Two Types of Stone
Always popular in commercial buildings, the use of stone has grown in popularity in residential settings over the past quarter-century. Many types of stone – marble, granite, slate, and travertine – are used for walls, floors, countertops, and furniture than ever before. These different types of stone call for different types of care, which can get confusing. The care of stone depends on what type of stone it is.
Calcium carbonate is the primary component of marble, travertine, and limestone. Porous and soft calcareous stone is dissolved by acids like vinegar and lemon juice and is easily etched by even weak acids. (Shells and pearls are also made of calcium carbonate).
Silica, the main ingredient in the sand. is the primary component of granite, slate, quartz, soapstone, brownstone, and bluestone. Harder than calcareous stone and less porous, they are vulnerable to strong alkaline (basic) chemicals like ammonia but can also be damaged by strong acids.
If you do not know what your stone is, the Marble Institute of America recommends that you can test it yourself by choosing an inconspicuous spot to drop of vinegar from an eyedropper on your stone. If vinegar etches the surface it is a calcareous stone.
Four Basic Groups of Stone
The many different types of stone fall into one of four basic groups:
Granite is not very porous and is extremely hard and durable, thus it is not as likely to stain, scratch, and crack than other stones. Most people like it polished to a high shine or honed to a satiny finish, but it can also be beautiful left to a rough texture. Granite will hold up well against all but the strongest of chemicals (Both alkaline and acidic). On Mohs hardness scale, which measures the hardness of rocks and minerals, (0 equals soft to 10 hard as a diamond) granite is a seven.
The term “marble” refers not only to true marble (metamorphosed limestone) but also decorative limestone, dolomite, and travertine. Just because marble is smooth and shiny doesn’t mean it’s impervious. On Mohs Hardness Scale where a diamond is a ten and fingernails are a 2.5, marble is a three! Marble is not a good choice for areas exposed to heavy foot traffic or acids (fruit juice, soft drinks, vinegar, and urine). Since it is a porous stone, marble also tends to stain easily. Penetrating sealers are usually recommended for these types of stones.
This is a very soft stone, so it is often used for walls or as a flagstone.
Because of its tendency to split into flat, uniform sheets, the slate is used primarily for flooring and roof shingles. The color of slate ranges from light to deep gray, it is of medium hardness (5.5) and is generally resistant to most chemicals if you stay out of the far ranges of the pH scale.
Marble and granite account for over 90 percent of all-natural stone used in a building. If at any time you are unsure of the composition of the stone you are cleaning, you can minimize the risk by treating the surface as of it is the more delicate of the possibilities.
General Stone Care
Put down entry mats or rugs to catch damaging grit and greasy soils before they reach your floors. Three meters of matting (about 10 feet) is recommended. Dust mop or vacuum stone floors frequently, since like most floors grit is the biggest enemy of hard surfaces. Wipe up spills quickly. Use a pH neutral floor cleaner or a cleaner specially designed for stone floors to mop stone floors and dry the surface quickly.
Mendelson, Cheryl. Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House. Scribner, 1999.
Aquires, Kathleen. Real Simple Cleaning. Time Inc. Home Entertainment, 2007
Aslett, Don. The Cleaning Encyclopedia: You’re A to Z Guide to Cleaning Like the Pros! Dell Publishing, 1993.
Kiser, David, et. al. The Professional House Cleaning Technician’s Manual. Institute for Service Excellence, LLC, 2011
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