Step 1. A good maintenance program starts with proper identification of the stone. Is it granite, marble, quartzite or limestone? If it's marble is it soft or hard? What type of finish does it have - polished, honed, flamed, etc.? Is the type of stone the proper material for the traffic it is to receive? If not maintenance costs will be higher.
If the answers to these questions are unknown, I suggest you contact a reputable stone supplier or restoration company to find out. A complete understanding of your particular stone's characteristics is an absolute must for designing a maintenance program.
Step 2. Once the stone's characteristics are identified, determine the quality of the installation. Are the tiles flat and even? Do they contain lippage (uneven tiles). If so, proper maintenance may prove difficult. The floor should be ground flat, honed and polished. Are there any cracked tiles? Dirt will have a tendency to accumulate in these cracks. These tiles should be replaced or, if replacements are not available, at least filled with a polyester.
Step 3. What is the present condition of the stone? Has it been coated with waxes, acrylics, urethane or other coatings? If so these coatings need to be chemically stripped or ground off to determine the condition of the stone. I have seen stone floors that appear to be in great shape until the coatings are removed to unveil a pitted, scratched mess. If a poor condition is found, complete restoration is necessary before a successful maintenance program can begin.
Step 4. Once the stone is restored to like new condition, then and only then will a maintenance program provide good results. This applies not only to the following program but any program. If the stone will be exposed to water, coffee, spills, etc, an application of a good quality silicone based impregnator is recommended. These impregnators are designed to penetrate into the stone, without leaving coatings on the surface and still allow the stone to transpire (breathe).
Step 5. Daily Maintenance. The three most important tasks that can be done on a daily basis to keep the stone looking new and extending the time before restoration is required are: Dust Mop, Dust Mop and Dust Mop. The most destructive material to most stone is sand, dirt and miscellaneous grit. If these substances could be eliminated, maintenance of the stone would be almost non-existent. A stone floor can never be dust mopped too often. Use a clean, non-treated, dry dust mop at least two to three times a day in high traffic areas and less often in low traffic areas. Walk off mats placed outside and inside an entrance will also eliminate a good portion of sand, dirt and grit. It takes approximately seven steps to remove all loose dirt from the bottom of one's shoes. Keep this in mind when purchasing walk off mats. Remember if sand, dirt and grit are eliminated there will be nothing left behind to scratch and dull the stone.
Step 6. Cleaning. All natural stone, both polished and unpolished should be cleaned daily in high traffic areas and less often in lower traffic areas. A clean rayon or cotton string mop should be used with cold to warm water with the addition of a quality neutral cleaner or stone soap. Neutral cleaners are defined as surfactant type detergents that have a Ph of seven. Acidic and alkaline cleaners should not be used on a regular basis. Be sure to follow the directions very carefully. Too much cleaner may leave a film and cause streaking.
Step 7. Polishing. In order to maintain the highly polished surface of most stone, waxes, acrylics, or any other so-called sacrificial coatings are not recommended. For the most part, sacrificial coatings increase the required maintenance of most stones. How do we maintain the highly polished surface if we are not using coatings? The answer is quite simple and surprisingly inexpensive. We turn back the hands of time, add a little modern day technology and we have what is known as the Natural Polishing Process. In certain situations a coating may be necessary. Contact a reputable stone professional for advise. This process has been used for centuries to obtain highly polished stones. All quarries and fabrication facilities use it without exception.
Why Does Stone Shine?
All stone is taken from the earth in a raw block form. This block is cut into slices that we call slabs. The slabs are then cut further to a smaller size such as a tile or countertop. It is then polished using a series of abrasive materials. The mechanics are relatively simple. A piece of stone is rubbed with a series of abrasives starting with a course grit size followed by finer and finer grit sizes. The scratch pattern left behind from one grit is removed by the next grit creating finer and finer scratches. This process is continued until the scratch pattern becomes microscopic. The process is similar to refinishing a piece of wood, starting with a course sandpaper and ending with a fine sandpaper. The shine is placed on the stone by continuing this abrading process using very fine powders.