What Is Etching?

What Is Etching?

April 11, 2018

Marble statue of Moses created by Michelangelo (1513-1515), which resides in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome. Photo via Wikimedia.

What is Etching? 
If you’ve been shopping for marble countertops, you’ve likely heard the term “etching.” Some designers and/or stone suppliers might use the word when trying to talk you out of choosing marble. But what does this often-scary word actually mean? 

Basically, etching is surface damage in the form of a dull mark on natural stone that contains calcium carbonate. It happens when acidic substances come into contact with countertops, floors, walls, or anywhere you may have a calcareous stone (natural stone comprised of calcium carbonate). Some common household items are notorious for causing etching, including lemons, colas, ketchup, and even some very familiar house hold cleaning products. These substances corrode marble upon contact and eat away the shiny surface layer, leaving behind a dull spot that is often lighter in color, white, and even misdiagnosed as a stain. 

Etching is typical with marble, limestone, onyx, travertine, and sometimes Quartzite. Here are some things that commonly cause etching: 

• Bleach
• Vinegar
• Ammonia
• Fruit
• Sauce and tomato juice
• Salad dressing 
• Juice
• Coffee
• Wine
• Cola products 

Some of these substances will just etch your stone while others could both stain and etch. If this is the case, you’ll want to remove the stain with a stain remover, such as Oil Stain Remover by Stone Tech Professional, before you can repair the etch—and you can repair the etch. 

Etch remover and marble polishing products are easy to use and typically work like magic on most etching and scratches on polished marble, travertine, limestone, and onyx. In fact, here at Marble & Granite, Inc., we carry TeEtch by Tenax, which will help with DIY stone repairs. Keep in mind, however, that if the stone has been severely etched and its very rough, you may need a professional to restore it at that point. 

So, what can you do to reduce the chances of etching the stone surfaces in your home? First of all, it’s vital to wipe up spills promptly. Second, be sure to use a mild soap or detergent—using a cleaner made especially for natural stone is always recommended. It’s also important that you thoroughly rinse and dry the surface with clean water after you wash it. Plus, it’s always a good idea to protect a table our countertop with coasters, trivets, or placemats. Avoid using a worn broom, mop, or vacuum cleaner and don’t ever mix chemicals like bleach and ammonia. (Not only should they not be used on marble but the combination of chemicals can create a toxic and lethal gas.) Lastly, you should consider using a matte finish such as honed or leather. This does not prevent etching but it will minimize the appearance when your marble does etch. 

If you have your heart set on marble or one of the other natural stone surfaces mentioned above, don’t fear. Come into one of our three northeastern showroom locations. We’ll be glad to show you what etching looks like and tell you more about how you can best maintain your natural stone and hopefully prevent etching from happening in the first place. Give us a call at 877-39-STONE


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