Caring for granite and marble countertops

I'm in home improvement mode, and perhaps the biggest (and the most costly) of the changes I have planned is springing for new marble countertops. And despite the fact that they haven't even been installed yet, given the risk of staining, I'm already thinking ahead to how to best protect my investment. In case the rest of you are in the same boat with granite or marble countertops, here are a few tips for how to keep them pristine.

Granite and marble are porous, and need to be sealed on a regular basis (at least once a year)-otherwise acidic things (which includes soda, ketchup, and lemon juice) can leave spots. To check if you're due for sealing, splash a few drops of water on your counters. If the drops still look exactly the same after 20 minutes, you're in good shape. If the drops have started to spread out, that means the stone has started absorbing the liquid, and it's time to reseal.

Thankfully, sealing is an easy enough process. Most come in spray bottles, so you simply spritz down the stone, wipe the solution all over to give it a good even coat, let it set, repeat, and wipe it down once more to clean it (just read the instructions on whatever kind you buy to confirm). There are also a number of cleaning products with sealants already mixed in to kill to birds with one stone. Avoid using generic cleaning sprays on your counters, or ones with ammonia or vinegar, and go for granite and marble-specific products instead. Never use an abrasive or powder cleaner on stone countertops, and steer clear of rough scrubbers like steel wool.

It's also key to wipe up any spills immediately, and not to let wet dishes or glasses sit on marble countertops for any extended period of time to avoid permanent rings. Also beware of putting hot pots and pans on marble, which can cause discoloration. If you're rolling out dough directly on countertops, make sure to use wood or plastic baking tools so you won't scratch or chip the surface.