Stain Removal Guide
Spills and Stains
Blot the spill with a paper towel immediately. Don't
wipe the area, it will spread the spill. Flush the
area with plain water and mild soap and rinse several
times. Dry the area thoroughly with a soft cloth.
Repeat as necessary. If the stain remains, refer to
the section in this brochure on stain removal.
- Stain Removal
Identifying the type of stain on the stone surface
is the key to removing it. If you don't know what
caused the stain, play detective. Where is the stain
located? Is it near a plant, a food service area,
an area where cosmetics are used? What color is it?
What is the shape or pattern? What goes on in the
area around the stain? Surface stains can often be
removed by cleaning with an appropriate cleaning product
or household chemical. Deep-seated or stubborn stains
may require using a poultice or calling in a professional.
The following sections describe the types of stains
that you may have to deal with and appropriate household
chemicals to use and how to prepare and apply a poultice
to remove the stain.
Types of Stains and First
Step Cleaning Actions
(grease, tar, cooking oil, milk, cosmetics)
An oil-based stain will darken the stone and normally
must be chemically dissolved so the source of the
stain can be flushed or rinsed away. Clean gently
with a soft, liquid cleanser with bleach OR household
detergent OR ammonia OR mineral spirits OR acetone.
(coffee, tea, fruit, tobacco, paper, food, urine,
leaves, bark, bird droppings) May cause a pinkish-brown
stain and may disappear after the source of the stain
has been removed. Outdoors, with the sources removed,
normal sun and rain action will generally bleach out
the stains. Indoors, clean with12% hydrogen peroxide
(hair bleaching strength) and a few drops of ammonia.
(iron, rust, copper, bronze)
Iron or rust stains are orange to brown in color and
follow the shape of the staining object such as nails,
bolts, screws, cans, flower pots, metal furniture.
Copper and bronze stains appear as green or muddy-brown
and result from the action of moisture on nearby or
embedded bronze, copper or brass items. Metal stains
must be removed with a poultice.(See section on Making
& Using a Poultice) Deep-seated, rusty stains are
extremely difficult to remove and the stone may be
(algae, mildew, lichens, moss, fungi)
Clean with diluted (1/2 cup in a gallon of water)
ammonia OR bleach OR hydrogen peroxide. DO NOT MIX
BLEACH ANDAMMONIA! THIS COMBINATION CREATES A TOXIC
AND LETHAL GAS!
(magic marker, pen, ink)
Clean with bleach or hydrogen peroxide (light colored
stone only!) or lacquer thinner or acetone (dark stones
Small amounts can be removed with lacquer thinner
or scraped off carefully with a razorblade. Heavy
paint coverage should be removed only with a commercial
"heavy liquid" paint stripper available from hardware
stores and paint centers. These strippers normally
contain caustic soda or lye. Do not use acids or flame
tools to strip paint from stone. Paint strippers can
etch the surface of the stone; re-polishing may be
necessary. Follow the manufacturer's directions for
use of these products, taking care to flush the area
thoroughly with clean water. Protect yourself with
rubber gloves and eye protection, and work in a well-ventilated
area. Use only wood or plastic scrapers for removing
the sludge and curdled paint. Normally, latex and
acrylic paints will not cause staining. Oil-based
paints, linseed oil, putty, caulks and sealants may
cause oily stains. Refer to the section on oil-based
- WATER SPOTS
(surface accumulation of hard water)
Buff with dry 0000 steel wool.
- FIRE AND SMOKE
Older stones and smoke or fire stained fireplaces
may require a thorough cleaning to restore their original
appearance. Commercially available "smoke removers"
may save time and effort.
- ETCH MARKS
Etch marks are caused by acids left on the surface
of the stone. Some materials will etch the finish
but not leave a stain. Others will both etch and stain.
Once the stain has been removed, wet the surface with
clear water and sprinkle on marble polishing powder,
available from a hardware or lapidary store, or your
local stone dealer. Rub the powder onto the stone
with a damp cloth or by using a buffing pad with a
low-speed power drill. Continue buffing until the
etch mark disappears and the marble surface shines.
Contact your stone dealer or call a professional stone
restorer for refinishing or re-polishing etched areas
that you cannot remove.
Efflorescence is a white powder that may appear on
the surface of the stone. It is caused by water carrying
mineral salts from below the surface of the stone
rising through the stone and evaporating. When the
water evaporates, it leaves the powdery substance.
If the installation is new, dust mop or vacuum the
powder. You may have to do this several times as the
stone dries out. Do not use water to remove the powder;
it will only temporarily disappear. If the problem
persists, contact your installer to help identify
and remove the cause of the moisture.
Slight surface scratches may be buffed with dry 0000
steel wool. Deeper scratches and nicks in the surface
of the stone should be repaired and re-polished by
Making and Using
A poultice is a liquid cleaner or chemical mixed with
a white absorbent material to form a paste about the
consistency of peanut butter. The poultice is spread
over the stained area to a thickness of about 1/4
to 1/2 inch with a wood or plastic spatula, covered
with plastic and left to work for 24 to 48 hours.
The liquid cleaner or chemical will draw out the stain
into the absorbent material. Poultice procedures may
have to be repeated to thoroughly remove a stain,
but some stains may never be completely removed.
- Poultice Materials
Poultice materials include kaolin, fuller's earth,
whiting, diatomaceous earth, powdered chalk, white
molding plaster or talc. Approximately one pound of
prepared poultice material will cover one square foot.
Do not use whiting or iron-type clays such as fuller's
earth with acid chemicals. The reaction will cancel
the effect of the poultice. A poultice can also be
prepared using white cotton balls, whitepaper towels
or gauze pads.
Cleaning Agents or Chemicals
Poultice with baking soda and water OR one of the
powdered poultice materials and mineral spirits.
- ORGANIC STAINS
Poultice with one of the powdered poultice materials
and 12% hydrogen peroxide solution (hair bleaching
strength) OR use acetone instead of the hydrogen peroxide.
- IRON STAINS
Poultice with diatomaceous earth and a commercially
available rust remover. Rust stains are particularly
difficult to remove. You may need to call a professional.
- COPPER STAINS
Poultice with one of the powdered poultice materials
and ammonia. These stains are difficult to remove.
You may need to call a professional.
Poultice with dilute ammonia OR bleach OR hydrogen
peroxide. DO NOT MIX AMMO-NIA AND BLEACH!
THIS COMBINATIONCREATES A TOXIC AND LETHAL GAS!
Applying the Poultice
Prepare the poultice.
If using powder, mix the cleaning agent or chemical
to a thick paste the consistency of peanut butter.
If using paper, soak in the chemical and let drain.
Don't let the liquid drip.
Wet the stained area
with distilled water. Apply the poultice to the
stained area about1/4 to 1/2 inch thick and extend
the poultice beyond the stained area by about one
inch. Use a wood or plastic scraper to spread the
poultice evenly. Cover the poultice with plastic
and tape the edges to seal it. Allow the poultice
to dry thoroughly, usually about 24 to 48 hours.
The drying process is what pulls the stain out of
the stone and into the poultice material. After
about 24 hours, remove the plastic and allow the
poultice to dry. Remove the poultice from the stain.
Rinse with distilled water and buff dry with a soft
cloth. Use the wood or plastic scraper if necessary.
Repeat the poultice application if the stain is
not removed. It may take up to five applications
for difficult stains. If the surface is etched by
the chemical, apply polishing powder and buff with
burlap or felt buffing pad to restore the surface.
How to Clean Kitchen Countertops