to the Care & Cleaning
of Natural Stone
Apublication from the Marble Institute of America Marble Institute of America
28901 Clemens Road, Suite 100 • Cleveland, Ohio 44145 Phone: 440 250 9222 • Fax: 440 250 9223 www.marble institute.com
©2004 Marble Institute of America
The Marble Institute of America (MIA) is the leading
information and education for the natural
MIA Members, numbering over 1,200
worldwide, include marble, granite, limestone, sand
other natural stone producers and quarriers,
installers, distributors, and contractors.
The association’s mission is to promote the use
of natural stone and be the authoritative source of
information on standards of workmanship and practice
and suitable application of stone products. MIA publishes
monthly newsletter, markets a range of
technical publications and consumer pamphlets on
natural stone, sponsors business and technical meet
ings and seminars on industry related topics, and pro
vides educational programming for architects
struction specification professionals. MIA also
outstanding natural stone projects worldwide through
its annual Pinnacle Awards competition.
For more information,
contact MIA at 440 250 9222,
e mail MIAinfo@marble institute.com,
or visit www.marble institute.com.
About the Marble Institute of America
Fur ther Reading
ASTM International. ASTM C151 5: Cleaning of Exterior
Vertical and Horizontal Surfaces, New
or Existing. West Conshohocken: ASTM Int ernational.
Cleaning Masonry Review of the Literature,
by Grimm, Clayford T., P.E.Construction Research Center,
niversity of Texas at Arlington, 1988.
Cleaning Stone and Masonry, Clifton, James R., Editor,
AS TM Special Technical Publication 935, American
ty for Testing and Materials, 1983.
Keeping It Clean, by Grimmer, Anne E.,
.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service,
Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1988.
“Cleaning of Masonry Interiors of Public Buildings,” Cleaning
Stone and Masonr
y, by Roth, J.W.,
TM STP 935, 1986. “Chemical Cleaning of Historical Structures A Practical
Cleaning Stone and Masonry, by Rudder, T.H.,
TM STP 935, 1986.
“A Case Study of the Cleaning of Marble at the Schenectady,
New York, City Hall,” Cleaning Stone and Masonry,
by Waite, J.C. and R.J. Chen, ASTM STP 935, 1
“A Macrosteriogrammetric Technique for Measuring Surface
Er osion Losses on Stone,” Cleaning Stone and Masonr y,
by Winkler, E.M., ASTM STP 935, 1986.
Stain Removal Guide for Stone and Masonry, by Hueston,
rederick M., NTC Enterprises Inc.
Historic Stone & Tile Restoration Manual,
b y Hueston,
Frederick M., NTC Enterprises Inc., 1998.
Stone Maintenance Manual for Professional Cleaning
on, Frederick M., NTC Enterprises Inc.,
Definitions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2
Know Your Stone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
What Type of Stone Is It? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . 3
Assessing the Stone’s Current Condition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Care and Precautions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . 4
General Guidelines for Cleaning Natural Stone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Cleaning Do’s & Don’ts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . 5
Sealing Natural St one . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Daily Cleaning Pr ocedures
and Recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Moisture Damage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Identifying & R emoving Stains . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . 10
Using Stai n
Removing Poultices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . 12
Fur ther R eading
Suggestions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Back Cover
This document is written as a general guideline. The Marble Institute of America (MIA) and its member companies have neither
liability nor can they be responsible to any person or entity for any misunderstanding, misuse, or misapplication that would cause loss
or damage of any kind, including loss rights, materials, or personal injury, or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly by the informa
tion contained in this document.
The MIA would like to thank Joe Kapcheck, Past MIA President, for inspiring this project.
Finishes: There are three primarystone finishes:
— A polished finish has a glossy surface that
reflects light and emphasizes the color and
kings of the material.
— A honed finish is a satin smooth surface with
relativ ely little reflection of light. Generally
a honed finish is preferred for floors, stair
treads, thresholds, and other locations where
heavy traffic will wear off the polished finish.
A honed finish may also be used on furniture
tops and other surfaces.
— A flamed finish is a rough textured surface
uently on granite floor tiles.
Many other finishes are available and used throughout
the world. Consult with a stone professional if your fin
ish does not match these three primary types.
Lippage:A condition where one edge of a stone
is higher than adjacent edges, giving the finished sur
face an uneven appearance.
Maintenance: Scheduled cleaning, specific
procedures, and inspections performed on a daily,
w eekly, or o ther regular basis to keep the stone
in proper condition.
Poultice: A liquid cleaner or chemical mixed
with a white absorbent material to form a thick, stain
Refinishing: R epolishing or honing of dull,
once polished marble, limestone, or granite floors and
Renovation: Cleaning and repolishing of neglect ed
dimension stone surfaces.
Restoration: Large scale remedial actions taken to
restore a structure or area to its original or acceptable
“near original” condition. Generally applies to historic
A Note on Historical
In the case of historically important buildings and land
marks, many of the cleaning, maintenance, and
restoration protocols are established by historical
preservation committees and other agencies/
depar tments of the government. Please consult with
these organizations when developing your normal
The natural stone you have in
your home, office, or commercial
building is an investment that
will give you many years of
Simple care and maintenance
will help preserve your stone’s
beauty for generations to come.This brochure has been developed
for you by the Marble Institute
of America (MIA) to present
routine cleaning guidelines
as well as procedures for stain
removal should it become
necessary. All methods of clean
should be in accordance
with ASTM C1515 01. Know Your Stone
Natural stone can be classified into two general
categories according to its composition: siliceous
stone or calcareous stone. Knowing the difference
is critical when selecting cleaning products.
Siliceous stoneis composed mainly of silica or
uartz like particles. It tends to be very durable
and relatively easy to clean with mild acidic cleaning
solutions. Types of siliceous stone include: granite,
slate, sandstone, quartzite, brownstone, and bluestone.
Calcareous stone is composed mainly of calcium car
e. It is sensitive to acidic cleaning products and
freq uently requires different cleaning procedures than
siliceous stone. Types of calcareous stone include:
marble, travertine, limestone, and onyx.
work on siliceous stone may not be suitable
What Type of Stone Is It?
It is advisable to maintain careful records about the
type, name, and origin of the stone existing in your
building. If such records do not exist, you should
explore the following options before determining a
cleaning and maintenance program:
1. Consult with a professional stone supplier,
installer, or a restoration specialist to help identify
ther your stone is siliceous or calcareous.
2. Conduct a visual identification of the stone.
While there are e
xceptions, the following
characteristics are common:
e a distinct crystal pattern
or small flecks; very little veining.
• Limestones are widely used as a building
one. Colors are typically gray, tan, or
buff. A distinguishing characteristic of
many limestones is the presence of shell
and/or fossil impressions.
• Marbles are usually veined, fine textured
erials that come in virtually unlimited
color selections. •
y widely in color due to
different minerals and clays found in the
stone. Sandstone is light gray to yellow
• Slates are dark green, black, gray, dark
red, or multi colored. The
y are most
commonly used as a flooring material and
for roof tiles and are often distinguished
by distinct cleft texture. Some
cladding projects have also included slate.
3. Conduct a simple acid sensitivity test to
ermine if your stone is siliceous or calcareous.
You will need:
•4ounces of a 10% solution of muriatic acid
or household vinegar
Because the test may permanently etch the st one,
select an out of the way area (a corner or close
several inches away from any mortar joint. Apply a few
dr ops of the acid solution to the stone surface on an
area about the size of a quarter. Two possible reac
tions will occur:
1) Acid drops will bubble or fizz vigorously – a sign that
the stone is calcareous.
2) Little or no reaction occurs – stone can be
considered silicous. See note below.
Rinse the area thoroughly with clean water and wipe dry.
NOTE: This test may not be effective if surface sealersor
liquid polishes have been applied. If an old sealer is
present, chip a small piece of the stone away and
apply the acid solution to the fractured surface.
CAUTION: Muriatic acid is corr osiveand is considered
to be a hazardous substance. Proper head and body
protection is necessary when acid is used. Again, it is
always wise to consult with a stone professional if you
are unable to visually identify the stone and/or are
uncomfortable using the acid test.
3 Assessing the Stone’s
Knowing the current condition of the stone is another
critical first step. It is recommended that you develop a
checklist of questions to use in your routine
examination of the current conditions. Your checklist
should include questions such as:•Are the tiles flat and even?
• Are there any cracked tiles?
• What type of stone finish exists?
• Has the stone been coated with any waxes,
ylics, enhancers, or other coatings? If so,
which type and manufacturer?
• Is there any e
vidence of staining? What type?
If the stone has been sealed with a topical sealer,
are there any signs that the sealer has worn off?
Your answers to these and other questions will help
you pinpoint your next step. For example: •Uneven tiles (a sign of lippage) may result in the
floor needing t
o be ground flat, honed, and then
• Crack ed tiles will allo
w dirt and other debris to
accumulate in the cracks. This may require that
the tiles be replaced, or at a minimum, filled.
• Knowing the type of stain (organic, oil based,
tc.) will help identify the proper stain removal
technique needed. Also, the level of stains or spills the stone can be exposed to will play a
role in determining if an application of a sealer
Care and Precautions
Countertops: General guidelines for both siliceous
and calcareous st ones: Use coasters under all glasses,
particularly those containing alcohol or
citrus juices. Do not place hot items right off a
stove or out of an oven directly on the stone surface.
Use trivets or mats under hot dishes and placemats
under china, ceramics, silver, or other objects that can
scratch the surface.
For calcareous stones, many common foods and
drinks contain acids that will etch or dull the stone sur
Flooring Surfaces: Many flooring surfaces can
y when wet. When wet conditions
reduce potential hazards by doing the following:
1. Spread carpeted runners from each outside door
into lobbies and corridors to help dry shoe soles.
2. Place bright colored “slippery when wet” pylons
on walking surfaces in conspicuous places.
3. Mop or shovel walking surfaces as often as necessary to remove standing water, ice, and/or
4. Issue standard instructions to building
maint enance personnel and prominently post
at all janitorial workstations.
5. F ollow local building and safety codes.
Keep achecklist of q uestions
t o use in your e xamination.
4 General Guidelines for
1. Remove any loose debris.
2. Blot spills; wiping the area will spread the spill.
3. Flush the area with plain water and mild soap and
rinse several times.
4. Dry the area thoroughly with a soft cloth.
5. Repeat as necessary.
6. If the stain remains, refer to the section in this
guide on stain removal.
If the stain persists or for problems that appear too
dif ficult to treat, call your stone care professional,
installer, or restoration specialist.
Cleaning Do’s and Don’ts
When discussing care and cleaning procedures with
your maintenance staff, there are recommended do’s
and don’ts that should always be followed:
Do dust mop floors frequently.
Do clean surfaces with mild detergent or stone soap.
Do thoroughly rinse and dry the surface with clean,
ater after washing.
Do blot up spills immediat
Do protect floor surfaces with non slip mats or area
rugs and count
ertop surfaces with coasters, trivets, or
Don’t use vinegar, lemon juice, or other cleaners con
taining acids on marble, limest
one, travertine, or onyx
Don’t use cleaners that contain acid such as bath
oom cleaners, grout cleaners, or tub & tile cleaners.
Don’t use abrasive cleaners such as dry cleansers or
Don’t mix bleach and ammonia; this combination cre
at es a toxic and le
Don’t ever mix chemicals toge
ther unless directions
specif ically instruct you to do so.
Don’t use vacuum cleaners that are worn. The metal
or plastic attachments or the wheels ma
y scratch the
Do’s & Don’ts
5 Sealing Natural Stone
Several factors must be considered prior to
determining if the stone should be sealed:•What is the hardness, density, and durability
of the st
• How porous is the stone and how fast will it
absorb a liquid (also referred to as the absorption
•Is the stone expected to be in frequent contact
with a staining agent?
• What type of finish was applied to the surface?
or example, a polished surface is more resistant
to staining than a honed surface.
•Will the sealant affect the color or o
aesthe tics of the st one?
• If a resin was applied to the stone, how will the
sealant react with the resin?
• Where is the stone locat
ed (e.g. countertop,
floor, wall, foyer, bathroom, etc.)? Residential or commer cial?
• What type of maintenance program has the
st one been subject
ed to? The type of stone, its finish, its location, and how
it is maintained all need to be considered when deter
mining how to protect the stone.
In some cases it makes sense to seal the stone. Once
properly sealed, the stone will be protected against
everyday dirt and spills. In other cases, it is best to
leave the stone untreated. Topical sealers can alter the
surface texture and finish as well as build up on the
surface, creating a layer that is less
durable than the stone. Generally, topical sealers are
not recommended in exterior applications because
they can trap moisture within the top layer of the
stone, which may lead to surface deterioration during
The Marble Institute of America’s position on sealers is
The Marble Institute of America (MIA) recognizes
the benefits that sealer
s can provide in certain
applications. MIA recommends that care be
exercised in the application of any chemical to a
stone’s surface. Although normally innocent in and
of themselves, some sealers have reportedly reacted
with some cleaning/maintenance chemicals
and/or with components within the stone surface,
causing some reactions.
6 If you have decided to treat your stone, make sure you
understand the differences between the types of seal
ers available on the market:•Topical Sealer
sare coatings (f ilm formers)
designed to protect the surface of the stone
against water, oil, and other contaminants. They
are formulated from natural wax, acrylic, and
other plastic compounds. When a topical sealer
is applied, the maintenance program often shifts
from a program focused on stone care to a program focused on the maintenance of the
sealer (for example: stripping and reapplication).
•Impregnators are water or solvent based
that penetrate below the surface and
become repellents. They are generally hydrophobic
(w ater repelling), but are also oliophobic
(oil repelling). Impregnators keep contaminants
out, but do not stop the interior moisture
fr om escaping. These products are considered
“breathable,” meaning they have vapor
Vanity tops andfood preparation areas may need
to have an im pregnat or applied. Check with your
installer for recommendations. If an impregnator
is applied, be sure that it is saf e for use on f ood
preparation surfaces. If there are questions,
check with the product manufacturer.
Before sealing, always:
•Read the Manuf acturers Warranty and Instructions.
•Contact the manufacturer prior to application if
you are unsure or need clarification. The w ood
orking analogy of ‘measure twice, cut once’
• Consider the life span of the application (1 year,
ears, 5 years, etc.) – keep a log of each
• Don’t switch from one product t oano ther without
standing any potential issues. Not all
pr oducts are alike – again, consult with the
Consult with your stone professional as necessary.
• Ask yourself, does the stone need to be treated
in the f irst place?
the difference between the types
of sealers available
on the mar ket.
7 Daily Cleaning
Clean stone surfaces with a few drops of neutral clean
er, stone soap (available at hardware stores or from
your stone dealer), or a mild liquid dishwashing deter
gent and warm water. Use a clean soft cloth for best
results. Too much cleaner or soap may leave a film
and cause streaks. Do not use products that contain
lemon, vinegar, or other acids on marble or limestone.
Rinse the surface thoroughly after washing with the
soap solution and dry with a soft cloth. Do not use
scouring powders or creams; these products contain
abrasives that may scratch the surface.
Dust mop interior floors frequently using a clean, non
treated dry dust mop. Sand, dirt, and grit do the most
damage to natural stone surfaces due to their
abrasiveness. Mats or area rugs inside and outside an
entrance will help to minimize the sand, dirt, and grit
that will scratch the stone floor. Be sure that the
underside of the mat or rug is a non slip surface. Normally, it will take a person about eight steps
on a floor surface to remove sand or dirt from the bot
tom of their shoes.
Normal maintenance involves periodic washing with
clean, potable water and neutral (pH 7) cleaners.
Soapless cleaners are preferred because they
minimize streaks and film. Mild, phosphate free,
biodegradable liquid dishwashing soaps or powders or
stone soaps are acceptable if rinsing is thorough.
Wet the stone surface with clean water. Using the
cleaning solution (following manufacturer’s directions),
wash in small, overlapping sweeps. Work from the bot
tom up if it is a v
ertical surface. Rinse thoroughly with
clean, potable water to remove all traces of soap or
cleaner solution. Change the water in the rinse pail fre
q uently. Dry with soft cloth and allow
to thoroughly air dry.
Bath and Other Wet Areas:
Soap scum can be minimized by using a squeegee
after each use. To remove soap scum, use a non acidic
soap scum remover or a solution of ammonia and
water (about 1/2cup ammonia to a gallon of water).
Frequent or over use of an ammonia solution may
eventually dull the surface of the stone.
Outdoor Pool and Patio Areas:
In outdoor pool, patio, or hot tub areas, flush with
clear water and use a mild bleach solution to remove
algae or moss.
Exterior Stone Maintenance:
The large expanses of stone generally found on exteri
or applications may make it impractical to
perform normal maintenance on a frequent basis.
Large installations, however, should be given periodic
overall cleaning as necessary to remove accumulated
pollutants. Easily accessible stone surfaces such as
steps, walkways, fountains, etc., should be kept free of
debris and soiling by periodically sweeping and wash
ing with water.
Normal maintenance should include periodic inspection
of stone surfaces for structural defects, movement,
det erioration, or staining.
8 Moisture Damage
Water penetrating exterior wall cavities through
defective flashing or unsealed joints can cause
efflorescence, amineral salt residue lef ton the sur f ace
ofmasonry when water evaporates. In addition,
condensation in wall cavities pre vent ed from reaching
the exterior surface because of blocked weep holes
can dislodge masonry in a freeze thaw climate. Look
for a darkening affect of the stone.
It is recommended that you contact your stone
pr ofessional for a remedy.
Wet stone on granite fireplace from a leak in chimney.
Moisture damage on exterior floor slabs.
Moisture coming up through a floor slab seeks
the easiest possible pathw
ay to evaporate into the
atmosphere. Often, the veining or micro cracks in the
structures of some stones provide that path. The mois
ture dissolves all the salts from the ground, the sub
strat e, and the stone, carries them to the surface, and
deposits them as the moisture ev aporates, giving the
appearance of a faulty stone.
Contact your stone professional for assistance.
9 Identifying &
Oil Based Stains(grease,
tar, cooking oil, cosmetics)
— Will darken the stone
and normally must be
chemically dissolved so
the stain’s source can be
rinsed away. Clean gently
with a soft liquid cleanser,
ammonia, mineral spirits,
Organic Stains (coff
t ea, fruit, tobacco, paper,
food, urine, leaves, bark,
bird droppings) — May
cause a pinkish brown
stain and may disappear
aft er the
sour ce of the
stain has been removed.
Outdoor s, with the sour ces
removed, normal sun and
rain action will generally bleach out the stains. Indoors,
clean with 12% hydrogen peroxide and a few drops
Inorganic Metal Stains
(iron, rust, copper ,bronze)
— Iron or rust stains are
orange to brown in color
and leave the shape of
the staining object, such
nails, bolts, screws,
cans, flowerpots, or metal
furniture. Copper and
br onze stains appear as
green or muddy brown and result from the action of
moisture on nearby or embedded bronze, copper, or
brass items. Metal stains must be removed with a
poultice (see page 12). Deep seated, rusty stains are
extremely difficult to remove and the stone may be
permanently stained. Biological Stains
w, lichens, moss,
fungi) — Clean with a
(1/2cup in a gallonof water)
per oxide. WARNING:
DO NOT MIX BLEACH AND
CREATES A TOXIC GAS!
Ink Stains (magic marker,
pen, ink) —
colored stones with bleach
or h ydrogen peroxide. Use
lacq uer thinner or acetone
for dark colored stones.
Paint Stains — Small
amounts can be remo
with lacquer thinner or
scraped off carefully with
a razor blade. Heavy paint
coverage should be
removed with a commercial
liq uid paint stripper .DO
NOT USE ACIDS OR FLAME
TOOLS TO STRIP PAINT
Water Spots and Rings
(surf ace accumulation of
d water) — Buff with dry
0000 steel wool.
10 Fire and Smoke
—Older stones and
fire stained fire
places may require
a thorough cleaning
restore their original
available smoke removal
products may save time
Etch Marks (calcareous
ones) — Caused by acids
(typically from milk, fruit
juices, alcohol, etc.) left
on the surface of the
stone, some will etch the
finish but not leave a
stain; others will both etch
and stain. Once the stain
has been removed, wet
the surface with clear water and sprinkle with marble
polishing powder. Rub the powder into the stone with a
damp cloth or by using a buffing pad with a low speed
power drill or polisher. Continue buffing until the etch
mark disappears and the marble surface shines.
Honing may be required for deep etching. This process
may req uire the services of
a stone maintenance professional. Efflorescence
— A whit
powder that may appear
the sur face of the
stone, it is caused by water
mineral salts from
surface of the stone
to the surface and evapo
rating. When the water
evaporates, it leaves the
powdery salt residue. If the installation is new, dust
mop or vacuum the po wder. Repeat as necessary as
the stone dries out. Do not use water to remove the
powder (adding water will only add to the problem).
If the problem persists, contact the stone contractor to
identify and remove the cause of the moisture.
11 Preparing & Applying the Poultice:
1.Prepare the poultice. If using powder, mix the
cleaning agent or chemical to a thick paste the
consistency of peanut butter. If using paper, soak
the chemical and let drain. Don’t let the liquid drip.
2. Prepare the stain area. Wet the stained area with
Apply the poultice to the stained area about
to 1/2″ thick and extend the poultice beyond the
stained area by about one inch. Use a wood or plastic
spatula or scraper to spread the poultice evenly.
4. Cover the poultice with plastic and tape the
o seal it.
Using Stain Removing
Poultice materials include kaolin, fuller’s earth,
whiting, diatomaceous earth, powdered chalk, white
molding plaster, and talc. Approximately one pound of
prepared poultice material will cover one square foot.
Do not use whiting or iron type clays such as fuller’s
earth with acid chemicals; the reaction will cancel the effect of the poultice. A poultice can also be
prepared using white cotton balls, white paper towels,
or gauze pads. Premixed poultices that require adding
only water are also available from stone maintenance
supply companies. 5. Allow the poultice to dry thoroughly,usually
4 to 48 hours. The drying process is what
pulls the stain out of the stone and into the poultice
material. After about 24 hours, remove the plastic and
allow the poultice to dry.
6. Remove the poultice from the stain, rinse with
ater, and buff dry with a soft cloth. Use
the wood or plastic scraper if necessary. 7. Repeat the poultice application
if the stain is not
ved. It may take five or more applications for dif
8. If the surface (calcareous stones) is etched by
the chemical, apply polishing po
wder and buff with
a polishing pad recommended by the polishing
It is possible that some stains may neverbe com plete
ly removed. Consult with a stone professional to deter
mine additional steps that might be taken.
The MIA has a short video available
that demonstrates the poultice process;
call 440.250.9222 for more information.
Photo Source: The National Training Center for Stone & Masonry Trades