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Marble Etch vs Stain: Simple Way to Tell The Difference


Marble is strong, yet sensitive. Before attempting any treatments on your marble counter make sure the etch is not a stain. Marble etch vs stain get treated differently. In this blog post, learn:

  • How to tell the difference between a marble etch vs stain
  • What causes marble etching and stains
  • How to treat them differently

Lighter or Darker?

A simple way to tell the difference between marble etch vs stain is to determine if the affected area is lighter or darker from than the natural stone’s color. If the affected area is lighter, then it’s likely an etch. If darker than the natural stone’s color, it’s likely a stain.

Marble etch vs stain
Image of a marble etch vs stain.

Marble Etch

Etch marks can appear as watermarks, dull spots or rings on marble countertop.

An etch is an actual change of the natural stone itself. It’s NOT a discolouration but a dulling of the marble’s surface. This is why it often appears lighter than the natural stone’s colour.

Marble etching is mostly caused by acidic liquids. The acidic liquids corrode the stone surface, eating away at the polished finish, and resulting in the etch marks. It only takes mere seconds after spilling for these deficiencies to appear!

Etches differ from stains in that you may only notice them from certain angles or when the sunlight hits your marble countertop in the right way.  

Here’s a visual example.

marble ethes
Image of marble etching.

Marble Stain

Marble stains occur when a liquid is absorbed into the pores of the stone and is trapped beneath the surface. Stains are discolorations, why it often appears darker than the natural stone’s color.

The high acidity content of some of our favorite beverages can quickly penetrate the pores of the stone, often etching the surface and sometimes leaving behind a stain. The longer the liquid is left on the marble counter, the more likely it’ll break down the protective seal and penetrate the pores of the stone, leaving behind a stain.

Unlike marble etching, stains are noticeable regardless of the angle or sunlight.

Marble Stains
Image of marble stains.

Common Causes

The most important thing to keep in mind about your marble counter is that it is absorbent. Like a sponge, your stone is porous – meaning that liquid spills can seep into the stone and cause these dull spots or discolorations.

Common household liquids that can be responsible for marble etching and stains include bleach, citrus, citrus-based products, alcohol and alcohol-based products, sodas, ink, rust, urine, coffee, cooking oils, and hand lotions… to name a few.

Marble Etching and Stains 1
Common causes of marble etching and stains.

Many make the mistake of using improper cleaning products for their stone floors or countertops. Always be attentive about the make-up of certain cleaning products, as many can lead to damaging the stone, sealer, and even making the affected areas worse.  We highly recommend our Stone Cleaner for marble floors and Stone Countertop Spray for countertops as daily cleaners. It is also essential to seal your polished marble surfaces at least once a year to prevent marble etching and stains from occurring in the first place. 

Treating Marble Etch vs Stain

Remove Etches with the Marble Refinishing Kit

The Marble Refinishing Kit is a DIY solution to remove marble etching and restore the look of your marble counter. The kit contains everything you need to properly and safely remove etches. Learn more about how to remove rings from your marble countertop in 3 simple steps using the Marble Refinishing Kit.

Remove Stains with Poultice

To safely and properly remove stains from marble surfaces use wet Poultice to absorb the stain from the natural stone.  Learn more about stain removal and how to use poultice here


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