How to Clean Countertops

It is crucial to keep countertops clean and germ-free to keep you and your family healthy and safe. Most countertops can be cleaned with soap and water, but some materials have special needs. Always check your manufacturer’s instructions before cleaning your countertops, especially if they are made of natural material, such as stone or wood.

What You’ll Need

  • Dishwashing liquid
  • All-purpose household cleaner
  • Sponge
  • Soft cloth
  • Lemon slices (optional)
  • Household bleach or disinfectant cleaner
  • Baking soda
  • Whitening toothpaste (optional)
  • Granite sealer (optional)
  • Mineral oil (optional)
  • Sandpaper (optional)
  • Marble polish (optional)

The Cleaning Process

  1. Wipe up spills immediately to prevent countertop damage. Most spills can be cleaned with soapy water (you can use dishwashing liquid) or all-purpose household cleaner and a sponge. If you encounter a very sticky situation, lay a damp cloth over the spill for a few minutes to loosen up the grime before wiping it up. Be gentle with your countertops and avoid abrasive cleaners and plastic or steel scrubbers that can scratch the surface. For maintenance cleaning, wipe surface with a damp sponge or cloth to remove crumbs, dust, and dirt.
    • For laminate surfaces, you can use lemon slices to clean stains. Just rub the lemon over the stain, let stand for 15 minutes, rinse, and dry completely.
  2. Disinfect countertops with household bleach diluted in an equal amount of water or with a disinfectant cleaner (or, according to The Ultimate Accidental Housewife by Julie Edelman, even vodka!) Make sure to rinse well with water and dry completely. Odors can be removed by sprinkling baking soda over the surface and then wiping with a damp sponge. Make sure to rinse and dry the area completely (moist surfaces encourage bacteria growth!)
  3. Follow these special instructions for more fragile materials. Avoid placing acidic items such as coffee, tomato sauce, vinegar, lemon oil, or fruit juice on these surfaces and protect them from damage with placemats.
    • To clean granite countertops: Use dishwashing liquid and a sponge to clean these countertops. You can also try rubbing whitening toothpaste over the surface and then wiping clean with a damp, soft cloth. Never use harsh chemicals, such as ammonia, because this can dull the beautiful surface! Consider resealing your granite countertops every 6 months with a wipe-off penetrating sealer (found at hardware stores or the stone supplier).
    • To clean wooden countertops: After chopping onions or garlic, sprinkle the surface with baking soda and rub in with a damp sponge to remove odor. After cutting raw meat, which can contain dangerous bacteria, wash with hot water, dishwashing liquid, and a scrub brush. Then use disinfectant cleaner or 1-tsp. bleach diluted in 1-qt. water to disinfect the surface. If you are using commercial cleaner, make sure to follow the instructions on the bottle.
      • Good Housekeeping’s Household Manual suggests sealing wooden countertops with mineral oil 2-3 times per year. WARNING: Do not use vegetable oil because it will spoil over time and become rancid! Pour a small amount of oil onto the surface and rub in with a soft cloth. Let the wood absorb the oil for 2-3 hours before fixing any scratches with sandpaper and then lightly re-oiling these areas.
      • Dry wooden surfaces completely! Soaking up too much moisture can cause cracks and damage.
    • To clean marble countertops: Marble is very porous and thus stains easily. For this reason, wipe up stains immediately to prevent permanent damage. Greasy stains can be removed with ammonia. Make sure to rinse completely with water and then dry with a towel. Special marble polish (which can be found in hardware and furniture stores) can be used to clean and restore marble countertops.
  4. Remove burn marks. Try to take care of burns as soon as possible. Leaving them unattended for too long can cause permanent damage to your countertop. Cigarette burns can be removed by lightly sanding the surface and then polishing with one of the cleaning methods described above and a brush. If you have larger burns, consult your countertop’s manufacturer.


  1. For my granite or marble countertops being dark (had problem of the water spots), I have two remedies to use after cleaning or for cleaning. I use PLEDGE on my granite and marble; it puts on a shine, as well as is a protectant. I also will take dish washing liquid on a wet cloth and use that and then either dry or use a squeegee and it also takes the spots away and cleans to a shine.

  2. G. McNeil says:

    I placed a curling iron on a bathroom counter top and it burned the surface. The stain is unsightly. I have tried liquid cleaner with no positive results. I tried AJAX – no results. Does anyone have any ideas?

  3. CleanStuff says:

    Hi G. McNeil, we’ve created a how-to guide just for you! Check it out here: How to Remove Burns from Countertops.

    We hope it helps you!

  4. I have new granite counter tops. Can I clean them with Clorox disinfecting wipes (bleach-free)? These have been my go-to counter cleaners. Now I’m not sure.

  5. I just noticed a water stain mark on my granite countertop; I don’t know how long it has been there. How do I get rid of it? Thanks for your help.

  6. Fonny,
    This is the article that you need: How to Remove Stains from Granite Countertops. There is a section near the bottom of that article on water stains.
    Good luck!

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