How To Clean Natural Stone

Natural stone flooring has a unique, sophisticated look and adds richness to your surroundings either at the office or at home. Stone flooring can last for 50+ years when properly maintained.

In this article, you will learn how to identify what kind of stone you have, what special care may be required for it, what the greatest enemy to your floor’s longevity is, and how to remove specific types of stains.

How to tell what type of stone flooring you have

The first thing you must determine is whether your stone is siliceous or calcareous. This information will help you selecting the appropriate cleaning products.

Siliceous stone

This kind of stone is mostly composed of silica or quartz-like pieces. This stone is durable and tolerant of mildly acidic cleaning solutions. Examples of siliceous stone include sandstone, slate, granite, brownstone, and bluestone.

Calcareous stone

This stone is largely made up of calcium carbonate. Calcareous stone disintegrates if cleaned with acidic cleaning solutions. Never use lemon juice, vinegar, or acidic cleaners on this type of stone. Examples of calcareous stone include marble, onyx, limestone, and travertine.

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Identifying test for your stone floor

If there are no available records on the stone in your home, you can conduct a test with a homemade solution.

Take 4oz of 10% solution of muriatic acid or household vinegar.

CAUTION: Wear protective coverings when using acidic substances.

Use an eyedropper to place a few drops on a coin-sized area of the stone surface in a distant corner of the room. The test may permanently etch stone, so, be sure your test is conducted somewhere less visible.

If your stone is calcareous, the drops will actively fizz on contact.

If your stone is siliceous, you may observe little or no reaction.

Rinse the area clean and wipe dry immediately following the test.

If your stone is sealed or covered in a liquid polish, you may have to chip a small piece of the stone away to achieve reliable results.

Consult with a stone professional if you feel you are unable or are uncomfortable conducting your own test.


How to clean your stone floor

Dust mop your floors daily using a clean, untreated dry dust mop (the oils in treated mops tend to discolor stone over time). Sand, dirt, and grit can scratch the finish of your floor. This is the number one enemy to your floor’s lifespan.

You can use a vacuum if preferred; however, be certain you use the “Hard Floor” mode which should not use a rotating brush. Old metal wheels can damage your flooring as well; verify the quality of your tools prior to use.

Periodically wash your floors with clean water and neutral (pH 7) stone cleaners. Be aware stone is slick when wet. Please, take appropriate precautions to avoid slipping.

Use a micro-fiber mop.

Wet the stone surface with clean water and follow the manufacturer’s directions on your cleaning solution.

Soap-based cleaners can leave streaks and film on stone. Use a soap-less cleaning product designed specifically for stone or a mild, phosphate-free, biodegradable liquid dishwashing soap.

Wash your floor in small, overlapping strokes.

Thoroughly rinse your floor. Change the water in your rinse pail frequently.

Dry the floor with a soft cloth and allow to completely air dry.

It is recommended to have flooring professionals perform a deep cleaning of your floor every few years.

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Identifying Stains and How to Clean Them

Oil-Based Stains

Oil-based stains include grease, cooking oil, cosmetics, etc. Just like dropping grease on your clothes, oil darkens stone on contact and must be chemically dissolved. Dab gently with a soft liquid cleanser, ammonia, or acetone.

Organic Stains

Organic stains include substances like coffee, food, tobacco, urine, etc. Organic contaminants may leave behind a pink/brown stain and may seem to disappear. Exposure to sun and rain may bleach out the stains making them visible. Use 12% hydrogen peroxide and a few drops of ammonia on the affected area.

Metallic Stains

Rust leaves behind the shape of the staining object on your stone. Common objects include flowerpots, metal furniture, cans, etc. Deep rust stains can permanently stain your stone. Copper and bronze stains are green or brown and occur when those metals come into contact with moisture. Before metallic stains have time to set in, lift them out of stone with a poultice (a liquid cleaner or chemical blend with a white absorbent material forming a thick paste with the ability to lift metallic stains).

Paint Stains

You can remove small splatters of paint with lacquer thinner or you can carefully scrape it off with a razor blade. A commercial paint stripper should be used for thick spills. CAUTION: NEVER use acids or flame tools to remove paint from stone.

Biological Stains

Biological stains come from plants like moss or fungi. Take 1/2 cup of bleach, hydrogen peroxide, OR ammonia and mix into a gallon of water to create a cleaning solution.

CAUTION: NEVER mix bleach with ammonia as the gas created from the combination of chemicals is very toxic.

Ink Stains

If magic marker, pen, or highlighter ink is present on your floor, verify the color of your stone. If your stone is a light color, clean with hydrogen peroxide or bleach. If the stone is a dark color, use acetone or lacquer thinner to lift the marks.

Water Spots

You can buff out hard water accumulations with dry 0000 steel wool.

Fire/Smoke Damage

Purchase commercial cleaners specifically designed to remove fire and smoke stains from stone.

Etch Marks

If you have calcareous floors, you may come up against etch marks more often. Etch marks on calcareous floors most commonly come from beverage spills in the home. Once you’ve followed the appropriate steps for stain removal, when applicable, use a clean water rinse and sprinkle with marble polishing powder. Rub the powder into the stone with a buff pad or a low-speed polisher. With continued buffing, the etch mark is removed and the surface looks polished. For deep etch marks, you may require a floor professional to hone your floor.


Water beneath the surface of stone may lift mineral salts to the surface and evaporate. This process leaves behind a white powder. Do not rinse it off as that will only exacerbate the issue. Dust mop or vacuum the powder. If this problem becomes systemic, contact a stone contractor to determine and remove the source of moisture.

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General Do’s and Don’t’s for Stone Floors

  • DO clean spills immediately to prevent stone and/or grout stains.
  • DON’T ever use abrasive products such as scouring pads.
  • DO blot up spills rather wipe as this spreads the contaminant over a larger surface area.
  • DON’T wax your stone flooring – it can dull the finish.
  • DO use mats and area rugs (over a non-slip surface) to cut down on outdoor grit ruining the finish of your floors.
  • DON’T use lemon juice, vinegar, or any highly acidic substances directly on your stone floor.
  • DO consider wearing slippers or bare socks indoors to avoid tracking leftover grit throughout the house.
  • DON’T place hot objects directly on stone floors or, more specifically, stone countertops.

Should you seal your stone floors?

Sealants can protect your flooring from common dirt tracks and spills; however, sealants can change the texture of your stone (especially topical sealants). Impregnable sealants are “breathable” and vapors can be left behind to filter into your living space.

It is important to consider the use of the room and the finish of the stone before deciding to use a sealant. A polished finish to your stone is more stain-resistant than a honed finish. Ask a professional for suggestions regarding sealants and whether or not they are appropriate for your home.

This is a lot to remember! We have made it our job to consider all the necessary factors when performing the best upkeep of your natural stone flooring. Call us and our professionals will make sure your natural stone floors are beautiful and properly maintained.

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