Marbles Stains and How to Remove Them

Marble adds that real touch of elegance and luxury wherever it’s used. When you walk into a hotel foyer and there are large areas of beautifully polished marble everywhere, you feel like you are in somewhere special. Same with the reception areas of office suites. When it’s used in strategic places within your home then it’s you that feels special. Unless, unfortunately, the marble is in poor condition. It can then have the exact opposite effect. It conveys neglect or tiredness. While the etching that I discussed recently makes it look dull and lifeless, it’s staining that really spoils everything. While care and prevention measures are the best way to avoid stains, sometimes they are just going to happen.

Although marble is a stone and looks to be hardwearing, it is not only a fairly soft material but it’s also extremely porous and will easily soak up most liquids. Even when it’s polished it can still get stained, although the process is slowed considerably. Just like the stains that occur in many types of fabrics and other materials, the different substances which cause the stain need to be treated differently to remove them. Assuming removal is possible at all; sometimes it’s not. Fortunately, most remedies are easy to apply.

If you are around when a potential staining spillage happens, a glass of wine or fruit juice gets knocked over for example, blot the liquid up with paper towel or a tissue. Do NOT wipe the area and spread the liquid because that could also spread to a bigger stain. Once blotted, wash the area down with clean water to thin any unseen residue and dry thoroughly. Even water can leave stains from the salts and impurities dissolved within it.

If you have a stain where you don’t know what caused it, it could be helpful to find out. If you know the cause, you might be able to help prevent it happening again. Also, some stains can be easily removed with a gentle soft soap and water wash, others need a bit more work; it could be helpful to know which type you have before you work on it.

A quick reminder: Do not use any cleaner that is acid or dissolves limescale. They can, and will, also dissolve your marble.

marble granite after cleaning stain

Removing Stains

Water rings and spots are one of the most common household stains, especially on worktops. This is mainly because people think water doesn’t stain so they don’t have to blot it up. Well, they are correct, water doesn’t stain marble, it’s the impurities being carried in the water (e.g. lime particles) which cause a stain once the water has evaporated. If these don’t respond to the soft soap treatment, just rub gently with extremely fine 0000 gauge wire wool, then re-polish the marble.

Organic stains caused by fruit, fruit juices and squashes, tea, coffee, food and other natural substances sometimes disappear of their own accord, especially outdoors. This is due to the natural bleaching effects of the sun over time. More stubborn stains may need a little help. If the marble is light in colour, then clean it with a 12% solution of hydrogen peroxide (hair bleach) with some drops of ammonia in it. For dark marble use acetone (nail varnish remover) or lacquer thinner. DO NOT use household bleach with ammonia. It creates a deadly gas and is toxic. For more stubborn stains of this type you may need to use a poultice to remove them. I describe how to do that below.

Should you have a stain from ink or a magic marker, the same treatment as for organic substances can be used. The only difference being that ink and marker pen don’t evaporate in the sun by themselves.

Cooking oil, grease, cosmetics, milk and tar products are all oil based and will make dark patches on your marble. This kind of stain needs to be chemically dissolved so that the stain can be washed away. Clean the area gently using a soft liquid cleaner and just ONE of the following:- Bleach, household detergent, acetone, mineral spirit, ammonia. Do not mix them, or try different ones on the same spot, without washing the area down with soft soap (washing up liquid) and water between cleaning products.

Stains caused by metal or metal fittings are more difficult to remove and will usually need the application of a 12hr to 24hr poultice. Many of the stains mentioned above might not give themselves up easily and you may need to apply poultices to some of them too. Here’s how it works.

If you think of the pores of marble as similar to the pores of a sponge, then you know those pores can be dried out. When you apply a poultice over the stain, sometimes with an additional reactor product in it, the poultice is sealed from absorbing moisture from the air. When it chemically dries out, it tries to absorb the moisture from the marble and in doing so pulls the stain out with it. Just like medical poultices pull toxins from the body.

To make a poultice it’s best to use baking soda or unscented talc or even white flour as the base for the paste. Mix the powder with water, or water and a small amount of cleaning agent suitable for the type of stain it’s being applied for (see above), until it become a paste with a consistency similar to peanut butter or cream cheese. Apply the paste to the stained area and slightly beyond to a depth of approximately 10mm to 15mm (¼” to ½”). Cover the area with a plastic film, cling film or similar, and seal it to the marble so that moisture is not easily able to be absorbed from the air around it. Depending on the severity of the stain leave the poultice in place for at least 12hrs, preferably 24hrs, and even up to 48 hours for stains caused by metalwork. When you remove the poultice, wash and dry the area thoroughly. If the stain has not completely gone, repeat the process.

There are some other types of stain, biological (algae, moss, mildew etc.) and paint for instance, which are best dealt with by professional cleaning. That’s when it’s time to call Royal Stone. Or even if you want us to come and treat any other type of stain and show you how to do it for next time, we’d be pleased to hear from you.