For many people the countertop is the focal point of the kitchen. It sets the tone for the room, needs to look stylish in a pleasing color that can tie in the cabinets and backsplash, and of course needs to be functional. Countertops see a lot of wear and tear through every-day use, so it’s important to make sure you are doing everything you can to protect your surfaces. Countertops can be expensive to replace, and often one bad stain, burn, or crack can require the replacement of the entire counter or section of counter, so it is important to do everything you can to keep your counters clean and functional for as long as possible.

Here are a few tips from Marble.com to help you care for your countertops and keep them in good condition for years to come:

  1. Install it Right

Good countertop care starts at the beginning when the counters are installed. Some people choose to do the installation themselves, which can be a viable option. However, if you do go the DIY route, be sure to do your homework so you know how to do it properly. If a counter is installed improperly it can be uneven, not sealed right, or not jointed together correctly. This can lead to problems ranging from minor annoyances with non-level surfaces to pealing, staining, or warping, especially around seems and joints that were not properly fitted and sealed.

If you do decide to hire a professional, be sure to check the reviews of the individual or company to ensure they do good work. Vetting a few options and obtaining a number of quotes is a good way to ensure you are paying a fair price, but keep in mind that your counters are a heavily-used surface that can be difficult and expensive to repair or replace. It’s important to focus primarily on quality of craftsmanship rather than just going for the cheapest option.

  1. Seal and Re-Seal

Some countertops like laminate and stainless steel won’t require a surface sealant, though even those may need their joints and seems sealed properly so water doesn’t cause warping and rust. Other countertops, though, like wood, natural stone, and concrete require a seal to protect the surface from scratches, stains, or drying out which can lead to cracks or brittle surfaces more prone to damage. Sealant also prevents moisture from getting trapped in porous surfaces which can cause bacteria to grow in the surface of your counters. If this happens, it can become difficult or sometimes impossible to fully clean or disinfect.

If you are installing your counters yourself, be sure to seal your surface properly according to the type of countertops you are using. Most professionals will automatically seal counters they install but be sure to discuss this before the job is done in order to be sure. Counters will also need to be periodically re-sealed as the protective surface can wear down over time. One way to test if your counter needs to be re-sealed is to place a drop of water in a high-use area on the counter and wait 15 minutes. If the water droplet has soaked into the counter and is no longer beaded on the surface, it’s probably time to re-seal your counters.

  1. Avoid Heat

Some countertops will be more heat resistant than others; a few materials like stainless steel and granite are even said to be unaffected by heat entirely. Laminate, wood, and solid surface counters are especially susceptible to heat, though, and you will need to be careful not to absentmindedly set a hot pot or serving dish directly on them. Even heat-resistant or heat-tolerable surfaces can be damaged over time, though, as the heating and cooling process causes the surface to rapidly expand and contract. This can make even the sturdiest of surfaces more brittle and susceptible to breaking or scratching easily. It is best to avoid direct heat on your countertops entirely and place hot pads, oven mitts, or even towels between hot dishes and your counters.

  1. Clean Spills Quickly

In order to avoid stains on your countertop, it is important to clean spills as soon as they occur. Even tough, stain-resistant, or non-porous surfaces can get stained if a spill is left long enough to sink in. In the case of stainless steel, liquid spills can cause rust, and some acidic messes involving things like lemon and tomatoes can damage the surface over time. Acidic substances can damage the surface of most countertops, so be especially vigilant to clean up any spills that may contain citrus or other acidic foods.

In addition to cleaning up messes, be sure to dry your counters after wiping them down, and don’t leave standing water on them. Water can damage most counters if left too long, or it can pool in corners and seams where it can cause bubbling and warping or promote bacteria growth. When you’re finished cleaning your counters or doing the dishes, be sure to use a soft cloth or paper towel to wipe up any remaining moisture.

  1. Use Gentle Cleaners

Even though standing water can be bad for your counters, warm water and soap is really the best option for daily cleaning. It’s important to keep your counters clean, both so they look good and to prevent the growth of bacteria or other disease-causing organisms. Harsh chemicals or acidic cleaners, however, can end up doing more harm than good. These kinds of cleaners can wear down your protective sealant faster, make your surfaces more susceptible to scratch damage, and may even etch permanent marks into your counters. You should also avoid using abrasive cleaning pads or things like steel wool that will scratch your surfaces and degrade the protective coating.

If you need to remove a stain, household products like baking soda and borax can be mixed with water for a gentle cleanser that will also disinfect your surfaces as you go. Again, just be sure to use a soft cloth and don’t scrub too hard when trying to remove stains. You can also buy special counter-safe stain removers from the store; just be sure they are formulated to be used for the type of counter you have.

  1. Use Cutting Boards

This one may seem obvious, but it is important enough to be included anyways. One of the best ways you can protect your counters is to never cut directly on them. Doing so can cause permanent scratches that will get worse over time and often can’t be repaired without replacing the entire counter. Scratches, even small ones, will also break the sealed surface and allow moisture to gather, which can provide an ideal environment for bacteria and viruses to thrive. Scratches will also stain more easily which will cause them to stand out more and more over time. Even scratch-resistant counters should be treated with care. Always keep cutting boards handy and accessible near the areas of the counter you use the most for cutting or preparing food.

Cutting boards come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles. This makes them incredibly convenient and easy to incorporate into your kitchen decor to enhance your chosen style. The important thing, though, is that you use them instead of your counter for any knife work. Even the thin plastic cutting boards are better than nothing, as they will provide a protective surface between your knives and your counters.

Submitted by Alicia Taylor at Marble.com