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It has been over 4 years since I installed honed marble countertops in my kitchen renovation which is also what gave my Instagram home decor account its start. I have shared my kitchen many times since then and have also made quite a few updates to it. Many people reach out to me with questions about the honed marble countertops. They want to know how the marble has held up, whether am I still happy, if I would choose it again, and how I care for it and clean it. These questions usually come from homeowners who are in the middle of a kitchen renovation and are considering installing marble but are being talked out of it by their contractors or countertop suppliers and fabricators.
Did I consider Quartz countertops?
There is a huge industry dedicated to the promotion and sale of manmade quartz. Many consumers don’t realize that even though quartz counters are made using quartzite crystals, the slabs are not natural rock. They are made by mixing the crystals with resin. Quartz countertops are more sturdy, and scratch and stain resistant than soft marble. This quality makes them attractive to people who are after a pristine unmarred look. However, I personally could not get over how fake and plastic-looking quartz is. I am also ok with natural surfaces like marble, wood, and leather showing wear, and age over time. It is part of their history and character.
At first, I too had a lot of questions and reservations about choosing honed marble countertops. Ultimately, after a lot of research and comparison between marble and quarts, I went with marble. I am so glad I did. If I had to do it again, I would choose marble again, this time, without hesitation. Below, I will show the type of wear that my marble shows now after four years and how the honed finish compares to polished.
Why are marble countertops superior to quartz?
Marble is a natural mineral created in the earth’s core and mined from it. There are no two slabs that are alike. The veining and variation in color cannot be matched by anything manmade. There is depth in marble – you can see inside it. Quartz, on the other hand, is flat, opaque, and quite fake looking in its attempt by man to imitate the wondrous and unique beauty of nature’s creation. It just simply isn’t the same and it will never be the same. Similarly, any other manmade imitation of organic material falls short in my eyes – from laminate flooring that looks like wood, to polyester fibers that look like linen, or faux leather. (Or porcelain teeth veneers for that matter.)
All of Europe is covered with marble that has been there for hundreds and probably thousands of years in some parts. There are cafes and bakeries in Paris and Rome with marble countertops and tabletops, there are marble steps in castles and town squares. Thousands of people have used, scratched, and stained them but they are still gorgeous in their natural and organic beauty. I would rather live with the imperfection of the real thing than with perfect fake material.
Marble stains easily
Because it is porous, marble can stain quickly because liquids can seep into its pores and remain deep inside it. You can prevent that from happening by sealing the marble frequently. Sealing is easy to do – just apply this sealer with a rag and then wipe and buff. I forget to seal my countertops often – I maybe do it once a year – but still haven’t had any stains.
Marble is brittle
Marble sits very low on the Mohs scale of hardness of minerals which means that it can easily scratch, chip, or break. It is very brittle. It is used to carve statues out of after all. My slabs were delivered with chips already in them. These chips and scratches don’t bother me one bit. They are part of the beauty and character of the surface. I’m still careful not to slam heavy pots or drag metal objects across but if something were to happen, it won’t be the end of the world. Everything ages and patinas – even I have scars, wrinkles, and discoloration on my skin 😉
Water does NOT stain marble
Water most certainly doesn’t stain marble. It just makes it wet. But when the wetness dries, the marble resumes its natural appearance. Because marble is porous, liquids like water penetrate deep inside it and it might take some time for the wet spots to dry. However, water will never permanently stain marble. One exception would be if the water has a large number of certain metals or minerals (hard water). Those might build up over time and cause discoloration. This wouldn’t normally apply to kitchen countertops because you don’t have water sitting or dripping on them as would in a shower. At home, we put down wet objects on my countertops all the time and don’t have any stains resulting from them.
Marble can be ETCHED by acidic substances
The only destructive process to marble from liquids happens when an acidic substance comes in contact with marble. The acid eats away at the mineral and leaves behind a dull mark. This is what many people probably think is a water stain since the spot is colorless. These etch marks are most prominent on polished marble because the dullness of the etches really contrasts against the reflective smooth polished surface. My advice is to go for honed marble – it makes the etch marks almost invisible. You can only see them in certain light and at a certain angle and you’d have to know where to look for them. Your visitors will never see them. They’re also very hard to capture on camera.
Polished vs honed marble countertops
Here you can see the difference between honed and polished marble. Both are Carrara marble but my old serving board on the right is polished. The surface is so smooth, it is reflective and really highlights the contrast in the dullness of the etch marks. My countertop underneath is honed. You don’t see the window reflected in it and you can’t see the etch marks even though they are there.
In the shot on the left, I have the shades up allowing light in and I had to find just the right angle to capture the round etch mark by the sink. In the photo on the right, the shades are down and direct light isn’t hitting the spot. You can barely see it.
Sealing the marble does not prevent etching. It is not a question of “if”, it’s a question of “when” your marble will get etch marks. Coffee, wine, juice, fruit, tomato sauce – the list is endless. In the kitchen etching simply cannot be prevented. I have many etch marks on my countertops but they don’t bother me one bit. They are part of the aging and patina process of my countertops. Similarly, my wood floors and leather couches have scratches and fading. In the end, all the etches, scratches, and staining mesh together into a uniform look of age, use, and love.
Another photo of my polished marble serving board on top of the honed marble countertop. This is the reason why you’re better off with honed.
How I clean and seal my marble countertops
On a daily basis, I typically wipe my counters down with a wet paper towel. Marble is naturally antimicrobial. I would never cut or slice anything directly on it because the knife will leave scratches. Always use a cutting board and that will keep bacteria from raw meat off of it. You can also use a mild countertop cleaner like Mrs. Meyers spray but never anything harsh and acidic. Avoid citrus scents as well. Remember, the acid will etch it. I use 511 Impregnator to seal the marble periodically – once or twice a year.
The bottom line is, if you go for honed marble countertops, seal them regularly, and do not stress over every little etch mark, you will be able to enjoy their unparalleled natural beauty. If you are thinking about marble for your bathroom floors, there are a few more things to consider for that application.