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How to Clean Limestone

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Your lovely limestone floor has a dark secret. It drinks. After which it gets sick. And dirty. Which is why you need to know how to clean limestone. And how to protect it.

In other words, limestone is porous and made of calcium. This is why it absorbs liquids so easily and reacts so badly to strong substances. In this article, I’ll show you how to keep your limestone beautiful and everlasting. Because remember, rub your limestone the wrong way, and it will break and fade away. And you don’t want this.   

You installed limestone in your house

So you have a limestone floor. Or a limestone fireplace. Or a bathroom. You may even have a limestone patio – I envy you already.

Yes, limestone is one of the most beautiful natural stones you can have in your house.

Limestone brings timeless elegance to your home. Instantly. And it brings color to your life. Any color. From creamy whites to pinks to handsome grays. So whatever your taste or décor, limestone has got you covered.  

No wonder people have built with limestone since forever. Think majestic cathedrals. Think ancient pyramids

But you don’t have to be an Egyptian pharaoh to walk on a limestone floor or to brush your teeth in a limestone basin. If you love the look of a natural stone but not its usual high price, you’ll love limestone. This is because limestone installation costs are way lower than those for granite or marble.

But… nothing is perfect, right?

Hard as rock… soft as limestone

Limestone is hard and durable, but it has a soft spot. It’s… soft. Not wool carpet soft but certainly softer than your granite or marble. Ask your feet. They’ll know what I’m talking about.

And limestone is highly porous. Just like granite and marble. But limestone is the more sensitive type. It has calcium. So it will react badly to anything acidic. Think vinegar. Think lemon juice. Think about your usual cleaning products.      

This combination of softness and sensitivity is limestone’s curse. Or your curse. If you have to clean it.   

But don’t get me wrong, you’ve totally made the right decision to make limestone part of your house.

Not only is limestone beautiful. But it’s also durable. Yes… durable. It’ll last and keep its beauty for many years to come. But only if you know how to properly clean it and protect it.

Which is why you’re reading this article.

So let’s take care of your beautiful limestone, shall we? We’ll leave no stone unturned. Or dirty. 

Preparing limestone for cleaning

To clean your limestone, you’ll need a broom or dry mop. A vacuum cleaner and sponge mop may also come in handy.

And don’t forget to bring a bucket and soft towels.

Also, go and find a mild dish soap. Should be in your kitchen cabinet. Got it? Great.

Now, before you touch your limestone with any of your cleaning tools or products, you must first remove from its surface all dirt and debris. You don’t want to drag any particles – however large or small – along your soft limestone. They will scratch it. 

So yes, you have three options – three different tools – to remove debris from your limestone floor: sweeping, dry mopping, or vacuuming.

And if you decide to use your trusty vacuum… stop right there! 

Yes, stop and put your vacuum down. And tell me. Is the spinning brush… spinning? No? Phew. Because a spinning brush would totally scratch your soft limestone.

Yes, you can now resume vacuuming. And admire how your vacuum nicely and safely removes debris from all those mysterious cracks and crevices in your floor.

Oh, and make sure to use a soft cloth if you’re removing dirt and dust from your limestone fireplace, counters, wall, or kitchen worktops.

So, once all dirt, debris, and dust are removed, you’re ready for the next stage: wet cleaning.  

Wet cleaning limestone

All you need to wet clean your limestone is water, soap, and a bucket.

So fill your bucket with warm water and add around three tablespoons of a mild (non-acidic) liquid soap. You can also use dishwashing detergent.

Now, stir the soapy solution. And stir it well. And no… no need for magical spells.

Next, soak your sponge mop in your solution and squeeze the excess water.

Start wiping your floor.

Oh, and for other limestone surfaces such as fireplaces or kitchen worktops, use a soft towel for the wiping. A microfiber cloth would also do very nicely.

Make sure to dip your mop or cloth every couple of wipes to ensure you’re applying enough of your solution. Great. Oh, you missed a spot. That’s better.

With all your wiping done, let it all sit for half an hour.

You can now sit down as well. And watch as your cleaning solution is breaking down the grime. Best entertainment you’ll probably get this evening. So enjoy it.  

Rinsing limestone

Okay, stand up. It’s time to rinse your limestone.

Start by rinsing your bucket and refilling it with clean, warm water.

Now start mopping or cloth-ing (can you even say “cloth-ing”?).  

And make sure all soapy residue is gone. Because any traces of soap will attract new dirt; and will dull the polished splendor of your limestone. You don’t want that.

So rinse the mop or cloth every couple of wipes and take your time.

Drying limestone

When you’re done rinsing your limestone, it’s time to dry it.

So use a dry mop or cloth and wipe your limestone dry… thoroughly, lovingly, gently.

Job done!

You can now sit down and watch and admire the shining beauty of your cleaning efforts. Beautiful, isn’t it? Told you, best entertainment ever.

But… what’s that!

A stain!

Removing limestone stains

Yes, accidents happen. To the best of us. And when they happen near limestone… stains happen.

And stains can seriously damage your beautiful limestone, especially if left unattended.   

So make sure you wipe any spills the moment you spot them! Even if it’s not you who spilled the drink or dropped the food 🙂

You can tackle most stains with a poultice. Which you can make yourself.

“What’s a poultice?” I hear you say.

A poultice is a thick paste. Think peanut butter. Just don’t eat it!

Let’s make a poultice together… and fast. A dark stain is quickly settling on your beautiful limestone.

Luckily, making a poultice takes no more time than does mixing ¾ cup of flour and hydrogen peroxide. Done. You’ve just made a poultice. You’re a natural!

Now, let’s kill that spreading stain.  

Just apply your poultice to the spill and leave it to dry and harden. You don’t need to watch it. It may take around 48 hours for the paste to dry. So spend this time looking for the person who spilled that coffee.  

Once the poultice dries, remove it with a wooden or plastic spatula and rinse it all with distilled water. Dry it with a soft cloth. Done! The stain is gone.

Types of limestone stains

Yes, you should know your stains. Why?

Because this will help you to correctly determine the best removal technique.

You’ll be glad to know that most stains can be removed with a poultice. You still have some poultice left, don’t you?

But other stains will need something stronger.

 

Which is why I prepared for you a quick cheat sheet for your limestone stains. 

  • Organic stains (coffee, tea, food, leaves, smoke, bird droppings, urine, etc.) 

          Use a poultice on most organic stains.

          Use a chlorine bleach poultice for urine stains (on your patio or limestone walls).

          Use a fireplace cleaner for fire and smoke stains.

  • Biological stains (algae, mildew, lichens, etc.)

          Use a poultice for all organic stains.

  • Oil-based stains (grease, tar, cosmetics, cooking oil, crayons, etc.)

          Use acetone for all oil-based stains.

After removing as much stain as possible with acetone, apply a poultice.

  • Metallic stains (iron, rust, copper, bronze, etc.)

          Use stone cleaning solution for fresh stains.

          Use “naval jelly” or a commercial rust remover for seated stains. 

  • Ink stains (magic marker, pen, etc.)

          Use stone cleaning solution for fresh stains.

          Use “naval jelly” or a commercial rust remover for seated stains.  

          Mix a poultice with mineral spirits for stubborn ink stains. 

You’ll be excited to know that some stains may not go away too easily or without professional help. So be careful with your food and drinks.

And when you do spill or drop something on your limestone, make sure to act quickly.

But like with everything in life, it’s always easier and smarter to prevent stains than to remove them.

Let me explain.

Sealing limestone

Sealing your limestone will protect it from staining too easily.

Which is why some limestone tiles come to your house already sealed. And others get sealed upon installation.

Still, the sealer will gradually break down. Meaning, you’ll have to reapply it on a regular basis.

“How often?” you ask. On average, every 2-3 years.

And when you want to see if your limestone needs resealing, just spill a few drops of water on your floor – ouch – and watch the action for five minutes. Better than Netflix, I promise you.

If the water drops sit on the surface looking idle and bored, your limestone is well sealed. 

But if the water quickly soaks into the stone or makes the surface look darker, your limestone is ready for resealing. Hurray! More quality time with your limestone.   

Cleaning limestone before sealing

That’s right, always clean your limestone before sealing it. Because only clean limestone will properly absorb the sealer.

Also, any marks and stains on your limestone will get sealed into its surface.

So clean your limestone by following the steps you already learned above.

And make sure your limestone is totally dry before applying the sealer.    

Applying limestone sealer

The exact steps for sealing your limestone will vary depending on the type and brand of your sealer. So make sure to refer to the instructions of your chosen product.

But to give you a general idea of what to expect when sealing your limestone, I give you the general five steps. 

  • Step one

Remove all dirt, dust, and debris from your limestone. Then wet clean it. You know the drill.

  • Step two

Dry off the surface with a soft cloth. Make sure your limestone is completely dry before proceeding.

  • Step three

Apply the sealer to your limestone with a soft cloth. Spread the sealer evenly. Leaving too much sealer in one spot may leave a stain.

  • Step four

Let the sealer fully absorb into the limestone. This usually takes around 30 minutes. Then wipe away any excess residue. Done!

  • Step five (optional)

Stay and watch your beautiful limestone for the rest of the evening. Cancel Netflix. 

 

Dos and don’ts of limestone care

Well done! You’ve cleaned your limestone. And you’ve sealed it.

So… ready to start the whole process all over again?

No?

I understand.

Which is why I prepared for you one more quick cheat sheet: dos and don’ts of limestone care.

Let’s start with the dos.

Dos of limestone care

  • Sweep or wipe limestone daily to get rid of dirt, dust, and debris.
  • Only use soft cloths, mops, and brooms when sweeping limestone.
  • Keep a soft cloth handy for a regular wiping of limestone.
  • Wipe down limestone shower walls after each use.
  • Never use general cleaning products on limestone.
  • Turn off the spinning brush of your vacuum when cleaning limestone.
  • Use a handheld vacuum to avoid scratching limestone with the vacuum wheels.
  • Use rugs and non-slip mats to protect limestone floors.
  • Use coasters, trivets, or placemats to protect limestone countertops.
  • Seal limestone every 2-3 years or when needed.
  • Wipe any spills immediately to prevent staining of limestone. 

Don’ts of limestone care

  • Don’t allow spills to sit on limestone, especially those that contain acidic liquids.  
  • Don’t use acidic cleaners such as vinegar or lemon juice to clean limestone.
  • Don’t use cleaners intended for bathrooms or kitchens to clean limestone.
  • Don’t use wax or spray polishes on limestone.
  • Don’t use sharp objects or abrasive materials to clean limestone.
  • Don’t use vacuum cleaners with hard plastic or metal wheels on limestone.
  • Don’t chop food directly on your limestone worktop.
  • Don’t place cigarettes on limestone.
  • Don’t stand glasses containing red wine, tea, or coffee on limestone.
  • Don’t stand candles or vases with flowers on limestone.
  • Don’t plaster anything on limestone. 

Final words 

Limestone is a beautiful and durable natural stone. It brings timeless elegance to your kitchen, bathroom, and your living room.

But to keep your limestone beautiful and everlasting, you must know how to clean it. And how to protect it.

Egyptian pyramids were built thousands of years ago. But they still stand tall and stunning. They were built with limestone.   

So I hope this article showed you how to look after your limestone property. So future generations can admire your knowledge of how to clean limestone.      

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