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Kitchen countertops are equally functional and decorative. A beautiful countertop is a joy to behold—and to use, which makes your choice of material pretty important. Granite remains one of the most popular choices for kitchen countertops for a lot of good reasons: It’s durable, beautiful, and easy to keep clean (and not so hard to repair, either). But there is one potential downside to granite countertops—maintenance.
Granite seems like a solid hunk of impenetrable material, but it’s actually very penetrable: Granite is a relatively porous stone, and it absorbs water and other liquids easily. That can lead to staining and damage over time, shortening the useful lifespan of your countertops. As a result, most granite counters have to be sealed in some way to prevent those liquids from penetrating. It isn’t difficult or expensive, but if you seal an already-sealed countertop you’ll do more harm than good—it can result in a hazy film that you won’t be able to get rid of. So if you’re concerned about properly maintaining your granite countertops, how can you tell when they need to be resealed?
How to test your granite countertops
Depending on where your granite countertop was bought, who installed it, and the specific type of granite used, your countertops may have been pre-sealed. If you bought them new, you can check the paperwork associated with them—many granite countertops come pre-sealed with a specific guarantee of 10-20 years before the seal will fail you. If that’s the case, your countertops probably don’t need sealing until after that has expired, at the very earliest. Realistically, though, you probably didn’t keep those papers.
If you inherited your countertops or they’re a bit older, one clear sign that they need to be sealed is frequent staining. It’s true that even a properly sealed countertop will stain if you leave something like red wine or pizza sauce sitting on it for a long time, but if your counters are easily stained regularly, you probably need to seal them (after a proper cleaning). Just let the water fully evaporate before you do the work—the dark water stain should fade in a day or so.
If you’re not sure, there’s a simple test you can try. Pour about a quarter cup of water on the counter and track how long it takes to be absorbed. Anything less than half an hour means you should consider sealing your counters sooner rather than later. If the water just soaks right in immediately, you should reseal it as soon as you reasonably can. And if the water never absorbs and just sits there forever, the seal is in great shape and you can leave it be, though you should repeat the test annually. It’s also a good idea to perform this test in a few different spots.
You can also perform this test with a small amount of oil (a few drops should be sufficient), just be sure to choose a spot where a stain won’t be noticeable. If the oil soaks in within 15 minutes, your countertops need sealing.
Resealing your granite countertops
The good news is, sealing a granite countertop isn’t difficult. After cleaning, just pick up a bottle of high-quality sealant and apply according to instructions. Generally speaking, this is just like cleaning your counters—you spray on the sealer, wipe it off, and then buff your counter with a dry cloth. If your countertops were very porous in your test, repeat the sealing process once or twice more for a good seal. After sealing and following instructions for dry times, repeat the water test to make sure that you’ve taken care of the problem. Granite countertops don’t need much maintenance—as long as you keep them properly sealed.
And stop leaving your sticky wine glasses and pizza boxes lying around.