Kitchen countertops bear the heavy load and provide the work canvas for our cooking and baking experiments. They can also harbor a suspicious stretch of bacteria—from food packaging, our hands, stray ingredients—if we don't clean them properly.
Counters are made of a variety of materials, so you can’t indiscriminately aim a can of Lysol at laminate the same way you would granite, or approach cleaning butcher block in an identical fashion to stainless steel.
That’s why we consulted a range of experts to learn how to safely eradicate all manner of unsightly countertop food stains, as well as that lurking, invisible…well, you know.
“Soap and water are a good start,” says Afoma Umesi, an editor at the cleaning website Oh So Spotless. “You can attack serious stains with baking soda. Just remember to dry with paper towels or a microfiber cloth to prevent annoying streaks. If you're feeling fancy, you can polish it with lemon oil for some extra shine.”
Or, use a similarly simple combination: “I find that when it comes to cleaning stainless steel, nothing beats a simple solution of water and vinegar,” says Lisa Torelli-Sauer, an editor at Sensible Digs. “Mix two parts water with one part vinegar in a spray bottle and use a microfiber cloth to wipe down your stainless steel surfaces. This method is inexpensive, eco-friendly, and removes water stains like magic.”
Both Umesi and Torelli-Sauer recommend a combination of vinegar, soap, and water to clean this surface. “Wipe down daily with a solution of water and distilled white vinegar. I like to use lemon and salt to remove tough stains. I never use any kind of abrasive cleaner on this surface,” says Umesi.
“To clean butcher block countertops, start with a wet sponge and a bit of dish soap. After you’ve removed all food residue/stains, rinse your sponge with clean water and wipe over the surface again to remove excess soap. Next, use a microfiber cloth soaked in a bit of vinegar to wipe down the entire surface,” says Torelli-Sauer.
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“Laminate countertops are the easiest to clean,” says Torelli-Sauer. “Dish soap and water along with a cleaning cloth will do the trick. If you are dealing with water stains or an extra greasy surface, try using a mixture of two parts water and one part vinegar. Spray the solution onto the mess, and allow it to sit for a couple of minutes before wiping clean. Vinegar is not only a powerful cleaner; it also gives your laminate countertops extra shine.”
“Good old warm water and dish soap (Dawn is excellent) does the trick for daily cleaning” of marble counters, says Umesi. “Just wipe with a towel afterward. If you run into more difficult stains, it's time to call in the baking soda for reinforcement. Leave the water and powder paste on the stain for at least 24 hours, and you should see a marked improvement.”
Costly granite can lose its shine when it's cleaned with acids like vinegar. “I recommend keeping it simple with granite. Use some dish soap and water, wipe with a lint-free cloth, and add a dash of isopropyl alcohol to sanitize, if you like,” says Umesi.
Or, opt for a homemade granite cleaner. Cristhian Salazar, Director of Culinary Operations for Xperience Restaurant Group, uses the following recipe on his seven restaurants:
Homemade Magical Granite Cleaner and Disinfectant
3 cups of lukewarm water
4-5 drops of your favorite dish soap
1 cup of isopropyl alcohol
Add all ingredients to a spray bottle, and shake them up.
Spray a good amount of your magical solution all over your countertop. Let the solution sit on the surface for 3 minutes so that the alcohol has a chance to disinfect your counter.
After 3 minutes, use a paper towel to wipe up the excess, and follow it up with a microfiber cloth for the final dry.
“Quartz is one of the hardest natural materials, which makes it generally easy to maintain, especially since it's resistant to scratching and staining,” says Valentín Tijeras García, Vice President of Global Product R&D for Cosentino, a company that produces Silestone (quartz) and Dekton (ultra-compact surfaces). “While a damp cloth will clean the surface effectively, homeowners looking to take an extra step in the name of cleanliness can use a pH balanced gentle household cleaner, like dish soap or an all-purpose cleaner, or a combination of water, soap and rubbing alcohol. We recommend that homeowners using more intense cleaning products rinse the surface with water immediately following, as harsher products can damage the resin.”
Torelli-Sauer recommends a product that works on multiple surfaces: “Use Supreme Surface Granite, Quartz & Marble Cleaner Polish and Sealer. The name says it all; this product is more than just a cleaner. It polishes and seals each time you clean, leaving your countertops shiny, streak-free, and protected.”
“This is probably the easiest to clean,” says Umesi. “Again, just dish soap and warm water is fine. The grout may need some extra elbow grease, scouring powder, and sometimes even a bit of bleach. If you have hard-to-remove stains on your tiles, you may use an abrasive cleaner, but don't go too hard, unless you don't mind losing some of the glossy finish.”
“Many ultra-compact surfaces have almost zero porosity, which means they naturally prevent liquids and gases from penetrating the surface,” says Tijeras García. “This also makes the surface particularly easy to clean—ultra-compact surfaces can be cleaned with soap and water, but disinfectant sprays, wipes or all-purpose cleaners from Clorox, Lysol, Puracy, Simple Green, Soft Scrub or Seventh Generation can also be used without any surface damage due to the material's high chemical resistance.”
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A Few Multipurpose Cleaners to Have on Hand
Kate Diaz runs across many types of kitchen counters as an interior designer and owner of a DIY and decor website Swankyden.com. She prefers to streamline her cleaning processes by honing in on all-in-one, multi-purpose products. “When you need to clean several times daily, arming yourself with the best cleaning product for all kitchen surfaces can make things easier and more convenient for you,” she explains.
And it isn't just time saving—declaring allegiance to a single product can also cut a hefty sum from your budget.
Lysol Professional: “This cleaner can be used not only on countertops, but on sinks, tables, appliances, and walls. It doesn't contain any bleach or abrasives but it's highly effective at handling tough kitchen grease and grime. Plus, it can kill bacteria, such as e.coli, MRSA, and salmonella.”
Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner: “This is very versatile and can remove anything from grease and coffee stains to lipstick and soot. You can use it both indoors and outdoors, either full-strength or diluted. It can clean cooking tools, chrome, concrete, tiles, grill grates, and more. You can even use it on carpets.”
Pine-Sol All-Purpose Cleaner: “A budget-friendly cleaning product for your countertop, stove, sink, and floors. It has a powerful cleaning ability that can disinfect and kill germs while leaving your surfaces with a fresh, clean scent."
Products for Disinfecting Highly Trafficked Countertops
Even before COVID, Samantha Wenig understood the effort involved in constantly disinfecting compact, heavily-trafficked urban living spaces as head of a home and apartment organization company based in NYC. These are the products that are in constant rotation in her personal arsenal.
Clorox Clean-Up Cleaner with Bleach: “You likely had this item in your kitchen closet prior to COVID-19, as it’s great for quick clean-ups and works in under a minute. Note that due to the bleach, you should be careful of your clothes and wash your hands if any gets on you.”
Clorox Disinfecting Wipes: “They’re easy to use, EPA-approved, and are pre-soaked.”
Lysol Disinfectant Spray: “If you can get your hands on a bottle or two, Lysol sprays get rid of 99.9% of mold, mildew, odors and (most) viruses that may live on surfaces. This is also fabric safe, so you can use outside of the kitchen as well.”
Mrs. Meyer's Everyday Cleaner: “The entire line of Mrs. Meyer's is earth friendly, made with plant-based Ingredients, and all of them smell ‘clean.’ This specific cleaner comes in a variety of scents such as lemon and lavender. The everyday cleaner is made with citric acid and works to clean non-porous surfaces. This can also be used on walls, bathrooms, and floors.”
Seventh Generation Multi-Surface Cleaner: “This eco-friendly disinfectant cleaner has been shown to kill most germs, including the flu and common colds. That said, it’s gentle enough to be used outside the kitchen on children's toys, highchairs, changing tables, and appliances.”
Originally Appeared on Epicurious