Countertops are an intrinsic part of any kitchen. However, it is important to keep in mind that not all countertops are created equal. Some may require more maintenance than others, which should be taken into consideration by homeowners in the selection process. Proper maintenance can ensure many years of use.
An important part of maintenance is basic cleaning. Regardless of the surface, wipe down with a sponge or towel soaked in hot soapy water or a disinfecting wipe. Germs can grow everywhere with little encouragement. Wiping the surface down daily, as well as under any containers at least once a week, will help to ensure that you have as few germs as possible. If you use the surface itself to prepare food on, clean well during and after prep in order to avoid cross-contamination. This will allow you to cook and prepare food with the utmost confidence that you are not spreading disease.
Most plastic and Formica surfaces are among the easiest surfaces to maintain. They do, however, require a cutting board, as most knives will easily cut or scratch the surface giving germs a chance to hide. Though somewhat stain resistant, these surfaces are less resistant to heat and can even melt under the heat from a hot pan. It is recommended to clean the surface once a week with a bleach and water solution to eliminate bacteria.
A laminated wood surface is subject to the same issues as a plastic surface, but may need to be re-laminated every six months or annually, depending on how much use it sees and how often it is cleaned. A non-laminated wood surface will bleach out over time if not cared for properly, especially if it is in the sun. Uncovered wood does have an advantage in that it has natural antiseptic properties, but it should not be depended on. Clean with soapy water. This surface can stain and is susceptible to burn marks. To remove stains and burn marks, sand lightly and re-oil with mineral oil. With regular maintenance, wood counters can last a long time.
Corian counters require a little more maintenance. It is advisable to use water and ammonia on both gloss and matte, as well as stain removers for any stains that come up. Scratches can be buffed out with little work, and burns require a little work, but can be buffed out. The gloss corian counters require a polisher every so often, especially after any buffing, in order to maintain it’s shine.
Stainless steel counters require constant polishing, but otherwise are relatively easy maintenance. Although there is nothing for germs to really catch onto, they still need constant cleaning. All of that shine also requires its own maintenance; anything can dull the shine. The usual culprit is airborne grease, but dust can also settle onto the counter. A good spray metal polish and a dry cloth will take care of most of the problems; just remember to spray as little as possible for maximum effect.
Stone counters may be pricier, but also require the least amount of maintenance. Stains are hardly a problem and the counter is virtually immune to heat. A quick scrub nightly is all that they require. Stone countertops can be used for cutting if they are kept clean, although a cutting board is still recommended. Resealing stone once a year with help it continue to resist stains and watermarks.
With a little maintenance, any countertop can keep its looks for a long time. Once you decide on the material you will use, make sure you have the proper cleaning supplies required, and enjoy!
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