3 Culprits of Countertop Discoloration

Serving Portland OR, Vancouver WA, and the Oregon Coast

Quartz countertops in Portland OR and Vancouver WA - Crowley's Granite

The appearance of discoloration, dullness, and staining is the last thing a buyer of expensive granite, quartz, or marble countertops wants to see.

Emotions can run as high as the price tag when these surface problems appear and often its assumed that the sealer was incorrectly applied or that the material is defective or substandard.

Fortunately for the owner of the new counters, often what appears to be catastrophe of discoloration, dullness or staining is almost always water relate and generally on the surface of the stone and can be avoided with proper care and almost always resolved.

The three most common culprits are as follows:

  1. Soap Buildup. Soapy residue often remains on just-cleaned surfaces like pots, pans, and yes, even counter tops and it requires surprising amounts water and rinsing to completely remove it before it dries.

How do you know if it’s a soap buildup?  If the area is dull, streaky, oily and/or hazy and can be scratched off with a fingernail or vigorous rubbing with a clean cloth its probably dried soap on the surface.
While there are many off-the-self cleaners that don’t leave this lathery residue, soapy washcloths are just too easy, convenient, and available to suggest avoiding them.

So when you do use good old soap and water, use a sparing amount of mild soap without oils or acids and rigorously rinse with plenty of clean water before the soap has time to dry!

  1. Hard Water. If your water source is a well, you’re probably familiar with hard water. Hard water contains iron, magnesium, and calcium and if left on your stone counter to evaporate, it will leave deposits on the surface that are much like the spots on dishes, glasses, and shower stalls. Like soap scum, hard water deposits are unsightly and tough to remove.  So tough in fact, many people mistakenly believe their counters have been permanently damaged.

Removing hard water stains and deposits can be a challenge with granite or other natural stone countertops so you use products specially designed for hard water and guaranteed to not damage natural stone.  Ammonia is sometimes suggested for hard water cleaning issues, but this is a bad idea because ammonia will definitely damage marble and if used regularly, can damage granite and other natural stone countertops.

The best option is to avoid letting hard water dry completely on the countertop.  Using a clean cloth to wipe up the water and the minerals that would otherwise remain is the best remedy for hard water and stone counters!

  1. Acidic Water or Cleaners. The best sealer in the world cannot prevent acids from damaging, or etching the surface of a stone countertop. Granite does not readily etch but constant exposure over time to acidic city water or citric cleaning products slowly eat away at the polished surface of the counter leaving a dull appearance.

The best way to test your water is with a common pH test kit.  If your water tests positive, avoid cleaning your counters with tap water and use a natural stone cleaner instead.

Check Out Our Blog On The Best Granite & Quartz Cleaners

Returning a hazy counter, etched by acidic water or cleaners, to its original shine and polish is both art and science and can be done by a local stone restoration company.

The reality is that soap scum, hard water deposits and acid caused etching occur on just about any surface…but they are only really visible on stone counters because the highly-polished surface can’t hide imperfections.


So, take heart if you think you detect some surface discoloration, dullness, or staining on your natural stone countertop. It is very likely not a stone or sealer failure but rather a problem with soap, cleaning product, or hard water. You can fix it with the knowledge you now have . . . and some elbow grease.

Thinking about getting new countertops? Download our FREE Countertop Buying Guide for expert advice on how to choose the right countertop material for you!

3 Reasons Why Your Countertops May Get Discolored And How To Fix It in Portland OR & Vancouver WA

Serving Portland OR, Vancouver WA, and the Oregon Coast

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