Preventing Stains and Etching on your Marble Countertops

Marble countertops are absolutely gorgeous and anyone who has spent the money on marble countertops wants to keep them looking gorgeous. Forever.

Impossible? No!

You simply need to be aware of 1) what kinds of stains can occur, 2) how to prevent them, and 3) how to fix them if you have them.

Marble Stains

There are two types of marble “stains”. One is true stain which occurs when a substance is absorbed into the pores of the marble leaving a dark or colored mark.

The other type of “stain” is called etching which is not an actual stain but rather damage to the stone’s surface that occurs when acid comes in contact with the marble and literally eats away at the stone. This creates dull spots that may look like scratches or rings—this is called etching.

True Stains

A true stain on your marble countertops will look like a dark spot (if stained by oil) or can take on the color of the spill (of something extremely pigmented in color like food coloring or cumin). Simple contact with these liquids will not result in a stain so if you clean up spills after they happen—even a little while after they happen—you will not see long-term stains. I’ve cleaned up pizza grease on my marble countertops the next day and it was fine.

Except for Easter egg coloring dye. I did not clean that up right away and it did leave a stain (which I was eventually able to remove).

Bottom line, clean up spills quickly and you won’t have a problem.

For more information on removing stains from your marble countertops, read our Stain Removal blog post.


Marble has had a bad reputation for “staining easily” but it’s actually not so. True stains happen rarely and usually can be removed. It’s the etching that people equate with stains that happen regularly and are nearly impossible to avoid over time.

Etching is corrosive action that occurs when calcite-based stones (like marble, limestone or travertine) comes in contact with an acidic substance—this can be anything from coffee, juice or soda to tomato sauce, salad dressing or vinegar. This contact creates a reaction where the marble’s surface layer is actually eaten away exposing the raw marble underneath.

So when you see water spots, glass rings or scratches, this is a result of etching and not actual stains.

Preventing Stains and Etching

The only way to avoid staining and etching in your marble countertops is to not cook, eat or even enter your kitchen.

Impossible, right? Obviously.

Marble stains are actually easy to prevent and easy to remove (usually, anyways). Etching, on the other hand, is nearly impossible to avoid no matter how much of a neat freak you are. Many people who choose marble countertops for their kitchen opt for the honed finish (the matte, unpolished finish) because this hides and masks etching much better than its polished counterpart. Many people even like the etching that takes place over time as part of the marble’s natural patina—they have a story to tell of the life that’s been lived in your kitchen.

As a point of reference: We are a family of four and not one of us is even close to a neat freak. We’ve had our white marble countertops (honed) for nearly 5 years now and have zero stains and only a few etching marks. If we can keep it clean looking, so can you.

Removing Stains

Any stain I’ve ever had on my marble countertops was easily removed with this method: Lay a paper towel over the stain. Pour hydrogen peroxide onto the paper towel to saturate. Leave overnight and the stain should be gone. If the stain has not been completely removed, repeat the steps and leave on for another twelve hours.

For tougher stains and alternative methods of removing stains from your marble countertops, read our Stain Removal blog post.