The COVID-19 emergency has made most of us more conscious of taking measures against infectious agents, giving priority to effective sanitizing. In the home, of course, kitchens and bathrooms, including especially their countertops, have long been known as crucial areas to guard against bacteria. If the pandemic has made more people individuals aware of that needs, then the COVID-19 tragedy may have yielded one small benefit.
Kitchen and bathroom countertops of any material—marble, quartz, granite, other stone, laminate, or stainless steel—require regular daily or more frequent attention. At Arch City Granite & Marble, Ltd., we have been leading St. Louis area specialists since 2005 in planning, designing, fabricating, and installing marble, quartz, granite, and other stone countertops.
These countertops have many appealing practical and aesthetic benefits for both residential and commercial use. One of them tends to be ease of cleaning. Often, no special chemicals or other cleaning products are required. But although that makes for ease of cleaning, it by no means makes regular, appropriate, thorough cleaning and sanitizing less important—or even urgent for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why cleaning and sanitizing are important
Let us look at some issues and answers that apply to the most popular stone countertops. We will focus here on the kitchen and bathroom. The kitchen, with food preparation often three times a day or more—and new bags and packages brought in from outside the home—makes effective sanitizing a paramount health concern. Bathrooms, including their countertops, are exposed constantly to sources of bacteria.
What types of bacteria live on countertops? In kitchens, in addition to the new threat of coronavirus, some common germs are E. coli, salmonella, and listeria—all are common bacteria, all are found in kitchens, and all cause illnesses in the United States. Before turning to specific issues with different countertops, these are some rules for minimizing germs on countertops that apply to all kitchens:
- Clean up not only after you cook and clear the table, but also while you cook.
- Don’t let garbage build-up; take it out frequently.
- Be especially careful with raw meat to prevent it from contaminating or being contaminated by touching anything else (cross-contamination). A separate cutting board for meat is a big help.
- Wash dirty dishes, cutting boards, and pots and pans right away. Food sitting in the sink or on the counter invites contamination.
- Wash your hands before preparing food, as necessary while preparing it, and before eating.
For more about general ideas for keeping your kitchen specifically virus-free, check out Houzz.com on cleaning routines.
Caring for your stone countertops
A final important rule brings us to the topic of having a routine for cleaning surfaces. What are the best ways to clean your countertops? Not just a swiping with a wet cloth or sponge, but careful cleaning with the appropriate cleaning agent for your type of countertop?
Some attractive countertops, such as wood and natural stone, are porous. That means that their surfaces have microscopic recesses and crevices where bacteria flourish on food, moisture, and a hospitable temperature. Also, porous surfaces can be vulnerable to fungus and mold. Therefore, for the stone countertops that are a specialty of Arch City Granite & Marble, we can recommend a non-porous stone for your kitchen’s countertop surfaces. They are among the best countertops to minimize germs. Such surfaces not only are free of cracks and fissures; they tend to resist very well etching, staining, or divots.
One of our specialties, and among the most lasting and hygienic surfaces, are quartz countertops fabricated as a mixture of natural materials held together with polymers and resins. As non-porous surfaces, these countertops offer no hideouts for bacteria. Nor do these surfaces need to be sealed (and resealed) over the life of the countertop. That makes the regular maintenance of your quartz countertop very straightforward—just a non-abrasive cleaning cloth with soap or mild detergent and water will do the job. And it makes quartz one of the top anti-microbial countertops for your home.
Granite offers a stone countertop ready-made by nature and ranks high in popularity for kitchens and bathrooms. What can be used to disinfect granite countertops? Well, advice does tend to differ on the best way to keep granite surfaces clean. But the best research on the topic advises against any special cleaning agents: just a gentle wiping with dish soap, microfiber cloth, and, periodically, isopropyl alcohol.
Marble, of course, is a classic and perennial favorite. It is not totally resistant to scratching, etching, and staining. But it easy to clean as often as required. A spray bottle with warm water, a non-abrasive kitchen soap, and paper towels will not only do a thorough sanitizing but leave the surface shining. On marble, you should avoid any customary natural cleaners like vinegar because the acid can etch the marble surface. If you have to deal with deeper stains—and red wine is a leading offender, here—you can make a paste of water and baking soda. That should be applied to the counter and left to do its work for at least a full 24 hours.
The virtue of soapstone, often used on lab benches, is the absence of any problems with acids like lemon juice or red wine. It also resists heat, even the bottoms pots and pans right off the stove. The softness of soapstone, which contributes to its aesthetic appeal, makes it vulnerable to scratches and nicks. So, although you can clean your soapstone counter with just soap and water, you have to turn to sandpaper to buff away the scratches.
Travertine natural stone countertops
The beauty of Travertine natural stone is classic, with enduring appeal. More and more, homeowners and businesses are asking for it. Arch City provides a range of striking color, but often recommends this stone for less heavily used surfaces that kitchen countertops and bathroom sinks. Travertine is softer and more porous than some other choices and demands caution and care. As a porous stone, it is easily scratched, etched, or stained by foods or beverages with acid content. Where Travertine is used for countertops, its porous pockets, as with other porous stones, can harbor bacteria and dirt. Unlike most stone surfaces, Travertine requires some special cleaning products (never abrasive or acidic cleaners).
The bottom line
The bottom line is that most stone countertops are not only beautiful but also inhospitable to germs or, if porous, cleaned and sanitized easily. Nevertheless, the householder or other purchaser does need to know the differences explained here. And, when choosing countertops, speak to an informed salesperson knowledgeable about the qualities and requirements–including the cleaning and sanitizing–of stone.
Check back here regularly for the latest information, insights, and updates on choosing, purchasing, and effectively maintaining your stone countertops. That has been our specialty at Arch City for more than a decade-and-a-half, and we are always eager to share our knowledge with you. Call or visit our St. Louis gallery to view our fell selection of countertops and have your questions answered.
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