the water test, of course. Or you’ll simply start to notice that water is absorbing leaving dark spots in the stone.
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.
You should not apply a sealer to a granite countertop "just to be safe". It doesn't work that way. Your particular granite may not need it and maybe cannot even absorb the sealer.
Really? Yes. You won’t come across this fact very often, but it is absolutely true.
As a general rule, a sealer should be applied to all natural stones. The key word is “general”. This does not mean that "every granite and stone must be sealed".
Some varieties of granite are very dense and naturally stain-resistant. All granite is porous and most will need sealing, but some granite colors (blacks, blues, greens, browns) have such tiny pores that liquid just can’t absorb. Or it takes so long to absorb (like 30 minutes or more) that stains are very rare.
This is often true for polished marble, travertine tile, and other dense natural stones as well. That’s why testing is so important. It will tell you if a sealer is needed or not.
Applying a sealer when not needed only creates a problem you definitely don't want. In such cases, the sealer does not absorb, just sits on the surface, dries and then leaves a hazy, streaky mess. It can be stripped off, but what a pain.
Best to test and apply a sealer only when needed. When it is needed…
SenGuard and a couple other stone sealers I recommend at the Stone Care Center are your best bet.
This section will answer other common questions, but also address a few myths about how granite sealers work and the effects of sealing granite countertops.
That’s a myth or more accurately a misunderstanding.
Sealers do not absolutely block absorption or absolutely prevent staining. This is a big surprise to some that believe a sealer somehow encapsulates the granite in a protective shell or film. That's not how it works.
Sealers slow down the natural rate of absorption, but do not completely block it.
Sealing granite simply gives you more time to clean up the mess before it stains and keeps the liquid near the surface, so it can be more easily removed if a stain does occur.
So, you must still practice good cleaning habits and wipe up spills soon after they happen. You don’t want to leave an oil or wine spill sitting for an hour.
Again, 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.
Now next-generation permanent sealers like SenGuard Sealer represent a big jump forward with chemical properties that actually repel liquids (vs. just clogging the pores like most sealers) to make stains far less likely.
It’s important to understand that 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.
Also, the natural porosity or absorbency of your granite is a key factor influencing how much a sealer can improve or extend the time-to-absorption and staining.
Let me explain this…
Even with 3 coats of granite sealer, highly porous and absorbent granites (like many white granites) may still stain in a relatively short time (like 15 minutes). Here’s why…
If your granite initially stains in 1 minute (which is very quick), a sealer may increase that time to 10 or 15 minutes. This may not seem very good but note that’s 10-15X longer which is a huge improvement.
On the other hand, if your granite takes 10 minutes to stain initially, then just one coat of sealer may extend that time to 30 minutes or more.
So the porosity or absorbency of your granite is a key factor in determining how much a sealer can improve the stain-resistance of your countertop.
That's a myth. Completely and totally false.
The shine is created by running granite slabs through a huge polishing machine at the factory where the slabs are cut and prepared for market.
These machines use intense friction and diamond abrasives to smooth the granite until it shines creating a "polished" finish.
It's like sanding wood smooth. A mechanical process that changes the stone itself. The granite is sanded so smooth that it becomes reflective and shines.
Coatings are sometimes confused with sealers.
Certain products that are sometimes called “sealers” can change the look (color and shine) of stone, but in reality these are topical coatings and not the “impregnating” stone sealers we are talking about.
Coatings are applied only in rare circumstances since coatings can make the surface look plastic and sometimes create more problems than they solve.
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, placemats and completely avoiding contact with the acidic and alkaline foods and products will prevent etching.
Etching is a reaction between the calcium carbonate in a stone and the acid in a food, drink or product (like wine, vinegar, coffee, sodas, most household cleaners)
Etching is primarily an issue with marble countertops and travertine tile. It's the primary reason marble is not recommended for kitchen countertops. Marble is very popular and is often installed as a kitchen countertop, but it is much more troublesome to maintain in a "like-new" condition.
Granite rarely etches except in the case of “doctored” black granite.
TIP: When choosing a stone to buy 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. A natural stone that etches (like marble or travertine) is not a great choice for a kitchen countertop as etching will be impossible to avoid.
The spots that result from etching are the clear or lighter-colored, chalky, dull spots, "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.
This same etching effect can occur on doctored granite. This is primarily an issue with black granite countertops. If you’re looking to purchase black granite, you should learn about doctored granite.
No. This is usually an add on service. It is not a standard practice for the countertop fabricator / installer to automatically apply a sealer. Some will offer to do it for an additional (usually overpriced) fee and the sealer used often is not great.
And believe it or not, often the installer doesn’t know how to properly apply a sealer or doesn’t want to take the time to do it correctly.
Our website visitors contact us all the time with stories about how their installer applied the sealer over the entire surface all at once and then just left telling the customer to “let it dry”.
Letting a sealer dry on the surface is absolutely what you should never do. 100% incorrect and big mistake. That’s how you get the streaky haze left on the surface which is very difficult to remove.
Or some installers may tell you the granite was "pre-sealed" at their shop. This may be true. Some do apply a sealer prior to installation. Again, almost always for an additional fee. But you want to verify that the granite is sealed by performing the water test at the time of installation. Do it with the installer present.
Sealing granite countertops is so simple we recommend that you just do it yourself. You’ll do a better job, you can choose the best sealer, and save a bunch.
Yes, but only temporarily. Water will absorb and create a dark spot that looks like any other stain from oil or juice or coffee, etc. However, the stain is temporary. Water will evaporate and since water is clear the “stain” will not remain.
Granite stains are removed by applying a poultice made with a specific chemical ingredient for that type of stain (oil, ink, coffee, organic, inorganic, etc.).
A true “stain” is always a dark spot where something has absorbed into the granite below the surface. So, regular cleaning and scrubbing won’t remove it.
You’ll come across many poultice recipes online. Some are effective. Some are totally bogus. But none will work on all types of stains. And they must be applied correctly to work.
For proven granite stain removal methods and poultice recipes for all types of stains see our Granite & Marble Stain Removal Guide (ebook).
Most granite stains can be removed (unless old and deep). Of course, sealing granite (when needed) will help prevent stains and the hassle of removing them.
First of all, quartz countertops are excellent (we highly recommend them as essentially equal to granite). However, the makers of quartz countertops have made a much bigger deal out of the need to apply a sealer to granite than it really is.
You can't blame them for trying to effectively market their product and not having to seal quartz is a point in its favor.
But in reality, the issue of sealing and granite countertop care is 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 (importantly) the ability to make repair granite or remove stains if needed, which is usually not possible with quartz.
Despite what you may read quartz countertops can and do stain and discolor from a variety of foods and cleaners and hot pans. Very often such damage is permanent on quartz but rarely on granite.
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 countertops try to convince you that applying a 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.....
You should not let sealing granite be a factor when deciding whether to install granite or quartz countertops. That’s the main point here.
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. You will get excellent performance from either countertop material.
Sealing granite and natural stone stone countertops is very easy. Almost as simple as "wipe on, wipe off". 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.
Clean the granite well, apply a sufficient amount of sealer, allow it time to completely absorb, and wipe clean and dry to remove any surface residue.
Follow these simple steps and you won’t have any problems.
Helpful Tip: Consistently using a specially formulated natural stone cleaner as I recommend, will protect the sealer so you get the optimum performance.
This type of product can be used weekly or for end of day cleaning to keep your countertops shiny and streak-free.
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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