marble countertops

The Everything Guide to Marble Countertops: What to Know, When You Buy

Luxurious. Elegant. Sophisticated. Extravagant. These are the words that many use to describe marble. With its soft, lustrous surface and subtle veining, many homeowners seek out marble for their countertops and floors because they love its strength, its timelessness and its delicate beauty.

Marble has pros and cons to consider when you’re trying to decide if it’s the right material for your kitchen. Before you choose this countertop stone for your home, familiarize yourself with the characteristics of marble. Knowing what makes marble unique can help you decide if this material is the best countertop for you.

Intro to Marble

Marble is a soft stone. White marble in particular has a distinctive, almost translucent appearance. Most of the time, marble is white with gray veining. However, marble can come in many colors including black, brown, gold, red and green. Some marble has many veins, while other types of marble are one solid color.

Where Marble is Found In the Home

Marble can be found on countertops, staircases, doorway thresholds, fireplaces, bathroom tiles, back splashes, and in other locations around the house. It has traditionally been used in sculpture as well, and can still be found in art around the home. Its relative softness makes marble easy to carve and easy for artisans to work with.

Where Marble Comes From

Marble is a metamorphic rock, made when limestone or dolomite is subjected to intense pressure over millions of years. The veining found in marble comes from mineral deposits in the stone. The stone is quarried with large machines with drills and diamond wire, designed to slice through the rock. Many marble quarries are found in Italy, Germany, Canada, India, Spain and China. Different types of marble are found in different locations.

Marble Performance As a Countertop Material

In addition to being soft, marble is a relatively porous stone that easily absorbs liquids from spills and sweating cups. While it may seem very hard and strong, it can be scratched or stained through everyday use, especially if you’re not careful. Following the maintenance tips below, you can help keep your marble looking its best for a long time.

Marble Maintenance Basics

Keeping your marble clean, sealed and protected from scratches is important.


Everyday cleaning. Clean marble countertops every day, first by wiping and removing all crumbs with a dry microfiber cloth, then by using a microfiber cloth that has been dampened with warm, soapy water to wash away germs.

Disinfecting. You probably won’t need to disinfect your countertop very often, but disinfecting is easy if you have the right spray cleaner. Fill a clean spray bottle with 8 ounces of water. Add a drop of liquid dish detergent and four tablespoons of rubbing alcohol. Spray your counter with the disinfectant until it is wet, and allow it to sit on the countertop for one minute before wiping it away.


Marble may be porous, but you can use sealer to close off those pores to help your marble countertops resist staining. Spray the marble with stone countertop sealer (for sale in specialty stores, stone suppliers, online and in hardware stores), then wipe the sealer over the countertop and allow it to sit there for 15 minutes.

After allowing the sealer to sit, wipe it away with a clean microfiber cloth. Do this periodically when your marble starts to absorb liquid spills rather than repel it. The length of time you’ll need to allow between sealing your counters depends on how much you use your counters and what kind of sealer you’re using.

Stain Removal

If your counters become stained, use a cleaning paste called a poultice to absorb the stain from the stone. You can make your own poultice from baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Mix the materials together to make a paste, then spread the paste over the stain. Lock in the moisture with plastic sheeting, then tape the sheeting down with painter’s tape. Leave the poultice on the stain overnight, then wipe it away. If the stain is still there in the morning, repeat the process.

Scratch Protection

The best way to protect your marble from scratches is to use pads, trivets and cutting boards to prevent knives, pots and appliances from creating gouges in the stone. Don’t slide any countertop appliances over the surface of the stone. Instead, lift appliances to move them from one location to another.

What Causes Some Marble to Turn Yellow?

Wax coatings can build up on the surface of your marble, giving the stone a yellow sheen. Exposure to water can also cause some marble to yellow over time, because some marble contains deposits of iron. Use proper cleaner to protect your marble, and keep your countertop sealed to protect it from water damage and staining.

Is Marble Right for Your Kitchen?

Marble is a marvelous countertop material, but it does require some upkeep. Even with proper maintenance, marble installed in a well-used part of the kitchen will start to show signs of frequent use over time. If you are the kind of person who likes their home to have rustic character, or if you are someone who uses their kitchen countertops very gently, then you may be a good candidate for marble countertops.

If it’s important to you to have pristine countertops that require little or no maintenance, engineered stone (also called quartz) may be a better option for you. This countertop material has no pores and almost never scratches. If you would like a completely natural stone that is more durable than marble, consider granite.