October 13/20, 2014; Volume 28/Number 9
(Editor’s note: This is the 10th of a 10-part series on introducing flooring retailers to stone and the opportunities the category presents)
“A wonder that needs a little work from you.” Put another way, when cared for properly, natural stone can last for generations, certainly long enough for a consumer to reap the benefits of her investment.
For flooring retailers, discussing the care and maintenance of travertine, limestone, granite and other natural stone products is critical, just as important in the selling scheme as merchandising, displaying and installation.
Executives from Emser Tile, Miracle Sealants and the Marble Institute of America (MIA) provided tips on how best to clean and maintain natural stone flooring.
Dirt, grit and sand are enemies of stone, as their abrasiveness can damage the surface. Therefore, floors should be dust mopped frequently using a clean, non-treated dry dust mop or broom.
A vacuum cleaner can be used on textured floors but must be in good working order and have no beater bar, which can scratch the floor.
Walk-off mats or area rugs on either side of exterior entrances will help collect loose dirt before it reaches the stone floor. The underside of the mat or rug should have a non-slip surface, experts noted. Keep the mats clean by shaking off any excess dirt particles. Damp mopping will help maintain the floor’s good looks.
Always blot spills immediately. A neutral pH detergent or pure soap and warm water can be used for spills or periodic complete cleaning.
Rinse the floor thoroughly and dry the surface with a soft, clean cloth. Too much cleaner or soap may leave a film and cause streaks. Change the rinse water frequently.
Do not use products that contain lemon juice, vinegar or other acids on marble, limestone or travertine.
Avoid using products that contain abrasive cleaners, cleansers (dry or soft) or any ammonia-based cleaners on stone. These products will dull its luster.
Also, do not use retail grout cleaners, scouring powders or bathroom tub and tile cleaners, and never mix bleach and ammonia—this combination creates a toxic and lethal gas.
Get to know your stone
Flooring retailers who want to be successful in the category should familiarize themselves with stone’s geological classification and composition, according to experts. This information will help retailers identify what cleaning products and maintenance techniques customers should use on stone.
Natural stone is broken into three basic geological classifications by their respective formation processes: sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous. Additionally, stones in each category can be either calcareous or siliceous.
Calcareous stone is composed mainly of calcium carbonate, a chemical compound commonly found in natural stone, shells and pearls. Calcium carbonate is sensitive to acidic solutions so mild, non-acidic cleaners are recommended.
Siliceous stone is composed primarily of silicates, such as quartz, feldspar and mica. As such, a siliceous stone is generally resistant to most acids found in kitchen settings, although acidic cleaners are still not recommended, as these stones may contain trace levels of minerals that are acid sensitive.
To seal or not to seal
According to MIA, several factors must be considered prior to determining if the stone should be sealed, including:
What is the hardness, density and durability of the stone?
How porous is the stone and how fast will it absorb a liquid?
Is the stone expected to be in frequent contact with a staining agent?
What type of stone was applied to the surface? For example, a polished surface is more resistant to staining than a honed surface.
Where is the stone located (i.e., foyer, bathroom, residential or commercial application)?
In some cases it makes sense to seal the stone. Once properly sealed, the stone will be protected from dirt and spills. In other cases, it is best to leave the stone untreated, as topical sealers can alter texture and finish as well as build up on the surface.