Caring for Specialty Surfaces

Marble, tile, brick or stone bring a unique feel to any home but require special care and cleaning methods. Preserve the appeal of specialty surfaces with these maintenance tips.

Marble

This stone is soft, porous, and relatively weak. Marble will scratch easily, absorb standing stains and must be treated with care. For routine cleaning, dust, and then buff with a barely damp cleaning cloth to restore the shine.

When more intense cleaning is required, pour a little clear nonsudsing ammonia onto a cleaning cloth, wipe the marble surface and buff dry. When finished, use a commercial marble polish to restore the shine.

Never use abrasive cleaners on marble surfaces. Avoid acid-based cleaning solutions, such as any product containing white vinegar; acids can dull or etch bright finishes.

Ceramic Tile

Tile comes in two types: glazed and unglazed. Smooth glazed tile is tough, but brittle and easily scratched, while the surface of unglazed tile can absorb cleaning products. Finally, grout, used to set tile in place, is porous and traps moisture, mold and mildew.

For regular cleaning of glazed ceramic tile — the shiny tile most commonly used in kitchens and bathrooms — use a nonabrasive spray cleaner. Spray window cleaner leaves a nice finish, but avoid heavily colored commercial sprays, as the bright-colored cleaning solution can discolor porous grout.

Heavily soiled glazed ceramic tile requires bigger guns: an abrasive cleanser or scouring powder. For a seriously stained kitchen counter or grimy shower wall, apply a thin paste of cleanser containing a bleaching agent and water, and allow to stand for 15 minutes to several hours before wiping away cleanser haze. Rinse the area well with water, then wipe dry.

Clean unglazed ceramic tile with a natural sponge lightly dampened with a solution of water and nonsoap detergent or commercial tile cleaner.

Avoid using acid-based cleaners, such as white vinegar, on tiled areas. Acid attacks the grout, causing it to crumble. Stay away from steel wool! It will scratch the surface of ceramic tiles.

Brick

Made from clay, brick is porous with open pores that can trap dust and dirt. Use a vacuum extension wand with a long-bristled upholstery brush to remove dust and dirt from interior brick on a regular basis. For heavy-duty cleaning, use an alkali solution of TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) to clean brick: Start with 1 tablespoon TSP to 1 gallon (4 liters) of warm water. Scrub the brick surface with a stiff-bristled brush, then rinse the brick well with clean water. TSP is very strong, so use care to avoid skin exposure, and do not spill on carpet or fabrics.

Granite

While strong and durable, this natural stone product needs special care to maintain its characteristic high-gloss finish.

Prevention is key with granite countertops. Mop up spills as soon as possible, before they can penetrate the surface. Use coasters under beverages, since acids common in soft drinks and fruit juices can etch and dull granite surfaces.

Clean granite with a solution of warm water and a few drops of liquid dishwashing detergent. Use a wrung-out cleaning cloth to clean the surface, then rinse with a cleaning cloth soaked in clear water. Avoid cleaning products containing acid, such as white vinegar, since they can etch or dull the surface.

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