Concrete countertops are among the most popular surface finishes nowadays.
That’s because of their versatility, durability, and unique aesthetics. But do they stain?
- Staining of Concrete Countertops
- 5 Things You Should Know About Concrete Countertops
- Removing Stains from Concrete Countertops
- How to Protect Concrete Countertops from Stains?
Staining of Concrete Countertops
Yes, concrete countertops do stain. The porous concrete material is affected in a big way by all kinds of spills. Even the simplest materials can cause difficult stains. As for acidic foods, these actually make little dents in concrete.
In this guide, we’ll see why concrete stains in this manner, how to clean up various types of stains, and the best ways to protect concrete countertops.
5 Things You Should Know About Concrete Countertops
Why does concrete stain?
And if it’s that vulnerable as a material, why do people use it extensively in their kitchens and fancy homes?
To answer all that, here are a few facts about concrete countertops.
1. Concrete Is a Porous Material Susceptible to Stains
Concrete is a mixture of cement, sand, and various aggregates, plus some additives to enhance its properties.
This mix solidifies as the cement gets hydrated with water.
This naturally invites air inside the micro-structure as the mixture solidifies.
The porosity of concrete makes its surface vulnerable to staining, so it often needs a non-porous finish or protective layer.
2. Concrete Is Really Hard, but It Etches and Blotches
It’s customary to fortify a concrete slab with various materials to make it stronger and lighter.
That’s why a mix can contain gravel or glass fibers.
Additionally, a metallic frame, steel rebars, or a mesh are often inlaid in the cast or mold.
This helps strengthen the concrete slab and evenly distributes the load throughout its span.
A concentrated mix and a strong metallic frame could make a slab of concrete unbelievably hard.
This is usually expressed as its PSI value. A little elephant can easily walk on such a slab!
3. You Can Give Concrete Plenty of Finishes
Concrete is quite versatile and customizable.
In fact, it’s far more flexible as a decorative material than wood, laminates, marble, or tile.
You can simply make a countertop that fits into any space by casting it in the right mold.
Before it’s completely set, you can add some pieces of glass, marble shards, sea shells, or any other substance.
Additionally, you can change the texture of the surface, emboss it with a pattern, or imprint a whole picture on it.
If all these options aren’t enough, there’s also the option of coloring the concrete.
The choices are unlimited, but many designers prefer sticking to natural, earthy colors.
Finally, there are some innovative surface finishes that are a bit more artistic.
The finest of which use epoxy to create breathtaking images. Epoxy countertops are durable too.
4. Concrete Can Increase the Resale Value of The House
Concrete countertops are considered one of the best surface finishes in any house or commercial area.
They’re sturdy, live for ages, require little maintenance, and give a rugged chic appearance to any space.
Most buyers keep these countertops even when they make drastic changes around their new place.
And, of course, realtors use this feature well in their presentations.
5. Concrete Needs Regular Maintenance
Unlike marble or stone, concrete can’t be used without a protective layer.
Otherwise, it would be too vulnerable to humidity, scratches, and stains.
Applying a sealant once a year usually keeps the concrete countertops in good shape.
Some types need replenishing every five years or so, and that’s usually a better option.
Routine polishing and waxing are also recommended to keep the surface in mint condition.
Removing Stains from Concrete Countertops
Concrete is among the sturdiest materials you can get, but when it comes to spills, this surface doesn’t hold its own too well.
While Formica, Engineered stone, or tile countertops can be cleaned easily from the roughest stains, concrete often needs special treatment.
In the absence of a sealant or with a thinning layer of protection, even water would leave concrete looking blotched.
The simplest spills would darken the surface of the concrete countertop.
Oils and butter can also be quite problematic on a concrete surface.
As for the more aggressive acidic materials, these would cause damage on a deeper level, and removing their marks requires more complicated repairs.
1. Removing Simple Stains
Spilling mustard, juice, tea, or coffee often causes a little mess.
This is often wiped out on regular surfaces with a bit of soap and water.
And in a few seconds, the counter becomes squeaky clean. In the case of concrete, this doesn’t really work.
Scrubbing the concrete countertop wouldn’t solve the problem either.
In fact, it would scratch the surface and remove any remaining sealant.
The best way is to use some bleach and apply it with a soft cloth or sponge to the stain.
You might need to re-apply the bleach, use a higher concentration, or add a little liquid soap if the stain acts stubborn.
2. Removing Oil Stains
Oil stains are usually difficult to clean, but as expected, they’re ten times as hard to remove from a concrete countertop.
This mission isn’t impossible though. The way to go is by using a ‘poultice’.
The theory behind that resourceful solution is simple: the poultice provides an absorbent that attracts the oil, in addition to a cleaning agent that removes the grease from the concrete pores.
These are some of the typical ingredients:
- Flour/talcum powder/powdered sugar,
- Acetone, and
- Baking soda.
You need to mix all these ingredients till they become a smooth paste.
Apply this poultice to the stained surface, and cover it with plastic wrap.
You can tape it in place to make sure the plastic won’t get removed accidentally.
The poultice needs to stay in place for around 24 hours to show good results.
Sometimes, after removing the poultice, traces of the oil stain would still be visible, so don’t despair.
Re-applying the poultice would most probably get better results.
3. Removing Acidic Stains
Acidic stains on concrete surfaces aren’t actually just soiled spots to be wiped off.
A few drops of lemon, or a slice of tomato, will leave a white area once they land on the concrete countertop.
Spots like these would need more than bleach to go away.
That’s because the acid in these substances reacts with the concrete and etches the upper surface of it.
If you get a magnifier and look closely, you’d notice some pitting in the concrete.
This is often accompanied by a white stain, a byproduct of the reaction.
Cleaning an acidic stain off concrete is more of a mechanical process.
The first step is to polish the etched part from the concrete.
Sometimes this is enough to clear up the countertop.
However, if the spill is too pervasive, you’d need to dig deeper.
Once all traces of the etching and white residue are gone, you can fill the dent with grout.
This naturally requires a second round of polishing. It’s advisable to polish that filling with a fine grit pad.
The applied grout would look amazing after a nice polish, but it would be vulnerable without a sealing layer.
You can wait for a day, then apply a suitable sealant.
How to Protect Concrete Countertops from Stains?
Kitchens, vanities, or BBQ patio countertops, are all places where spilling is common.
Evidently, concrete countertops are susceptible to various types of stains. And so, they need a protective coat.
Using a sealant is currently the most reliable and practical way to seal off the pores on the surface of the concrete.
There are two types of sealants that you can use:
- Spray sealant, and
- Acrylic-based sealant.
Spray sealant needs more elaborate priming and a thorough knowledge of some technicalities.
Thus, it’s not the most suitable method for beginners or regular DIYers.
Its best feature is that it stays in place for around five years before needing reapplication.
On the other hand, acrylic-based sealants are a bit easier to apply, don’t take too much time to cure, and work well for about a year.
After that, you’d need to re-seal the countertop.
Some people add a wax layer to provide more protection, but yearly maintenance is still necessary.