Granite Tales: Myths, Urban Legends, and Fabrications (of the Other Kind)

The following snippets of commercial granite folklore are taken directly from customer feedback and questions, pieces circulating the web, and conversations with hundreds of homeowners who have honored me with the opportunity to repair their commercial granite. Just for fun, I’ll give you a little background on each one, where they came from, and how they started. In case you haven’t heard some of these before, you’ll be prepared when they finally come to you!

Please note that I use the term “commercial granite” throughout this article. This is because we refer to stones that are sold commercially as granite, rather than the (very) narrow subset of stones that meet the scientific definition.

1.) My contractor/granite salesperson/internet guru (choose your favorite perpetrator) said my granite does not require sealing – Those of you who have read my previous work are probably sick of me harping on this, but (unfortunately) I listen to this one more often than everyone else. It is the most damaging of all the bad granite maintenance practices you can commit if you trust this unsound advice.

Interestingly, there are a couple of “experts” on the internet who partially endorse this fallacy (but they will sell you their impregnator if you ABSOLUTELY, REALLY insist on having one, and theirs lasts FOREVER… Hilarious!). One even goes so far as to claim that the physical properties of granite dictate that it never needs to be sealed (funny, they also have a “lifetime” sealer for sale two paragraphs later).

I was recently in Los Angeles, visiting with a property manager who had stains on about 1/3 of the 305 commercial granite counters they recently installed in their recently renovated luxury apartments. I wish I could have brought the naysayers with me so they could convince the distraught maintenance people that those oil and wine stains were just a figment of his imagination…

From the contractor’s perspective, in the old days, impregnants were primarily based on silicone derivatives. While they are great against water, they did (and are) poorly against oil-based stains. Also, if over-applied, the impregnant residue on the stone surface would also absorb oil. Double hits. Here’s the logic: If it’s a fact that oil stains are the worst to remove, and if impregnator won’t stop them anyway, why bother? That was the late ’80s, this is 2007, and we have technology that will stop oil stains in their tracks. Like all misinformation, it actually has a small root and dies slowly.

Internet people have different motivations. Or are:

A: try to sell you granite slabs denying any faults the commercial granite has, or

B: Using reverse psychology (wrong, I might add) sales techniques to sell you their impregnator.

2.) My neighbor told me that my granite is not safe because it harbors and produces large amounts of bacteria – This one continues to circulate despite the fact that both the government and industry organizations have shown it to be false on numerous occasions. Please allow me the opportunity to set the record straight on this, once and for all: it is absolute rubbish. In fact, properly maintained granite commercial surfaces are some of the most sanitary you can buy. Like all other food preparation surfaces, commercial granite must be cleaned properly.

It is widely believed that manufacturers of man-made countertop materials started these rumors, although no solid proof exists. In short, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has given commercial granite a clean bill of health, as has the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

3.) Someone told me that my granite emits radon gas and is radioactive – A little twisted science goes a long way… Miniscule amounts of radon gas are emitted by almost any type of rock found where uranium is found, and trace amounts of uranium can be found almost anywhere rock is found. Bottom line? There are no health or safety risks associated with the release of radon gas or radioactivity from commercial granite.

As a matter of note, concrete, cement, and plaster release as much or more radon gas than commercial granite, and there is also no health risk associated with them. A manufacturer of man-made countertop materials is also believed to have started this rumor.

4.) I was told to clean my granite with soap and water only – This one has a couple of variants floating around, including using specific dish detergent (and a special brand, I might add) or plain water. Will doing this damage your commercial granite? No, he will not. Will it impact the way it looks? Yes, he will do it.

If you were to wash your windows with plain “soap and water” (or dish soap, or plain water) and a sponge, I guarantee you won’t be happy with how they look.

With this in mind, it is best to routinely clean your commercial granite with a product that is specifically designed for use on natural stone. Using soap, dishwashing detergent, or non-stone cleaners will leave your commercial granite looking dull and lifeless.

5.) Someone told me that the shine will wear off my granite and it will need to be re-polished – Unless you’re playing roller hockey on your granite business surfaces, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll need to re-polish them. I have seen very isolated cases (all of them very dark “granite”) where the surface deteriorated with normal use and required re-polishing. In reality, these stones were suspect at first, as they were unlikely to achieve a rating of 5.5 (the minimum hardness allowed) on the Mohs hardness scale. Good-quality commercial granite, properly maintained, will not permanently lose its shine for a long, long time, even under heavy use (but consider).

If your granite has been waxed, then the “shiny” will wear off and you will need to re-wax it. Waxing commercial granite is generally NOT RECOMMENDED, so only do so if your surfaces were previously waxed to provide their final shine.

Most loss of gloss and reflectivity is due to the use of improper cleaning chemicals, improper cleaning methods, or both. As I mentioned earlier, if you need a demonstration of what soap and water does to the look of your commercial granite, simply wash your windows with (fill in your favorite “soap” here), water, and a sponge. “Soap and water” leaves a residue on the stone that will eventually dull the finish.

The good news is that the dulling of surface debris is not permanent. It can be removed with a high alkaline cleaner designed for natural stone. In some cases, calcification (mineral deposits from evaporated water) will dull surfaces, especially around faucets and fixtures. These deposits can also be removed quickly, easily and safely.

I also recommend the weekly use (or whenever you want) of “vanity” products to increase the shine and improve the general appearance of your commercial granite. These products provide the additional benefits of reducing water spots and fingerprints on polished surfaces.

6.) Practices and Products

At the end of the day, it all comes down to this:

– Keep your commercial granite properly impregnated (sealed).

– Clean up spills and contamination in a timely manner.

– Do not use sharp implements on your commercial granite.

– Do not place extremely hot items on your granite.

– Use quality products, specifically designed for commercial granite.

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