The water test
If you're wondering how stain-resistant your counters are, try this test: Pour a bit of water (a quarter cup will do) on the countertop and let it sit. The amount of time it takes the stone to absorb the water (it will darken as it does) should help you determine whether you need to seal it. Use this guide:
- If it soaks in immediately: You'll likely need to add two layers of sealer once a year. Be sure to wipe up any spills quickly.
- If it takes 4-5 minutes: You'll need two or more layers of sealer, but only apply them every three to five years.
- If it takes 10 minutes: A single layer of sealer is all you need -- and you might not need it again for quite a few years.
- If it takes 30-plus minutes: Skip the sealer completely. Attend to spills quickly, and keep those counters clean with a gentle cleanser.
How to seal granite countertops
Esposito says you can periodically seal your granite countertops with an acrylic or oil-based sealant. There's plenty of options on the market -- you can pick up a bottle at your local home improvement store easily. Every manufacturer has different directions for using their product -- please, be sure to read them! -- but basically, it goes something like this:
- Clear everything off the countertops and wipe them clean.
- Spray the sealer. Let it set; some products require 10 minutes, others longer.
- Wipe off excess with a soft cloth or paper towel.
- Keep the counters clear for a few hours -- again, check the directions for how long.
- Clean the counter with some gentle soap and water and resume use.
An easy kitchen hack
Esposito says there's an even easier way to keep your countertops gleaming without sealant, and it's something you might even already have on hand.
"The polishing qualities that are in Pledge are good for [stone countertops]," says Esposito. Yes, there is a type of Pledge made specifically for granite and marble, but Esposito is referring to the regular ol' lemon-scented bottle of Pledge. He's been recommending it to his customers for years, though he notes the product does now indeed say on the label that it's good for granite, marble, and other natural surfaces. Just a light spray will do before wiping with a soft cloth -- too much of it will cause buildup, just as it can on wooden furniture.
The bottom line
Taking care of your granite countertops is very much a DIY job, whether you go with a bottle of sealer or try out the Pledge hack (I did, and it's glorious). But if you've got high-end finishes in your kitchen like leathered stone you're reluctant to touch even with a stone-friendly sealer or cleaning product, by all means check in with the pros who installed the countertops for maintenance tips.