Kitchen Design: How To Care For Concrete Countertops

Concrete kitchen and bath surfaces are increasing in popularity. Learn how to care for a concrete countertop.

Concrete countertops can be found in a variety of textures and colors. No longer limited to utilitarian gray, concrete is a versatile and durable countertop surface. But, like any countertop, concrete requires the proper care. Learn the best way to preserve your concrete counter surfaces.

What is concrete?

Concrete is a blend of natural materials, usually silica-based cement, stone and water. Like other stone surfaces, it requires regular care, and must be well-sealed.

Cleaning concrete counters:

Soap and water, as well as most common household cleaners can be used on sealed concrete surfaces, however abrasive cleaners should be avoided. Abrasion can damage the sealant and leave the concrete vulnerable to staining substances.

Most concrete manufacturers recommend you not use bleach, ammonia or cleaning products containing bleach or ammonia on your concrete counter surfaces. These cleansers may damage the sealants used on the counter. Acidic products can dull the finish of concrete counters.

Preserving the concrete:

Many concrete manufacturers suggest applying paste wax to your counters every several months. Routine maintenance with paste wax helps preserve the finish and color of your counters. In addition, paste wax should be re-applied whenever counters have been re-sealed.

Concrete and heat:

While concrete is highly heat-resistant, most manufactures of concrete surfaces still do not recommend placing extremely hot items (for example a baking pan just out of the oven, or a pot just off of the stove) onto your concrete counter-top surface. It is possible for extreme heat to affect the sealant, and therefore change the look of your counter surface.



Cutting on concrete:

While concrete is very durable, it is not a good idea to cut directly on a concrete counter surface. While you are unlikely to cut or scratch the concrete itself, cutting may damage the surface sealant. This will keep the sealant from properly protecting the concrete and will make the area more prone to stains and marks. In addition, concrete is not a knife-friendly cutting surface and will dull knives very quickly.

Concrete and cracking:

Concrete counters are reinforced with wire mesh, and sometimes with steel rods. It is common for hairline cracks to appear, but these do not affect the structure of the countertop. Small cracks are part of the personality of a concrete counter and should be expected.

Stains and marks:

Most stains on concrete can be removed with a mild household cleanser. The sealers used for most concrete countertop surfaces repel stains.

Occasionally, however, a stain may set in and be resistant to normal cleaning. This usually happens when the sealer has been compromised. To remove a resistant stain, you may sand the offending area of the concrete with a very fine gauge of sand-paper, then reseal the surface and apply paste wax. For uniquely textured concretes, with distinctive patterns, or mirror-shiny finishes, please consult your manufacturer for stain removal.

Other concrete tips:

If your concrete surface is unsealed, or you believe it needs to be resealed, be careful not to expose it to acidic or fatty substances. Acid can etch the surface, leaving lasting marks and oils can soak into the concrete, leaving a dark mark.

If your concrete surface has an impregnated sealer, it is generally more stain, heat and scratch resistant than concrete with surface sealant.

Do not leave standing water on your concrete surfaces for long periods of time. In some concretes, prolonged exposure to water can cause some of the minerals to rise to the surface, leaving a white dust on the counter's surface. This is especially visible on darker counter surfaces.

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