Marble Etching vs. Staining

If you are noticing some stubborn discoloration or damage to your natural stone floors or counters, there are a couple of possibilities as to what may be happening on these surfaces. Etching and staining are two common issues and, since treatments for these problems are approached differently, it will be helpful first to determine which of these might be occurring before attempting to restore your beautiful surfaces. So what’s the difference?

Is it Etching?

This type of damage occurs when a chemical reaction takes place which eats away at the stone and causes corrosion on the material. Most often, the reaction is due to the stone being exposed to liquids that are high in acid content like citrus juice, vinegar, carbonated liquids, or even some acidic household cleaners. Etching is most common in stones that are calcium-based (ie. marble) and will generally cause the affected area to appear dull or lighter in color. This discoloration will become more pronounced the longer the offending substance is left on the surface.  Since etching generally only affects the outer surface of the material, examine the surface from various visual angles to determine if the discoloration is below the surface. 

Is it Staining?

Since natural stone is absorbent, if the stone is not sealed appropriately, a spilled liquid, even a non-acidic one, may be absorbed into the pores of the stone. Staining does not affect the outside finish on the stone, as etching does, and it generally does not corrode the material. Instead, the liquid creeps down below the surface and leaves its mark on the stone. A stain will appear darker on the stone (as opposed to the dull “lightening” of etching described above) and usually takes on the coloring of the substance that is spilled on it. 

So how can you restore your stone surface to its original glory? Don’t panic; help can be found!

How do you treat Etching?

Etching is the more difficult type of damage to repair since the stone itself is damaged in these instances. If the etching is slight, you may be able to use a DIY refinishing tool kit or possibly certain types of polishing powders. However, if the etching is more severe, you will need the help of a restoration professional to repair the damaged surface.

How do you treat Staining on natural stone?

If you’ve determined that the damage on your stone surface is staining, there are both DIY solutions as well as products you can purchase to remove the stain on your own. Poultice products are wet, clay-like materials that work by re-absorbing the staining liquid into the product itself. Note that you will want to reseal the stone surface after treating and removing stains! 

Could it be both Etching AND Staining?

Yes! Many stain-causing liquids are high in acid content (like wine or tomato sauce), so the liquid will first etch the surface, then it will stain more heavily since the etching has occurred. If you determine that your damage is a combination of etching AND staining, it is highly recommended that you contact a stone restoration specialist. Contact us and we can help direct you to a highly qualified specialist in your area.

How can you prevent Etching and Staining?

Life happens, so spills are often unavoidable. However, the most important precautions you can take to prevent damage to your natural stone surfaces are:
  • Properly seal your stone surfaces with a high-quality natural stone sealant, (preferably water-based like the ones we offer)
  • Clean up spills immediately
  • Always use appropriate cleaners that are intended for natural stone surfaces
  • For the ultimate protection, contact us for information on a certified MORE™ AntiEtch™ installer near you, and get the peace of mind and freedom to use your natural stone surfaces without worry!
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