Here’s How to Protect Your Natural Stone From Etching

Sharon Brandwein
Written by Sharon Brandwein
Updated April 27, 2022
A kitchen in new luxury home with island
Photo: hikesterson / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images


  • Natural stone countertops are vulnerable to etching, which is damage caused by a chemical reaction.

  • Etching can look like stains or discoloration, but it’s actually dull spots and marks from acids.

  • Taking immediate action to clean up spills is best to protect your countertops.

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Marble and granite countertops certainly have a wow factor, but their vulnerability to stone etching is one huge downside. While many people mistakenly believe that countertop etching is simply a stain, the truth is the damage runs deeper than that. We’re sharing everything you need to know about protecting your natural stone countertops from etching, including what to do when a rogue splash of lime juice leaves behind an unwanted calling card. 

What Is Stone Etching?

Etching is not just a stain or discoloration on natural stone countertops. Countertop etching is surface damage that occurs when an acid reacts with the calcium carbonate in some soft stones. Once the acid makes contact with the stone surface, it begins to dissolve the calcite in the stone. Essentially, the acid eats away at the stone's surface, leading to dull spots, rings, or marks. 

Etching is more likely to occur on natural soft stone surfaces, such as:  

  • Marble

  • Limestone

  • Travertine

  • Onyx

While granite is less porous and a bit more resilient than marble, the truth about granite countertops is that they’re still prone to etching.

How to Protect Against Stone Etching

There are a few steps you can take to help prevent or minimize stone etching on your beautiful kitchen countertops. 

1. Be Careful With Acidic Products

A modern kitchen with white countertops
Photo: Anatoli Igolkin / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Lemon juice, wine, tomato sauce, and vinegar are some of the usual suspects in your kitchen that can cause etching. While avoiding all of these substances is probably your best bet, it’s not realistic or practical advice for most home cooks. So, if wine and tomato sauce are staples in your kitchen, the next best thing is to be extremely careful with these products. 

Moreover, if you’re an avid DIYer, you’ve probably come across many online resources that promote homemade vinegar solutions for cleaning anything and everything in your home. However, while there are some clever ways to clean with vinegar, it’s not safe for stone countertops. When it’s time to clean your counters, the best solution is likely a commercial cleaner specifically made for your type of stone. 

2. Immediately Address Spills and Splatters 

Accidents happen, and when those accidents involve wine spills or splashes of lemon juice on your marble countertop, address them right away. Ideally, you'll want to clean your countertops with a neutral pH stone-safe cleaner. If you react quickly, the etching may not even be noticeable. For those with granite, follow specific steps for cleaning granite countertops.

3. Opt for a Cutting Board With a Well

One easy way to prevent liquids from spilling is to use a cutting board with a perimeter well. These cutting boards come with a built-in channel that collects and contains liquids, so they never make it onto your countertops in the first place. 

You might also think about investing in an extra-large cutting board that you can use as a work surface. When making your favorite meals, you can place those tomato sauce and wine bottles on the board instead of putting them directly on your countertops and running the risk of an etch mark you’ll have to look at forever. Additionally, you can use trivets and placemats to keep your countertops in tip-top shape.

4. Seal Your Countertops

If you’re trying to figure out how to protect your stone countertops from etching, you might bump into conflicting information. For example, some resources will tell you that you must seal your marble countertops, whereas others will tell you that sealing your countertops won’t fix etching on marble.

The truth is sealers won’t prevent etching, but they can help minimize the appearance of countertop etching. At the very least, countertop sealants will buy you some time to clean up spills and splatters and potentially reduce the damage. 

Moreover, while sealers can’t protect against etching, they may help protect your stone countertops from staining. Not only can kitchen staples like ketchup and mustard etch your countertops, but they can also leave behind some nasty stains. While you may have some stone etching, your counters won’t look like finger paintings from a kindergarten class.

Next Steps to Fixing Countertop Etching 

If your stone countertop becomes permanently damaged despite your best efforts to protect it, you could always try methods to repair your countertop to remove etch marks. There are etch removers and polishing products that might remove the etching on polished stone. 

Before diving in, however, you should know that repairing a natural stone countertop takes a bit of know-how that may go beyond the skill level of most DIYers. In that case, you might want to hire a countertop repair pro in your area to refinish or repolish your stone.

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