Difference Between Etches and Stains in Marble Countertops

We all agree that when you talk about marble you imagine elegance and sophistication. If this is something you have or you plan having in your home, or if you are a baker that uses marble as a working surface, you must know the difference between etches and stains in marble countertops.

Bianco Rhino Marble Countertops by Luxury Countertops
Bianco Rhino Marble Countertops by Luxury Countertops

There are two things that can occur to leave a "mark" on marble... staining and etching. Since many marble owners aren't aware of etching and since any spot is commonly called a "stain" there tends to be a lot of confusion and misinformation regarding spots on marble.


Occurs when a substance absorbs into the pores of the marble below the surface. This will leave a spot that is darker than the marble color and will not affect or change the surface finish. A stain in marble is almost never permanent and can be easily removed in most cases. Certain stains (like rust stains) can be difficult, but usually only very old and/or deep stains cannot be removed.


Happens when marble (travertine or limestone too) is exposed to an acidic food, drink or substance or when harsh alkaline products (which is nearly all common and brand-name household cleaners) are used for cleaning marble. The attacking substance corrodes or eats into the marble causing PHYSICAL DAMAGE that affects the appearance of the surface leaving a dull spot. The etch mark can also be lighter in color often whitish. Etching begins upon contact, so damage can occur in seconds and will become more severe the longer the substance remains in contact with the marble countertops or floors. You'll get these dull spots all over with marble countertops in the kitchen, because it’s simply impossible to prevent them.

Since many people often consider spots as "stains" they confuse etching with staining and incorrectly conclude that marble stains "easy". Let’s be clear: marble etches easily, but it takes far longer for a substance to stain marble and comparatively speaking marble is very stain-resistant. Again, a stain is always darker with no surface damage. An etch mark is lighter in color, dull in appearance and can become rough to the touch when severe.

It is always true that a stain and etch mark can happen in the same place! Typically what will happen is an acidic drink like coffee will spill. The coffee immediately begins etching the marble (which makes the marble more susceptible to staining) and if not cleaned up will eventually absorb and stain the same spot.

Applying a sealer will defend against staining, but sealing has nothing to do with etching (as many mistakenly believe) and will not prevent etching.


  1. Often a honed finish is recommended for kitchen countertops since etching is less noticeable, but etching still occurs on a honed surface so it doesn't really solve the issue. Polished marble is very stain resistant though and even honed marble can be sealed to essentially prevent stains. However, sealing doesn't prevent etching, so marble kitchen countertops are high-maintenance in a wet and acid environment.
  2. Over the years marble stains and etching may occur gradually changing the color and tone to reflect the essential character of your home. This goes as a natural aging process. But let’s face it, this will only add life moments to it’s warm feeling of beauty. If you are about to add immeasurable value and years of pleasure to your home by adding marble then you should expect some natural aging too.
  3. Our advice is to always use coasters, cutting boards and trivets to protect your marble countertops against spills and scratches.
  4. Marble kitchen and bathroom countertops could most commonly last hundreds of years, well beyond the life of a home. Although it is possible for the sealant to become worn or damaged over time, this is easily remedied. Periodic maintenance adds protection to your marble countertops.

Contact Luxury Countertops or stop by our showroom to learn more about our marble products, or request a quote today for information on pricing.

Resources:     www.countertopspecialty.com

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  1. yashimpex
    yashimpexTuesday, September 27, 2016, 2:20

    Marble is a soft stone and it’s has calcium carbonate which reacts with any acids. You also find some dull spot on surface that is known as etches. You should maintain your marble counter top from any acid items.

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