Sustainable and natural ingredients are likely only going to become more in-demand in the future—or at least it will become an expectation that brands be transparent about what ingredients are used in their products. But not every surface can be cleaned with the same ingredients or formulas. Here are some of the most common kitchen countertop surfaces found in the home, as well as which ingredients (natural and synthetic) will likely be trending in the next year.
Marble, Quartz, and Granite
As one of the harder to clean surfaces, stone materials like marble, quartz, and granite are tricky because it can be sensitive to many harsh cleaners that contain ingredients like bleach or ammonia, as well as certain natural products (like citrus) that have pH levels with high acidity. This is because the ingredients can damage the shine and finish of marble counters and floors or leave stains and streaks caused by the cleaners themselves.
Marble, which is created from calcium chloride (which is similar to things like antacids), can react badly with cleaners high in acidity. DIY-ers tout the effectiveness of products that contain organic Castile soap as it has the ability to clean without putting potentially toxic chemicals on surfaces that food is prepped on. For stain removal—since marble is porous and can be easily stained by substances like red wine that are rich in color—many products use hydrogen peroxide to both treat the stain and disinfect the area. While beautiful, marble is one of the most porous stone options for kitchen countertops, which makes it susceptible to more wear and tear than granite or quartz. Regardless, stone countertops should all be treated equally by cleaners, and harsh ingredients should be avoided.
Stainless Steel and Copper
Being one of the easier surfaces to keep clean, stainless steel is a popular material used in kitchens and around homes because it can withhold a lot of wear and tear and can be cleaned with a variety of different chemicals from traditional bleaches to natural products with ingredients like vinegar and baking soda (a classic science experiment which can be used as a cleaner in many cases).
In order to get stainless steel to stay clean and increase its shine, most DIY-ers recommend products that combine some sort of soft-abrasive cleaner with an acidic liquid to keep it shiny without being abrasive. Using abrasive sponges like steel wool on stainless steel surfaces can scratch the surface and lead to erosion and rust, so using a gentle, natural cleaner with towels will often keep it clean and shiny enough.
Just about any vinegar will help keep stainless steel surfaces clean. Companies like Mrs. Meyers, which touts natural and organic ingredients in its products, uses a vinegar in its product, which is scented with natural Lemon Verbena for a fresh scent.
Copper countertops, while trendy in contemporary home design, are sensitive to harsh chemicals and should be cleaned with natural ingredients like lemon or water. Stick to natural products in the same way that you would with stainless steel to avoid oxidation and damage.
Most home care blogs recommend being careful when cleaning surfaces like butcher blocks for two reasons. Obviously, the surfaces are intended for food to be cut directly on the counter, meaning that they’re prone to damage from knives and need to be disinfected as food touches them directly. However, the porous surfaces tend to absorb any chemicals that are exposed to them, making food prone to exposure to chemicals that the surfaces are cleaned with.
It is often better to stick with natural ingredients that can also sanitize your butcher block countertop because they can eliminate any germs without exposing your food to harsh chemicals. When butcher blocks begin to look especially dingy, though, they can easily be sanded and oiled to look brand new again.
Keep laminate countertops clean and damage-free by avoiding scrubbing too hard. Since laminate countertops are created with a mixture of paper and resin, harsh products like bleach or scrubbing might cause scratches or discoloration that can diminish the lifespan of the countertop. It’s recommended to use dish washing liquid or gentle soaps and light scrubbing to avoid any sort of damage.
Tile and Grout
Tile used in countertops are often made from porcelain and use a sturdy grout to hold it together, but the drawback is that counters—particularly in the kitchen—can get exposed to all sorts of food and germs that can cause discoloration or mold if the counters are not kept clean. The good thing, though, is that these materials can generally take a bit more wear and tear than more sensitive materials like copper or laminate.
Most commercial products created for tile counters will focus on keeping the grout clean because this is the part that is prone to staining more easily. Products like grout cleaners, bleaches, or heavy duty disinfectants are popular options, but other products—like Simple Green—work well without exposing the counters to those harsh chemicals.