How To Diagnose & Remove Marble Stains

Marble stains can throw the typical marble owner into a panic. People often try all kinds of remedies without any luck and assume the stain is permanent.

Well, no need to panic.... stains in marble are rarely permanent.

But... conventional cleaning methods won't work for stain removal.

And... too often when "trying" random cleaners and methods you only end up causing more damage.

Not to worry.... we're glad to help clean up the mess and: 

  • Set the record straight about how to clean marble stains
  • Discuss sealers and how to test for proper application 
  • Link you to step-by-step marble stain removal guides
  • Dispel marble cleaning myths
  • Teach you how to diagnose the difference between a stain and etch mark (often confused) and apply the proper solution.

Marble Stain Removal

Luckily, a stain in marble is almost never permanent and can be easily removed in most cases. Certain stains (like rust stains) can be difficult, but usually only very old and/or deep stains cannot be removed.

Traditional cleaning methods and products won't work because stains in marble, granite, other natural stone and even concrete stains and grout stains occur when a substance is absorbed into the pores of the material below the surface.

Typical spray, wipe and scrub cleaning methods only work to clean things on the surface. Getting the staining substance out of the pores of the marble (or any other surface) requires... magic! .... No, just kidding! A special procedure is required though.

Happily, you can DIY it! 

The stain removal procedure depends on the staining substance. That is... the requirements for removing a grease stain is different than say mustard or rust stains. Complete details are a bit too, uh.... well... detailed for this page, but here's the hook-up....

Step-by-step instructions for ink stain removal, coffee stains, oil, rust, red wine stain removal and cleaning all other types of marble stains are found in the Removing Granite & Marble Stains e-book.

In case you are wondering... the procedure works exactly the same for any porous surface (marble, granite, travertine, concrete, grout, etc.) 

The same information is also in the Cleaning Marble Secrets e-book, which is far more comprehensive for those who want to know everything about marble cleaning, protection, prevention, maintenance and solutions to all types of problems.

Also, check out the many answers to reader questions about different types of stains by clicking links at the end of this page.

Sealing will help prevent staining....  but it's not always necessary or recommended. When needed applying a recommended impregnating sealer will dramatically improve marble stain and grout stain protection.

It's important to perform the simple water test to determine if/when your marble countertop or floor tile needs sealing and then apply a sealer only when indicated. Applying it "just to be safe" is a recipe for trouble possibly leaving a hazy film on the surface.                                

Applying a sealer will defend against staining, but sealing has nothing to do with etching (as many mistakenly believe) and will not prevent etching.  

The Myth of Marble Stains

Contrary to what you may have read or been told, marble does not stain easy. People confuse "staining" with "etching". Marble does etch easily... in seconds. But etching is a completely different marble cleaning issue.

Of course, marble is a natural stone and variations do exist, but most marble is quite dense and does not readily stain.

In fact, many polished marbles are naturally stain-proof, can be essentially non-absorbent, and don't need sealing.

So, marble countertops and floor tile may stain if a substance is left on the surface long enough, but it doesn't happen right away as many people assume and fear.

Stain vs. Etch Mark

Two things can occur to leave a "spot" on marble.... staining and etching.

Since many marble owners aren't aware of etching and since any spot is commonly called a "stain" there tends to be a lot of confusion and mis-information regarding spots on marble.

A true stain occurs when a substance absorbs into the pores of the marble below the surface.

When a stain occurs it will leave a spot that is darker than the marble color and will not affect or change the surface finish.

An etch mark happens when marble (travertine or limestone too) is exposed to an acidic food, drink or substance or when harsh alkaline products (which is nearly all common and brand-name household cleaners) are used for cleaning marble.

The offending substance corrodes or eats into the marble causing physical damage that affects the appearance of the surface leaving a dull spot. The etch mark can also be lighter in color often whitish.

Etching begins upon contact, so damage can occur in seconds and will become more severe the longer the substance remains in contact with the marble counter tops or floors.

Since any spot is often considered or called a "stain" many confuse etching with staining and incorrectly conclude that marble stains "easy".

Not true. Marble etches easily, but it takes far longer for a substance to stain marble and comparatively speaking marble is very stain-resistant.

Again, a stain is always darker with no surface damage. An etch mark is lighter in color, dull in appearance and can become rough to the touch when severe.

Now, for a curve ball... a stain and etch mark can happen in the same place! Typically what will happen is an acidic drink like coffee will spill. The coffee immediately begins etching the marble (which makes the marble more susceptible to staining) and if not cleaned up will eventually absorb and stain the same spot.

For marble repair in this situation you must first remove the stain and then address the etch mark.

Good Luck!

Answers To Marble Stains Questions

Learn even more! Click on the links below to read detailed answers to common (and unusual) marble cleaning questions.

Aloe Vera Stain on Granite Countertop 
QUESTION: Hi, A cut leaf of aloe vera was left on a paper plate and the gel seeped through to the granite countertop and left a dark stain very similar …

Etching or Staining on Crema Marfil Marble 
QUESTION: Our house was just remodeled and we put Crema Marfil marble countertop in the Kitchen (big mistake). After we started using the Kitchen …

Marble Cleaning: Plumber's Putty Stain 
QUESTIONS: What to do....Plumber used "plumbers putty" now the fixtures are all growing stains around them. Is there a way to to stop the stain from …

Marble Shower Shampoo Stain 
QUESTION: My husband spilled VO5 shampoo on the marble shower threshold. The marble is white and grey and there are now orange spots about 3" across …

Yellow-Brown Stains in Marble Showers & Floor Tile 
QUESTION: Hi, we have White Carrara Marble tile in our steam shower. A yellow-brownish stain has begun to appear on the marble bench slab. …

Dog Urine Stains On Marble Tile 
QUESTION: Our pets have had accidents on the new marble floor tile we installed. The dog urine left a few marble stains that I cannot get out. …

Dark Stain On Marble Countertop 
QUESTION: My kitchen countertops are honed "Michael Angelo" marble (white with gray and taupe markings). About a year ago a dark stain appeared …

Remove Vinegar Stain On Marble Countertop 
QUESTION: Soooo... we bought a new house that has marble countertops in the kitchen... I was cleaning the coffee maker with vinegar , like I …

Cleaning Marble Countertop Red Wine Stain 
QUESTION: How do I remove red wine bottle ring stain from a marble countertop? ANSWER: Well... you likely have two different problems ...... …

Installation Adhesive Stains on White Carrara Marble 
QUESTION: We just had a honed Carrara marble countertop installed in the kitchen. Looked great until I noticed these blue-gray stains around the cooktop, …

Coke Stain on Marble Table 
QUESTION: My son spilled Coke on an antique marble table and didn't tell me about it. I saw it a couple of weeks later. I tried to clean it with …

Removing Silicone Caulk Marble Stains 
QUESTION: I just had a marble vanity top installed in my bathroom and put in two vessel sinks in myself. One of the sinks leaked some water out onto …

Vomit Stain on Marble Floor 
QUESTION: My dog vomited on our marble floor leaving behind a stain(acid?) How can I clean it up? The stain looks like a dull spot. The color …

Permanent Marker Stains On Marble 
A couple methods work for removing permanent marker stains from marble countertops or tile. One of the two methods described below will work for …

Cleaning Marble Mouthwash Stain 
QUESTION: Apparently our mouthwash container had a leak and now there is an oval stain on our marble bath vanity. The mouthwash is blue but the stain …

Removing Marble Toothpaste Stains 
QUESTION: I have a hazy white marble stain where my electric toothbrush stands on a marble countertop. Any suggestions for how to remove the toothpaste …

Cleaning Marble Coffee Stain 
QUESTION: I have a coffee table that is a 4ft by 2ft slab of Italian Marble. I did not use a coaster for my latte coffee and it left a ring where the …

Cleaning Marble Hair Dye Stain 
QUESTION: Can I get a hair dye stain out of a marble countertop? If so, how? ANSWER: Wellllll.... maybe. But quite possibly yes, especially if …

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