Remove Water Stains on Carrara Marble


We are getting water stains that we cannot clean off.

How do you remove water stains from Carrara marble?


Water stains cannot be “cleaned” off. Water stains are removed by repolishing the damaged area. The exact method of repolishing depends on the severity of the stains and the type of surface finish as explained below.

water stain etch mark on marble vs. true stain - text overlay - removing water stains on carrara marble

So, the "water stains" you are seeing on your Carrara marble are not from water and they are not true "stains".

Let’s first correctly identify and clarify the problem and then we’ll discuss the solutions.

Jump to Solutions section

“Water stains" are a common issue with marble countertops but pure water will not stain or damage marble.

Etching is the cause of these seemingly transparent or chalky dull spots (as seen in the photo at the top of the page).

It happens on all marble including Carrara marble, as well as, travertine, limestone, and onyx. All these stones are related and have similar characteristics.

Marble is made of calcium carbonate and reacts chemically with acidic things like coffee, juice, soda, wine, fruit, dressings, sauces, alcoholic drinks, and the list goes on.

So, it's a known marble maintenance issue and a real nuisance for cleaning marble kitchen countertops since it's impossible to prevent etching in the kitchen. Just too many acidic foods to avoid contact.

Note: etching also occurs when cleaning marble with the wrong type of products. That's why you should only use safe products for cleaning marble.

Etching is like a chemical burn. This caustic reaction "etches" or corrodes the surface eating away the polished or honed surface layer causing the appearance of the clear but dull spots.

People often call these “water stains" because they seem to be caused by water and look clear. Water can, in some rare cases, cause etching when the city water or well water is acidic but water is not the cause in 99% of cases.

Etching is most noticeable on polished marble. Honed marble has a matte surface that will still react and etch, but the result (dull spot) is not as visible since the surface is already somewhat dull… not reflective like polished marble.

Water Stains vs. True Stains

It's confusing that the word "stain" is used for a few different types of spots or cleaning issues on marble.

Here's how it breaks down....

As explained above "water stains" are a misnomer. These spots and rings are etch marks. Not
stains and not caused by water.

True marble stains are a totally different animal and this is a HUGE point of confusion not only for homeowners but for many in the stone industry, if you can believe it!

dark oil stain in marble countertop

Stains are dark spots where a liquid has absorbed. Etch marks are light or chalky spots where chemical corrosion of the marble has occurred.

You'll often read or hear that "marble stains easy...". This is NOT true. Marble etches easily and people get the two different types of spots confused.

This Marble Stain Removal Poultice will remove "true" dark-spot stains. Or follow the DIY instructions in our Removing Granite & Marble Stains e-book.

And hard water stains are in a third category. These can have a similar chalky look like etch marks but are not stains or spots at all. Nothing has absorbed and the surface is not damaged.

hard water stains on kitchen countertop around faucet

Hard water stains are simply calcium deposits (left by evaporated water) stuck to the countertop surface.... on top of the countertop or tile. These occur mainly around the sink and in showers.

This Hard Water / Soap Film Remover will safely clean hard water deposits on marble.

Now... back to etch mark "water stains" that can't be cleaned off...

How To Remove Water Stains on Marble

What we are really discussing, then, is how to remove etch marks since water doesn’t actually cause these dull spots and they are not actually “stains” but rather “etch” marks.

The repair for water stains is a matter of restoring the surface finish vs. “removing” the spot. Nothing is on the marble. The surface has been damaged so it must be refinished.

On polished marble countertops and floors, you can repair these spots using this ETCH REMOVER / Marble Polishing product made specifically for this purpose.

Very easy-to-use DIY product and will restore the shine and color almost instantly. A must-have product for marble owners.

For honed marble surfaces restoring etch marks is different than on a polished marble. Unfortunately, there's no product to use, but the DIY fix is cheap and relatively easy.

Complete instructions provided in the Restoring Marble Etching e-book.

If etch marks are rough to the touch you may need to hire a professional to refinish the surface. This is a more severe etching that requires different treatment but rarely occurs.

Applying a sealer does NOT prevent physical damage to natural stone like scratching or etching. This is a common misconception. Sealing helps prevent staining only.

Comments for Remove Water Stains on Carrara Marble

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“True Stain” on marble / comes and goes ?
by: Susan

Based on what I’ve read above, we have a "true stain" (dark shadowy area that actually looks darker) on our counter, only around one of two sinks.

The weird thing is, it comes and goes and is sometimes very large, other times slightly smaller.

What on earth is that- and what can I do about it??

It is always in the same area, it just seems to expand at times, and other times, almost completely disappear. I’m stumped!

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

This stain in your marble countertop around the sink that comes and goes and changes size is likely caused by water accumulating around the sink and absorbing into the marble at the seam between the sink and the underside of the marble countertop.

If the marble edge does not extend sufficiently beyond the sink (for an undermount sink), then water can collect on the rim of the sink where it meets the underside of the marble.

This seam between the sink and the marble is usually caulked. So, if water is collecting and there and the caulk is not in good shape, it could allow that standing or trapped water to absorb into the marble countertop.

The water saturates the marble and you get that gray shadowy stain.

But then the water evaporates and the stain shrinks or sometimes disappears.

This probably occurs based on the amount of use the sink receives. Sometimes a lot and other times not much.

Or it could be a leak from the faucet or plumbing.

But it almost certainly is from water. Clean, pure water will not permanently stain marble. It can absorb and create a stain but then evaporates, and the stain disappears.

So, inspect the seam between the sink and counter and notice if it is damaged or if water is collecting in that area.

You may just need to recaulk or do something to prevent water from collecting in any area where it can be absorbed by the marble.

The water must run off the countertop and down the sink into the drain.

For a top-mounted sink, it could be that water is somehow getting trapped under the edge of the sink where it won't evaporate or get wiped up and then absorbs into the marble to create the weird ever-changing stain.

Clear Spots Around Marble Counter Bathroom Sink
by: Robert M

What can I do to remove clear spots that are mostly on the side where soap and toothpaste may have dripped? The house has a water softener.

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

Well, follow the advice provided in the article for the various types of stains and spots that can occur on marble.

The clear spots you describe are probably etching.

Thus, the Etch Remover Powder is what you'll need to buff out the spots along with a Granite & Marble Cleaner.

Some soaps and personal products can be acidic enough to etch marble.

Etching will leave dull and chalky or clear spots. Usually, the clear spots are most visible when looking at a certain angle or in certain light with a reflection, etc.

The other types of stains can be seen in any light from any angle and will be with chalky buildup (hard water) or a true stain (dark spot where something is absorbed).

Oil Ring Stain on Marble Countertops
by: Anonymous

Hello, I have some problems with a newly installed marble kitchen countertop.

I just placed it a few days ago and I haven’t check it properly before installing it.

There are many scratches, tiny holes, light cracks, and also some yellow spots on it (it originally came with that yellow spot on it).

More importantly, I had put a jar of oil on it and it leaves a circle mark.

It’s a dark stain. I can easily see it. I know it’s an oil stain.

Can you please help me out with how to fix those problems? Thank you!

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

Certainly... most of the solutions are provided in the article above, but here's how to fix each problem you mentioned:

Remove dark oil stain: follow the directions for the specific poultice in the Removing Marble Stains e-book.

Buff out light scratches with the Marble Polishing Powder and Pad Kit.

Fill holes or pits using the Pits & Chips Marble Repair Kit (clear).

Crack repair is a different matter. If the crack is a hairline crack (no separation) and does not have a raised lip, then it probably won't get worse and there isn't much you can do about it.

You could try filling the crack with the Pit/Chip repair kit above IF it is a very short crack and it does not go all the way through the marble.

Cracks require a lot of product to fill.

So, if the crack is separated or it is long or full-thickness, then the Granite & Marble Repair Kit (color-match gels) is the product you'll need.

Or you may choose to hire a stone restoration professional to fix a bad crack that is long and/or separated.

The yellow spot that was already present is a natural part of the marble. I'm assuming this is not a large spot or area but more of a speck or dot.

This is somewhat common especially on white marble. White marble contains embedded iron deposits and these bits of iron can oxidize or rust and cause yellow spots.

Generally, this spot will not grow on a countertop.

In a shower where the marble (and bits of embedded iron) are constantly exposed to water, then such yellow spots can grow and become yellow-brown-orange rust stains which are usually impossible to completely remove.

If the yellow spot is a larger area more like a stain from a spill, then again follow directions for the specific poultice in the Removing Marble Stains e-book (link provided above).

Sealed before properly cleaned!
by: Anonymous

My tiler looks like he has sealed my Carrera marble tumbled mosaic tiles before fully cleaning dirt off.

Some look like he has sealed the dirt in... help... they look very messy like they are dirty... how can I get the marks out? Thank you.

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

Most likely what you are seeing is haze from the grout and not dirt that was sealed into the marble.

Sealers do not form a film over the marble. They work by absorbing into the marble and creating a barrier within the marble so water or liquids cannot absorb.

Definitely, any natural stone should be thoroughly cleaned before applying a sealer. But this is done mainly to make it easier to apply the sealer and to ensure there aren't any glues or gunk on the surface that would impede the sealer from absorbing... not to keep from sealing dirt in.

A stone sealer would not trap dirt on or in the marble.

However, if the grout is not cleaned off the tiles well enough it can dry and leave a dusty or dirty haze that is very difficult to remove with regular cleaners.

However, the Soap Film / Hard Water Remover will remove this haze.

And it's the best cleaner to use for regular shower cleaning. It is non-damaging to marble like most bath and shower cleaners and other common household cleaners are.

Also, the grout haze would have impeded the sealer from absorbing properly, so once the haze is cleaned off, you should seal the tile again.

Newly Installed Carrara Marble Shower - Water Damage
by: Anonymous

I have a NEWLY installed Carrara marble shower.

First shower taken in said shower resulted in dark-colored tiles all around center drain area.

There was nothing acidic in my shampoo to create an "etch" on the surface.

I understand what acid etching is because I use this process in my profession.

I am left with a dark circle in my light-colored tile floor, that was not caused by etching.

Now that I know the difference, clearly, do you have a suggestion to dry it out? Thanks.

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

Yes, when white marble turns gray in the shower it's from something absorbing into the tile and not from acidic etching.

You state that the dark areas are occurring only around the shower drain. And basically immediately after only one shower.

A bad shower drain installation could be the culprit allowing water to absorb into the tile edges and/or from underneath the tile.

Water may absorb into the top surface of shower tile and cause it to darken, but these dark areas will go away once the water evaporates.

This is normal and not a problem. Although, really it doesn't happen too often as marble actually is pretty dense and does not naturally absorb liquids quickly.

Marble etches easily but does not stain or absorb easily. That is a misunderstood fact. People confuse etching with staining and the two are completely different.

So, you'd have to be taking a really long shower or the shower is not drying out due to inadequate ventilation thus water is remaining on or around the marble tile for an extended period.

Or, as suggested above, water is leaking into areas it should not and getting trapped. It cannot evaporate, absorbs into the marble and causes the dark spots.

Allow the shower to dry out for 2 or 3 days. The dark stains around the drain should lighten and begin to disappear or go away completely.

But that doesn't mean you don't have a problem. Because marble shower tile should not absorb water and darken quickly.

If it is honed, it will absorb more quickly. But again, typically this is not something that occurs in most marble showers during a 10-15 minute shower.

I think you have a problem with the drain.

If the area around the drain is still dark and looks the same after allowing it to dry out after 3 days. Then it may not be water causing the stain.

It could be glue or some other substance.

Or rethinking... it could still be water if so much water got under the tiles and did not drain out of the shower pan, etc., that a pool of water still exists around the drain.

If it turns out that water is not causing the darkness and the marble is actually stained (no change in the dark spot after drying out), then using the Marble Stain Removal Poultice should remove the stain.

As a side note: Sealing white marble shower tile is recommended to prevent rust stains.

Most showers don't really need sealing. It can help with cleaning or mold issues. But a little water absorbing into the stone tile and then evaporating is not an issue and stains aren't much of a risk.

But white marble has iron deposits that can cause rust stains with repeated exposure to water.

Water splash marks remain on Carrara marble
by: Cent

What is the best way the restore the polished look to my carrara marble shower? I cannot remove the water splash marks

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

You can't remove them with regular cleaning because they are etch marks and not splash marks from water as the article above explains.

Water will not damage or leave marks on marble tile. You will get soap film and possibly hard water films that are also hard to clean, but these usually cover a large area and do not look like splash marks or spots.

Etching from acidic or caustic cleaners is the most common cause of dull spots, drip spots, or splash marks in Carrara marble showers.

Carrera Marble Sink Water Stain
by: Anonymous

I just installed a Carrera marble trough sink in the bathroom.

Since most of water gathers in the middle drain that is where it sits.

I how found a darker discolored spot over the entire outside perimeter of the drain. So it is water stain.

What can I do it’s only a week since we have been using it.

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

The stain may be caused by water sitting around the drain but it is not a "water stain". I know that seems contradictory but let me explain...

Water stains are caused by hard water deposits accumulating. These deposits are a crusty whitish-yellow color... not dark.

Many people call the dull chalky etch marks that can happen on marble from acidic substances "water marks" as these spots sometimes look or seem clear as if water had stained the marble. But pure water does not stain marble sinks or countertops or tile.

Most likely the dark stain you are seeing around the sink drain is either from mold growth or a rust stain developing.

It could also simply be water absorbing into the marble which will darken the area to a more gray color. But a darkening from water absorption is temporary. Once the water evaporates the dark spot will disappear.

Rust Stains

Carrara marble contains little bits of iron. In situations where the Carrara marble is constantly exposed to water, the water can absorb and oxidize the iron so it rusts.

As the water evaporates it moves to the surface carrying the rust with it creating a rust stain. Rust stains are yellow-brown stains.

To remove rust stains use the Rust Stain Remover Poultice.

Mold and Mildew Stains

However, if the stain around the sink drain is more green or black, then it is almost certainly a mildew stain.

To remove mold stains use the Mold & Mildew Stain Remover.

Dark mark
by: Anonymous

Water was spilled on bathroom counter and wasn't dried up all the way. The next morning there were dark gray marks were the water once was. The counter was sealed. How do I get this dark marks away?

===== Countertop Specialty comment:

If indeed it was water, then it will evaporate and the stain will disappear.

However, if the dark spot remains, then it was not just water that was spilled but some other substance that either has coloring or oil in it.

Sometimes liquid soap can leave such a stain. Stains can be removed following instructions in the Stone Stain Removal guide.

It's pretty easy but need specific ingredients for that type of stain.

Seams in Carrara marble are staining
by: Anonymous

How to clean the seam area in Carrara marble counters - they are seamed at the sink and getting dark. Thanks!

=== Countertop Specialty comment:

Well, seams are typically filled with glue. So, if they are getting stained, the glue may simply need to be removed and the seam refilled. Can't really clean it if indeed it is stained.

Do you think my marble counter was sealed?
by: Krista

I have just had my bathroom vanity installed with Statuarietto marble.

I put a glass of reverse osmosis water down on the counter and it left a water ring.

The ring has evaporated.

Do you think I need to seal the counters?

The company said that they treated it but I'm not sure I believe them as I haven't experienced this with other marble counters.

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

Water may absorb into marble or any stone causing a temporary dark spot or glass-ring. The water will then evaporate along with the dark spot. This is normal.

It could mean the marble needs sealing depending on how long it took the water to absorb and create the dark ring / spot.

If water absorbs in less than 15 minutes, then consider applying a quality sealer.

Learn more about how to correctly perform the sealing test (click here).

Note that a sealer must be properly applied in order to "effectively" seal the marble. If not applied correctly, then it won't do the job.

But it doesn't really matter. The above "sealer test" will tell you what you need to know to decide if you should seal the marble bathroom vanity or not.

Honed Marble
by: Ross

Great stuff on your website. What about water ring marks on honed marble kitchen counter tops?

I have learned to accept it as just enhancing the patina and aging of the marble but is there anything that can be done?

It is particularly worse around the sink. I also read somewhere that a scotch pad with light abrasion can remove stains and it actually worked in an area where my daughter got nail polish on it but it also seemed to expose some porosity.

====== Countertop Specialty comment:

There isn't a product you can use to restore etch marks on honed marble. There is a method to progressively sand out the marks or call in a professional to repair and re-honed the damaged area.

Water - whatever
by: Christina

My countertop is not a week old and I need help. I knew to be careful with wine, lemon, oil, tea , coffee and other acid liquids/foods - but the quick white water spots and water rings knocked me over.

It didn't take long, but I was forewarned and I'm not giving up. Please, what would you recommend to make me happy with my gorgeous kitchen marble?

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

Well, I'm glad to hear that you were warned about etching and how it is impossible to prevent on a marble kitchen countertop.

Just too many foods that will etch it. And etching occurs the instant of contact.

Marble is gorgeous, but it's a pain to maintain (in pristine condition that is) in the kitchen.

So, you'll just have to learn to deal with it effectively by be vigilant about minimizing contact with damaging foods and drinks and then always keep a bottle of Etch Repair / Polishing product on hand to restore the color and shine of the marble etching. This is for use only on polished surfaces though.

Carrera Counter is Stained After Backsplash Installed
by: Chris

Hi! I was wondering if you could tell me if I have a stain or an etch on my polished Carrara kitchen countertops.

We had our marble backsplash installed a few months after our counters were installed. While the installers were working, I noticed that they were dripping/smearing cloudy water everywhere, which I assumed was water mixed with the powdery residue from the backsplash tile.

After they left and I went to wipe down my countertop, I noticed what I thought were stains or etches.

I tried gently cleaning and wiping the area, but it hasn't helped.

I'd say it resembles an etch in that there are little splotches clustered together everywhere that are more visible when the light hits at the right angle, but it's definitely darker/grayer and murkier in appearance and almost looks like it has "set" into the stone itself.

The texture is smooth, but I can slightly feel a bit more friction on those areas than on the unaffected parts.

Other than the mastic and the grout that was used during installation, I'm not sure what else it could be or how to remove it.

Do I polish it away hoping it's an etch or do I use a stain remover? Or perhaps it's technically a hard water stain?

Thanks for anything help you can offer!

=== Countertop Specialty comment:

The description of a splotch that is more visible from certain angles or in certain light is an etch mark. Classic presentation.

However, if the spots are also darker than the marble color itself, then you also have a stain (something absorbed into the marble).

This can occur... stain and etching in the same spot caused by the same substance, which etches the marble and then absorbs to stain.

You'll need to remove the stain first and then repair the etch marks with the Etch Repair / Marble Polishing Product recommended in the above article.

water marks not etching
by: Anonymous

OK, let's not call them water stains, but I definitely have water marks (no etching) on my Carerra marble island.

=== Countertop Specialty comment:

Well, it may be that you have "hard water" marks. That is... light spots or rings of hard water mineral deposits kind of like spots on glasses from the dishwasher.

These are difficult to remove with a standard cleaner. Of course, you need a specialized and stone-safe cleaner like this Hard Water Deposit & Soap Film Remover. Its primary use is in the "bath & shower" since that is where these problems occur most, but works anywhere they occur.

Clear, light-colored or white spots, rings or dull spots on marble are etch marks 95% of the time, but a similar-looking mark can occur with hard water.

However, in such cases, the water is usually very "hard" and you'd get noticeable build-up (dull, whitish, crusty) around the sink and faucet primarily... and then also random spots and glass-rings where water evaporated leaving the minerals behind.

If you have random water marks and rings, but nothing around the sink/faucet, then almost certainly it is etching.

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