Q: We have remodeled our three bathrooms with marble walls, counters and floors. All the marble surfaces were sealed by our contractor.

We are aware that marble is porous, so we have been careful to wipe off any liquid that drops on the surface. However, we are seeing small stains on the marble that can only have come from spilled liquids. We are unable to remove these stains no matter how hard we rub. What are we doing wrong?

A: Our interest and experience lies mainly in building and repairing, not cleaning and maintaining. So, for your question, we turned to the Web.

The Michigan State University Extension has a wonderful site that is chock full of helpful information. Check out www.msue.msu.edu. The page with specific information on marble stain removal is located at www.msue.msu.edu/msue/imp/mod02/01500435.html.

Here are some highlights that should help you:

  • Make a poultice from white absorbent material such as a napkin, blotter, paper towel or facial tissue, dampened with the chemical recommended to dissolve that stain. The poultice should be left on the stain from one to 48 hours, depending on the age and depth of the stain.

  • Plastic wrap, held in place by masking tape, can be put over the poultice to keep it damp. Mix only enough solution for immediate use. If another application is needed, mix a second batch.

  • For organic stains such as tea, coffee, soft drinks or colors bleached from paper or textiles or soft drinks, soak the poultice with 20 percent peroxide (hair-bleaching strength) and a few drops of ammonia.

  • For oil stains such as butter, hand cream or lotion, spread the area with an absorbent fine powder such as whiting (pure chalk) or even cornstarch. After a short time, brush the area to remove the powder. Then apply more powder and let stand for 24 hours. Then scrub the area with a hot, detergent solution and stiff brush. Or wipe the area with an ammonia-dampened cloth. In either case, rinse and wipe dry.

  • If these solutions don’t remove the oil, try a solvent. Make a poultice dampened with acetone or amyl acetate (available at drugstores). Open the windows and doors to make sure there’s plenty of ventilation. Don’t use near sparks or flames. Check frequently. Leaving the poultice on too long can cause damage.

  • For rust stains, such as a ring left by a metal container, use a commercial rust remover. Follow directions exactly and do not leave on surface very long because the acid in many rust removers can dull the surface.

  • Acid stains, which can be caused by fruit juice or carbonated beverages, will remove the shiny surface if allowed to remain. This is called etching. Wipe up acid spills immediately and wipe the area with a wet cloth. If the surface is etched, polishing may be required.


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